NCAA DI Indoor Championships Preview: Men’s Sprints & Hurdles
The NCAA Division I Indoor Track & Field Championships are this weekend – March 13-14 – in Fayetteville, Arkansas, so to get you ready we’re breaking down each event at the Championships.
Here we look at the men’s sprints, hurdles and 4×400 relay, and we take a look at those same women’s events in a separate article here.
Check back throughout the week for event group previews that include:
- Mid-Distance/Distance/Distance Medley Relay (Men | Women)
- Jumps (Men | Women)
- Throws & Combined Events (Men | Women)
Be sure to tune in live on Friday and Saturday to ESPN3 (WatchESPN) to witness one of the best and most tightly contested indoor track & field meets on the planet.
For full meet details, visit the USTFCCCA National Championships Central page, and be sure to check out the USTFCCCA’s newly launched NCAA Division I Indoor Track & Field Championships History Record Book page.
Men’s 60 Meters
Final: Saturday, 8:10pm ET/7:10pm CT
Prelims: Friday, 8:35pm ET/7:35pm CT
This could be, from top to bottom, the fastest field ever assembled for an NCAA Division I Indoor Championships 60-meter final. As revealed in our ongoing, in-depth historical breakdown of the championships, only two finals in the history of the meet has featured as many as four finalists who ran 6.60 or faster.
A whopping 13 men enter this weekend with at least clocking of 6.60 or faster. Ole Miss’ Jalen Miller has done it eight times, Trayvon Bromell of Baylor and John Teeters of Oklahoma State have both done it six times, Ronnie Baker of TCU has gone that fast three times, and both Kendal Williams of Florida State and Tevin Hester of Clemson have two 6.60-or-faster times to their names.
Eight of them went at least 6.60 during conference championships weekend, which was a wild one. Teeters and Bromell of Baylor met for the first time in the Big 12 final – but both were upstaged by Texas’ Senoj-Jay Givans and TCU’s Baker.
Look for the NCAA Final to be just as crazy.
Men’s 200 Meters
Final: Saturday, 8:50pm ET/7:50pm CT
Prelims: Friday, 9:15pm ET/8:15pm CT
On paper, the clear favorite would be Shavez Hart of Texas A&M, seeded .1 faster than anyone else in the field at 20.57.
Not so fast.
The SEC Championships belonged to Aaron Ernest of LSU, who cruised to a 20.69 win over Hart in 20.90 on Kentucky’s oversized 291-meter track. The Bayou Bengal went even faster in the prelims, clocking in at 20.67.
Will his success on the more gradual curve of Kentucky’s track translate to the tight turns of the banked 200-meter oval in Fayetteville? Meanwhile, Hart trains on a similarly configured track in College Station.
Those two are far from the only contenders, though. Five more men are seeded within about a tenth of a second of Ernest, including Bromell. Of those five, Bromell, Andre De Grasse of Southern California and Bryce Robinson of Tulsa will all be doubling at 60 meters. Brendon Rodney of LIU Brooklyn (20.69) and Sam Watts of TCU (20.70) might have the benefit of fresher legs to contend with Hart and Ernest.
We would be remiss to neglect the name at the very bottom of the qualifying list, Dedric Dukes of Florida. The defending outdoor 200-meter champ and returning indoor runner-up barely made the meet as the 19th-best performer on the descending order list – he needed several men ahead of him to scratch out – but don’t discount his championship pedigree. One hot weekend is all he needs.
Men’s 400 Meters
Final: Saturday, 7:50pm ET/6:50pm CT
Prelims: Friday, 8:10pm ET/7:10pm CT
Perhaps the biggest question mark of any men’s event in the meet: How healthy is reigning Bowerman Trophy winner and defending national champion Deon Lendore of Texas A&M? The Aggie is listed both in the open 400 and in the 4×400 relay, but it won’t even have been two weeks since he went down in the prelims of the SEC 400 meters with an apparent injury.
Assuming he’s good to go, is he the favorite?
Based on his resume, certainly. But the man to beat at the top of the national descending order list right now is Florida’s Najee Glass at 45.34 to Lendore’s 45.38 and fellow A&M stud Bralon Taplin’s 45.39. In that Lendore-less final at the SEC Championships, Glass edged Taplin, 45.37 to 45.52. Fourth-seed Vernon Norwood ran 45.68 in a separate section of that final.
There’s a lot of SEC on the qualifying list for this event – not surprising, considering that five of the seven all-time highest scoring teams in this event are from said conference (though Texas A&M is a recent addition) – but don’t overlook the Big Ten. No. 5 DJ Zahn of Illinois, No. 6 Lamar Bruton of Ohio State and No. 7 Cody Rush of Nebraska are among the 11 men who are sub-46 in this field this year. Only the SEC has more with six.
Men’s 60-Meter Hurdles
Final: Saturday, 7:20pm ET/6:20pm CT
Prelims: Friday, 7:30pm ET/6:30pm CT
After defending national champion Omar McLeod of Arkansas ran 7.49 to win the SEC Championship two weekends ago, only one question remains: how fast can he go, and by how much can he win?
Of all the track events in the meet, no top seed in any event is farther separated from No. 2 than McLeod’s 2.98 percent gap over a group of five men all seeded at 7.72. If that holds true in the NCAA final, it would be the most dominant men’s track performance ever at the NCAA championships, in terms of margin of victory in percent.
While McLeod is the prohibitive favorite, the debate is still very much ongoing for the remaining scoring positions. Seven more men are seeded at either 7.72 (four) or 7.73 (three), with the rest of the field seeded between 7.76 and 7.79.
Entering with the most momentum after running their season’s best times at conference championships are Oladapo Akinmoladun of Nebraska at 7.72 and William Taylor of Arizona State at 7.73. Akinmoladun, last year’s second-fastest returning hurdler behind McLeod, righted the ship at exactly the right time, as he had been running 7.9x and 8.0x for the rest of the season prior to Big Tens.
Runner-up to McLeod in that blistering SEC race was Joshua Thompson of LSU, who ran his second 7.73 of the season for second place.
Men’s 4×400 Relay
Final: Saturday, 9:30pm ET/8:30pm CT
Just like the men’s open 400, a big question mark looms over Deon Lendore and his health. But, as the SEC Championships showed, it’s not as big of a question mark as you might think.
That’s because the Lendore-less Aggie 4×400 very nearly ran faster than their collegiate record (although they were on Kentucky’s oversized track, so it wouldn’t have counted for record purposes) with a 3:03.75 to take down bitter rival Florida by more than half of a second.
Bralon Taplin again proved his chops as a legitimate 400-meter threat after reeling in Arman Hall on the anchor leg to secure the victory.
Expect another classic showdown between these two teams this weekend. Whether it’s a tight finish, a dropped baton (2013 outdoor NCAA) or a mid-race tussle (2014 indoor NCAA), it’s always exciting when these two meet.
Both Florida and defending indoor national champion LSU enter with identical seed times of 3:04.28, with Florida having defeated LSU both at the Kentucky Rod McCravy Memorial very narrowly in January and at SECs two weekends ago. Florida, especially, could very well need the meet finale 4×4 to clinch the national team title, while podium finishes may also be on the line for Arkansas, A&M, LSU, and Texas – all of whom are ranked in the top seven nationally
Those three appear to be the class of the field with the group of Nebraska (3:06.02), TCU (3:06.05) and Alabama (3:06.05) seeded nearly two seconds back.