By Dean “The Sportsman” Greenaway
Indiana Jr. Rikkoi Brathwaite sprinted into history on Saturday, becoming his school and the Territory’s 1st NCAA Division I Indoor Championships male sprint medalist, when he stopped the clock at 6.56 seconds–.001 off his personal best—to claim 60m bronze.
In the process, Brathwaithe joined Minnesota’s Tahesia Harrigan who bagged 60m silver in 2002 and Chantel Malone who earned Triple Jump bronze in 2011 for Texas, as the three BVI athletes who have won NCAA Indoor Championships medals. Brathwaite who equaled his 6.55 seconds personal best to win his semifinal and advanced to the final, became the Territory’s seventh All American of 10 athletes who have qualified for an NCAA Division I Indoor or Outdoor Championship, since 1979.
“It was somewhat emotional for me, because for two years now, I’ve been trying to get to those championships,” Brathwaite, who won last month’s Big 10 Conference 60m title, told Island Sun Sports. “It took a lot of work of course and a lot of prayer.”
All along, Brathwaite, the BVI’s first Carifta Games U20 Boys 100m medalist in 2018, had been telling his friends he’s going to qualify the championships and said it was a really positive environment. After placing third in the final, he said he was hanging his head a bit low, because he wanted to run faster than his 6.55 personal best which he has run twice this season and it took a couple hours for what he had done to really sink in, that he was the third best sprinter on the collegiate level.
“I made history for my country. I made history for my school and now they know who I am, I’m on watch,” he pointed out. “I can’t be anything else but grateful.”
With improved 60m speed, he said it’s definitely a confidence booster for the outdoor season, which keeps him driving, working and chugging. He said now it’s easier to tell his coach to drop him in some 400s to help his conditioning, for when he’s ready to run fast.
“I’ll have the training, I’ll have the speed and hopefully by then, speed endurance, to hopefully run a nine,” he pointed out. “So it has been a big confidence booster.”
He will now turn his focus to the outdoor season.
At the same meet, Florida Sr. Kala Penn, ended her collegiate career with a 16th place Triple Jump finish in 12.53m. Penn and Brathwaite became the first female and male athletes to compete in the same NCAA Division I Championships, joining Malone and Illinois’ Ashley Kelly, who were the first athletes in the same championships in 2011.
Elsewhere, Southwest Baptist Freshman Zara Brown, helped her team’s Distance Medley Relay to an NCAA Division II Indoor Championships bronze medal. Brown split 57.84 seconds on the 400m leg, as her team edged Augustana by .001, 11:35.54-11:35.55, to earn All American honors.
Meanwhile, Deya Erickson chopped her 3-year 100m Hurdles personal best and national record from 13.80 seconds to 13.61, after finishing 2nd in the South Florida Challenge 3 meet on Saturday.