Freshman Symone Mason and junior Michelle Atherly led the University of Miami to the ACC Women’s Outdoor Track and Field Championship on Saturday night in a thrilling meet that came down to the final relay race.
With 117 points, the host Miami Hurricanes earned their third ACC outdoor title and first since winning back-to-back titles in 2005 and 2006. Virginia Tech finished second with 111 points, Florida State was third with 102.5, Clemson took fourth with 74 and Louisville was fifth with 69.5.
Mason, a Miami Southridge graduate, was named meet MVP. She and Atherly combined for 51.5 of the Canes’ points. Mason got 25 in the sprints and relays and Athlerly added 26.5 from the heptathlon, high jump and 100-meter hurdles.
“We’ve got a young group and they never stopped believing,” said UM coach Amy Deem. “I think they just came in here at their home track and they know there is tradition here and it meant as much to them as it does to me to win it at home. You never want someone else to beat you in your home facility, especially when you don’t get the chance to host ACCs every year, so this was definitely special.”
It was an especially big night for Mason. She won a gold medal in the 400-meters with a collegiate-best time of 51.53 seconds that is second-fastest in UM history. She also won the 200-meter final in 23.01 seconds, fifth-fastest in school history. Kristina Knott, Alfreda Steele, Mason and Tiara McMinn combined to win gold in the 4x100m relay with a season-best time of 43.48 that is second in UM history.
“I was kind of overthinking through the whole season and just trying to get everything in order,” Mason said. “This weekend, I just told myself I was going to have fun and it worked. I came out and had fun and I won...The 4x1 set it off. Ever since that race, I just had adrenaline to keep it going.”
Deem was delighted for Mason.
“She’s really struggled a little bit as a freshman and she’s had her bumps and bruises,” Deem said. “Unfortunately, in our sport, there are a lot of naysayers and she’s had to battle that a little bit. To see her come out here and get to be Symone Mason again was great. She tied her PR in the 200 and had a huge PR in the 400 and was vital to those relays. I am just so happy for her because it takes that monkey off her back and she can keep growing and getting better and better.”
Samantha Gonzalez won the women’s 400m hurdles with a personal-best time of 56.77 seconds that is fifth-fastest in the country.
“Sam has been in the making and it was a big weekend for her,” Deem said. “Her family is in town and she graduated in just three years and will be back with us next year. To see it really come together for her was awesome. It’s been a struggle for her at times, so to see her come out on her home track and win with all her family here was special.”
Niara Hill closed out her final meet at Cobb Stadium with a bronze medal in the women’s triple jump. The senior posted a personal-best mark of 12.81 meters to finish third.
“Niara has been a team player and she’s done so much,” Deem said. “She’s another graduate this weekend and is going on to law school, but she kept competing and hanging in there and stayed focused. Sometimes seniors, when they know it’s the end for track, it’s hard to keep them engaged. She never wavered and she’s been such a team player, so I am happy to see her have that success in her last ACCs.”
The men’s team scored 45 points to finish tied for ninth. The Canes rebounded from a nine-point showing in 2017, tallying their second-best team score since joining the ACC prior to the 2005 championships.
“I am proud of our guys,” Deem said. “We had some guys that didn’t stick with us and this team wasn’t a priority to them. To see the guys that stuck with it and kept working have this success is great.”
Gian Piero Ragonesi earned his second bronze medal at the ACC Championships with a big throw in the discus, finishing third with a mark of 57.62m. The senior also placed third in the men’s shot put on Friday.
“I am going to miss Gian,” Deem said. “He is such a competitor and he’s very hard on himself. He’s like me. He always wants more. I am glad for him to have a good weekend this weekend. For him to come out here and have a great meet to finish his senior year was great