The smiles, the hugs, the tears — an NCAA championship brings all of those things for the winning student-athletes. It’s a moment frozen in time, and one that the victors will remember forever. These are some of the best moments, both from the championship events and regular season successes, from the 2018-2019 academic year that are worth celebrating again.
Sept. 15: LSU fans donate to Assumption College after transfer Cole Tracy kicks winning field goal against Auburn
Every young athlete dreams of being carried off the field by his or her teammates, and on Sept. 15, that dream came true for LSU’s Cole Tracy. The former DII kicker at Assumption College transferred to LSU after his junior year to finish out his career with the Tigers and was quickly thrown into the spotlight. In his third game with LSU, Tracy found himself facing not just a 42-yard field goal in the final seconds of a high-stakes SEC game against Auburn, but a potentially game-winning 42-yard field goal. LSU trailed by two. A successful kick would win the game for his team. A failed kick would hand a W to the opponent. Tracy lined up and sent the ball sailing straight through the goalposts. LSU fans went nuts, and to show their support, they launched a donation campaign to send money to Assumption College, as a way to recognize the school and thank them for molding Tracy into their game-time hero. That’s respect.
Nov. 17: Morgan McDonald won the 2019 NCAA men’s cross country championship on his home course in Wisconsin
Winning is always sweet, but winning at home is even sweeter. Wisconsin’s Morgan McDonald had come close to capturing an individual cross country title in his first two years racing for the Badgers — earning All-American honors in his freshman and sophomore campaigns — but the championship crown had eluded him. On a snowy day in November 2018, however, all of that changed. McDonald crossed the line in 29:08.3, ahead of the entire field, and flashed the ‘W,’ signaling to the crowd his Wisconsin pride and the joy he felt winning this title in Madison.
Dec. 1: Jalen Hurts comes in for Tua Tagovailoa and leads Alabama to a comeback SEC Championship win over Georgia
All love between Tua and Jalen pic.twitter.com/SWHRkpk4pQ
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) December 2, 2018
Prior to Alabama’s conference championship game against Georgia, Alabama backup quarterback hadn’t seen much action. Less than one year ago head coach Nick Saban pulled Hurts in favor of up-and-coming star Tua Tagovailoa, and Hurts hadn’t had much chance to prove himself. But, with the game on the line and Tagovailoa out with an injury, Alabama needed Hurts, and he was ready. The junior quarterback stepped into the game with his team trailing and scored two touchdowns (one passing, one running). Hurts has transferred to Oklahoma and will finish out his collegiate career as a Sooner, but on that night in December, he was everything Alabama could have asked for.
RELIVE THE MOMENT: Hurts completes miracle comeback for Alabama against Georgia
Dec. 3: Dallas Dorosy lived up to her “Miss December” nickname in scoring the winning goal in the women’s College Cup
Dallas Dorosy is the epitome of a post-season player, and this has never been more true than it was in the 60th minute of the Women’s College Cup in Cary, North Carolina, in November. Tied 0-0 against North Carolina, Dorosy picked up a pass from Deyna Castellanos and sent the ball past Carolina keeper Samantha Leshnak to give her team a lead that they would hold for the final minute. Dorosy and her Seminole teammates added another championship to the Florida State legacy and sent a message to college soccer fans that this is a program that can’t be ignored.
Dec. 10: Amar Sejdic’s scored the winning penalty kick for Maryland in the men’s College Cup
— NCAA Soccer (@NCAASoccer) December 10, 2018
Amar Sejdic’s career as a Maryland Terrapin was one for the record books, but his biggest moment came on the biggest stage. With 33 minutes left in the second half of the NCAA championship soccer game against Akron, Sejdic lined up to take the biggest penalty kick of the year. All eyes remained fixed on the senior midfield. And then he shot. The ball went left, the Akron goalkeeper went right, and Maryland earned the first (and only) goal of the game. Sejdic proved all that Maryland needed to prevail against the Zips and finally lifted that championship trophy. His performance throughout the tournament helped him earn the 2018 Most Outstanding Offensive Player of the College Cup and his second First Team All-Big Ten honor. Not a bad way to end a senior season.
Jan. 13: Katelyn Ohashi earned a perfect score on floor and became a viral sensation
The 2019 season for the UCLA women’s gymnastics team would have been a special year regardless of how the team performed simply because it marked the end of legendary coach Miss Val’s career with the Bruins. Leading the team for the 29th year, Miss Val created a culture of joy on her team, and senior Katelyn Ohashi brought joy to life in her now-famous floor routine. The veteran Bruin tumbled, flipped, danced and smiled her way through her perfect performance at the Collegiate Challenge in Anaheim, California, creating buzz and excitement that followed her for the rest of the season. Ohashi finished her career with a final 9.950 floor routine at the 2019 NCAA gymnastics championships that put an exclamation point on a standout year for the star. Her embrace with Miss Val symbolized everything that this season meant for the Bruins — success, challenge, unity and joy.
Feb. 23: Kieran Tuntivate wins the men’s 3000m Ivy League title with one shoe
SHOELESS KIERAN TUNTIVATE.
— The Ivy League (@IvyLeague) February 23, 2019
Running gurus occasionally speak about the benefits of barefoot running, but few would recommend racing in a conference championship without spikes. Kieran Tuntivate, however, didn’t need both of his shoes to win his title, as the junior raced around the track in 8:12.72 to earn gold at the Ivy League Championships. The next day, Tuntivate toed the line again, injured foot and all, and raced the 5k, an impressive testament to his determination and grit. He not only participated in the second event, but won. Tuntivate will look to defend his titles next year during his senior campaign, and who knows how dominant he’ll be with both his shoes on.
March 22: Iowa State’s Willie Miklus earned his fourth All-American honor
The last match of Willie Miklus’ college career was short and sweet — just 28 seconds — but it was the moment after his win that left the biggest impact on the crowd. After pinning Stanford’s Nathan Traxler in the Blood Round of the 2019 NCAA Tournament, Miklus embraced his coach and then stepped away. The senior Cyclone took a breath, straightened his arms, and pointed up to the sky. His father, Garry Miklus, passed away just weeks before the younger Miklus was set to compete in his last tournament as an NCAA wrestler, and that final Blood Round win was for his father. After transferring from Missouri to Iowa for his senior season to be closer to his father, Miklus ended his career on the podium for the forth time, bringing joy to Missouri, Iowa State and NCAA wrestling fan bases.
I think every Father’s goal for their son is to raise them to be a man. I think that path is filled with bumps and bruises. Laughs and tears. Glad I got to be closer these past months, no regrets. Mission accomplished Dad. R.I.P. 12/28/60- 03/04/19 pic.twitter.com/9QPZedFmbf
— Willie Miklus (@wmiklus) March 4, 2019
April 6: Wake Forest’s Kupcho wins inaugural women’s amateur at Augusta National with charge on back 9
The words “NCAA champion” certainly stand out on a list of accomplishments, but for Wake Forest golfer Jennifer Kupcho, that’s only one of her successes. The senior Demon Deacon earned her NCAA title last season, and this year she added an Augusta National Women’s Amateur championship to her name. She hit an eagle and three birdies over the course of the last five holes to close the two-shot gap between her and first place. Her win makes her the first female winner of Augusta National and brings pride to the Demon Deacon program where she trained the last four years.
April 7: Kyle Guy hit all three free throws against Auburn to keep Virginia alive in the men’s basketball tournament
— Kyle J Guy (@kylejguy5) April 7, 2019
Kyle Guy remembers being knocked out in the first round of the 2018 NCAA men’s basketball tournament to the No. 16 UMBC Retrievers. He had a photo of that moment saved as his phone background for the last year. But on April 7, Guy had the chance to be a hero. Trailing Auburn 62-60 with .06 seconds left in the Final Four, Virginia’s star player stepped up to the line to shoot his three free throws. One. Two. Three. Guy sunk all three shots, earned the win for his team, and set his program on the path to its first NCAA men’s basketball title.
April 8: Baylor wins NCAA women’s basketball tournament after Lauren Cox’s injury
The clocked ticked down. Baylor could feel it. Kim Mulkey and her team had lost star player and team leader Lauren Cox late in the third quarter of the championship game against Notre Dame, but that wasn’t going to stop the Bears. With an 11-point lead heading into the fourth quarter, the Bears knew they just needed to stay calm and relaxed. But Notre Dame wasn’t giving up. Three free throws from Marina Mabrey brought the game within eight, a jumper and a free throw from Arike Ogunbowale and a layup from Jessica Shepard narrowed the score even more. With five minutes to go, the game was tied. With less than 15 seconds to go in the game, it remained tied. Baylor needed points. Enter Chloe Jackson. Two timely layups from the senior and a missed free throw from last year’s tournament celebrity Arike Ogunbowale sealed the deal for the Bears, 82-81. The confetti fell. Cox and Mulkey embraced. The injury wouldn’t stop them from celebrating on the national stage as champions.
April 14: Cale Makar wears his UMass jersey to his final press conference
Cale Makar still wearing his UMass jersey: “I don’t want to take it off. I want to wear it as long as I can.” pic.twitter.com/BCKgqHq3bF
— Chris Peters (@chrismpeters) April 14, 2019
Few things can make a college athlete quite as emotional as taking off his or her uniform for the last time. And when the time came for Cale Makar to do so, he wasn’t quite ready. The UMass assistant captain showed up to his final press conference following the Minutemen’s 3-0 loss to Minnesota Duluth still wearing the burgundy and white sweater with MAKAR printed across the back. Two days later, he’d be donning a similar burgundy sweater though, lined with blue and bearing the logo of the Colorado Avalanche. The transition from college athlete to professional athlete would be a quick one for Makar, but he wanted to savor his last moments with his team. UMass had made an historic run to the Frozen Four and advanced to the championship game for the first time in program history. The loss was tough, but the moment was sweet.
CINDERELLA SQUAD: UMass is growing a hockey culture — and a new tradition of winning
May 5: Auburn gymnast celebrates graduation and a new job months after a devastating injury ended her athletic career
— sam_cerio (@sam_cerio) June 7, 2019
Sam Cerio had a busy couple of months this spring — some good, some bad and some ugly. In April, the Auburn gymnast star suffered a tragic injury where she broke both her legs and dislocated her knee after landing awkwardly on her floor routine. The injury ended Cerio’s career, but she continued to push forward as a student-athlete, chasing her academic and career goals. During Auburn’s graduation in June, the aerospace engineering major earned her degree and walked across the stage to receive her diploma, crutches and all. Oh, and she also celebrated her wedding later in June and will start a job at Boeing. Talk about an accomplished student-athlete driven to succeed regardless of adversity.
June 2: Rachel Garcia’s performance against Washington helped guide UCLA to the WCWS finals
Rachel Garcia came into the 2019 softball season as one of the top players in the country, and she solidified her status as such during UCLA’s championship run during the Women’s College World Series. In a WCWS game against Washington, Garcia’s heroics were particularly important, as she pitched 10 innings against Washington and struck out 16 batters to guide the team defensively. But she didn’t stop there. Garcia also ended the game with a crucial walk-off three-run home run to keep the Bruins in the series and ultimately advance them to the title game. A recent winner of the Honda Cup, Garcia ended her career in a storybook fashion as a national champion.
TEAM ON HER BACK: Rachel Garcia’s big plays send UCLA to WCWS Finals
June 8: Texas Tech wins first ever men’s track and field title behind championship performances from Divine Oduduru
The fastest man in college sports is quite a title, but it’s a title that rightfully belongs to Divine Oduduru. The junior Red Raider won the 2019 NCAA men’s outdoor track and field titles in the 100m and 200m, and his finishes played a crucial role in helping to elevate Texas Texas past Houston for the school’s first men’s NCAA title in program history. Oduduru not only won both of the individual events, but he did so with historic speed. The NCAA champ broke ten seconds in the 100, clocking in at 9.86, and broke 20 in the 200m just an hour after his first race. His 19.73 time in the 200m is the fastest time in NCAA history and the second-fastest time in the world. Oduduru will turn professional now and forgo his final year of eligibility, but he’ll continue to be a man to watch in the years to come.
June 8: Allie Ostrander wins her third straight NCAA 3000m steeplechase championship and makes headlines with her honest interview
“I feel so hot right now and not in like the attractive way.” 😂 pic.twitter.com/EaYd2FHTYa
— NCAA Track & Field (@NCAATrackField) June 8, 2019
Allie Ostrander entered this year’s steeplechase championship with a target on her back, but the pressure didn’t scare her. The two-time steeplechase champion knew she was the runner to beat in this event, but she raced with confidence when the stakes were the highest. Sprinting around the track under the beating Austin, Texas, sun with her eyes on another gold, Ostrander crossed the line in a personal best of 9:37.73 to earn a spot on top of the podium again. Ostrander’s moment was special, but when asked about winning her third championship in a post-race interview, Ostrander didn’t resort to the classic sport cliches. Instead, she told the interview exactly how she was feeling: “I feel so hot right now and not in like the attractive way.” Ostrander had one more race left that day in the NCAA championships, the brutal 5k, and when a reporter asked about how much she had left in the tank, Ostrander again spoke her mind: “Nothing.” It’s clear Ostrander is not only a champion on the track but also a champion at the mic. And she has one more year left to run.
June 16: Stanford’s Brandon Wu has a special graduation ceremony after U.S. Open
Graduation is a special moment for any student-athlete, but when you have to miss your graduation to play in the U.S. Open and then earn your diploma on the 18th hole, it’s fair to say graduation is even more memorable. Stanford golf standout Brandon Wu found himself in this position at Sunday’s final round at the U.S. Open paired with Dustin Johnson. The senior was just 18 days removed from winning the 2019 NCAA Division I golf championship with his Stanford teammates when he teed off at the U.S. Open on Sunday, but Stanford University wasn’t far from his heart. After his performance on the final hole of the U.S. Open, Wu was presented with his diploma, graduation cap and cords, a fitting ending for the Cardinal who put off going pro to embrace the experience of representing his university on the biggest stage.
June 21: Jake Mangum pays tribute to team in emotional press conference after loss
Jake Mangum wanted to bring the first College World Series title to Mississippi State. That was the goal the team had talked about all season, and for moments during the NCAA tournament, his team looked to be on the path towards achieving that goal. But a loss to Louisville in Omaha ultimately ended the dream, forcing Magnum and his team to speak to the press first after the game and address the season as a whole. Magnum’s college career had just ended, and he would never wear a Mississippi State jersey again. The senior leader started to tear up. His meaningful tribute to his team, his coach, his school and his journey left a lasting impression, and he’ll be remembered in the Mississippi State program for the legacy that he left as a Bulldog.