NCAA DI Indoor Championships Preview: Women’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 women’s sprints, hurdles and 4×400 relay, and we take a look at those same men’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.
Women’s 60 Meters
Final: Saturday, 8pm ET/7pm CT
Prelims: Friday, 8:25pm ET/7:25pm CT
How much faster can newly minted collegiate record holder Remona Burchell of Alabama go? She ran a blistering 7.08 at the SEC Championships to topple the old collegiate standard by .01, and defeated last year’s national runner-up Dezerea Bryant of Kentucky by a full tenth of a second.
Bryant, if you recall, nearly took down Burchell last year at NCAAs. The Crimson Tide’s Burchell ran 7.11 to Bryant’s 7.12 in what was the fastest 1-2 duel in NCAA history. Bryant missed a portion of the season with injury, and her runner-up 7.18 at SECs was just her third meet of the season, and her first in more than a month.
The next-fastest time in the country is 7.15, a performance achieved twice by sophomore Jasmine Todd of Oregon. After running 7.15 in her season opener way back in January –the fastest-ever time run in the month of January by a collegian – Todd has plateaued ever since. She was runner-up to teammate No. 5 Jenna Prandini at the MPSF meet as the duo went 7.19 and 7.20.
Todd, who was third at NCAAs a year ago, and Prandini, who was seventh, are among the six finalists returning from last year’s race. Also back in the hunt are fourth-place Morolake Akinosun of Texas (No. 6), sixth-place Shayla Sanders of Florida (No. 6).
Todd isn’t the only youngster in position to make a run at high points. Southern California’s Ky Westbrook is tied for the third seed with a 7.18 she ran in the same race as Todd’s 7.15. Like Todd, she’s had trouble maintaining that standard, with her 7.23 in the prelims at MPSFs the closest since. She’s one of four Women of Troy in this field, alongside No. 8 Tynia Gaither, No. 19 Alexis Faulknor and No. 11 Deanna Hill.
Women’s 200 Meters
Final: Saturday, 8:40pm ET/7:40pm CT
Prelims: Friday, 9:05pm ET/8:05pm CT
If this race turns out anything like the SEC 200 a couple of weeks ago, this could very well be one of the best events of the weekend, on or off the track. Or, the seeds hold relatively to form and Kyra Jefferson of Florida could take the comfortable win (see right).
Here’s scenario one. Jefferson won the SEC title, but only by thousandths of a second over Kentucky’s Bryant – the defending national champion indoors in this event – and by one-hundredth over defending outdoor national champion Kamaria Brown of Texas A&M.
Of course, there’s more to this event than just the SEC. Of the four women who have gone sub-23.00 this season, only two are from the SEC. The other two are Prandini of Oregon – the 2014 outdoor national runner-up – in 22.94 (converted from altitude) and Cierra White of Texas Tech in 22.98.
Prandini has only run that time once (a 22.87 raw), but that is also her lone race at 200 meters this season. White has run that time twice this year, once at altitude in early February and then again two weekends ago to win the Big 12.
Along with Bryant at 23.02 from that SEC Championships race, those five have established themselves as pre-meet favorites. Bryant is two-tenths of a second clear of No. 9 Destinee Gause of Florida (three 400-meter runners were ahead of her on the descending order list, but will not contest this event).
Women’s 400 Meters
Final: Saturday, 7:40pm ET/6:40pm CT
Prelims: Friday, 7:55pm ET/6:55pm CT
Can the Texas women go 1-2-3? Only one trio has ever accomplished that feat in any women’s event (Nebraska took the top three spots in the women’s 55-meters back in 1984), but defending outdoor national champion/outdoor collegiate record holder Coutney Okolo, two-time outdoor NCAA champion Ashley Spencer, and Kendall Baisden will look to change that.
The trio went 2-4-5 a year ago with Spencer finishing runner-up, Okolo fourth and Baisden fifth. This year, Okolo is seeded No. 2, Baisden is No. 4 and Spencer is No. 9.
Posing the biggest threat to Texas’ would-be history is another quarter-miler from the Lone Star State: collegiate leader Shamier Little of Texas A&M, who is better known as the national 400-meter hurdles champion outdoors. In winning the SEC title in 51.37, she proved once again she’s a force to be reckoned with, with or without hurdles on the track. She was third at NCAAs a year ago in this event.
Joining Little, Okolo and Baisden as sub-52.00 runners this year are No. 3 Taylor Ellis-Watson of Arkansas and No. 5 Shakima Wimbley of Miami. Both might have redemption on their minds after Ellis-Watson lost to Little by two-thirds of a second at SECs and Wimbley was upset at the ACC Championships.
Women’s 60-Meter Hurdles
Final: Saturday, 7:20pm ET/6:20pm CT
Prelims: Friday, 7:30pm ET/6:30pm CT
Just one year ago, Kendra Harrison of Kentucky was an agonizing .01 away from the NCAA title in this event – and still finished fourth. In one of the closest races in meet history, Sharika Nelvis of Arkansas State took the win after a tie at 7.93 between her and Tiffany McReynolds of Baylor was broken to the thousandth of a second, with Jasmin Stowers and Harrison back at 7.94.
It’s ironic, then, that in her very first indoor meet since that heartbreaker – the SEC Championships – she established herself as the decisive favorite. She ran 7.92 in the final to move up into a share of the No. 6 spot on the all-time collegiate performers list, taking a commanding tenth-of-a-second lead over the rest of the country.
The next-best on the list is Harrison’s former Clemson teammate Bridgette Owens of Florida at 8.02. She has sub-8.0 on her career resume, though, as she ran 7.95 in the prelims at the 2012 NCAA Championships while at Clemson. She was among the field Harrison crushed at SECs, running 8.08 in second place.
Many of the athletes behind them are surging, as well, having run their season-best times in mid-to-late February. Most surprising among them was No. 3 Erica Bougard of Mississippi State. The former national pentathlon champion ran 8.03 in the prelims at SECs to set a huge personal best by more than a tenth of a second. Can she hold up while also competing in the long jump and pentathlon?
Women’s 4×400 Relay
Final: Saturday, 9:30pm ET/8:30pm CT
In spectacularly heartbreaking fashion, Texas lost the 4×400 relay last year by hundredths of a second and subsequently the NCAA team championship by half of a point, both to Oregon. The Longhorns will once again have a fight on their hands in the 4×400 relay, a crucial event in the national team standings.
Texas, led by the three 400-meter stars described earlier, comes in with a season’s best of 3:29.36, just barely ahead of No. 2 Florida (ranked second nationally as a full track & field team) at 3:29.58. Lurking at No. 3 is pre-meet national team title favorite Arkansas at 3:30.50 and at No. 4 is fourth-ranked Kentucky at 3:31.43.
However, Florida finished fourth at the SEC Championships as Arkansas took the win by less than a second over Kentucky and by more than two seconds over fifth-seeded Texas A&M.
Needless to say, this is an exciting event even when nothing is on the line. Put NCAA team title/standings implications into play and it becomes arguably the most exciting event. As last year proved, championships are won and lost over the course of 1600 meters in less than three-and-a-half minutes.