Florida Relays: Nine Events to Watch
NEW ORLEANS — The college track season continues to heat up like the the proverbial frog in the boiling water this weekend, with great sprints and field action at the Florida Relays and the classic distance procession at Stanford. Below are nine events to watch at Florida; we’ll preview Stanford later. Subscriptions are key for watching the two biggest meets of the weekend: Florida Relays will be on the SEC Network+, and Stanford will be on FloPro.
All of the open track events in Gainesville are Friday, and all of the relays listed below are Saturday. The field events are split between the two days.
1. Men’s 200
Friday, 3:50 Eastern
Meet record: Dedric Dukes (Florida) 19.97, 2014
2015 college leader: Beejay Lee (USC), 20.51
The men’s 200 features a fascinating combination of generations and skills. Churandy Martina might be the most accomplished pro name in the field; Kendal Williams is the world junior champion at 100 meters; Andre De Grasse might have had the best indoor season; Dedric Dukes is the most recent sub-20 man in this group; and Trentavis Friday might be the most talented man in the entire group. And that’s without getting to USC’s 10.07/20.51 man Beejay Lee and 10.18/20.55 man Just’N Thymes, many-time All-American Tevin Hester of Clemson, and 9.96/20.58 FSU alum Dentarius Locke.
That’s nine names; the Florida track has nine lanes, and it’s a testament to the excellence of the field that one of those nine names could end up outside of the fastest section this weekend. Dukes was clearly not himself this indoor season, with his slowest indoor 200 season best since 2012. With the 100 and 200 finals on the same day this year, the door is open for a 200 specialist to take the national title from indoor champ Trayvon Bromell. Dukes is the most natural candidate, and this weekend could be the beginning of his ascension to the top of the event.
With the Name of the Year bracket in full swing, a word here. Obviously, Just’N Thymes (particularly considering the capitalized N) is in the pantheon of all-time great sports names. But it might not even be the most apt name at the Relays. Penn State has a national-qualifying long and triple jumper named Brian Leap.
2. Men’s 100
Friday, heats start at 12:15 Eastern
Meet record: Harvey Glance (Athletic Attic), 10.04, 1981
2015 college leader: Trayvon Bromell (Baylor), 10.02
Per TFRRS, Gator jump superstar Marquis Dendy has never raced in an open race outdoors in college. That’s scheduled to change Friday, with Dendy facing off against much of the 200 field (De Grasse, Dukes, Lee, Thymes, Williams) plus 2014 100 meter finalist–aka All-American–Antwan Wright of Florida. Williams plus the Trojans and Gators entered are more suited for the 100 than the 200, and the 100 is first. But the 200 ultimately gets top billing with Friday, Martina, and Locke only running the longer race.
3. Women’s 800
Friday, heats start at 2:10 Eastern
Meet record: Nekita Beasley (unattached), 2:02.30, 1995
2015 college leader: Faith Makau (UC Riverside), 2:05.93
Three international-quality names highlight the women’s 8: indoor world champ Chanelle Price, worlds qualifier (in the 1500) Cory McGee, and 2013 NCAA outdoor and 2015 NCAA indoor champ Natoya Goule of Clemson. Goule sits fourth on the all-time collegiate 800 list at 2:00.06, and 2014 Bowerman winner Laura Roesler’s 2:00.54 is the fastest regular season time in college history. With good weather, good pacing, and aggressive competing by the pros, the latter time (and maybe even 2:00) could be in danger.
Beyond the big three, the collegians to watch are Florida’s Claudia Francis and Harvard’s Erika Veidis.
4. Men’s 800
Friday, heats start at 2:30 Eastern
Meet record: Sean Obinwa (Florida), 1:46.68, 2014
2015 college leader: Collins Kibet (Arizona), 1:46.87
The SEC + Penn State + Georgetown – Brandon McBride = the 2015 Florida Relays 800. Eight of the men likely filling the lanes in the fastest heat will be Alabama’s Alex Amankwah, Florida’s Ryan Schnulle and Andres Arroyo, Penn State’s Robby Creese, Brannon Kidder, and Za’Von Watkins, Georgetown’s Joseph White, and Kentucky’s Keffri Neal; all eight own a piece of paper calling them a first-team All-American. Schnulle and Neal went 2-3 at outdoor nationals in the 800, Watkins, Creese, and Kidder all ran on Penn State’s runner-up DMR at indoor nationals, and Amankwah and Schnulle were, improbably, the only two to run in the 800 final in Fayetteville three weeks ago.
Many of these men have run 1:46; none have run 1:45. In addition to wanting to beat each other, cracking 1:46.00 might be the ultimate goal here.
5. Women’s 100 hurdles
Friday, heats start at 12:15 Eastern
Meet record: Queen Harrison (Virginia Tech), 12.65, 2010
2015 college leader: Alex Gouchenour (Arkansas), 13.15
With the 100 and 400 hurdle finals on the same day at NCAAs this year, expect indoor 60H champ Kendra Harrison to only go for the longer race in Eugene. (She indeed is only entered in the full lap hurdles in Gainesville) Three of the seven women who finished behind her in Fayetteville are entered in the 100 hurdles this weekend: Mississippi State’s Erica Bougard, Florida’s Bridgette Owens, and USC’s Dior Hall.
Owens is the obvious favorite. She was second behind Harrison at SECs and NCAAs this winter, and is the top returner in the event from last year’s national meet. Hall and Bougard showed huge improvements this winter–Hall broke the American junior record and Bougard took her PR from 8.31 to 8.03–but again, it’s all about Owens. Her path to her first NCAA title continues here.
6. Men’s 4×4
Saturday, 6:10 Eastern
Meet record: Florida, 2:59.73, 2014
2015 college leader: Texas A&M, 3:02.19
Letsrun likes to crack wise about fields being eclectic, and this relay certainly qualifies as such. It contains the DII indoor and outdoor champs (St. Augustine’s), maybe the best Northeastern team in Pitt (the only team in the Northeast to have made NCAAs in the 4×4 since Princeton and Penn State made it outdoors in 2013), the best HBCU team in Hampton, 2014 Cinderellas Western Kentucky (who made the NCAA outdoor finals in the 4×1 and 4×4 after being ranked 73rd and 16th in those events on the descending order lists), and SEC/ACC powers Alabama, Clemson, Florida, Georgia, and Mississippi State.
Florida is by far the best team here. But by virtue of the diversity of the field, everyone has something to run for here.
7. Men’s shot put
Saturday, 3:30 Eastern
Meet record: Garrett Johnson (unattached), 20.59m, 2008
2015 college leader: Ryan Crouser (Texas), 21.11m
Sensing a theme in these events? The men’s shot put contains the best non-Texan DI athletes, the best of DII, and a really outstanding moonlighter. Four of the top five finishers from indoor nationals are here: national champ Stipe Zunic of Florida is joined by Buffalo’s Jon Jones, Penn State’s Darrell Hill, and Kentucky’s Brad Szypka, who took third through fifth in that order in Arkansas. Georgia Bulldogs Ashinia Miller and Nick Vena are the only other 2015 DI shot put national qualifiers in the field, but Purdue’s Chukwuebuka Enekwechi and Ashland’s Taylor Miller have had much better Marches. Enekwechi took third at DI nationals in the weight throw, and Findlay’s Taylor Miller was second at DII nationals in the shot.
Alabama’s Kyle Felpel failed to crack nineteen meters indoors, but did make outdoor nats in 2015. He’ll try to start building his road back to Eugene here. And it’s the outdoor debut for Zunic. Texas’s Ryan Crouser has already thrown 21.11m outdoors–the exact PB that Zunic set to upset Crouser three weeks ago.
8. Women’s 100
Friday, heats start at 12:35 Eastern
Meet record: Octavius Freeman (Central Florida), 11.02, 2013
2015 college leader: Diamond Gause (South Plains [NJCAA]), 11.33
If Michelle Lee-Ahye had opted for the NCAA system–like so many of her fellow Trinidad & Tobago countrywomen–she’d be a 22-year-old senior with the fastest sea-level 100 meter time in college history. The 10.85 woman will have to settle for competing against the best of the NCAA this weekend.
Alabama’s Remona Burchell, USC’s Ky Westbrook, and Florida’s Shayla Sanders went 1-2-6 at indoor nationals in the 60; they’re joined in the field by 2014 outdoor 100 meter finalist and Westbrook’s teammate Tynia Gaither. Burchell has the indoor collegiate record in the 60 and is the outdoor national champ in the 100, but has never broken 11 seconds in the 100. With how consistently she’s improved over the last twelve months–two losses total, one each to Jenna Prandini and Olivia Ekpone–sub-11 is inevitable.
9. Women’s javelin
Friday, 7:30 Eastern
Meet record: Emily Carlsten (Florida), 56.97m, 2000
2015 college leader: Irina Sediva (Virginia Tech), 57.35m
Friday night spear-tossing under the lights! It might sound like a typical weekend for Florida Man, but it might be the best women’s field event at the Florida Relays. Nearly a third of the 2014 outdoor nationals field is competing in Gainesville, headline by defending national champ Fawn Miller of Florida and All-American Sabine Kopplin of Virginia Tech. They’re joined by fellow national qualifiers Eva Vivod (Virginia Tech), Kelsey Hay (Penn), Jessie Merckle (Wake Forest), Hannah Mayer (Harvard), and Laura Loht (Penn State alum). It’s a fourth Hokie who has the best throw of 2015, though: Irina Sediva’s 57.35m at the Texas Relays last weekend is a mark that’s consistently good for a top-three finish at NCAAs.