June 7, 2007
Sacramento, CA -- Rhonda Watkins' banner season continued on Thursday afternoon as the sophomore won her second consecutive NCAA title, this time in the outdoor long jump, at the NCAA Championships. She becomes the first woman in UCLA history to win both the indoor and outdoor long jump titles in the same season.
Watkins' win marks the first time since 1978 (Modupe Oshikoya) that a Bruin has won the outdoor long jump title. It is the first time since 2005 that a woman has one both the indoor and outdoor titles in a single season.
She entered the competition as the number one jumper in the NCAA and after the qualifying round on Wednesday, was primed to pick up her first outdoor title. However, as the competition unraveled, it wasn't going to be that easy. Watkins fouled her first jump, while Ole Miss' Brittney Reese opened up with a big mark of 22-0.25. Watkins came back on her second jump with a mark of 21-8.75, then took over first-place with a huge wind-aided mark of 22-10 (lifetime-best). She was the final jumper during the last three rounds of the competition. Several jumpers had some big fouls, but no one could touch her winning mark of 22-10 as Watkins claimed her second consecutive NCAA crown.
On competing in just one event
"I had to do two in one day a lot this season, so it was a relief only having to do one, especially in a final. I didn't have to worry about running to another event so that helped me stay focused."
On the winning jump
"The wind was at my back so I knew it would be an ok mark, but it didn't feel like it was that far. I wanted to jump at least 6.90 and I got that, so I'm happy."
On if this title means more than her indoor title
"There are a lot more people doing outdoors, so it's more competitive. Since it seems more competitive, I guess it makes me feel like I accomplished more."
Jumps Coach Mike Powell's thoughts on Watkins' competition and win
On how this win sets her up for the World Championships
"It definitely gives me a lot more confidence because the meets only get bigger from here. I feel like the more I compete, the more prepared I get. I just feel very confident about my next competitions."
On if this was the best competition she's ever been in
"It was definitely my most competitive competition I've been in. I fouled the first jump, and then the other girl had a big jump, and I knew I had to go out and get one in. So, it definitely felt like there was more competition then I'm used to."
On getting past her first foul
"I wasn't too worried because I knew I would get one in. I just moved my mark back a little and got it on the next jump. I knew what it was going to take to advance, and I knew I could jump that."
On competing in the high jump on Friday
"I definitely feel like now that the long jump is over I can go out there and have some fun with it. I know it's going to be a very tough competition, but I feel like if I go out there and do what I know I can do, I'll have a good finish."
On Watkins feeling any pressure to compete
"She doesn't because she's very confident. She is doing what she does in training. From the training and each time she jumps, she knows where she's at and knows what she has to do."
On how this season has helped prepare her for Worlds
"It's really important because she hasn't had any competition in the long jump. She had some today, but this is the first time she's been behind and had to get a big mark out there. She's going to face that at the World Championships, so it's good to see her come back and do that Rhonda felt some soreness in her hamstring before the long jump starting, and knowing she won even though she's not 100% shows how strong she is."
On Watkins' first foul
"I wasn't worried, but I wanted to make sure she got something. Even if she was behind the boards, I knew she would still get in the final. Once she did that, I knew we were fine."
On the expectations of Watkins winning 2 NCAA titles
"It is what it is. To me, this should be her third because she should have won last year but had some trouble fouling. She's learned from it and we know that won't happen again. I'm not surprised by anything shes' done because she is a phenomenal talent. People are starting to see it, but I've known since I came to UCLA. I have to thank former jumps coach Robert Johnson for recruiting her."
On the pride he feels coaching Watkins
"I'm proud because she's doing what she needs to do. She's not over thinking it. She's letting it all happen. Rhonda competes like she knows she's supposed to win. That's not arrogance, it's confidence. You can't accept losing. That's why I can't wait to see her in the high jump tomorrow. She doesn't want to lose, and although she doesn't have the top mark, she is going to go out there and really try to win. She's finished the long and can go do the high jump without any pressure."
Also on Thursday, Nicole Leach ran the fastest qualifying time in the first round of the 400m hurdles as the sophomore ran 56.39 in heat one. She will run in the semifinal round on Friday evening. Also in the hurdles, senior MacKenzie Hill finished 26th overall and fifth in heat three in a time of 1:01.50.
The Bruins stand in a tie for first-place (10 points) with Texas Tech after two scored events.