By BRENT STUBBS
Senior Sports Reporter
Shaunae Miller has completed her first indoor season as a freshman at the University of Georgia, winning the NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships’ 400 metres title in Fayetteville, Arkansas, on Saturday.
Miller, who is preparing to celebrate her 19th birthday on April 15, stopped the clock in an impressive time of 50.88 seconds to lower the University of Georgia’s record for the sixth time this year to clinch the first NCAA indoor title for the Bulldogs since 2007 and the first on the track since 1999.
The time by the six-foot, 1-inch 2012 graduate of St Augustine’s College turned out to be the fifth-fastest in history on the collegiate scene and the third best Bahamian performance, falling just shy of the national record of 50.34 that was posted by Christine Amertil at the IAAF World Indoor Championships in in Moscow, Russia, in 2006.
“I just went out there and did what my coach told me to do,” said Miller in an interview with The Tribune on Sunday.
Although she’s trying to make the adjustment to running on the indoor circuit for the frst time this year, Miller said she’s getting into the groove and was quite pleased with the way she performed over the weekend. She had the fastest qualifying time of 51.14 in the preliminaries on Friday.
“The key was to get out early. Once I did, I made the break for the inside and normally the first person to take the lead usually wins,” said Miller of the two-lap race on the 200 metre track. “I wanted to make sure that I got out first and was able to hold onto the lead.”
Miller, coming off an injury that hampered her debut in the first round of the 2012 Olympic Games in London, England, was challenged through the tape by University of Arkansas’ Regina George in 51.05. Ashley Spencer of Illinois got third in 51.27.
“I just want to thank God for allowing me to get through the meet,” Miller said. “I knew it was going to be a tough race, but once I got out early, I just tried to maintain my lead.”
As for her time, Miller said even though she’s still not acclimatised to running indoors, she put in the hard work so she knew she was poised for a big performance.
With the indoors behind her, Miller will get right into the outdoor season when she competes in the Georgia Relays/Alumni Meet in Athens, Georgia, this weekend. Then she is scheduled to return home to compete on the Bahamas team at the 2013 BTC Carifta Games March 29 to April 1 at the new Thomas A Robinson Track and Field Stadium.
George Cleare, the Bahamian assistant coach at the University of Georgia, was unavailable for comments. But Bulldogs’ head coach Wayne Norton had nothing but praise for the back-to-back 2010 IAAF World Junior Championship and 2011 World Youth Chmpionship 400m champion on the school’s website.
“We have been talking about Shaunae since we first started to recruit her and now the track and field world, and the world in general, is aware of her talent,” Norton said. “She still has a long way to go before she reaches her potential, which is exciting to think about. I am proud of the way she took control tonight and brought an NCAA title back to Georgia.”
Also at the meet, Miller’s team-mate Tynia Gaither ran the second leg in the 400 for Georgia’s distance medley relay team that came in 10th in 11:12.49.
Raymond Higgs of the University of Arkansas was third in the men’s long jump final with a leap of 7.93 metres. His team-mates Tamara Myers got fourth in the women’s triple jump with her leap of 13.36m, while Ivanique Kemp got fourth in the preliminaries of the women’s 60m hurdles in 8.17, but didn’t advance to the final.
And Florida State University was represented by Alonzo Russell in a split of 47.34 and Stephen ‘Dirty’ Newbold on anchor in 45.37 as they finished third in the men’s 4 x 400 relay.
Meanwhile, a number of Bahamians competed at the NCAA Division II National Championships in Birmingham, Alabama.
Deneko Brown, representing Southwest Missouri Baptist, got fourth in the men’s 60m in 6.76, an improvement of his 6.80 in the preliminaries.
Lincoln University’s Michelle Cumberbatch ran 55.27 for 11th overall in the preliminaries of the women’s 400m, but she didn’t advance to the final.
And Abilene Christian University’s Johnathan Farquharson clocked 6.80 for seventh in the men’s 60m. He ran 6.81 in the preliminaries. He also went for the double in the 200, but after running 21.79 in the preliminaries for 17th overall, he failed to advance.