In May of 2015, the UC Riverside track and field team concluded a season which consisted of a total of seven school records broken between both the men and women’s side and a multitude of individual honors. The team continues to put themselves on the map nationally and truly, this season was one for the ages. Though, apart from the team’s season as a whole let us consider the season for its individual athletes.
If you have any familiarity with track and field, you are aware of the notion that the longer an athlete’s season lasts, the better and more competitive they are.
If this notion is true, Highlander Danielle Littleton is perhaps one of the greatest UCR has to offer this year. Already owner of the school’s best-ever time in the 100-meter hurdles, Littleton lept into the record books again this season when she amassed a school record in the long jump with a distance of 6.22m (20’ 5.00”) and added upon her Big West accolades in the process. Unsurprisingly, Littleton was the lone Highlander to carry her success into championship play.
In late May at the NCAA Regionals, Littleton nearly bettered her school record with a leap of 20’ 4.50”, securing her a spot in June’s NCAA Outdoor Championships in Eugene, Oregon.
Littleton is an owner of multiple Big West Conference titles and honors and has historically performed best when the pressure was near its peak, yet the stage at Oregon was undoubtedly the biggest of the senior’s collegiate career.
Littleton entered the championships with her UCR record jump of 20’5” being the 15th-best among the 24 competitors. However, at the meet, Littleton slightly disappointed, posting a top jump of 19’6” which placed her 20th out of the field.
In an interview with Press Enterprise prior to the meet, Littleton emphasized her desire to “go out with a bang.” And while she failed to bring the coveted NCAA Championship home, the noise she made throughout her career at UC Riverside will not be unheard: 2011 Freshman of the Year Honors, 2012 Big West Scholar Athlete of the Year, school record holder in both the Women’s Long Jump and 100-meter hurdles and UCR’s all-time best performance in the Big West heptathlon — to name a few.
It should also not be forgotten that Littleton’s successful 2014-15 season was nearly jeopardized by injury.
In early April, Littleton suffered a hamstring injury that put her ability to compete for the rest of the year into question. Littleton was unfortunately forced to miss the Big West Conference Championships rather than defend her titles in the heptathlon, 100m hurdles and long jump. It was a situation Littleton deemed “devastating” at the time. However, ultimately, the rest and physical therapy was a remedy potent enough to erase thoughts of failing to defend her conference titles and proved to be the primary catalyst to her success at the NCAA Championships.
This journey of a season is a testament to the resilience and poise of the decorated senior. And just as Littleton looked forward to the bigger stage, UC Riverside Track and Field now looks ahead to their future without her, where the precedent she set will be everlasting.