USF looks to win an individual national championship for the first time since 1993 tonight as triple jumper Matthew O'Neal competes in the NCAA Outdoor Championships in Eugene, Oregon at 8:30 p.m. EST. Coverage will be live on NBCSN.
O'Neal has been in this position before. He was ninth in 2013, fourth in 2014, and ninth in 2015. But he's peaking at the right time, as his wind-aided jump of 55 feet, 7 3/4 inches (17.01 meters) was the third-best in the world. And he's got a big PR lead on those below him. Here's the top half of the field:
1 O'Neal, Matthew SR South Florida 17.01m
2 White, Tim JR Ariz State 16.43m
3 Collie, Latario SR Texas A&M 16.37m
4 Leap, Brian SR Penn State 16.37m
5 Johnson, Shawn SR Auburn 16.36m
6 Warren, John SO Missouri 16.27m
7 Obi, Felix SR Baylor 16.24m
8 Ghent, Marcus SR FIU 16.21m
9 Bates, KeAndre SO Florida 16.17m
10 Williams, Ben JR Louisville 16.16m
11 Carodine, Tony SR Missouri 16.14m
12 Pullen, Clive JR Arkansas 16.09m
O'Neal will look to make the final, where the top nine jumpers get an additional three attempts. But he's got a chance to become USF's first individual national champion since Jon Dennis went back-to-back in the 5000 meters in 1992 and '93. The Bulls only other individual national champion at the D1 level is Michelle Scarborough for the rifle team in both 1989 and '90.
I missed an interview with Matthew a couple weeks ago I was supposed to do as my car got hit that morning, but Joey Knight is better at this than I am and wrote about Matthew yesterday. From everyone around USF we talk to, he is apparently the nicest and most humble kid on the planet. They speak of him in glowing terms. Let's hope there's a win for the good guys tonight.