Rhasidat Adeleke claims 400m silver at American college indoor championships

Adeleke wins first individual medal ever in a sprint event for an Irish athlete at NCAA championships

History beckoned, and Rhasidat Adeleke reached out and grabbed it, nailing second place over the 400 metres at the American college indoor championships in Albuquerque – and with that going where no Irish athlete has gone before.

It’s a first individual medal in a sprint event for an Irish athlete at the championships better known as the NCAAs, taking place this weekend at the Convention Centre in Albuquerque.

The final was run over two sections, and Adeleke, running for the University of Texas, obliterated the field in the first section, winning in 50.45 seconds, the fastest time run at the venue: after passing the bell lap well clear in 23.07 seconds, the Dublin sprinter never let up, giving her absolute all.

Then came the second section, featuring reigning outdoor NCAA 400m hurdles champion Britton Wilson, representing Arkansas, who on Friday ran an indoor best of 50.69 to win heat four, ahead of Adeleke in second, in 51.12.


Wilson had the company of Talitha Diggs, the Florida runner who ran 50.15 last month to break Adeleke’s briefly held NCAA record; Diggs hit the bell lap in 23.17, before Wilson kicked past, winning in 49.48 seconds, the second-fastest time in history. Diggs was second in 50.49.

That meant Adeleke won outright silver, the 20-year-old still in only her first proper full season at the event. Billed by many as one of the showdowns of the championship, it didn’t disappoint, Wilson now the fastest American indoors of all time.

At the championships, hosted by the University of New Mexico in the high Chihuahan Desert, the altitude of around 1,600m above sea level, effectively a mile high, offers an advantage for the sprint events up to 400m.

Two weeks ago, Adeleke ran a then-NCAA record of 50.33 in the 400m, at the Big 12 Conference only for Diggs to lower it to 50.15 an hour and a half later, competing at the SEC Conference in Arkansas.

While Diggs and Wilson had each other to battle for the lead in section 2, Adeleke did not quite have the same level of competition in section 1, still her time of 50.45 an astonishing effort, effectively run solo.

The last Irish woman to win an NCAA indoor title was Maria McMahon, over 5,000m, running for Providence College in 1996; outdoors, Mary Cullen was the last successful Irish woman, winning the 5,000m in 2006.

Adeleke still has a chance to win gold in the 4x400m relay.

Back at home, Mark Smyth of Raheny Shamrock AC broke Paul Brizzel’s national 200m indoor record, of 20.64 seconds to win the Leinster Indoor Championships which took place at the Sport Ireland National Indoor Arena.

Smyth’s time took 0.11 off the old record of 20.75, which had stood for the last 20 years. It continues an outstanding run of form for the Raheny athlete. He finished ahead of Olympian Marcus Lawler (Clonliffe Harriers) in 21.10, with Adam Murphy third in 21.81.

Earlier this month Smyth produced one of the standout performances of the National Senior Indoor Championships to take the 200m title in 20.77 seconds.

Ian O'Riordan

Ian O'Riordan

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