College Corner: Micah Williams Shines In His Oregon Debut

* Micah Williams in the 60m this weekend in. Arkansas

Photo Credit: University of Oregon athletics

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When Micah Williams signed with the University of Oregon in January of 2020, he did so with the intent of raising the sprints reputation of a men's program typically renowned for its distance pedigree. 

Few could argue his high hopes.

But if there had been any doubts about the realization of that idea, perhaps we should silence them now.

Because no one can argue just how impactful Williams' debut for the Ducks was this weekend in Arkansas at the Razorback Invitational, where he ran brilliantly for 60 meters, setting a new NCAA lead in 6.56 seconds -- and a new school record -- while also earning the No. 2 time in the world.

On the strength of William's performance, along with a handful of others, Oregon was ranked the No. 1 men's team in the country by the USTFCCA.

Only Trayvon Bromell, at 25 years old, is faster right now at the distance. 

But while Williams' quick start to his NCAA term isn't a surprise, it wasn't exactly ordained, either.

The Oregon native hadn't been in a race since January of last year, when he ran unattached in the 60m at the UW Indoor Preview, earning impressive times of 6.72 and 6.68 seconds, respectively. 

At the high school level, those performances finished among the nation's best, the latter actually closing as a U.S. No. 1 performance. 

But even if Williams was running college-level times as a 17-year-old, there is difference between high school and NCAA competition. On top of that, there's also that figurative pecking order, where it takes time for talented freshmen to acclimate to the conditions and competition of collegiate meets. 

Again, Williams silenced those doubts, pretty spectacularly I might add. 

He did so against a field that included USC's Brendon Stewart, Arkansas' Roman Turner, Georgia's Matthew Boling and his own teammate, Gaston Bouchereau.

Maybe it's just the first statement of many for Williams in 2021. Maybe it's the start of something truly great.

Maybe Williams will follow the career trajectory of Cravon Gillespie, who before turning pro in 2019 set Oregon outdoor records in the 100m (9.93) and 200m (19.93) and an indoor 200m best of 20.73 -- all within a year. 

Either way, Oregon has something on its hands here.

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Around The NCAA

Cole Hocker, Oregon: Let's stick with the Ducks here and move over to the 2018 Foot Locker Nationals champion, formerly of Indianapolis Cathedral.  

He's been low-key killing it since he arrived in Eugene in 2019. From his sub-4 mile of 3:58.2 in February, which qualified him for the NCAA Championships, to his 7:57.26 in the 3K, which also netted him a qualifier, to his unattached 5K time of 13:32.92 in December, which moved him up to No. 5 on the all-time U.S. U20 rankings.

Hocker has needed no grace period. 

This weekend, the newly-minted sophomore continued his torrid stretch, as he was part of Oregon's collegiate record-setting DMR in 9:19.42 -- producing a heckuva a run on the 1,200m leg -- before he then he followed it up with an NCAA No. 2 of 7:46.44 in the 3K, which was just behind his teammate Cooper Teare. 

On a team like Oregon, where it's easy to get overlooked, Hocker's performance have made sure that he isn't -- but he might be the one guy who you need to pay special attention to in the coming months, too. 

Jasmine Jones, Southern California: A week after entering the NCAA ranks in the 200m, Jones was back at it in the 60mH, where she performed dutifully with a time of 8.17 seconds. 

That performance puts the Trojans' freshman at No. 9 in the NCAA. The Greater Atlanta Christian graduate was just 0.05 seconds away from tying her personal best mark of 8.12 from 2020. 

Robert Gregory, Texas Christian University: The Houston Wheatley graduate has been busy over the last two weeks. He debuted on Jan. 23 at the Aggie Invitational first, helping the Horned Frogs to a third-place finish in the 4x400 in 3:08.47.

Then, this weekend he put down an NCAA No. 7 performance in the 200m, posting a time of 20.78 seconds at the Texas Tech Invitational. 

Taylor Ewert, Arkansas: American U20 race-walk champion Taylor Ewert opened up her collegiate career with two impressive performances in back-to-back weeks. 

This weekend, though, she took it to the track in the 5K, where she finished seventh in 16:44.44. Teammate Katie Izzo, meanwhile, won the overall race in an NCAA-leading time of 15:36.22.

But Ewert's performance was mighty impressive, considering it was her first foray at the distance indoors or outdoors. Earlier, in September, she had knocked down her previous 5K best on grass, going 16:53.70 at the SEC Preview Meet. 

On the track, however, the dual-threat athlete should continue to see improvements as she seeks better performances alongside her teammates -- and Arkansas' women's team are the defending NCAA indoor champions from 2019. 

Brandon Miller, Texas A&M: The roll-out of Texas A&M's 800m talent has been nothing short of a spectacular. 

Two weeks ago, the Aggies saw first-year athlete Athing Mu roll to a new American U20 record in the 800m. This weekend, Brandon Miller and Allon Clay continued on with the highlights, with Miller posting a new personal best time of 1:48.63, while Clay, a Japanese international, went 1:49.29 in his collegiate debut.

Miller, the long-time John Burroughs (MO) High School standout, broke 1:49 for the first time in his career, finishing second at the Texas Tech Invitational and only behind Takieddine Hedeilli of Texas Tech in 1:47.15. Clay, meanwhile, was fourth overall. 

Miller sits at No. 6 in the NCAA standings, while Clay is at No. 10.

Photo: University of Washington athletics

Cruz Culpepper, Washington: While Cruz Culpepper's high school attempts at the mile distance came up just short a year ago -- previous indoor mile PR: 4:00.10 -- he seemed destined for sub-4 eventually. 

And the Huskies freshman certainly earned his stripes in his debut, posting a personal record mile time of 3:59.53 at the Dempsey Indoor Track on Jan. 29. He became the 11th men's athlete in school history to reach the mark. 

"It was fun," Culpepper told "It's definitely cool to open up with a sub-four." 

The time, which now ranks No. 6 in the NCAA, puts the Niwot (CO) graduate among some of the NCAA's leaders in the event, though Culpepper, whose Olympian parents are former professional distance runners Alan and Shayne, will eventually transfer over to the 1,500m distance, where he will have a shot at qualifyfing for the NCAA Championships at a first-year athlete.

Sean Dixon-Bodie, Louisiana State University: To net a personal record on your first collegiate performance? 

Not as easy as it looks. 

But Dixon-Bodie, a graduate of Bloomfield (CT) High School, did just that on Jan. 29, recording a 16.33 meter leap in the triple jump at the LSU Louisiana Invite, which stands as the fifth-best mark in the NCAA. 

Dixon-Bodie's first competitive mark in college comes after a record-setting high school run which saw him score a high-school best of 52-1.75 in February of last year at the Millrose Games. 

Photo by MG Miller/LSU Athletics

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Monique Hardy, Louisiana State University: The Webster Thomas (NY) High School graduate moved inside the NCAA top 10 with a weight throw of 69 feet, 7 inches at the LSU Louisiana Invitational, improving by an inch over her previous-best mark on Jan. 22.

Hardy opened her NCAA career on Jan. 16 at the LSU Purple Tiger Invitational, posting a mark of 67-4.75.