College Corner: The Long Awaited Debut Of Brian Herron

* University of Southern California sophomore Brian Herron

Photo Credit: USC athletics

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"951 days is how long I waited for today and honestly I wouldn't have had it any other way." -- Brian Herron

While the last few weeks of track and field in the NCAA have been a welcome solace for athletes, perhaps no one quite felt the surreal stage Brian Herron was stepping on when he competed for the University of Southern California over the weekend in Fayetteville, Arkansas. 

Most collegiate athletes had missed a year of competition due to canceled competition over COVID-19.

Try experiencing what Herron went through: 951 days of inaction. 

Until this past weekend inside the Randal Tyson Track Center for the Woo Pig Classic, it had been just over two and a half years since the Atlanta Lakeside (GA) High school graduate had last competed. 

Herron certainly knew the date: June 16 of 2018. 

But in stepping to the line, Herron defeated that hiatus nightmare.

And on Saturday, after that only-in-the-movies-kind-of-adversity finally ended, the 6-foot-3 Herron flourished in his return to the track with a 400 meter time of 46.77 seconds, finishing only behind his Trojans -- and former club -- teammate Nicholas Ramey.

"951 days is how long I waited for today and honestly I wouldn't have had it any other way,"  Herron wrote on Instagram.

It's even more crazy to think about, considering Herron was the MileSplit50 No. 1 indoor athlete of 2018 -- he was also the No. 1 recruit in the Class of 2019 -- after he scored a World U20 record in the 300m of 32.64 seconds at The VA Showcase, then went on to win New Balance Nationals Indoor title in the 400m.

Herron's time was just 0.46 seconds away from his overall personal best time of 46.31 seconds. And while early on in the season, it also currently stands No. 9 in the NCAA. Herron is one of just 12 athletes to have broken 47 seconds already through two weeks of action. 

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Around The NCAA

Matt Boling, Georgia: The native Texan -- who was our MileSplit50 No. 1 outdoor athlete of 2019 -- was back at it over the weekend in South Carolina. Interestingly enough, he took off in an event that he used to dominate in high school.

One week after splitting a rather impressive 45-point in the Bulldogs' winning 4x400 at the Clemson Invite, Boling -- now a sophomore -- went an NCAA-leading time of 45.51 seconds in the 400m at the Carolina Challenge. Don't worry.

The 2019 Houston Strake Jesuit graduate likely isn't moving up in distance -- a week prior, he ran a NCAA No. 3 time of 6.64 in the 60m.

Talitha Diggs, Florida: The former Pennsylvania great and 2020 Saucon Valley graduate made her collegiate debut in resounding fashion, hitting an NCAA No. 4 time of 23.14 seconds in the 200m at the Carolina Challenge.

Diggs also featured in the Gator's 4x400, helping the squad to a second-place finish in 3:36.70.

Photo Credit: Walt Beasley, Arkansas Athletics

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Graydon Morris, Texas: The former Aledo High School great was making his collegiate debut over the weekend, and he didn't disappoint. He clocked a 3K time of 8:01.30 at the Woo Pig Classic in Arkansas, which currently stands at No. 6 in the NCAA.

The previous fall he finished 17th at the Big 12 Conference Cross Country Championships in the 8K, where he ran 24:06.8.

Malcolm Clemons, Florida: How about Clemons? No, really. The Florida freshman and former IMG Academy athlete unloaded a ridiculous collegiate debut on Saturday, recording an NCAA No. 5 mark of 25 feet, 9.25 inches in the long jump at the Carolina Challenge.

How crazy was that? Consider that Clemons last posted a mark over 25-feet in 2018 ... at the CIF State Track and Field Chamionships ... when he was a sophomore ...and it was wind-aided. With that jump, Clemons entered into the University of Florida's all-time charts -- which is incredible for a freshman, considering the program's history -- at No. 10.

Javonte Harding, North Carolina A&T: Harding may become the latest Aggies success story.

The 2020 Prince George High School graduate certainly is off to a flying head start. On Saturday, he ran the third-fastest 200m effort in the NCAA, hitting 20.69 seconds on the clock at the Carolina Challenge.

And on its own, that time was a big career moment for Harding, as he broke 21 seconds for the first time in the 200m. While the former Virginia star never got a chance to accomplish that feat outdoors in 2020, he ran 21.33 and 21.78, respectively, as a junior in 2019.

Athing Mu, Texas A&M: One week after lighting the Texas A&M track on fire in her debut in the 800m, Mu returned to Gilliam Indoor Stadium for a return to the 600m -- the distance she broke an American U20 record in 2019 in a time of 1:23.57.

Considering how well she ran the previous week, it was clear Mu was set up to accomplish something special. 

And she sure did. 

The former Trenton Track Club star continued in dazzling form, breaking a 40-year-old collegiate record at the distance in 1:25.80, beating a record that stood since 1981. 

Anna Hall, Georgia: The pentathlon awaits the Georgia sophomore soon enough, but in the meantime the former Valor Christian (CO) legend was off doing typical Anna Hall things over the weekend. 

Hall ran a career-best time of 2:07.81 in the 800m on Saturday at the Carolina Challenge, posting the No. 11 best time in the NCAA so far across the indoor season. A week earlier, she hit 6-feet, 1.25 inches in the high jump, earning the No. 3 mark in the country -- and her highest clearance ever. 

It was always clear that Hall was a jack-of-all-trades. After all, she broke the indoor and outdoor national records in the pentathlon and heptathlon, respectively, over her high school career. But all multis athletes have their specialties and these two events seem to be Hall's calling cards. 

Sydney Horn, High Point: College training has treated Horn well thus far. On Friday, she cleared 13 feet, 10.5 inches in the pole vault, earning the No. 8 mark in the NCAA.

Career wise, that height also represented a four-inch leap from her previous outdoor best of 13-6 in August of 2020 and her 13-6 indoor best in January of last year. 

Photo By: Texas Tech athletics

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Monae Nichols, Texas Tech: Nichols is closer to the end of her collegiate career, and thus four years removed from her high school experience.

But it's worth noting just how far she's come over that time. 

As a senior at Auburndale (FL) High School in 2017, Nichols left with a career-best mark of 5.52 meters (18 feet, 1.5 inches) following her Florida Regional Championship. Four years later -- following Saturday's No. 1 NCAA mark, specifically -- she's over four feet better with a career best of 22 feet, 1.75 inches. 

"It was very crazy to me. I had chills," Nicholas told the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal afterward. "My hair was standing up. I still can't believe it now." 

That improvement may put Nichols in line to compete for an NCAA title, or at the very least an All-American finish. And that's what improvement -- the whole college experience -- is all about. 

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