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NCAA Championships Athletics.jpgDominque Scott wins 10,000m, photo courtesy of Ryan Kang/AP photo

On the 25th and final lap of the women's NCAA 10,000 meter final, Dominique Scott rounded the Bowerman Curve - just 100 meters away from finishing off her dominating championship performance. Suddenly she glanced into the West Grandstand and a radiant smile bloomed on her face as blew a kiss into the stands. "I saw my husband was standing right there. So I blew a kiss to him," laughed the new champion after the race in the mixed zone. "I felt really good. My coach had just shouted that I had a hundred meters on the next girl. I'm not sure if that was true. But it definitely made me feel good. It made me feel like I could just soak up those last hundred meters."

In winning her first NCAA outdoor title - her 4th overall - the South African native had accomplished one of her major collegiate track & field objectives: to take care of some unfinished business. Just a year ago in this same meet and on this same track, the 7-time All-American ran honorably to finish as the runner-up in the both 10,000 meters [to Notre Dame's Molly Seidel] and the 5000 meters [to Providence's Emily Sisson]. Like any driven athlete, Scott used that dual disappointment as inspiration for the following year. "Last year's two runner-up positions definitely motivated me this year," stated Scott candidly. "During the cross country season I was a little bit distracted planning the wedding [her own!] and trying to lead a team - I really wanted to be a good team leader my final year. Then this outdoor season, I just wanted to end with a bang - to leave feeling like I had done everything that I wanted to accomplish as well as score as many points as possible for the Arkansas Razorbacks so that we can hopefully win the team title this weekend."

In the gloaming and light drizzle at the end of Day Two of these NCAA championships, Scott stood calmly as one of 24 finalists just before the start of the women's 10,000 meter championship race. As the race unfolded, New Mexico's British distance star Alice Wright jumped into the lead to set a controlled pace. Brenna Peloquin - Boise State's petite freshman - slid into second; Scott hugged the rail in third; and Tennessee's Chelsea Blaase rounded out the top 4. Passing 1K in a pedestrian 3:23, the 24 finalists remained bunched as Wright was locked into a cadence that none of the others cared to disturb. Nearly as precise as a Swiss watch - or maybe an English timepiece - Wright consistently delivered 400m circuits in a tight 79-80 second range through 2K [3:15/6:38], 3K [3:18/9:56], 4K [3:18/13:14], and 5K [3:18/16:32]. Scott - unfazed in 3rd - momentarily moved up to second in the lead pack of 14 with 11 laps remaining. The lead group had been reduced to 9 with 2800 meters left as Wright continue to set the tempo, followed by Scott, Peloquin, and Blaase. With 3 laps remaining, the pace quickened only slightly as the dwindling lead group of Peloquin, Scott, and Iona's Tara Jameson finished the 9th K in 3:14/29:02. With 800 meters of racing left, Scott - a 6-time SEC champion - threw down a move that settled the matter within moments. Flying down the backstretch, Scott opened up a 30 meter advantage in the space of 200 meters. Poised and unpressed, Scott keep the pedal down as she covered the final 2 laps in 2:17 and crossed the line in 32:35.69. The hard-working Wright [32:46.99] held on to finish 2nd while a fast close by Air Force's Hannah Everson [32:47.25] propelled her from the wild blue yonder into 3rd.

After the race, the jubilant winner discussed her disciplined patience. "I just told my coach Lance Harter, it's so easy once I get to two laps to go. It's those 23 laps before that are kind of annoying: you have to wait such a long time."

Scott - who currently holds 6 Arkansas school records - didn't want to be encumbered with an inflexible race strategy. "My plan was just to run the race. I didn't want to overthink anything. I didn't want to have a plan and then not feel good and then feel like I still have to execute that plan," she explained. "Today was just about going out there, and enjoying one of my last races as an Arkansas Razorback and just going when I felt good, when I felt it was the right time."

The Razorback senior - who ranks 6th on the collegiate all-time list in the 10,000 meters - had one of those special days when a peaking athlete has it cooking on all burners. "I honestly felt so good the entire race. I was just waiting. I could have gone, I feel, like anytime. With two laps to go, it was like 'OK. Let's get this thing wrapped up. Let's enjoy these last 800 meters."

During her championship run, Scott heard PA announcements advising her of other Arkansas successes as her freshman teammate Alexis Weeks won the pole vault and Razorback jumper Taliyah Brooks finished 3rd in the long jump. "My whole team is out here sweating and crying to try and get points for us. And I was going to make sure that I did my part." With 26 points and a 10 point lead over Texas A&M after the women's first day of competition, the Arkansas ladies are well positioned to compete for the team title on Saturday's final day.

Scott winced when advised that she missed the 28 year old championship meet record by just 7 seconds - a margin she surely could have erased with a more spirited final few kilometers. "Noooo. I didn't want to know that," she bemoaned playfully. "You know what? Records can be taken, but victories and medals can never be taken away from you. I've got a medal and no one can ever take that away from me."

Scott believes she knows what made the difference between last year's runner-up performances and this year's championship. "I was telling my coach that part of this is not only taking care of business on the track. It's about taking care of business off the track," Scott explained. "And this year, I made sure that I was going to be healthy and be in the best shape when it came to this meet. We've been working really hard this year. I've got big goals with the Olympics coming up. And I think it paid off today."

The soon-to-be South African Olympian has come to terms and is at peace with her waning collegiate career which will come to an end this weekend. "I thought I would be sad, but I'm actually ready to pass the baton on to my younger teammates. There's some really good talent coming up," stated Scott. "And I'm ready for the next step. Hopefully, someone wants me to wear their jersey in a few weeks' time," she offered with a sly smile. "It seems right. It's been a great 5 years. And now to just end my career with an individual title outdoors and hopefully a team title at the end of the weekend would just be the cherry on top of a great collegiate career."

A victory by Scott in Saturday's 5000m final combined with a team title for the Razorback women would provide a little whipped cream for that cherry topping...

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TAFWA Award

Dunaway AwardAt the 2019 annual meeting of the Track and Field Writers of America, Dave was presented with the James Dunaway Memorial Award “for track & field journalism excellence.”

2020 Mid-American Conference Indoor Track & Field Championships

Dave HunterOn February 28-29, Dave served as the Color Analyst on the live ESPN3 broadcast of this championship gathering. Coverage of this 2-day conference championship can be viewed on the ESPN app.

Dave Hunter

Dave HunterDave Hunter is a track & field journalist, announcer, and broadcaster.  Dave reports on the premier track & field gatherings around the globe, frequently serves as an arena or stadium announcer for championship events, and has undertaken foreign and domestic broadcast assignments in the sport.

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