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Photo Credit: Nebraska Athletics

Two National Champions Highlight Nebraska Weekend at NCAA Track & Field Championships

June 12, 2023

Two national champions powered the Nebraska women’s track and field team to a top-10 finish at the NCAA Championships in Austin, Texas, over the weekend. The Nebraska men’s team finished in a tie for 17th.

The Husker women finished eighth, their best performance at the national championship meet since tying for fourth in 2006. Nebraska’s 25 points came from three individuals, two of which won titles. Axelina Johansson and Rhema Otabor both dominated their fields, shot put and javelin, respectively, while competing in Austin. Otabor, a junior from the Bahamas, broke her own school record with a winning throw of 195 feet, 2 inches on her second attempt. Her win is the first Husker championship in the javelin since Denise Thiemard’s win in 1983. All six of Johansson’s throws in the shot put would have won the title. Her heave of 63 feet, 3.25 inches on her last attempt was her best. She is the third Husker woman to win the shot put national championship after Tressa Thompson (1997, 1998) and Becky Breisch (2003).

Both Otabor and Johansson are the first Husker women to win national championships since Dace Ruskule won the discus in 2006.

Maddie Harris also provided team points for the Husker women with her fourth-place finish in javelin. Her 187-foot, 10-inch toss on her first attempt gave her All-America honors for the second year in a row.

Rhianna Phipps jumped 43 feet, 9.75 inches in the triple jump on Saturday to finish 13th and earn second-team All-American distinction. Jenna Rogers finished 13th in the high jump after clearing 5-feet-11.25 for her fourth All-American honor. Madison Yerigan also cleared 5 feet, 11.25 inches in the high jump and finished 18th on attempts. Taylor Latimer finished 20th in the shot put with a heave of 53 feet, 11 inches. Velecia Williams placed 10th in long jump with a best leap of 20 feet, 2.25 inches.

The Nebraska men’s 17th-place finish with 16 points is the team’s best since 2016. Tyus Wilson provided the Huskers one of their two best individual finishes by tying for fourth in the high jump. Wilson cleared 7-foot-1 to put him in a five-way tie for fourth and earn him All-American honors. Darius Luff also earned first-team All-American honors at the NCAA Championships by finishing sixth in the 110 hurdles. The Lincoln High graduate ran 13.38, the second-fastest of his career, for his third All-America distinction.

Maxwell Otterdahl finished fourth in the shot put with a 67-foot-4 heave and 13th in the discus with a 192-foot, 3-inch throw at the championships. Michael Hoffer cleared 6-foot-11 in the high jump to tie for 14th. Meanwhile, Jonah Wilson finished 20th in the discus with a toss of 183 feet, 1 inch.

Till Steinforth earned a fourth-place finish in the decathlon with 7,991 points, the best decathlon finish in school history. In the process he set new personal records in the 1,500 meters (4:42.99) and discus (131 feet, 7 inches).

All this capped Justin St. Clair’s first season as Nebraska head coach. He joined the Huskers as throwers’ coach in 2022 and headed the track team in the fall upon the retirement of legendary Husker track coach Gary Pepin. An inductee in the 2023 Nebraska Hall of Fame, Pepin led both Husker track teams from 1984 to 2022. Nebraska athletic director Trev Alberts officially ended a nationwide search for the program’s new track coach on February 22 when he removed St. Clair’s interim title.

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