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EUGENE, Ore. (6/11/14) - Sophomore Julia Ratcliffe punctuated her brilliant year with both an exclamation point and the first NCAA Championship in the proud history of Princeton women's track and field. Ratcliffe topped Colorado's Emily Hunsucker by more than two meters to win the national title in the hammer throw during the first day of the 2014 NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships in Eugene, Ore.
Ratcliffe's winning throw was 66.88m (219-5) and she finished with the top three throws of the afternoon to conclude her sophomore year with an undefeated season.
“I’m just so thankful to the people who helped me get here; my coach, my dad, my family and the Princeton team," Ratcliffe said. "But I’m also really proud of myself because last year I kind of bombed so to come back and win….it just feels so good.”
Ratcliffe was the second thrower in Flight 1 and shook the rust off on her first attempt throwing to 58.52 (192). She took over the lead on her second throw as she tossed a 63.90 (209-8) but Hunsucker dropped her down to second place minutes later with her throw of 64.59 (211-11). It was Ratcliffe’s final throw of Flight 1 that gave her the lead with a big mark of 65.39 (214-6). She held that lead into the finals, as the best throw in Flight 2 would be Brook Pleger of Bowling Green at 64.68 (211-6). The top nine advanced to three more rounds, throwing in descending order.
Ratcliffe threw a bomb in round four, extending her lead to 66.04 (216-8) giving her other eight competitors a new mark to beat with two rounds left. She outdid herself again in round five with her best throw of the day a 66.88 (219-5). Slowly the other competitors moved to the wayside, and it came down to the final throw by Hunsucker. It was her best throw of the day and the crowd was on pins-and-needles awaiting the mark to see if Ratcliffe would have to push deeper. Hunsucker’s throw came on the board at 64.83 (212-8) and Ratcliffe knew the title was hers. Taking to the ring for the final time, as the national champion, Ratcliffe gave a toss of 64.18 (210-7) and pumped her fists in victory.
“Coming into the [final] round and seeing the girls kind of tense up and not throw as well as they had been was more of a relief for me to know that everyone was really trying hard. This is very real competition. Every person in the competition is a competitor who is capable of beating me, so it was stressful right until the end seeing Emily throw that big one on the last one.”
The title is the first in program history; the Tigers had come as close as second, when Lauren Simmons ’02 finished as the runner-up at the 2002 NCAA outdoor championships in the 800 meters.
The victory also extends Princeton's department-wide streak to 43 consecutive years with at least one individual or team national championship.