EUGENE, Ore. – Competing in his first NCAA Championship event, it wasn’t the result Zachary Johnson was looking for. The freshman finished 22nd in the field of 24 athletes.
Having to jump in rainy conditions at historic Hayward Field, he leaped 43-feet, 8 ½ inches which was 8-feet shorter than his personal best jump in the NCAA first round last week in Sacramento, Calif. He appeared to pull up grabbing his leg on his second attempt.
“Today, I’ll just say it was a learning experience,” Johnson said. “I didn’t come out here and do what I planned to do. I’m not going to use the injury as an excuse, and I’m just going to use this as fuel for next year.”
Johnson was one of just four freshman competing in the triple jump at this year’s championship. Jumping in front of a crowd of 11,644, he said this is an experience that will help him as he moves forward.
“This was crazy. I’ve never been in this kind of atmosphere before,” Johnson said. “I mean this is literally Track Town. Once you start to clap the whole crowd gets into it and starts clapping. The atmosphere is amazing. This will help me get mentally tougher. I’m hungrier now. I want to come back and do a lot better.”
Johnson’s competition wraps up a historic week for the Bearkats men’s program which placed seven athletes in the NCAA Finals for the first time in school history. The week was highlighted by a second-team All-American performance from the 4x100-meter relay team.
“To be honest I’m pleased with the outcomes in that everyone come out and competed,” said head coach Dave Self. “First timers tend to get a little starry eyed and they didn’t. They competed and got after it. The relay gets second team All-American and that’s huge. That’s a landmark achievement for our program and for us to come in and run a school record is huge.”
In addition to Johnson, Clayton Fritsch also qualified for the finals as freshman, finishing 19th in the pole vault on Wednesday.
“That was huge, to have freshman qualify in individual events,” Self said. “We have had some incredible athletes just make it here once, and they have made it as freshmen. They have the expectation to get back every year.”
The NCAA Championships will return to Texas for the next two years, with the University of Texas set to host in 2019 and 2020. The finals will return to Hayward field in 2021.