EUGENE, Ore. — Junior sprinter Taiya Shelby concluded a historic season for Vanderbilt women’s track and field at the NCAA Outdoor Championships on Thursday night at Hayward Field.
Shelby, who was the first Commodore since Ryan Tolbert in 1997 to qualify for the NCAA Championships in the outdoor 400 meters, finished 17th overall in the NCAA semifinals. The top two in each heat and the next three best times qualified for the finals. Shelby raced to a seventh-place finish in her heat and stopped the clock at 52.63 which finished just seven-tenths of a second shy of the finals.
“Taiya represented us well,” said head coach Steve Keith. “It’s a challenging meet to try to be at your best and for her first experience I know she will be motivated to learn from it and next time she’ll benefit from it. She had a fantastic season on the track. She has everything to be proud of and in the years to come, she’ll only further these accomplishments.”
A native of Kansas City, Missouri, and double major in economics and medicine, health and society, Shelby wrapped up one of the most impressive outdoor seasons in Vanderbilt’s sprinting history.
As the first Commodore in 24 years to reach the NCAA Championships in the 400 meters, she finished with the second-fastest time in school history at 51.84—also just the second Vandy sprinter to break 52 seconds in the event. In addition, she set the school record in the 4×100 relay and posted the ninth-fastest time in the 800 meters in program history. In all, she ranks second in school history in five events and ranks among Vanderbilt’s all-time top 10 in 11 different events.
“Taiya is an unbelievable competitor,” assistant coach Donnie Young said of Vandy’s first NCAA qualifying sprinter in nearly a quarter century. “She does everything the right way and she is everything you want in an athlete. She showed she belongs with the best in the country and she earned her spot here performing at the highest levels.
“And overall our sprinters had an incredible season. They each bought into what we were doing and the culture we’re building. It’s a young group with almost everyone back next season and it’s going to be special.”
As a team, Vanderbilt set five school records and recorded 33 top-10 performances during the 2021 outdoor season, while in a shortened indoor season, Vanderbilt etched 17 new entries into the school record book which includes 14 different student-athletes in nine different individual events and two relays.