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Yeboah wins national title for Illini, qualifies for Olympics

Jun. 8—EUGENE, Ore. — Rose Yeboah signed with the Illinois women's track and field team in November 2022.

A prolific high jumper from Kumasi, Ghana, Yeboah won the 2021 and 2022 African Championship.

But she didn't put her skills on display until 2024 arrived. And now, Yeboah has arrived. With an accomplishment the Illini have been lacking for more than a decade. Not anymore, though.

Yeboah won a national title on Saturday evening at the NCAA Outdoor Championships at Hayward Field when she and Georgia junior Elena Kulichenko delivered impressive jump after impressive jump, with both eventually clearing 6 feet, 5 1/2 inches to split the national championship.

The leap of 6-5 1/2 is a new Illinois record and a new NCAA meet record, too, while qualifying Yeboah for the upcoming Summer Olympics in Paris.

Yeboah is the first Illini to win an outdoor national title since Ashley Spencer won the 400-meter dash in 2013, and is only the sixth Illini women's track and field athlete to win a national championship.

Spencer also won a national title in the 400 in 2012, while Angela Bizzarri in the 5,000 in 2009, Perdita Felicien in the 100 hurdles in 2002 and 2003, Tonya Williams in the 400 hurdles in 1995 and 1996 and Tonja Buford in the 400 hurdles in 1992 are the only other Illini to win national titles.

Yeboah's efforts, along with a few of her teammates, helped the Illini place 16th in the team standings at the NCAA Championships.

Along with Yeboah, Dara Sopova took second in the triple jump on Saturday with a leap of 45-11 3/4. Sopova, a junior from Ventspils, Latvia, who transferred to Illinois ahead of this season from Texas, also set a school record with her runner-up finish on Saturday. She is the first Illini athlete to finish that high in the triple jump at the NCAA Championships.

Illinois also had two athletes finish in ninth place on Saturday, with Jessica McDowell doing so in the 400 in 51.35 seconds and Bara Sajdokova doing so in the high jump by clearing 6-1 1/2.