A national title isn't a bad way to earn some respect.
And with that, Miles Ukaoma's goal to put Nebraska track and field on the map was realized at the NCAA Outdoor Championships.
The Husker senior won the 400-meter hurdles national title Friday in Eugene, Ore. Ukaoma, who entered with the second-fastest qualifying time, cruised to the title with a finals time of 49.23 seconds. His time was nearly 0.7 seconds faster than the runner-up, Kansas junior Michael Stigler, who entered with the top qualifying time.
“I was just trying to feel how Stigler was going to run, just run off of him and stay close to him and try to out-kick him at the end," said Ukaoma, who matched his personal-best time in the event. "We were getting a lot of wind, I felt like I was being pushed around, but you don’t really think about that when you’re trying to run."
Ukaoma was the Big Ten champion in the 400 hurdles and also won the event at the West Preliminary meet in Fayetteville, Ark.
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Husker senior Chad Wright and junior Ellie Ewere both added All-American finishes on Friday. Wright finished fourth in the discus with a heave of 203 feet, 2 inches, while Ewere was fifth in the triple jump (43-7 ¼).
Ukamoa and Wright helped the Nebraska men move into a tie for seventh place in the team standings. The Husker women are tied for 18th.
Nebraska senior Anne Martin and junior John Welk were honored by the NCAA with the Elite 89 Award. Both Martin and Welk earned the award for being the female and male athletes competing at the outdoor championships in Eugene, Ore., with the highest grade-point average. It is the second year in a row Martin and Welk claimed the honor.
A multi-event competitor from Waverly, Martin has a 4.0 GPA as an elementary education major. She finished the heptathlon with 5,465 points, good enough for 13th. Welk, a sprinter from Bismarck, N.D., has a 3.99 GPA and is a nutrition science major. Welk ran on the men’s 400-meter relay team that posted a time of 39.52 in the semifinals Thursday.