T&F: Echikunwoke Wins NCAA Weight Throw Championship
March 11, 2017

COLLEGE STATION, Texas - One of the most consistent throwers all season, Annette Echikunwoke turned in another strong showing in the circle as the University of Cincinnati junior posted the three best marks of the meet to capture the national title in the women’s weight throw Saturday night at the 2017 NCAA Indoor Track & Field Championships inside the Gilliam Indoor Complex in College Station, Texas. The first national champion in program history, Echikunwoke took the lead in the first round of throws and never looked back on her way to the top spot on the podium.

“It’s crazy; it’s still sinking in right now,” Echikunwoke said following her victory. “It is amazing for me to get the title, but it also means a lot to me to put UC on the map more and more. It was close at the end, but I wasn’t focused on the other girls. I focused on thinking, ‘OK, Annette. You know what you need to do, so go out there and do it and don’t worry about anyone else. I just wanted to compete and do the best I could do and the best I could do was win. It is a great feeling!”

“We are super excited,” Director of Track & Field/Cross Country Susan Seaton said following the meet. “We were hoping we could pull it off and Annette pulling it off was huge. All the credit goes to Annette for keeping her cool and just performing outstandingly as she has been doing all season. So we are very excited about both the women’s and the men’s finish. It is one of the highest finishes for us on the men’s side and the highest finish for the women’s team ever. A Top 25 for the women is huge.

Overall, the women scored 10 team points and finished tied for 21st nationally while the men’s four points scored Friday in the pole vault by Adrian Valles placed the team tied for 42nd overall.

“I think her championship will bring more attention to how hard we work and how much we are pushing to make it to that next level,” Seaton said. “Director (Mike) Bohn always says ‘Class of the League’ and I think we proved that today. Annette’s finish is the highest for any American Athletic Conference athlete ever and I hope that will bring the attention the Cincinnati Bearcats deserve.”

Indeed, Echikunwoke’s finish is the best for any student-athlete at a member institution in the American since its inception in the 2013-14 academic year. Two men finished second this year for the highest male finish in conference history. Added to her finish tonight is another honor as Echikunwoke will also be tabbed USTFCCCA All-America First Team for the second year in a row after she placed eighth overall in the same event at the 2016 national meet. Coupled with her eighth-place showing in the outdoor hammer last spring and Echikunwoke has now earned first team honors in three-consecutive national meets.

Echikunwoke, the 13th thrower of the 16 women in the competition, set the tone early as she stepped into the ring and tossed the 20-pound ball out to 21.87m (71-09.00) to stake her claim to the overall lead through the first round of throws. Despite fouls in the second and third rounds, the junior from Pickerington, Ohio, as still on top of the leader board heading into the finals. In the fourth round, she regained her form and put the ball out to 21.81m (71-06.75), the second-best throw of the meet to that point. Heading into the final round of throws and still in the lead, Echikunwoke watched several women climb closer to her, but unable to eclipse either of her previous throws. Entering the ring for the final time and already announced as the national champion, Echikunwoke put a cherry on top as she launched the implement out to 22.42m, marking the seventh time this year that she surpassed the 22-meter mark, something the rest of the nation did five times, combined.

With her win, Echikunwoke becomes just the fifth UC student-athlete to win an individual national title in the history of UC Athletics and the first in program history. Prior to today’s crown, two diving and two swimming titles had been captured by Bearcats with the last coming in 2010 when Josh Schneider won the men’s 50 freestyle. Echikunwoke also is now just the second UC woman to win an individual national crown, joining diver Becky Ruehl, who won the 1996 platform event at the NCAA meet. Prior to that trio, Pat Evans won the 3m diving event in 1989 and Charles Keating brought home the first gold with the title in 200 butterfly in 1946.

Prior to tonight, the best finish ever recorded at the NCAA Championships by a member of the track & field program was national runner-up honors that Al Lanier earned in the long on four occasions. Lanier, one of the most successful Bearcats in program history, took second place in the long jump at the 1972 and 1973 indoor and outdoor championships. On the women’s side, Kathy Klump’s fourth-place showing in the 800m run at the 2012 NCAA Indoor Championships marked the previous best finish for a Bearcats woman.

Echikunwoke had a banner season, holding the top ranking throughout the season until the final week of the regular season while posting six marks of 22 meters or better throughout the year and going undefeated against collegiate foes. She also repeated as the American Athletic Conference weight throw champion and added a runner-up finish in the shot put, both with personal-best marks, to be named the American Athletic Conference Female Field Athlete of the Meet.

Today’s competition marked the conclusion of the indoor season. Following one week off from competition, the Bearcats will travel to Raleigh, N.C., for the 2017 Raleigh Relays, hosted by NC State, March 24-25.

2017 NCAA Indoor Track & Field Championships - Day Two (3/11/17)
Women’s Results
Weight Throw - FINAL
1. Annette Echikunwoke - 22.42m (73-06.75) - NATIONAL CHAMPION & All-American - 10 team points

Women’s Final Team Standings
1. Oregon - 84.0
2. Georgia - 51.0
3. Alabama - 37.0
4. USC - 35.0
5. Akransas - 32.5
t-21. Cincinnati -10.0

Men’s Final Team Standings
1. Texas A&M - 46.0
2. Florida - 45.5
3. Oregon - 38.0
4. Georgia - 35.5
5. Akransas - 33.0
t-42. - Cincinnati - 4.0