Louisville track stars exceed top rankings and smash records
By Noah Allison–
At the Big East Indoor Track and Field Championships, Louisville had one of its finest showings in school history. Five school records were broken and four individuals took first in their events. The Cardinals had 18 top ten finishers in their respective events, and two conference records were broken.
Amidst all the success, throws coach Dale Cowper had his throwers launching U of L into Big East Championship dominance. Junior Sam Bombaugh and senior Khadija Abdullah took first place in the shot put. Bombaugh also took first in the weight throw making him the first male athlete in school history to win both throwing titles at the conference’s Indoor championships. He was also the first person in conference history to win both throwing events in the same meet. Furthermore, his performance led him to being just the second Cardinal to be named the Big East Indoor Men’s Field Athlete of the Meet.
“It was great to see Sam step up and really do a nice job,” Cowper said. “As a junior, he has had a couple of years under his belt. It didn’t necessarily go the way he desired in the last couple of years. And he’s just done a great job of working through things and getting better day-by-day. At the Indoor Big East Championships, he got a reward for that, and that shows a lot to his perseverance and character just the way he’s worked through it and really raised to the top of the Big East.”
n collegiate competition, the men’s weight for the weight throw is 35 pounds, which Bombaugh tossed 19.99 meters or about 65 feet. The shot put is 16 pounds, which Bombaugh threw 17.42 meters or about 57 feet.
Sam Bombaugh simply headlined the mainstream performance put on by the Louisville shot putters. Meanwhile, the men swept the Big East with Bombaugh placing first, red shirt sophomore Brad Vivace placing second and freshman Steve Wade placing third.
“In the shot put going into the meet, they were ranked three, four, five, and the guys went one, two, three for a clean sweep,” Cowper said. “We’ve done that a few times on the women’s side in the past in several events, but on the men’s side that was the first clean sweep of the medals and that was great for them. The guys were obviously excited and it certainly helps give our men’s team some momentum going into the outdoor season. Sam has a tremendous work ethic, certainly. He’s been grinding away for two and a half years now here. The group as a whole has a done a lot to push themselves and each other and really hold group accountability. It has been something that has been really great to watch with our young men’s group.”
Senior Khadija Abdullah took charge on the women’s side of the shot put competition at the championships by setting a personal best, conference best and Louisville best toss of 17.2 meters or about 56 feet. The returning All-American has won the Big East the past three years in a row. Senior Amashi Kendall came in third place and junior Liberty Slinden came in fourth place. Abdullah’s throw came in her last Big East competition and carried on the legacy of great Louisville shot putters.
“Before the meet I was very excited and I just thought all right. This is the last Big East and I want to go out with a bang and I want to make sure that I get as many points as possible for the team,” Abdullah said.
It was on her third throw that Abdullah came through with the toss she and Louisville was hoping for.
“I was really relaxed when I was warming up and that’s not usual. Usually, I’m pumped up and ready to go but for some reason I wasn’t, so that was weird. Then Coach Cowper asked me if I wanted to know what place I was in and I just said ‘No.’ I wasn’t interested in that, I just wanted to throw. I go check in and I’m the first thrower in the second flight and I’m never the first, I’m always the last or the second to last. So I was ready to go but I wasn’t ready to go, I had to turn it on,” Abdullah said. “I got in the ring and my first throw was good but it wasn’t great so Coach Cowper tweaked me on my toss. So I went back to focusing and warmed up, I wanted the next throw to go farther so I made sure to go faster, but it didn’t feel like I was going fast it felt like I was going slow, but it went further and I was like ‘I got this I got this.’ So I got to my third throw and Coach Cowper again tweaked up my technique a little bit. I threw and it slipped off my hand but it went further than my second throw, I got it but I didn’t feel confident about it. I heard them read off my mark and all I heard was the 17 and didn’t hear the next part because that was all I needed to win.”
Abdullah’s clutch event-winning toss set the precedent of championship tosses in the Big East. But had it not been for the great cast of people she was around to work with and the coach who was helping her form up until the last toss, she may not have had the grit or the know-how to win when it matters, but that is what being a Cardinal is all about.
Abdullah is ranked in the top ten of the nation and will be competing for the last time in the Nationals for a chance to bring ultimate glory to herself and U of L.
“I’m just focused on not overthinking it, not putting too much emphasis on ‘Oh nationals are coming up I have to do this and this’, I’m not trying to change my regiment. I lift weights on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday of the week; I have Wednesdays off. I don’t want to be overly ready for it, just prepared enough and have enough rest, make sure that my school course load is not keeping me nervous or anxious. I need to make sure that nothing is do for that week so that I can have a clear schedule to just focus, keep my mind straight for the meet and have fun. If it’s going to be the last one, make it the best one,” Abdullah said.
When members of a single event can dominate and build momentum for their team, it can spread through all of the field and the track events.
“The emotions in the field events are different; you have the opportunity if you’re at a high enough level to come out and in one attempt end the competition. You can put a performance out there that everyone else in the competition knows they cannot accomplish. It’s rare for student athletes to be able to do that, we’re fortunate that we’ve got a history of being able to do that. Then, it’s more about making the meet about who is going to win from Louisville. It doesn’t matter who is first, second, third to me, as long as we are first, second and third,” Cowper said.
Photo courtesy Louisville Sports