Washington's 1,500 champ Flood right at home
DES MOINES, Iowa -- Katie Flood and Dominique Duncan each had a home-team rooting section Saturday on the final day of the NCAA Track and Field Championships.
Washington's Flood thrilled the crowd at Drake Stadium one more time, winning the women's 1,500-meter final. Flood, a Des Moines native, has dominated on the stadium's blue oval much of her life, winning six championships in the high school division of the Drake Relays and 11 high school state titles there.
Flood is the first Huskie to win a women's outdoor title since 2006 -- that victory was also in the 1,500 -- and, after helping her team win the distance medley this indoor season, she is the first Washington woman to win national titles in both sports in the same season.
Florida State's Amanda Winslow moved to the early lead and stayed there until the final 200 meters. Winslow tried to pull away in the final lap, but with the unblocked sun causing the temperature on the track to surge to nearly 100 degrees, she faded into seventh.
"At that point, I knew it was time to go," Flood said.
Flood and others passed Winslow on the final turn. Flood led with 100 meters to go, and was flanked by Oregon's Jordan Hasay and Georgetown's Emily Infeld. That's when the home-track advantage became a disadvantage, as Flood couldn't hear her rivals' footsteps.
"It was unbelievably loud coming down that final stretch. I couldn't see anyone, and that was a good thing," Flood said. "There's a lot of nerves running in front of so many people you know, but I've never run in front of a more supportive crowd."
Flood's older sister, Betsy, was a multi-time state champion her first two years of high school, and then Katie came along. Betsy just completed her senior year at Iowa and did not qualify for the national meet. She was one of many family members causing that loud roar down the stretch.
"Everyone's here," Katie Flood said.
Duncan's fan base was much smaller in size, although not in stature. Duncan, a senior at Texas A&M, took third Saturday in the women's 200. Her grandfather is Texas Southern track and field coach Clyde Duncan Sr. He was a nine-time Iowa high school champion at Des Moines North High School and said he had run at the Drake Relays, "since I was in second grade."
The elder Duncan, who watched Dominique from the top row on the far side of the stadium, spoke with his grandchild before the race. What did she ask him?
"Other than hit him up for money? Because grandparents have the most money," Dominique Duncan said. "Paw-paw gave me a little pep talk. He told me if I wanted it, I had to go for it no matter what lane I was in."
Duncan began her athletic career as a basketball player, and had no interest in track until the summer between eighth and ninth grade. While she was attending school in Atlanta, her basketball coach challenged her to run against the fastest member of the boys' basketball team.
"It was about 60 meters. It was a grass field. Touch the tree and come back kind of thing," Duncan said.
"All his boys were like, 'Ooooooh.' He started crying, and that's fine with me, I don't care," she said.
It was a coup for Clyde Duncan, who was on Texas Southern relay teams that set then-world records on three occasions.
"Her father, my son, we were hoping and praying that she'd eventually go into track and field. Her basketball skills weren't really that sharp," he said, chuckling.
Watching Dominique this week was "a dream that's actually true" for Clyde, but did he ever consider dying his hair bright red, as Dominique does, back in the day?
"Never," he said.
Kimberlyn Duncan of Louisiana State has no familial attachments in Des Moines, but she'll have fond memories of Drake Stadium. Earlier in the week, she set a stadium record and this year's best time in the world in the 200 (22.19 seconds), and on Saturday, she won two national titles. She finished first in the 200, in a slightly slower 22.86, and anchored the Tigers to a win in the 400 relay.
All that was more than enough to lift Louisiana State to its 15th outdoor women's national championship. No other school has more than four.