EUGENE, Ore. — Going down the home stretch of the 800-meter final at the NCAA track and field championships, Villanova senior Siofra Cleirigh Buttner had nothing but the finish line and rainfall in her sight.
“When you’re working off the crowd and the magic of Hayward Field, you feel invincible coming down that home straight,” she said. “But there were eight big guns out there today, and we all know what it’s like to race each other.”
Buttner had the lead heading into the homestretch and ultimately held on for fourth place, finishing in 2 minutes, 5.73 seconds in her first NCAA outdoor final.
“I’m decently happy. I think I went for it maybe too early, but it felt right at the time,” she said. “I think the weather made me excited, and we definitely had a party out there today.”
The senior finished her Villanova career with eight Big East titles, the indoor school record of 2:02.97 in the 800, a runner-up finish at the NCAA indoor championships this year and an Irish national title in 2016. Buttner also competed at the IAAF World Outdoor Championships in 2017.
“Villanova really had my heart these last four years,” she said. “I’m glad that I chose to pursue my college career there.”
There were five other athletes with Philadelphia ties competing on Saturday, including Buttner’s Villanova teammate Nicole Hutchinson.
Hutchinson finished 14th in the 5,000, clocking 15:57.00 in a race that was tactical from the gun.
“I really think I just gave it everything that I had on the day,” the Villanova junior said. “I don’t think I would have done anything differently.”
Hutchinson, who also competed in this meet last year in the 1,500, had several strong performances this season. She finished sixth at the East Preliminaries, took home the Big East titles in the 1,500 and 5,000 and clocked a personal best 15:46.22 to win the 5,000 at the Raleigh Relays.
Penn junior Anna Peyton Malizia failed to clear the opening height of 5 feet, 8 inches in the high jump in the Ivy League champion’s first NCAA championship appearance.
Cherokee High School graduate Jessica Woodard, a senior at Oklahoma, fouled her first three throws in the discus, eliminating her from the competition. She will not leave Eugene empty handed, however. She finished second in the shot put on Wednesday. This is her fourth year qualifying for the national meet.
Also in the discus, Penn freshman Ashley Anumba finished 21st with her first throw of 108-11. That caps off her season, which included a personal-best throw of 180-5 to take the Ivy League discus title.
Germantown Academy graduate Megan McCloskey ended her Penn State career on Saturday, finishing in a two-way tie for fourth in the high jump at her first NCAA championship with a clearance of 5-10.
“I’m super pumped that I could end my season and my career on such a high note at one of the best places in the world for track and field,” she said. “I’m just kind of on cloud nine right now.”
Even though the conditions were far from ideal, with pounding rain and some scattered hail, McCloskey knew that it was toughness that would help her earn all-America status.
“All-American just means so much,” she said. “I had that goal since I came into Penn State. My teammates and coaches have just been so supportive. It’s just really special.”
The senior earned her trip to Eugene with her fifth-place finish at the East Preliminaries, where she jumped 5-10 1/4. She also finished fourth at the Big Ten Championships, clearing 5-10 ½.
In her Penn State career, McCloskey achieved a personal best of 5-11 ½ at the 2017 LSU Battle on the Bayou, four top-four finishes at the Big Ten Championships and two third-place finishes at the Penn Relays.