The Warm-Up Lap: Championships Previews
NEW ORLEANS – Months of training and competition have led to this weekend for collegiate track & field student-athletes around the country. Each weekend of the season to this point has provided top-notch meets and match-ups in all three divisions, but none match up to what is to come Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
It’s NCAA Championships weekend.
The South and Midwest will be teeming with track & field talent, with Fayetteville, Ark., hosting the DI championships; Birmingham, Ala., housing the DII Championships as part of its Winter Sports Festival; and Naperville, Ill., hosting the DIII Championships.
How intense will the action across all three division be? A total of 43 previous individual champions – including 30 defending champions – between the three divisions are slated to compete. Four collegiate record-holders will be in action. A trio of three-time team champions are on the verge of losing their streaks. The plotlines get thicker and thicker.
Division I NCAA Championships
Both the No. 2 Florida men and No. 4 Oregon women are fighting to keep their streaks of three consecutive indoor team titles alive, but the Gators have a tough task ahead of them in taking down the heavily favored Arkansas Razorbacks, who have 19 total entries into the meet – eight more than Florida.
Oregon, despite sitting No. 4 in the country, is in much better position to reclaim its title with a nation-best 13 entries into the Championships. The battle for the women’s title will be intense with five teams ranked within 30 team points of one another in the latest National Team Computer Rankings. The three-point difference Between No. 1 LSU and No. 2 Kansas is the second-smallest margin since 2008 between the No. 1 and No. 2 teams. The only time it was smaller was in 2009, when No. 2 Tennessee toppled No. 1 Texas A&M.
Individual Event Battles
With just a few exceptions, the best of the best that collegiate track & field has to offer will be on display at the Randal Tyson Track Center, so each and every event in the complex is an event to watch.
TOP RETURNERS From 2012 – DI Men
|200||Ameer Webb||Texas A&M||1|
|5000||Diego Estrada||Northern Arizona||5|
|High Jump||Marcus Jackson||Mississippi State||4|
|Pole Vault||Andrew Irwin||Arkansas||1|
|Long Jump||Kendall Spencer||New Mexico||1|
|Triple Jump||Omar Craddock||Florida||1|
|Shot Put||Jordan Clarke||Arizona State||1|
|Weight Throw||Alexander Ziegler||Virginia Tech||3|
Men’s 60: Can anyone stop Florida State freshman Marvin Bracy? He’s undefeated this season and owns the nation’s fastest qualifying time at 6.54. It could be Mississippi State’s D’Angelo Cherry, who ran the fastest time this season in his USATF Indoor Championship-winning 6.49, but the mark did not count as a qualifying time. Or it could be teammate Dentarius Locke (6.56)? SEC Champ freshman Markesh Woodson of Missouri (6.60)? It’s up in the air with the field of 16 all within .13 – less than the blink of an eye – of one another.
Men’s 200: Defending champion Ameer Webb of Texas A&M, seeded fifth at 20.75, will face some stiff competition to reclaim his title, including LSU sophomore Aaron Ernest and his collegiate-leading 20.53 on this very track two weekends ago. Half of the 16-sprinter field is from the SEC.
Men’s 400: World-leader Deon Lendore of Texas A&M (45.15) will go up against three other runners who have gone sub-46 this season, including 2012 indoor runner-up Brycen Spratling of Pittsburgh, and eight within a second of his season-best 45.15.
Men’s 800: Four runners have gone sub-1:47 so far this season – including two from Arkansas in No. 1 Leoman Momoh and No. 3 Tomas Squella. After starting his senior indoor season with a bang at 1:46.98, Penn State’s Casimir Loxsom, who recently ran the fastest-ever 600 by an American, will look to finish his indoor season the same.
Men’s Mile: Defending champ and collegiate record holder Chris O’Hare of Tulsa is the favorite, but anything can happen in a championship race in which three-quarters of the field has run a season best within two seconds of one another. Lawi Lalang of Arizona and Ryan Hill of NC State are No. 3 and 4 on the all-time indoor mile list, respectively.
Men’s 3000: With No. 1 and defending champ Lalang and No. 3 Hill potentially tired following their mile competitions, the race could open up for No. 2 Texas A&M’s Henry Lelei, 2012 XC Champ Kennedy Kithuka of Texas Tech and the rest of the field, all within 3½ seconds of one another.
Men’s 5000: Kithuka enters as the No. 1 seed by a wide nine-second margin, but seeds 2-6 are all within two seconds of one another. A majority of the runners in this race duked it out in an exciting UW Classic 5000 earlier this season, and if this race shapes up similarly a show will certainly be on hand.
Men’s 60 hurdles: Eddie Lovett of Florida set himself apart from the field with his 7.54 at the SEC Championships, but Clemson’s Spencer Adams is right there at 7.59. Seeds 3-8 are only separated by .05, ensuring a tight finish at the line and a strong challenge for the top spot.
Men’s 4×400 Relay: Anchored by Deon Lendore, the top-ranked Texas A&M squad is difficult to defeat if the race is close for the world leader at 400 meters in the final two laps. The Aggies caught and passed No. 2 Florida from about 8-10 meters down to claim the SEC title in 3:04.18. Outside the Aggies and Gators, who are both seeded about two seconds ahead of the field, the remaining 10 teams are all within a second-and-a-half of one another.
Men’s Distance Medley Relay: This is literally a rematch of the top 12 teams from the Notre Dame Alex Wilson Invitational, which essentially served as a national semifinal for the relay. Penn State walked away from that meet with the top seed at 9:26.60, but can they do it again with No. 2 Princeton sitting right behind at 9:27.74 and Stanford and Oklahoma State lurking with low-9:28s?
Men’s High Jump: A rematch of Olympic proportions is on tap, as London silver medalist and collegiate leader Erik Kynard of Kansas State (7-7¾/2.33m) takes on bronze medalist and two-time NCAA indoor champ Derek Drouin of Indiana (7-7¼/2.32m). Nine of the jumpers have cleared 7-5 (2.26m) this season.
Men’s Pole Vault: Defending champion sophomore Andrew Irwin of Arkansas (No. 2, 18-4¼/5.60m) will be up against stiff competition in a senior Jack Whitt of Oral Roberts (No. 1, 18-4¾/5.61m) with one last chance at a title; a fellow sophomore in UCLA’s Michael Woepse (No. 3, 18-4¼/5.60m); and this year’s freshman sensations in Akron’s Shawn Barber (No. 4 18-4¼/5.60m) and Jake Blankenship of Tennessee (No. 5, 18-2½/5.55m).
Men’s Long Jump: Defending champion Kendall Spencer of New Mexico is in the field, but the favorite is Florida’s Marquis Dendy, the only jumper to surpass 27 feet this season at 27-1 (8.25m).
Men’s Triple Jump: A rematch atop the performance list is in store after Arkansas’ Tarik Batchelor (54-2¾/16.53m) edged out defending NCAA Champion Omar Craddock of Florida (54-1¼/16.49m) at the SEC Championships.
Men’s Shot Put: Defending champion Jordan Clarke of Arizona State leads the nation by a healthy foot-and-three-quarters (67-6¾/20.59), but seeds 2-5 are all within 6½ inches of one another.
Men’s Weight Throw: This could be the year for Virginia Tech’s Alexander Ziegler (No. 1, 77-8¾/23.69m). After finishing third, runner-up and third in the past three championships he now leads the nation by nearly four feet.
Men’s Heptathlon: Collegiate leader Jeremy Taiwo of Washington is not in the field, but the field is still strong with Japheth Cato of Wisconsin (No. 1, 6,090), who is looking to become the first collegiate heptathlete to record four scores higher than 6,000 points. He is tied with 2010 Bowerman winner Ashton Eaton of Oregon with three such scores. Kevin Lazas of Arkansas is right behind with a score of 6,042.
TOP RETURNERS From 2012 – DI Women
|800||Natalja Piliusina||Oklahoma State||2|
|3000||Betsy Saina||Iowa State||3|
|5000||Betsy Saina||Iowa State||1|
|High Jump||Brigetta Barrett||Arizona||1|
|Pole Vault||Morgan Leleux||Georgia||2|
|Long Jump||Francine Simpson||Kansas||6|
|Triple Jump||Andrea Geubelle||Kansas||1|
|Shot Put||Tia Brooks||Oklahoma||1|
|Weight Throw||Brittany Smith||Illinois St.||3|
|Indoor Pent.||Erica Bougard||Mississippi State||10|
Women’s 60: The budding Kimberlyn Duncan vs. Aurieyall Scott rivalry that has blossomed this season could be put on the back burner if defending champion English Gardner of Oregon has anything to say about it. Scott of UCF leads all collegians at 7.13, followed closely by defending Bowerman winner Duncan of LSU at 7.16. Gardner is the No. 3 seed at 7.19, along with Dezerea Bryant of Clemson and UCF’s Octavious Freeman.
Women’s 200: It’s Duncan who enters as the top seed at 200 – her signature event – in 22.54, while Scott comes in at 22.68. However, Scott defeated Duncan in their only head-to-head match-up this season on this very track. A pair of Aggies also come in under 23 seconds in Ashton Purvis (22.70) and Kamaria Brown (22.73).
Women’s 400: Arkansas’ Regina George is by far the collegiate leader at 51.40, ahead of Phyllis Francis of Oregon at 52.03. Kansas’ defending champ Diamond Dixon is seeded ninth, leaving plenty of room for improvement for both herself and the team score in what figures to be a very tight team race with a good showing.
Women’s 800: LSU is the class of the field, as No. 1 Charlene Lipsey (2:02.48) and No. 2 Natoya Goule (2:03.08) are more than a second ahead of No. 3 Samantha Murphy of Illinois. Of course anything can happen in four laps, but runners 3-16 are all within two seconds of one another.
Women’s Mile: Olympic steeplechaser Emma Coburn of Colorado ran just one race this season, and it was the collegiate leader in the mile at the Millrose Games at 4:29.86. No one in the field is seeded with a time below 4:32.00, but the pace is likely to be slower without the world-leading professionals in the race. Cory McGee of Florida (No. 2, 4:32.10) leads a pack of six other women faster than 4:35.00 this season.
Women’s 3000: Collegiate leader Abbey D’Agostino of Dartmouth (8:55.41), No. 2 and 2011 champ Jordan Hasay of Oregon (8:57.46) and No. 4 Betsy Saina of Iowa State (9:04.57) will get to rehash their dramatic final kick at the 2012 NCAA Cross Country Championships – which Saina narrowly claimed over D’Agostino and then Hasay – for a second time at this meet following Friday’s 5000 also featuring these three.
Women’s 5000: Saina is the defending champ in this event and the collegiate leader this season at 15:21.66. She is seeded four seconds ahead of Wichita State’s Aliphine Tuliamuk-Bolton, and the rest of the field is nearly 24 seconds back, in terms of seeding. The pace out of the gate – and who controls it – will go a long way in determining the nature of this race.
Women’s 60 hurdles: The overwhelming favorite is Clemson’s Brianna Rollins, the collegiate record holder at 7.78 who won this event two years ago and finished runner-up last season, Baylor’s Tiffani McReynolds is the strongest contender to challenge Rollins at 8.02, along with LSU’s Jasmin Stowers at 8.06. Rollins has run slower than 8.00 just once this season.
Women’s 4×400 Relay: Arkansas is the class of the field at 3:29.60, with Texas its nearest competitor in terms of seeded time at 3:30.95. This relay could be exceptionally exciting depending upon the state of the team race heading into this final event. The top five overall teams in the nation each have entries in this race.
Women’s Distance Medley Relay: Villanova may come into the meet No. 2 at 10:56.74 to No. 1 Michigan’s 10:56.66, but Nova’s performance came on the banked track of The Armory – very similar to Fayetteville’s setup – while Michigan’s came on an oversized 300 meter track at the SPIRE Institute. Expect No. 3 Florida State and No. 4 Georgetown to contend as sub-10:58 teams, and never discount the No. 9 Ducks of Oregon and their desperate fight for a fourth-straight team title.
Women’s High Jump: Though Arizona’s Brigetta Barrett is the most accomplished jumper in the field with her Olympic silver and two consecutive NCAA titles, she enters tied for the top spot in Division I with South Carolina’s Jeannelle Scheper at 6-3¼ (1.91m), and only narrowly ahead of Tynita Butts of East Carolina (6-2¾ (1.90m) and four others over 6-2.
Women’s Pole Vault: Historically speaking this is one of the best indoor collegiate pole vaults field ever assembled as collegiate leader Morgan Leleux of Georgia is ranked No. 4 all-time at 14-9 (4.50m), No. 2 Martina Schultze is eighth all-time at 14-7¼ (4.45m), and Natalia Bartnovskaya of Kansas and Sandi Morris of Arkansas are 10th all-time at 14-6¼ (4.43m).
Women’s Long Jump: Kansas’ No. 2 Francine Simpson is the top returner from last year’s long jump final, in which she finished sixth, but it’s her teammate Andrea Geubelle who comes in with the collegiate lead at 21-11½ (6.69m) looking to get the long jump/triple jump sweep. Six student-athletes have cleared 21 feet this season.
Women’s Triple Jump: Geubelle’s quest for a horizontal jumps sweep will run into a big roadblock when the defending triple jump champ, ranked No. 2 at 45-7¾ (13.91m) goes up against collegiate leader Shanieka Thomas of San Diego State, seeded at 46-2½ (14.08m). Thomas is ranked fifth on the all-time performer list, while Geubelle is ninth.
Women’s Shot Put: As the only woman to surpass 60 feet – let alone 61 – defending champ Tia Brooks is again the favorite with a season-best 61-6.3.4 (18.76m), as each of her top 11 throws would give her the collegiate lead. No. 2 Felisha Johnson of Indiana State (58-4¾/17.80m), who is chasing the shot put/weight throw double championship, is the next closest challenger.
Women’s Weight Throw: Like Brooks in the shot put, Johnson enters as the overwhelming favorite in the weight throw with her season-best mark of 75-8 (23.06). She is 2½ feet ahead of No. 2 Brittany Waller and nearly three feet farther than No. 3 Beth Rohl.
Women’s Indoor Pentathlon: Makeba Alcide will compete for the first time since breaking the collegiate record with a score of 4,569, which surpassed two-time indoor pentathlon champ Brianne Theisen’s former record of 4,555. Mississippi State sophomore Erica Bougard, seeded sixth, initially posted a top-10 indoor pentathlon score at the SEC Championships before being disqualified from the 800, and will likely look to bounce back strong at the same facility.
Division II NCAA Championships
Follow Live: NCAA.com
Grand Valley State’s women find themselves in a very strange position at No. 3 overall; it’s the lowest ranking in program history after two straight indoor titles. No. 1 Academy of Art’s hopes rest largely upon Vashti Thomas, who is entered in five individual events and a relay pool, while Lincoln (Mo.) will depend on the strength of its 11 sprints and hurdles entries out of 20 total to carry them to a title. GVSU enters with a DII-leading 23 entries spread across the board. All three teams are separated by fewer than 20 points.
Thomas will compete in the long jump, triple jump, 60 meters, 60 hurdles and 200 meters and is scheduled to run the 4×400 relay.
The Adams State men enter as the top-ranked team with 17 entries, but it’s No. 3 Saint Augustine’s that boasts the largest number of qualifiers with 18. No. 2 Ashland also comes in with 17 entries. The three schools are separated by 20 points in the final DII team rankings.
Events and Matchups to Watch
TOP RETURNERS From 2012 – DII Women
|60||Latoya King||Lincoln (Mo.)||1|
|200||Shavine Hodges||Grand Canyon||2|
|400||Yanique Haye||Lincoln (Mo.)||2|
|800||No Finals Returners||–||–|
|60h||Anna-Kay James||Lincoln (Mo.)||8|
|High Jump||Barbara Szabo||Western State||1|
|Pole Vault||Kristen Hixson||Grand Valley State||1|
|Long Jump||Nickeisha Beaumont||Lincoln (Mo.)||5|
|Triple Jump||Amanda Ouedraogo||Abilene Christian||1|
|Shot Put||Sam Lockhart||Grand Valley State||2|
|Weight Throw||Sam Lockhart||Grand Valley State||1|
|Indoor Pent.||Erin Alewine||Central Missouri||2|
Women’s 60: Defending Champion and top seed Latoya King of Lincoln (Mo.) will have to go through very similar competition to take home a second title, as three of the top four finishers from last season’s race return: King (7.37), Johnson C. Smith’s Danielle Williams (No. 2 seed, 7.37) and Grand Canyon’s Shavine Hodges (No. 3, 7.39).
Women’s High Jump: Though she’s competing in the DII Championships going for her third-straight high jump crown, Barbara Szabo of Western State is also competing against the DI gals from afar for the top mark in the collegiate ranks, as she enters with the best collegiate mark of 2013 at 6-3½ (1.92m).
Women’s Pole Vault: Katie Nageotte of Ashland is the second-best DII vaulter of all time at 14-2½ (4.33m), Hillsdale’s Kayla Caldwell, the 2012 runner-up, is the third-best at 13-11¼ (4.25m) and defending champion Kristen Hixson of Grand Valley State is No. 4 at 13-10½ (4.23m). They will all go at it for the second time in the past three weekends with not only individual titles but historic legacies on the line.
Women’s Throws: Senior thrower Sam Lockhart already has the all-time DII weight throw record and an NCAA title in the event and is seeded No. 1 again, and now she’s looking for a shot put title after finishing runner-up in each of the past two seasons. She enters No. 1 but will face tough competition from young freshman Tiffany Okieme of Georgian Court and Alissa Rausch of Winona State. She and Findlay’s Jessica Rowland will duke it out for the weight throw title.
TOP RETURNERS From 2012 – DII Men
|60||Romel Lewis||Lincoln (Mo.)||2|
|200||Romel Lewis||Lincoln (Mo.)||3|
|400||Akino Ming||Johnson C. Smith||2|
|Mile||Matt Daniels||Adams State||1|
|5000||Laban Sialo||Central Missouri||1|
|60h||Andre Collins||Johnson C. Smith||2|
|High Jump||Corey Thomas||Stonehill||3|
|Pole Vault||Colbie Snyder||Pittsburg State||2|
|Long Jump||Ramon Cooper||Grand Canyon||2|
|Triple Jump||Kevin Lashley||Grand Canyon||2|
|Shot Put||Ryan Smith||Indianapolis||5|
|Weight Throw||Richard Quick||Ashland||4|
|Heptathlon||Nick Lebron||So. Connecticut State||1|
Men’s 400: Six runners from the 2012 finals at 400 meters will return for another shot at the title, including runner-up Akino Ming of Johnson C. Smith. Dane Hyatt of St. Augustine’s enters as the favorite at 46.77, and 2-6 are all ranked within .10 of one another.
Men’s Distance: Both returning champions in the mile – Adams State’s Matt Daniels – and at 5000 meters – Laban Sialo of Central Missouri – will look to defend their titles, and the 3000 will be contested for the first time at the DII Championships. Junior Tabor Stevens of Adams State could take the mile-3000 double as the top seed in both events; or Micah Chelimo of Alaska Anchorage or Gabriel Proctor of Western State could use the 3000 as part of a potential 3000-5000 double.
Men’s Heptathlon: Defending champ and No. 2 seed Nick Lebron of Southern Connecticut State (5,315) and current No. 1 and runner-up in 2011 Brent Vogel of Central Missouri (5,487) are in store for quite a battle to keep their lofty rankings and accolades atop a field in which four other student-athletes have scored at least 5,200 points.
Division III Indoor Championships
Follow Live: NCAA.com
UW-La Crosse has been No. 1 for a majority of the season, and it holds a comfortable 30-point lead in the latest computer rankings and boasts the most NCAA entries with 16 total. UW-Oshkosh is No. 2 in both the rankings and in terms of total entries with 13. Three-time defending champion and host North Central (Ill.) sits in fourth with eight qualifiers.
The UW-Oshkosh women are No. 1 in the rankings, but it is defending champion Wartburg that claims the largest number of qualifiers to the meet with 13. UW-Oshkosh will send nine to the meet.
DIII indoor record-holders Christy Cazzola of UW-Oshkosh (800, mile, 5000), Michelle Favre of Ramapo (pole vault), Melissa Norville (long jump) and Tiarra Goode (60 hurdles) will all be in action.
Events and Matchups to Watch
TOP RETURNERS From 2012 – Men
|400||Aric Hoeshcen||UW-La Crosse||3|
|Mile||Dan Sullivan||UW-Stevens Point||8|
|High Jump||Nathan Davis||Heidelberg||2|
|Pole Vault||Josh Winder||North Central||1|
|Long Jump||Dave Kuczynski||UW-Whitewater||2|
|Triple Jump||Eyo Ekpo||St. Thomas (Minn.)||2|
|Shot Put||David Pless||Bates||1|
|Weight Throw||Pete Delzer||UW-Oshkosh||2|
Men’s 400: Talk about the potential for a tight race: led by Aric Hoeschen of UW-La Crosse at 48.63, the top four seeds are all under 48.90, and the entire field of 13 is within .80 of Hoeschen.
Men’s 4×400: There’s no better way to finish off a meet than with the 4×400, especially a championship meet 4×400 in which the top team contenders all have entries seeded within two seconds of one another. UW-Oshkosh is seeded No. 2 at 3:17.07, just .02 ahead of UW-La Crosse. UW-Whitewater is No. 4 at 3:17.41 and North Central comes in at No. 9 in 3:18.87.
Men’s Horizontal Jumps: Can Isaac Vazquez of UW-La Crosse break through for a long jump or triple jump title? He’s finished 3rd in both events for each of the past two seasons, but is the top seed in both events entering the meet this season. UW-Whitewater’s Marcus Smith will look to take the triple jump as part of a 60 hurdles-triple jump double.
Men’s Throws: David Pless of Bates (No. 2, 61-¼/18.60m) will bring two straight shot put titles to Naperville, but it is nick Baatz of UW-Oshkosh (61-2¼/18.65m) who is ranked No. 1 after finishing runner-up last season. Baatz’ teammate Pete Delzer (66-2½/20.18m) has a 2011 weight throw title to his credit, but he enters No. 2 to Tom Postema of Defiance with a DIII-leading 67-11¾ (20.72m), good for second=best in the history of DIII.
TOP RETURNERS From 2012 – Women
|60||No Returning Finalists||–||–|
|400||Mary Mahoney||Mount Union||2|
|5000||Allison Steinbrunner||Ohio Northern||4|
|High Jump||Elizabeth Evans||Rose-Hulman||1|
|Pole Vault||Michelle Favre||Ramapo||3|
|Long Jump||Anita Rogers||Ramapo||3|
|Triple Jump||Melissa Norville||Illinois College||1|
|Shot Put||Chelsea Tavik||Salisbury||1|
|Weight Throw||Amina Avril||Williams||4|
|Indoor Pent.||Jana Hieber||Tufts||3|
Women’s 60 hurdles: This is one of three women’s events in which multiple NCAA champions will compete, and Illinois College’s Melissa Norville is involved in two of them. Reigning champion and DIII-record holder Tiarra Goode of Birmingham-Southern (8.86) is in the field, but she is ranked third behind No. 1 Norville (8.61), the champion in the 55 hurdles in 2011 and No. 2 Ashante Little (8.71), and . In total, five of the eight finalists from 2012 will be back to contend in 2013.
Women’s Mile: UW-Oshkosh’s Christy Cazzola enters as the defending champion and the top seed with the fastest mile in DIII indoor history at 4:43.13, converted to a qualifying 4:44.73 for track size. The next-fastest is eight seconds behind, but also in the field is 2011 champ Randelle Boots of Wellesley at No. 6 (4:56.58), who also finished third in 2010.
Women’s Horizontal Jumps: Norville is the top seed in both the long jump – an event in which she is the DIII indoor record holder at 21-½ (5.41m) – and the triple jump – and event in which she has the second-best mark in DIII indoor history at 41-7 (12.67m) and is the defending champion. Stiff competition awaits in defending her triple jump crown as the top three jumpers from last season all return as seniors, including 2011 champ Tanasia Hoffler of Williams, ranked No. 2 this season at 40-4 (12.29m).
Women’s Vertical Jumps: Ramapo’s Michelle Favre will look to extend her DIII indoor pole vault record of 13-9¾ (4.21m) while Elizabeth Evans of Rose-Hulman will be going for a third-straight title in the high jump.