O'Neal's national title quest falls short
USF senior Matthew O'Neal's quest to become the Bulls' first national champ in 23 years fell just short Friday in Eugene, Ore.
On his 22nd birthday, O'Neal placed third in the men's triple jump at the NCAA Championships before an announced crowd of 12,244 at Hayward Field. His best effort of the day (54 feet, 5.25 inches) was more than a foot shy of eventual winner Latario Collie of Texas A&M (55-8.25), and well short of his own personal best (55-9.75).
"Definitely there's no disappointment," O'Neal said by phone shortly after the event.
"I'm thankful to just come out here and have the opportunity to compete again. Definitely I've had better marks, but I was just doing my best today and that's all I can ask for. ... I definitely thank God for that and I give glory to God for allowing me to be here today."
On a bright Oregon evening featuring fickle winds, O'Neal notched his best effort of the meet on his next-to-last attempt. On his final try, he started up the runway before pulling up just shy of the foul line. He started up again and appeared to possess a rhythmic stride, but fouled, ending his college career.
"As I was running, I thought I was gonna be over the board and have a foul, so I decided to kind of jog back and try again on the runway," he said. "I went down and still fouled by a little bit."
As a top-eight placer, O'Neal earned All-America recognition for the sixth time -- most in USF history. He was trying to become the Bulls' first national champ -- in any sport -- since Jon Dennis won the second of back-to-back men's outdoor 5,000-meter titles in 1993.
He now moves on to the U.S. Olympic Trials -- for which he qualified this past winter -- early next month in Eugene.
"This is my last meet as a USF Bull, and I just came out here and did my best and that's what came out of it," O'Neal said. "So I'm happy with the result."