Rhasidat Adeleke makes historic mark on NCAA track

Teenage sprinter from Dublin becomes the first Irish woman to win an NCAA sprint title

Marking another historic moment for Irish athletics, Rhasidat Adeleke has helped secure a sprint title for the University of Texas at the famed National Collegiate Athletic Association (NACA) track and field championships in Eugene, Oregon.

Her victory with Texas in the 4x100 metres relay means she becomes the first Irish woman to win an NCAA title in a sprint event and it might well have been two – Adeleke at age 19 also part of the Texas 4x400m quartet which finished in second place later on Saturday.

Those points also helped secure Texas the runner-up position in the team competition, their best performance since 2014, second to the University of Florida.

Still two months shy of 20, and in her second year at Texas, Adeleke was in brilliant form, the winning 4x100m time of 42.42 the fourth-fastest in the school’s history – Kentucky taking second in 42.55, Oregon third in 42.59. Julien Alfred ran the opening leg, followed by Adeleke, Kevona Davis and Kynnedy Flannel, a first women’s 4x100m title for Texas since 2006.


Later, Alfred perfected her 100m dominant season, winning the individual event in 11.02 seconds. Then came the 4x400m, Texas clocking 3:23.35 this time behind Kentucky, who won in 3:22.55, the quartet here of Adeleke, Kennedy Simon, Alfred again and Stace Ann Williams.

Some measure of the sprint quality on show came in the individual 200, won by Kentucky’s Abby Steiner, who knocked .16 off the NCAA record by running a world-leading 21.80; Steiner also finished second in the 100m and clocked a 48.92 splint as part of Kentucky’s winning 4x400m relay.

On the men’s side it was the 100th edition of the NCAA championships, staged at Hayward Field on the campus of the University of Oregon – the same venue for the World Athletics Championships next month – and the 40th edition of the women’s championships.

No Irish woman had previously even made the final of a sprint event, and just since 1982 just three Irish women had previously won outdoor titles; Sonia O’Sullivan winning the 3,000m, for Villanova, in 1990 and 1991, Valerie McGovern winning the 5,000m in 1990 and later Mary Cullen in 2006.

There were also two strong Irish performances in the men’s 5,000m, won by Olin Hacker from Wisconsin in 13:27:73: finishing sixth was Michael Power, the Waterford runner representing Tulsa, who ran 13:31.23, one place ahead of Brian Fay, the Dublin runner representing Washington, who clocked 13:31.39. Both athletes have another year eligibility, Power part of the Irish team that won under-23 gold at the European Cross-Country in Dublin last December.

Adeleke will now turn her attention to the two major outdoor events this summer, the Dublin-born sprinter already qualified for both the 200m and 400m at the World Championships in Oregon in July, and the European Championships in Munich in August.

Last month, she improved the long-standing 400m mark which had stood to Joanne Cuddihy for 15 year, clocking 50.70 seconds – eclipsing the 50.73 Cuddihy clocked at the 2007 World Championships in Osaka.

That added to her already dazzling collection of Irish senior records which now includes the 60m, 200m, 300m and 400m. plus several more underage records. In March, she improved her own Irish 200m record to 22.59 seconds, that bringing her into properly world-class territory in that event too. In her first indoor race of 2022, Adeleke also ran the fastest 300m by an Irish woman, either indoors or outdoors, her 36.87 seconds also breaking the 37-second barrier for the first time.

Ian O'Riordan

Ian O'Riordan

Ian O'Riordan is an Irish Times sports journalist writing on athletics