Savannah Sutherland, a hurdler from Borden, Sask., had two goals for the 2023 outdoor season: to achieve a personal best and to reach the NCAA final in the 400m hurdles. On Saturday, at the 2023 NCAA Track and Field Championships in Austin, Texas, the 19-year-old sprinter from the University of Michigan not only reached the final, but also stunned the field by running a personal best of 54.45 seconds, securing her her first NCAA Championship.
— Michigan Track & Field / Cross Country (@UMichTrack) June 11, 2023
After the race, Sutherland revealed in an interview that she was able to remain composed, because she had nothing to lose, since all the attention was on pre-race favorites Masai Russell and Britton Wilson, both renowned US sprinters.
“I think it honestly helped calm me down a little bit,” she shared with reporters. “The focus was on them, and I had nothing to lose. It helped me give it my all.”
Sutherland finished the race over two-tenths of a second ahead of second-place Russell (Kentucky) and nearly 1.5 seconds ahead of pre-race favorite Wilson (Arkansas). Notably, Wilson had competed in the 400m just 25 minutes before the 400m hurdles race. Wilson finished seventh in 55.92 seconds.
Sutherland’s winning time of 54.45 seconds is not only a one-second personal best but also sets a new school record, a Canadian U23 record, and the 2023 world championship standard; it also stands as one of the top-10 400m hurdles times in the world this year.
As a second-year student at the University of Michigan, Sutherland follows in the footsteps of Canadian 400m hurdles record holder Sage Watson from Medicine Hat, Alta., the last Canadian to win an NCAA title in the event (Watson won in 2017 with the University of Arizona). Watson has since represented Canada in two Olympic Games and won gold in the 400m hurdles at the 2019 Pan-Am Games in Peru.
Get to know Savannah Sutherland, 400m indoor Canadian record holder
Sutherland’s successful season continues, as she now has the opportunity to compete for a national title at the 2023 Canadian Track and Field Championships in Langley, BC, in late July. She there is also the possibility of representing Team Canada at the 2023 World Athletics Championships in Budapest, Hungary.