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Stanford’s most successful decathlete places second at NCAA Championships

Harrison Williams scores 8,010 points for the silver

Fifth-year senior Harrison Williams (above) competes in the 110-meter hurdles at the 2019 NCAA Track and Field Championships in Austin, Texas. He solidified himself as Stanford's most successful decathlete after finishing second. (SPENCER ALLEN/SportsImageWire.com)

On the second day of the four-day NCAA Track and Field Championships, fifth-year senior Harrison Williams, Stanford’s most decorated multi-events male athlete, became the program’s highest outdoor NCAA decathlon finisher after recording a second-place finish with 8,010 points on Thursday night. The meet was delayed four hours due to the weather and the women’s javelin was rescheduled to Friday.

Despite the conditions, fifth-year senior Abbie McNulty, making her outdoor NCAA debut, placed 10th in the women’s 10,000 meters. Toeing the line with temperatures nearing 80 degrees and 70 percent humidity, she remained in the lead pack as the field quickly spread after the first mile. With six laps remaining of the 25 that make up the event, McNulty picked off runners in the final stages of the race to finish 10th and cap off her collegiate career with second-team honors.

Fifth-year senior Abbie McNulty (above) competes in the 10,000 meters at the outdoor NCAA Championships. (SPENCER ALLEN/SportsImageWire.com)

“I tried to keep racing my own race,” she said. “Just look for them to come back and try to catch the next person, which worked out well. When I saw runners coming back towards me, it was like another target to try to reach.”

Having already graduated, McNulty closed her collegiate career with two NCAA debuts. She reached her first indoor NCAA meet in March and earned her first trip to the outdoor championships after placing seventh at regionals.

“I want to keep running, for sure,” McNulty said. “I really feel like I found my groove, not only physically, but mentally, learning how to race and be in control of myself.

Fifth-year senior Steven Fahy qualified for the men’s 3,000-meter steeplechase final after winning his prelims heat on Wednesday. He had the fastest qualifying time of the day with 8:41.60. The two-time Pac-12 champion and the reigning bronze medalist in the event returns as one of the top contenders for the NCAA title. His season and collegiate career will come to a close with the steeplechase final on Friday evening.

In the women’s 1,500 meters, junior Ella Donaghu (4:12.65) and sophomore Jess Lawson (4:12.69) placed fifth and sixth, respectively, in the same preliminary heat to advance to Saturday’s final. The two rising stars are making their first appearance at the outdoor NCAA Championships after setting remarkable personal bests at regionals to advance to the championships.

Competing for the final time in a Stanford uniform, Williams added to a career resumé that includes multiple All-America honors, the 2018 Pac-12 decathlon title and the 2019 indoor NCAA heptathlon title. He entered the outdoor championships ranked second in the nation with a personal best 8,112 points after finishing runner up at the Bryan Clay Invitational on April 19.

Williams, who was first introduced to multi-events in high school, capped off his collegiate career with his seventh appearance at the NCAA Championships across the indoor and outdoor track and field seasons.

The decorated fifth-year sat in second after the first day of competition. With 4,266 points, he trailed Georgia sophomore Johannes Erm by 79 points heading into Thursday’s competition.

He concluded the first day with a strong performance in the 400 meters, crossing with the second-fastest time of 47.19 seconds, good for 949 points. With one of the best Day One showings of his career, Williams set himself up in good position heading into the final day of competition.

While he considers himself a stronger Day Two performer, Williams opened the second day with a sixth-place showing in the 110-meter hurdles, followed by a tenth place performance in the discus throw, widening the gap between him and Erms, who led in first place, to 213 points.

Over his five years on the farm, Williams has developed his strengths in the pole vault, which was on display in Austin. He cleared a field-leading 5.11 meters to place first in the event and add 944 points to his running second-place total. Erm, who continued to lead in first, cleared 5.01 meters to place second in the event. With only two events remaining, the Georgia sophomore led by 182 points.

Javelin, the penultimate event of the meet, proved to be William’s kryptonite. It’s an event he has worked on all season to improve, but one that he considers to be his weakest. With the title on the line, Williams threw for 157 feet and two inches, just 10 feet short of his personal best. But his performance placed him 13th in the event, while Erm increased his lead after finishing eighth.

In the 1,500 meters, the final event of the competition, Erm effectively ran away with his first NCAA title. The sophomore ran a lifetime best of 4:33.38 to win the event and cap the competition with a personal best 8,352 points. Williams crossed in 4:39.01 for seventh in the event and second overall (8,010 points). Williams and Erm were the only two athletes to have broken 8,010 points.

“I’m a little disappointed,” Williams said. “I wanted to come out with a win.”

Erm’s performance not only earned him the NCAA title, but it also set the collegiate record this season, besting the USC’s Ayden Owens, who previously held the record with 8,130 points.

William closes his collegiate career as Stanford’s best multi-events male athlete. He has the school record in both the heptathlon (6,042) and decathlon (8,112), and became Stanford’s first male multi-events NCAA Champion when he won the heptathlon title in April.

“The main thing I’ve learned is just to stay consistent and put together a mark in every event, which is what I did and I was fortunate to come out in second place,” Williams said.

While his season is complete, the fifth-year has hopes of qualifying for the 2020 Olympics and will continue training on the Farm.

For now, he will root for the Cardinal from the stands in Austin, Texas, as the final two days of the NCAA Championships continue Friday.

Contact Alejandro Salinas at asalinas ‘at’ stanford.edu.

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