It was always going to take something special to stop Rhasidat Adeleke, and at the NCAA Indoor Championships in Albuquerque on Saturday night, that’s exactly what US star Britton Wilson produced.
The University of Arkansas student ran the second fastest indoor 400m of all time, 49.48, to beat Adeleke, who clocked 50.45 to finish second.
In one of the many curiosities of the NCAA system, the 400m final was bizarrely divided into two sections, and due to Adeleke finishing second in her heat on Friday, clocking the third fastest overall time, 51.12, she was placed in the slower section.
While that meant she had no one to chase, it also resulted in a better lane than she otherwise would have drawn.
From lane five, the Dubliner had an easy passage to the front over the first 200m, which she ripped through with reckless abandon in a blazing 23.07 seconds, the quickest opening lap of an indoor 400m ever run by a woman.
From there, it was inevitable Adeleke would tie up – the question was only to what extent – but the 20-year-old held her form admirably amid the overwhelming fatigue to hit the line a clear winner of her section in 50.45.
The next section saw Wilson, who was fifth in the world 400m hurdles final last year, take on American indoor record holder Talitha Diggs, who powered to the front through the opening lap.
But it was Wilson who had the better strength over the second 200m, blasting clear to win in 49.48, which puts her behind only Dutch star Femke Bol on the world indoor all-time list.
The runner-up finish capped a memorable indoor season for Adeleke, who twice smashed the Irish 400m record while also lowering the Irish 200m record to 22.52.
She was back in action an hour after the 400m, anchoring the University of Texas 4x400m team to second with a 50.77-second leg.
Fellow Dubliner Brian Fay was in action in both the 1500m and 3000m, the University of Washington student finishing eighth in the 1500m in 4:05.07 and 15th in the 3000m in 8:17.60.
There was a strong Irish connection in the women’s 800m, where Roisin Willis, the daughter of Sydney Olympian and Cork native Breda Dennehy-Willis, claimed victory for Stanford University in 1:59.93.
Willis holds dual nationality but chose to represent the US – where she was born and raised – in recent years, winning the world U20 800m title in their colours last August.
Elsewhere, Stephanie Cotter claimed double victories at the NCAA Division 2 Indoor Championships, the Adams State student winning the mile in 4:49.86 and the 3000m in 9:06.03.
Back at home, Mark Smyth produced a stunning performance at the Leinster Indoor Championships in Abbotstown, the Raheny Shamrock athlete clocking 20.64 to take 0.11 off the previous Irish indoor record, which had stood to Paul Brizzel since 2003.
He was followed home by Tokyo Olympian Marcus Lawler in 21.10.
At the All Ireland Schools’ Cross Country Championships in Waterford, Jonas Stafford (Glendalough) and Anna Gardiner (Assumption GS) claimed contrasting victories in the senior races.
Stafford seized command early in the boys’ race in dour conditions and the rising star came home with over 30 seconds to spare ahead of Niall Murphy (St Flannan’s, Ennis).
Gardiner utilised an impressive kick to take gold in the senior girls’ race in 13:57, pushed all the way by Munster pair of Louise O' Mahony (Coláiste Muire Ennis) and Avril Millerick (St Mary’s Midleton).
There were impressive performances from Emily Bolton of Mount Sackville and Francis O'Donoghue (Summerhill College Sligo) who secured the intermediate titles.
Noah Watt (Campbell College, Belfast) won a close contest in the junior boys’ race, while Sholah Lawrence (Our Lady's Greenhills) arguably put in the performance of the day to win the junior girls’ title, recovering from a mid-race fall and finishing with a mud-spattered singlet.
The opening race saw another podium for the Renton twins, Freya and Holly, whose respective finishing positions were split by Freya Bateman, who won silver. Rory Armstrong was a comfortable winner of the minor boys’ race.
At the European Throwing Cup in Portugal, Nicola Tuthill won a silver medal in the U23 hammer throw with a 64.44m throw. Eric Favors was also in superb form, breaking his own Irish record in the shot put, throwing 20.66m.