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That incredible last-second win in the women's relay? One runner grew up in Charlotte

Anna Cockrell (left), shown here as an 18-year-old senior at Providence Day, was part of a championship-winning women's relay team for the University of Southern California on Saturday.
Anna Cockrell (left), shown here as an 18-year-old senior at Providence Day, was part of a championship-winning women's relay team for the University of Southern California on Saturday. jsimmons@charlotteobserver.com

The University of Southern California women's relay team shocked the world at the end of the NCAA track and field championships Saturday.

Near the end of the last lap, senior Kendall Ellis burst out from the middle of the pack to win the race — and the entire tournament — for her school.

In a video published by the university, Ellis said the relay win was especially meaningful because it was a team effort. Part of that team came from Charlotte.

Sophomore Anna Cockrell, who ran second in the women's 4x400 relay, graduated from Providence Day School in 2016.

As a team, the USC women were in third place before the 4x400 — but because neither the first or second place schools were competing in the relay, they still had a chance to win the championship with a first-place finish.

That looked unlikely for most of the race. Cockrell finished her lap in third or fouth place. USC was nowhere near the lead after another lap, and then it was Ellis' turn to pick up the baton. The handoff was awkward.

With just a few seconds left in the race, an athlete from Purdue was in the lead. Ellis was in third place, not even close to the second-place Oregon runner.

When Ellis passed Oregon and then, steps from the finish line, blazed by Purdue, the ESPN announcers were just as shocked as the crowd.

With that, the USC women's track and field team won its second national championship since 2001, according to 247sports.

While Ellis was the star of the relay finish, Cockrell had a great tournament, too. She won All-America honors for her second-place finish in the 400-meter hurdles, where her 55.71 time was a season best, according to the USC track and field team's Twitter.

She comes from a serious sports family. Her older brother Ross Cockrell is a Panthers cornerback with Charlotte roots — he graduated from Charlotte Latin.

Their sister Ciera Cockrell plays volleyball for Davidson.

Jane Wester: 704-358-5128, @janewester
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