Butler’s sensational freshman season ends with 22nd-place finish at nationals

AUSTIN, Texas—Sanaria Butler ran her third-fastest time in the 400-meter dash all season, but it wasn’t enough, placing 22nd at nationals on Thursday evening at Mike A. Myers Stadium.

Her 52.54 finished ahead of competitors from Tennessee and Ohio State.

With the finish, Butler earned honorable mention All-American honors.

“I was happy to be here,” she said. “I was happy to be there and represent my school and run against some incredible athletes.”

Sprints coach Adam Pennington knew it was going to be a tall task for Butler, as she ranked 24th going in, but she didn’t back down.

“This is a positive thing, no matter the outcome,” Pennington said. “We knew our challenges coming into this race. We were being realistic with ourself and what we have in store for the future.

“Our goal was to make the top 16 and it would be a difficult test with the competition level as high as it is. This is the best 400-meter field in NCAA history, so just to be out here on the track with this group of girls and getting a chance to run against them bodes we’ll for the future.”

Of the 24 participants, 20 of them ran a sub-52.00, and two—Arkansas’ Britton Wilson and Texas’ Rhasidat Adeleke—ran a sub-50.00. Wilson won the event with a 49.36 and Adeleke finished with a 49.86.

The top eight finishers—the top two in each heat, plus the next three best times—advanced to Saturday’s final. 

Arkansas grabbed two of the top three and three of the top seven spots in the final.

The weather, which caused a few men’s events from Wednesday to be postponed until Thursday, was ideal, despite severe weather warnings and watches in surrounding areas.

Despite the finish, she looks back fondly on this experience, ranking it her top moment of a sensational freshman season.

“This is number one, for sure, making it to nationals,” she said. “Breaking school records was great, but this is something else.”

While she did choose her appearance at nationals as the top moment in her freshman campaign, no one can overlook the mark she has already made on the Northwestern State record books. 

Butler, who was competing at nationals in her home state, broke the school record as well as the Leon Johnson Invitational and Walter P. Ledet Track Complex record in the 400 with a 52.22.

If that wasn’t enough, she topped that mark a week later with a time of 52.19 at the Michael Johnson Invitational on the campus of Baylor.

During the Southland Conference Outdoor championships, Butler recorded the most individual points on the women’s side, earning her the Most Outstanding Female performer during the meet, bringing home three silvers and was a member on the 4×400 relay team that captured gold.

Pennington knows this is just the beginning for the freshman, as the national meet and the week in Austin has taught her quite a bit as she moves forward in her career.

“Heading into a championship like this as a freshman for any individual in any event is a huge thing,” Pennington said. “To get this type of experience this young in her career is a great thing for us and Sanaria moving forward.”

Next up for Butler is competing in the USA under-20s.

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