If there was such thing as an assist between collegiate athletic programs, UCLA might merit one for helping crosstown rival USC cement a national championship in track and field last weekend.
Sprinting headfirst into a gusty Eugene, Ore., headwind, with cold rain lashing her face, Trojans sprinter Angie Annelus claimed an unlikely NCAA Division I title in the women's 200 meters.
The year before, Annelus, a Grandview, Mo., native and 2015 graduate of Grandview High, had donned the blue and gold of the UCLA Bruins — not the cardinal and gold of USC.
“Coaching changes,” Annelus said. “I just felt like it was the right move for me at the time, and it worked out really well.”
At the end of the 2017 season, UCLA purged its track and field coaching staff, leaving just one coach standing when all was said and done. Several athletes, including Annelus, departed for other athletic programs as the foundations upon which they stood at UCLA were ripped from beneath their feet.
Originally hailing from the Kansas City area, Annelus chose UCLA over other schools because one of her three brothers lives in the Los Angeles area. After the upheaval at UCLA, she wanted to start fresh with a new program but stay in L.A., a city she had come to love, with her brother.
“(USC) had a lot of benefits and pluses,” Annelus explained. “I got to stay in California ... my family is here. And a great academic program, a great track program — I couldn’t ask for anything better.”
Annelus sat out her first indoor season with USC with sacroiliac joint dysfunction, a condition in which the sacroiliac joint, which connects the pelvis to the spine and absorbs shock, begins to become unstable and cause lower-back and leg pain.
Recovering from the condition through injections and training programs, Annelus less than a year found herself later lined up in Lane 7 of the 200-meter final at the NCAA championships.
Just before the race, Annelus was told by her coaches that the race could decide whether the USC women’s team came home with a national championship.
Of the eight women competing in the final, Annelus held the seventh-fastest time. In other words, winning was a bit of a long shot.
“Right at the start of the race, Coach Caryl (Smith Gilbert) was right there," Annelus said. "She was talking to me, and she was like, 'You've got to get out, run the curve. So throughout the race, I just thought get out, run. And at about 150 (meters), I was leading. I was like, ‘Come on, lift your knees, get to the line!’”
Crossing the line in 22.76 seconds, which was not even a personal best for her, Annelus claimed the victory over favorites Gabrielle Thomas and Lynna Irby by 10 hundredths and .16 hundredths of a second, respectively.
In part, Annelus has the weather to thank for her victory. She said the cold rain and headwinds changed the dynamic of the race from what she and others more typically experience.
The 10 points for her victory in the third-to-last event of the meet, along with the Trojans' 4x400 relay's victory in the final one, helped USC beat second-place Georgia by a point. The championship was just the second in the history of the USC women's team (the other was in 2001).
“It feels great, something I’ve been working on all year,” Annelus said. “So it’s just great that it actually worked out and I was able to win the national championship.”