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Is Sydney McLaughlin the most dominant athlete in UK history?


The focus was on Justify’s Triple Crown victory yesterday afternoon, but one Kentucky Wildcat followed it up with a trophy-winning performance of her own to add to the long list of records and accolades she has already claimed.

And it may have solidified her spot as the most dominant athlete in UK history.

That’s right, not a star basketball or football player. A track and field sensation has officially taken over the top spot as the most dominant athlete in school history. And if things go as planned, Kentucky freshman Sydney McLaughlin will be the face of U.S. Track and Field for years to come.

McLaughlin, an 18-year-old track phenom from New Jersey, ran away with the 400m Hurdle title at the NCAA Championships last night with a final time of 53.96 seconds to bring another banner back home to Lexington.

Check out the victory, where despite the horrible weather conditions, the Wildcat freshman was able to pull off the 8th fastest time in collegiate history.

Nobody even close.

This came right after McLaughlin destroyed the 400m hurdle semifinals with a time of 54.15, over two seconds faster than anyone else in the field.

The footage is hilarious, as the camera crew tried to keep the view as wide as possible to keep other runners in the frame, but McLaughlin was so far ahead they eventually just gave up.

She came on the national scene by representing the United States in the 2016 Rio Olympics at just 16 years old.

As a senior in high school, McLaughlin recorded the fastest legal time by a high school female in the 200m event with a time of 22.96, a record that had stood since 1993. She followed it up with New Jersey meet records in the 400m hurdles, 400m, and the 200m. The 400m time (54.03) broke the World Junior and overall high school records.

As the fastest runner in all of high school, she had sponsors begging her to skip college and turn pro. Instead, she decided to be a kid for one more year and attend the University of Kentucky.

To no one’s surprise, she quickly became the fastest collegiate female in the nation.

Back in March, McLaughlin set the world junior 400m record with a time of 50.36 at the NCAA Division I Indoor Track and Field Championships. She followed it up with a 400m time of in 50.07 seconds, a new NCAA Freshman record. With that time, McLaughlin became the second-fastest person to run the 400m at the collegiate level ever behind Courtney Okolo and now leads the world in the event.

Just two months later, the track phenom broke the NCAA record in the 400m hurdles, finishing with a 52.75 to win the event in her first SEC championship appearance. In the process, McLaughlin destroyed the World U20 time and broke Shamier Little’s time of 53.21 set at the 2013 NCAA Championships to become No. 13 on the all-time world list.

At 52.75, McLaughlin is just 0.41 seconds away from becoming the fastest woman hurdler in the world.

And according to Kentucky Track and Field coach Edrick Floréal, McLaughlin could easily break Russia’s Yuliya Nosova-Pechonkina 400m hurdle record of 52.34 in the very near future. In “perfect” runs at practice, Floréal said she can finish in the 51.9-second range, which would make her the fastest woman in world history by a whopping .44 seconds.

Unfortunately for UK fans, we won’t be able to see her break that record in a Kentucky uniform. After her national title victory last yesterday, McLaughlin announced she will be turning pro.

So now that her one (and only) season at Kentucky is over, is it safe to say she is the most dominant athlete in school history?

Here’s the competition:

Anthony Davis had the most decorated season at Kentucky, finishing as a national champion, National Player of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year, Final Four’s Most Outstanding Player, Olympic gold medal winner, No. 1 draft pick, etc. Most have had him penciled in as the most dominant.

Wallace “Wah Wah” Jones was a three-time basketball All-American and led the team to back-to-back national championships under Adolph Rupp. And he was also a star under Bear Bryant on the football team. Oh, and he dabbled in UK baseball in his “free” time. He was one of the best multi-sport athletes in school history.

Dermontti Dawson was a pro football Hall of Famer. Tim Couch was the most dominant quarterback in UK history and became the No. 1 overall pick. A.J. Reed was the unanimous National Player of the Year in baseball as a hitting/pitching sensation. Dan Issel was a two-time consensus All-American and holds just about every scoring record Kentucky has to offer.

That being said, no one dominated their sport in effortless fashion the way McLaughlin has done in her one-and-done season at Kentucky. She breaks records, but hardly breaks a sweat in doing so. She once clipped a hurdle, but was so far ahead in the race, still casually strolled across the finish line with zero worries.

Her runs are ridiculously effortless. Her competition sees nothing but her back at all times, and the records show for it.

Has she officially taken over the top spot? I think so.

Article written by Jack Pilgrim

Follow me on Twitter: @JackPilgrimKSR

24 responses to “Is Sydney McLaughlin the most dominant athlete in UK history?”

  1. BBNDan7

    Yes. Absolutely

  2. Wade

    It’s a possibility!

    1. deazysUK

      Yes

  3. BigBlueMeade

    Yes. She will finish as a world record holder and it will not he close.

  4. JaxWildcat

    Yes, if you’re ranking “the most dominant athlete” for their sport then yes, she has this one.

    Is most of the focus at UK on the men’s basketball team? Yes. But that isn’t what’s being asked.

    If you’re only a fan of UK basketball you may never be convinced of it, but Sydney’s single season at UK was amazing. Embrace it and be glad she’s a Wildcat.

    1. JaxWildcat

      Of course I say that but I also get tired of the Jordan vs James debate with basketball. Let’s just appreciate their greatness. And yes, Sydney would at least belong in that conversation of best UK athletes.

  5. RexRox

    Autograph tour?

  6. jpgfile

    About the only other nominee I can think of is Jenny Hansen & her gymnastic dominance in 1990s.

  7. Catlogic15

    Not a debate. Absolutely. Very special. Glad she chose Coach Flo and UK. Hope she has great memories of her time here.

  8. 4everUKblue

    Again BBN was very fortunate to have her pick Kentucky and yes she is! We are also very fortunate to have Coach Floreal, he’s been the difference in the track and field program…. hope he sticks around.

    1. mashburnfan1

      well said.

    2. JaxWildcat

      Agreed!

  9. JackEsq

    She probably is the most dominant athlete UK has had. She may also end up being one of the biggest international stars in her sport. She could be the face of track and field for years to come.

  10. UKinIN

    Only downside to her sport is that it’s not like the NFL or NBA where they announce the college you attended during your introduction.

  11. ukcamel

    Hard to compare someone that dominates a somewhat niche sport with athletes that compete in global games like basketball.

    That’s obviously not trying to take anything away from her, just looking at it objectively, it isn’t an apples to apples comparison.

    1. UKinIN

      You’re totally correct, ukcamel. Track and Field is the definition of “niche sport”. How can World Championships and the Olympics, where the best athletes from every country around the world actually compete head to head, at the same time, compare to global teams sports like basketball?

    2. ukcamel

      You are obviously being sarcastic, but hurdling is a niche sport – which is why 99% of people on this site can name exactly one active hurdler in the world. And even taking track and field in it’s entirety, participation doesn’t come close to the 500 million or so people who play basketball around the world. Intentionally obtuse is a bad look, hombre.

    3. runningunnin.454

      Kendra Harrison, Omar McLeod.

  12. runningunnin.454

    The key word being dominant, I would say it’s a draw with A.D. and,
    I’m expecting Syd to mine gold in Tokyo in 2020.

  13. notFromhere

    Most dominant athlete? Wah Wah

    In their sport, sure, McLaughlin fits that for UK. I hope she stays healthy and keeps breaking records. I will be watching international T&F for the first time since Usain Bolt came on the scene

  14. notFromhere

    Wish she would do an autograph tour with Olivia Gruver and Tim Duckworth if their eligibility is also finished. I bet a lot of UK fans would like to show her how much she is appreciated

  15. Sentient Third Eye

    These one-and-dones are RUINING college track!

    1. runningunnin.454

      Ha ha ha ha.

  16. The last sith lord

    No shes not. Jimmy Carr was. He wrestled for uk. Sports illustrated called him the best athlete in the usa over the then number 1 basketball player Moses Malone