EUGENE, Ore. -- As an era came to an end Friday for the Wisconsin women’s track and field team, it was clear that times have changed.
Senior Dorcas Akinniyi walked off the track for the final time in a Badgers uniform as she wrapped up the heptathlon at the 2013 NCAA Outdoor Championships but, in a rare occurrence, she wasn’t carrying any hardware as she left Hayward Field.
Despite posting the third-highest score of her illustrious career, Akinniyi failed to score for the first time in four appearances in the NCAA heptathlon. She finished with a 10th-place finish behind her total of 5,629 points.
Her teammate, junior Deanna Latham, used a terrific climb up the standings on the competition’s second day to finish 12th with a total of 5,574 points -- the second-best score of her career.
In the end, it took 5,813 points to score, a development that would have seemed crazy just five years ago when Akinniyi stepped on to the UW campus and speaks to the growth of the multi-events on the college level.
“This year, it’s stacked. That’s all you can really say,” Akinniyi said. “I ran some of my best times and had some of my best events, but it just wasn’t enough this year.
“Everyone is just so good.”
Akinniyi was less than 200 points short of the eighth and final scoring position, which would have earned her All-America honors for the fourth-consecutive year. Four women have earned four All-America honors in the heptathlon, but never in consecutive years.
She held the eighth spot through six events but faced a challenge from San Diego State’s Allison Reaser heading into the final event, the 800 meters. With a lead of just 26 points on Reaser, Akinniyi needed to stay within 1.5 seconds of the Aztec -- who boasted a four-second advantage in terms of personal-best marks -- to hold on to eighth.
Akinniyi closed the gap down the backstretch for the final time, but with 200 meters to go, couldn’t keep up the full-sprint pace.
“It was so hard,” she said of her attempt to keep pace with Reaser. “Halfway through I was like, ‘I got this, I can stay with her, she’s not running that fast,’ and then, the last 200, I just had nothing left.”
Akinniyi posted solid marks in two of her best events, the long jump (19 feet, 3 1/2 inches) and javelin (118-5), but she couldn’t overcome Reaser’s edge in the 800.
Latham, on the other hand, used the 800 as part of her charge up the standings after starting the day 18th.
She opened with a leap of 18-11 3/4 in the long jump and then threw 130-5 in the javelin. A run of 2:20.32 that was just off her lifetime best and marks her fastest time in a heptathlon capped an effort that gave her back-to-back top-12 finishes at the NCAA meet.
Akinniyi, who qualified for all eight NCAA championship meets for which she was eligible in her career, failed to score for just the second time (she was 16th in the pentathlon as a freshman at the 2009 NCAA Indoor Championships). She wraps her career as a five-time Big Ten champion and six-time All-American.
“It’s been a nice five years,” Akinniyi said. “I’ve done some things I can be proud of, met some amazing people that I will love and know for the rest of my life.
Combined with fellow senior Jessica Flax, Akinniyi helped the Badgers sweep the Big Ten’s indoor and outdoor multi-events titles each of the last four years -- a run of eight straight championships.
“I’m just happy that we’re able to leave a legacy,” Akinniyi said. “We won’t be urban legends, we’ll be actual legends.”