THE WARM-UP LAP: Superb Sprints Showdowns Headline the College Track & Field Weekend

THE WARM-UP LAP: Superb Sprints Showdowns Headline the College Track & Field Weekend

NEW ORLEANS – Following an extended winter break, college track & field is back  and it is back in a big way this weekend.

Where’s the biggest action going down this weekend?

  • Friday’s dual meet between national title contenders Arkansas (No. 3 men, No. 7 women) and Texas (No. 5 women, No. 8 men) that features the best collegiate pole vault showdowns of the young season.
  • Saturday’s Auburn Invitational (at the Birmingham CrossPlex), where the future of American sprinting takes center stage as eight top-25 teams square off.
  • Saturday’s Texas A&M Team Invitational, where sprints again take center stage (plus an appearance by 2014 women’s The Bowerman winner Laura Roesler).
  • Saturday’s Washington Preview with some intriguing early Pac-12 sprints and distance action, plus a showdown between teen phenoms Olivia Baker of Stanford and pro Mary Cain at 600 meters.

Keep scrolling down for breakdowns of these storylines plus more.

MORE INFO: Full Collegiate Schedule

Texas vs. Arkansas

Texas A&M Team Invitational

Auburn Invitational

Washington Preview

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Men’s Top 25 – DI

Team Meet
#2 Oregon Washington Indoor Preview
#3 Arkansas DUAL: Arkansas-Texas
#4 Texas A&M Aggie 13-Team Invitational
#4 Texas A&M Texas A&M Team Invitational
#5 Penn State Nittany Lion Challenge
#6 Nebraska Holiday Inn Invitational
#7 Stanford Washington Indoor Preview
#8 Texas DUAL: Arkansas-Texas
#8 Texas Leonard Hilton Invitational
#9 Texas Tech Texas Tech Open
#10 LSU Auburn Invitational
#11 Georgia Auburn Invitational
#12 Villanova New York City Gotham Cup
#13 Alabama Auburn Invitational
#14 Purdue DUAL: Indiana-Purdue
#16 Kennesaw State ETSU Niswonger Invitational
#16 Kennesaw State Minnesota Open
#17 Akron DUAL: Akron-Kent State
#18 Houston Leonard Hilton Invitational
#19 Iowa State Holiday Inn Invitational
#20 Florida State Auburn Invitational
#21 Kent State DUAL: Akron-Kent State
#24 Ohio State Auburn Invitational
#25 TCU Texas A&M Team Invitational

Women’s Top 25 – DI

Team Meet
#2 Texas A&M Aggie 13-Team Invitational
#2 Texas A&M Texas A&M Team Invitational
#3 Oregon Washington Indoor Preview
#4 Georgia Auburn Invitational
#5 Texas DUAL: Arkansas-Texas
#5 Texas Leonard Hilton Invitational
#6 Kentucky Kentucky Invitational
#7 Arkansas DUAL: Arkansas-Texas
#9 Florida State Auburn Invitational
#11 Stanford Washington Indoor Preview
#12 Kansas State KSU-KU-WSU Triangular
#13 Oklahoma State Holiday Inn Invitational
#14 Maryland Terrapin Invitational
#15 Michigan Simmons-Harvey Invitational
#17 Texas Tech Texas Tech Open
#18 Auburn Auburn Invitational
#20 Mississippi State Vanderbilt Commodore Indoor
#21 Clemson Virginia Tech Invitational
#23 Southern Illinois Kentucky Invitational
#24 Missouri Missouri Invitational
#25 North Carolina Dick Taylor Carolina Cup
#25 North Carolina Tar Heel Open

 

Off the track, the most significant event of the weekend is the NCAA Convention in Washington, D.C., where legislation could be discussed that would jeopardize the sports of collegiate track & field and cross country.

NCAA President Mark Emmert spoke at the Convention’s Opening Session.

President-elect of the USTFCCCA Board of Directors, Damon Martin of Adams State, spoke with the USTFCCCA on its QA2Max Podcast about the challenges our sports will face moving forward, and some ideas for advancing them.

Listen to the podcast here and send any feedback you might want to share with the T&F/XC community to media@ustfccca.org. Comments may be read on the air during future editions of the podcast.

USTFCCCA InfoZone: Broadcast Schedule

Friday, January 16, 2015

UCS Spirit National Pole Vault Summit
(Reno, Nevada)
WEB: UCSSpirit.com LIVE
12:45 PM ET New York City Gotham Cup
(New York, N.Y.)
WEB: USATF.tv LIVE
2:30 PM ET Aggie 13-Team Invitational
(College Station, Texas)
WEB: SEC Network+ LIVE

 

Saturday, January 17, 2015

UCS Spirit National Pole Vault Summit
(Reno, Nevada)
WEB: UCSSpirit.com LIVE
Washington Indoor Preview
(Seattle, Wash.)
WEB: Flotrack Pro LIVE
$$$
3:00 PM ET Texas A&M Team Invitational
(College Station, Texas)
WEB: SEC Network+ LIVE

 

Sunday, January 18, 2015

7:50 AM ET USATF Half-Marathon Championships
(Houston, Texas)
WEB: USATF.tv LIVE

 

Let’s take a look at some of the biggest storylines of the weekend.

The Future of Men’s American Sprinting on Display

Between the action at Auburn and Texas A&M, all four of the members of this past summer’s gold-medal-winning men’s  4×100 relay team at the IAAF World Junior Championships are slated to compete this weekend – in some cases against one another.

Ole Miss’ world-leading 60-meter sprinter Jalen Miller, w321ho led off that relay, will contest both the 60 and 200 at Auburn, setting up two showdowns between he and his Team USA relay teammates.

 He’ll likely meet Florida State frosh Kendal Williams – the World Junior Champion at 100 meters and the third leg of that relay – in the final at 60 meters. This will be Williams’ collegiate debut.

At 200 meters, he’s up against another FSU frosh/Team USA relay leg in Trentavis Friday – the World Junior Champion at 200 meters, national high school record-holder at 100 meters, and anchor of that relay. He’ll also have to contend with one of the NCAA’s top veterans in LSU’s Aaron Ernest, who was fourth in this event outdoors this past summer.

The final member of that relay team? That’d be 100-meters World Junior Record holder and defending NCAA champ Trayvon Bromell of Baylor. He’ll have his hands full at Texas A&M with top-five competition at both 60 and 200 meters. (Bromell himself is outside the top-10 in both events in the USTFCCCA preseason rankings, as he made his big breakthrough during the outdoor season).

Though in separate prelim heats, Bromell will likely meet preseason No. 5 Devin Jenkins of Texas A&M in the finals at 60 meters. Then, at 200 meters, he’ll take on preseason No. 3 Shavez Hart of Texas A&M head-to-head.

While we’re talking about World Junior Champion relays, how about that 4×4? Second leg Tyler Brown of Eastern Michigan will be competing at Michigan, third leg Ricky Morgan of USC will compete at Washington, and anchor Michael Cherry of Florida State will be in action at Auburn.

The Present and the Future of Women’s Sprinting Also In Action

Not only are a number of top returning collegians competing for the first time in 2015, but there are also some new faces at the collegiate level that will likely impact the NCAA scene later this spring.

Two of the four women who ran on Team USA’s gold-medal-winning 4×100 relay at the IAAF World Junior Championships are in action this weekend: LSU’s Jada Martin – a sophomore who ran the third leg of that relay – will compete at 200 meters against Tennessee’s preseason No. 7 Felicia Majors at the Auburn Invitational.

(Additionally, three of the four members of the gold-medal-winning 4×400 relay are potentially in action this weekend: Olivia Baker of Stanford at Washington [keep reading for more], Shakima Wimbley of Miami at Penn State, and Kendall Baisden of Texas against Arkansas).

Oregon frosh Ariana Washington – the second leg of that relay, 100-meter finalist at World Juniors and national junior runner-up at 100 – will make her debut at the Washington Invitational. More on her and the action at Washington below.

Arguably the biggest women’s sprint race of the weekend will be the 60 meters at Auburn, where Majors and Ohio State’s preseason No. 11 Chesna Sykes take on a pair of LSU newcomers in Mikiah Brisco and Aleia Hobbs.

Brisco, using her 7.26 time from her high school New Balance Nationals winning performance, is a top-10 national contender already, while Hobbs was a top-10 high school runner at 100 meters a year ago.

Brisco and Sykes will meet in the prelims, as will Majors and Hobbs, before a potential showdown between all four in the final.

At Texas A&M, the 60m will feature another young stud in preseason No. 11 sophomore Aaliyah Brown of A&M up against her teammate and 200-meter NCAA outdoor champion Kamaria Brown.

Though Kamaria Brown isn’t in her signature 200-meter event (she’s the preseason No. 1 both in that event and at 400 meters), the event will not lack for A&M talent. Preseason No. 5 Olivia Ekpone, No. 6 Ashton Purvis and Jennifer Madu (No. 6 at 60 meters) all line up for that event.

Washington Invitational’s Pac-12 Action

I’ve never been to Washington, but the idea of Dempsey Indoor is one of my favorite things in track and field.  Watch a race from there: they’ve packed so much track into the building that there is no room for spectators (or coaches, or officials, or athletes warming up) on the straightaways; everyone in the meet is jammed into the infield and bleachers on one end of the track.  Also, it’s already difficult enough to calibrate your pace and keep track of splits indoors; it can’t be easy to do so on a 307 meter track.

Yes, 307 meters.  Not 250, or 300, or 400—they packed every single inch of a track facility that they could fit in that building and not a centimeter less.  And that’s what I love about Dempsey: in an era where it’s unclear how much institutions value track & field, it’s an insane monument to attempting to have every inch of the earth covered in vulcanized rubber and painted with lanes.

The first action of the year there is this weekend’s UW Preview.  The most prominent programs sending athletes will be Stanford, Oregon, USC, and Washington, the hosts.  Most of those schools are sitting out their best athletes, but there are still a few spicy matchups.

Stanford’s Olivia Baker vs. professional Mary Cain (they’re the same age) over 600 meters will probably provide the most fascinating glimpse into the future of American middle distance.  Baker took bronze at World Juniors in the 400 this summer, while Cain won the 3000. They meet in the not-quite-middle on Saturday.

Another frosh sensation making her college track debut for Stanford is Elise Cranny, who will run at 1000 meters.

Most relevant to the collegiate scene will be a trio of Oregon Duck women making their season debuts: Jenna Prandini, Jasmine Todd, and Ariana Washington are all entered in the 60 meters.  None of them are entered in any other event, so it’s relatively safe to assume that they’ll race, and we can only hope that it will be in the same heat.

The men’s middle distance picture will begin to gain a few contours, as Oregon’s Jeremy Elkaim and Jake Leingang are entered in the mile against Stanford’s Sean McGorty. They’re joined there by pro and former Bowerman winner Cam Levins; Elkaim is also entered in the 3k and will likely only race one of the two events.

Also notable from USC is BeeJay Lee in both the 60 and 200.

Big Weekend of Jumps Action

Last weekend, Arkansas’ Sandi Morris took three attempts at defending indoor pole vault champion Kaitlin Petrillose‘s collegiate record of 15-1 (4.6m). This week, she’ll give the Longhorn her best shot in person. The two will square off in the pole vault at the Texas-Arkansas dual at Arkansas, joined by World Junior Championships silver medalist Desiree Frieir and preseason No. 8 Ariel Voskamp, both of Arkansas.

Arkansas’ men’s vaulter Andrew Irwin – a two-time NCAA indoor champion in the event – looks to continue a campaign and indoor collegiate career he hopes will end with him reclaiming the NCAA title from Shawn Barber of Akron. The problem? Irwin at 18-1 (5.51m) is more than a foot behind what Barber (19-3 in an exhibition) has done this year. He’ll be in action at Arkansas, while Barber will contest his own dual meet against MAC rival Kent State. Barber and Irwin at 1-2 in the preseason USTFCCCA rankings.

No. 3 in the pole vault rankings is Jake Blankenship of Tennessee, who will take on Georgia Tech’s No. 16 Nikita Kirillov at Auburn.

Another 1-2 pair in action is the Georgia duo of defending indoor-outdoor high jump champ Leontia Kallenou and indoor-outdoor combined events champion Kendell Williams. Williams will also contest the 60-meter hurdles as the preseason No. 12 against No. 10 Samantha Scarlett of Auburn.

Auburn will also feature a pair of top-10 showdowns in the horizontal jumps. In the women’s long jump, Georgia’s No. 2 Chanice Porter will battle Florida State’s No. 4 Der’Renae Freeman; the men’s triple jump will include No. 8 Phillip Young of Ole Miss and Georgia Tech’s Jonathan Gardner, who didn’t compete indoors last year but whose outdoor marks in 2014 put him in top 10 consideration.

Of note at Texas A&M is defending indoor champion Felix Obi in the men’s triple jump, while defending indoor long jump champion Jarrion Lawson of Arkansas will compete in his signature event against Texas.