Arkansas Women Lead SEC-Heavy Preseason Indoor Track & Field National Rankings
NEW ORLEANS — Back-to-back champions, at least in the team sense, have dominated the NCAA Division I Women’s Indoor Track & Field Championship landscape.
Here’s a list of teams that have won multiple crowns in a row: Nebraska (1983-84), LSU (1993-97, 2002-04), Texas (1998-99), UCLA (2000-01), Arizona State (2007-08) and Oregon (2010-14).
If the preseason version of the National Team Computer Rankings — which were released Wednesday by the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) — are any indication, then Arkansas could very well join those six teams following the 2016 meet in Birmingham, Alabama.
The Razorbacks, who won the 2015 NCAA title at their home track over runner-up Oregon, earned the most points in the preseason rankings with 181.79. Fellow Southeastern Conference member Georgia was 10.09 points behind at No. 2 (171.70) and Texas was a very distant third (122.57).
The National Team Computer Rankings are complied by a mathematical formula based on national descending order lists. The purpose and methodology of the rankings is to create an index that showcases the teams that have the best potential of achieving the top spots in the national team race. Rankings points do not equate with NCAA Championships team points. A full description of the rankings can be found here.
Preseason rankings include high marks from 2015, and the National Team Computer Rankings will continue to do so through the third edition of the regular season, which is scheduled to be released February 8.
It should also be mentioned that the USTFCCCA National Team Computer Rankings should not be referred to as a "poll," as no voting occurs during the process.
For Arkansas to repeat, it must rely on a complete team effort once again. The defending champs are projected to receive heavy scoring contributions from two of its sprinters (Taylor Ellis-Watson and Regine Williams), three of its milers (Therese Haiss, Jessica Kamilos and Nikki Hiltz), Desiree Freier in the pole vault, Alex Gochenour in the pentathlon as well as from two of its relay teams (4×400, distance medley).
Watson should fare well in the 400 meters, just as she did last year with a runner-up finish. Williams failed to make the finals in the 60 meters, but based off her 2015 times, the projections put her right in the thick of it come March. Haiss and Kamilos were also critical members of the Razorbacks’ national championship DMR team from one year ago and Hiltz, who transferred to Arkansas from Oregon, finished eighth in the mile last year for the Ducks as a freshman.
Jumps and multi-event athletes will be looked upon to lead the second-ranked Bulldogs.
Georgia returns the reigning high jump champion in Leontia Kallenou as well as another talented high jumper in Tatiana Gusin (seventh place). Keturah Orji should excel in both the triple jump (second place in 2015) and long jump (13th place). Kendell Williams should continue her assault on the NCAA record book in the pentathlon as she broke the collegiate record at last year’s NCAA meet. The Bulldogs also added Xenia Rahn, who finished third at the NCAA meet last year in the pentathlon as a North Carolina Tar Heel, as a transfer.
Then there are the Longhorns, who finished sixth in 2015.
Based off last year’s efforts, Texas should be in solid shape when it comes to the 400 meters (Courtney Okolo is the defending champ) and 4×400 (first place as well). The Longhorns will also be aided by Kaitlin Petrillose, who enters the season as the second best returning pole vaulter in the nation.
One of the biggest gainers in the National Team Computer Rankings is Kansas State. The Wildcats, who finished 18th at last year’s NCAA meet, jumped 14 spots to No. 4. The rankings expect big things from sprinter A’Keyla Mitchell, high jumper Kimberley Williamson, thrower Dani Winters and Akela Jones in the pentathlon. This is the highest rank Kansas State ever received, topping its sixth-place showing over a three-week span last year.
Rounding out the top-5 are those aforementioned Ducks, the runner-ups from one year ago. Oregon will look for continued success from sprinters Hannah Cunliffe and Ariana Washington, sprinter-jumper Jasmine Todd, as well as 800-meter standouts Brooke Feldmeier and Raevyn Rogers. Don’t forget about thrower Brittany Mann either.
Other teams in the top-10 of the National Team Computer Rankings include No. 6 Florida, No. 7 Southern California, No. 8 Kentucky, No. 9 Wisconsin (up 9 spots) and No. 10 Georgetown (up 10 spots).
Three teams that fell out of the top-10 during the offseason were Baylor (No. 7 to No. 11), LSU (No. 9 to No. 12) and Stanford (No. 8 to No. 13). That is actually the best preseason ranking in school history for the Bears, while the Cardinal hasn’t been ranked this low to begin a season since 2013.
Some other big-name teams hanging around the top-25 include No. 14 Michigan, No. 19 Michigan State, No. 20 Notre Dame and No. 21 Texas A&M. Mississippi comes in at No. 25, which marks the best ranking for them in the past eight years (seventh in 2008).
The NCAA Division I Indoor Track & Field Championships will be held March 11-12 at the Birmingham Crossplex, so there will be a lot of movement over the next few months.
Women’s Indoor Track & Field National Team Computer Rankings (Top 25)
2016 Preseason — January 6
|next ranking: MONDAY, January 25|
|Rank||Institution||Points||Conference||Head Coach (Yr)||2015 FINAL|
|1||Arkansas||181.79||SEC||Lance Harter (26th)||1|
|2||Georgia||171.70||SEC||Petros Kyprianou (1st)||3|
|3||Texas||122.57||Big 12||Mario Sategna (3rd)||6|
|4||Kansas State||120.25||Big 12||Cliff Rovelto (24th)||18|
|5||Oregon||107.29||MPSF||Robert Johnson (4th)||2|
|6||Florida||98.78||SEC||Mike Holloway (9th)||4|
|7||Southern California||93.94||MPSF||Caryl Smith Gilbert (3rd)||12|
|8||Kentucky||89.68||SEC||Edrick Floreal (4th)||5|
|9||Wisconsin||71.70||Big Ten||Mick Byrne (3rd)||18|
|10||Georgetown||70.91||Big East||Michael Smith (1st)||30|
|11||Baylor||70.82||Big 12||Todd Harbour (11th)||7|
|12||LSU||66.76||SEC||Dennis Shaver (12th)||9|
|13||Stanford||64.11||MPSF||Chris Miltenberg (4th)||8|
|14||Michigan||58.47||Big Ten||James Henry (31st)||32|
|15||NC State||56.42||ACC||Rollie Geiger (32nd)||32|
|16||Duke||51.76||ACC||Norm Ogilvie (13th)||21|
|17||Miami (Fla.)||51.19||ACC||Amy Deem (26th)||52|
|18||Washington||48.83||MPSF||Greg Metcalf (14th)||26|
|19||Michigan State||45.47||Big Ten||Walt Drenth (10th)||24|
|20||Notre Dame||45.06||ACC||Alan Turner (2nd)||30|
|21||Texas A&M||44.40||SEC||Pat Henry (12th)||15|
|22||Clemson||42.22||ACC||Mark Elliott (3rd)||12|
|23||Kent State||41.55||Mid-American||Bill Lawson (11th)||46|
|24||Boston College||39.78||ACC||Randy Thomas (21st)||NR|
|25||Mississippi||34.98||SEC||Connie Price-Smith (1st)||52|
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