Ottey inducted into US Collegiate Athlete Hall of Fame
Jamaica’s Juliet Cuthbert (left) and compatriot Merlene Ottey at the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona, Spain.(Photo: Observer file)

Jamaica’s track and field legend Merlene Ottey has been included in the first set of athletes to be enshrined in the US Collegiate Athlete Hall of Fame, it was announced recently by the The US. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA).

Ottey, who attended the University of Nebraska, 1980-1984, where she was part part of teams that won two NCAA team titles and is still the only athlete — male or female — in the history of the NCAA track and field championships to score in the 100m, 200m and 400m in the same meet, the 1983 NCAA Outdoor Championships.

Thirty athletes from 25 different institutions were named by the USTFCCCA and are to be officially inducted at a ceremony that will take place on June 6 at the Hult Center for the Performing Arts in Eugene, Oregon, the same weekend as the NCAA Division One track and field championships.

According to a release from the USTFCCCA, the initial “Class of 2022 compiled 205 national collegiate individual titles, 99 world records, and 19 Olympic gold medals as collegians”.

Sam Seemes, CEO of the USTFCCCA, was quoted in the release to have said: “The Collegiate Athlete Hall of Fame is intended to acknowledge the great athletes who have made collegiate track & field and cross country such incredible sports, not only do we have a large queue of past athletes that are worthy of enshrinement into this hall of fame, we also recognize a vital responsibility in producing first-class presentations to properly commemorate their accomplishments.”

Included on the list are a number of all time greats including American Jesse Owens, Steve Prefontaine, Carl Lewis, Jackie Joyner, Wilma Rudolph and Carlette Guidrey as well as Kenyans Henry Rono and Sally Kipyego and Suleiman Nyambui of Tanzania.

Ottey, who competed for Vere Technical for one season, in 1979 after transferring from Rusea’s High, broke a world record in her first meet in a Nebraska uniform.

Her tribute said: “At a distance she’d never raced before, the 300 yards and “her last ‘Cornhusker’ appearance cemented a second NCAA team crown.

“Sandwiched between those performances is a sterling career that numbered 12 individual titles in AIAW or NCAA track & field championships – the most by a woman at the Division I level.”

In addition to setting world records in the 300 yards and 300m in her first season, Ottey “then lowered the outdoor all-dates collegiate best in the 200 metres to a stunning 22.20 seconds in earning a bronze medal at the 1980 Moscow Olympics.

She would add multiple championship records in the 100m and 200m — in-season and all-dates — as well as a staggering 11 championship records (all world bests) in the indoor 300 yards or 300 metres, both of which were national championship events when she competed.

The zenith of Ottey’s collegiate career, the release pointed out, came at the 1983 NCAA Outdoor Championships, with Ottey winning the 100m and 200m before a third place in the 400m (the latter some 40 minutes after anchoring her 4×100 relay team to second place).

Her 28 points earned in that meet remains the second most points gained by a woman in NCAA history. Later that summer she earned the silver medal in the 100m at the inaugural World Championships.

OTTEY... only athlete, male or female, in the history of the NCAA track and field championships, to score in the 100m, 200m and 400m <strong id="strong-2">.</strong>
Paul Reid

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