NCAA DI Indoor Championships Preview: Women’s Throws and Combined Events
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 throws and combined events, and we will 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:
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 Shot Put
Saturday, 4:45pm ET/3:45pm CT
Unlike the men’s shot put, there’s no clear favorite in the women’s competition – despite what the descending order list might suggest.
Though LSU’s Tori Bliss leads the country by nearly a foot as one of seven women in collegiate history who has thrown for 60 feet or farther – thanks to a 60-1 (18.31m) bomb to win SECs – it’s yet to be proven whether that was a one-time deal or a sign of things to come.
Some further explanation: Bliss’ top three throws this year are her 18.31m collegiate leader, a 17.78m from that same competition, and a 17.49m from an earlier meet. Four other collegians – primarily Southern Illinois frosh Raven Saunders but also Rice’s Claire Uke, Kent State’s Danniel Thomas and Missouri’s Jill Rushin – have launched a combined 13 throws that fall between Bliss’ top mark and her third-best mark.
Saunders is the biggest threat to Bliss’ top spot. The frosh phenom has heaved as far or farther than Bliss’ 17.78m on five different occasions, including four that have gone 17.91m or farther. She would be the first frosh to win since Laura Gerraughty of North Carolina in 2003. She went on to break the collegiate record the following year.
Uke had an exceptional conference championship meet, hitting 17.95m, 17.72, and 17.68m. Thomas and Rushin had breakthrough days at conference championships, as well, but their respective 17.71m and 17.61 efforts are outliers similar to Bliss’ top mark.
Overall, this year could surpass the 2013 edition as the deepest in meet history. To get eighth in that meet – also held at Fayetteville, Arkansas – you needed to get 16.99m. Each of the top 10 women have surpassed that mark this year, with three others knocking on the door within 10 centimeters.
Women’s Weight Throw
Friday, 5pm ET/4pm CT
Like the women’s shot put, this is another event that will likely be closer than the start lists indicate.
A three-woman race has emerged at the top between collegiate leader Kearsten Peoples of Missouri, returning national runner-up Ida Storm of UCLA, and defending national champion Brea Garrett of Texas A&M.
Peoples and Garrett have faced each other twice this year, splitting the series 1-1. However, Peoples was the decisive winner in the most recent showdown at the SEC Championships. The senior launched a heave of 22.45m to beat a foul-plagued Garrett by nearly half a meter, just one week after moving to No. 7 on the all-time collegiate performers list with a 74-11¼ (22.84m) bomb.
Meanwhile out west at the MPSF Championships, Storm launched a huge 73-6 (22.40m) mark to move to second on the national descending order list in just her third meet of the season.
As it stands right now, the trio accounts for the top 10 farthest throws in the country entering the NCAA meet. Peoples has the top two and five of the 10 overall, while Storm checks in with the third-farthest throw and two overall and Garrett has throws No. 4, 5 and 10.
While those three jockey for position up front, there’s a big group of six women seeded within a foot of one another who will all be battling for All-America honors and a chance to crack that top three.
Both Akron and Southern Illinois have two women each in that group. The Zips have No. 4 Brittany Funk and No. 6 Alexis Cook, while the Salukis will trot out No. 7 DeAnna Price and No. 9 Sophia Lozano.
Saturday Start: 12:30pm ET/11:30am CT
Any time defending national champion and collegiate record holder Kendell Williams of Georgia and 2013 NCAA Champion and No. 2 all-time collegian Erica Bougard of Mississippi State get together, it’s bound to be a great show.
(Though, unfortunately for spectators, Kansas State has elected to enter No. 2 pentathlete Akela Jones only into open events in an attempt to chase a team podium finish. Not to be entirely left empty handed, Jones and Bougard will square off in both the open 60-meter hurdles and the long jump).
Williams was the dominant winner at the SEC Championships over Bougard, 4519 to 4376, but that single pentathlon score doesn’t tell the whole story.
On the same day of the five-event pentathlon, Bougard was also competing in the open 60-meter hurdles and the long jump, with the open high jump and hurdles final the following day. She particularly shined in the hurdles and high jump, running a huge career-best 8.03 (No. 2 in the country) in the prelims and 8.14 in the final to finish third, and tying her high jump PR at 1.81m.
The all-time best in the 60-meter hurdles for a college pentathlete at the NCAA Championships – or in any meet, for that matter – is 8.15 for Hyleas Fountain of Georgia in 2004.
With those two marks subbed in for her 8.20 and disappointing 1.66m she posted in the pentathlon, she would have scored 4600 points even for a commanding win. Of course, the key to the pentathlon isn’t just having skill in each event but to be able to execute that skill when stakes are on the line and the lactic acid is building up.
In that same vein, Williams will again have an advantage this weekend in that she will only be doing the pentathlon like she did at NCAAs, while Bougard will be attempting to compete in both the long jump and 60-meter hurdles in addition to the pentathlon.
The pentathlon is Saturday, so Bougard will already have a long jump competition and 60-meter hurdles prelims in her legs by that point. The hurdles final on Saturday, should she qualify,will likely begin after the conclusion of the pentathlon.
There was speculation that the roles would be reversed as national No. 3 Georgia would try to wring as many team points as possible out of Williams in a team title chase, while Bougard would take advantage and focus on getting her NCAA title back.
Certainly to not be discounted is 2013 outdoor heptathlon champion Lindsay Vollmer at 4404 points after a career-best performance at the Big 12 Championships. Jess Herauf of Minnesota established herself firmly at No. 5 with her Big Ten-winning 4361, but the rest of the field will be in a dogfight.
Five women have scored between 4273 and 4223 points, with another cluster of six athletes all separated by less than 60 points in the 4100s. The most women to break 4200 points in a single NCAA Championships was seven just last season.