Meet Preview: Conference Clash – Power Five Invitational
NEW ORLEANS — Back in 2014, media personality Paul Finebaum released his latest book, based solely on the superiority of the SEC in college football. After all, as of the start of the 2014 football season, the conference had won seven of the last eight titles.
This weekend in Birmingham, Alabama, the SEC is going to find out if that idea of “My Conference Can Beat Your Conference” (part of Finebaum’s book title) translates to indoor track & field.
Auburn and Tennessee are co-hosting the Conference Clash: Power Five Invitational at the Birmingham CrossPlex, the same venue where the NCAA Division I Indoor Track & Field Championships will be held in seven weeks.
Eight programs from the SEC — Alabama, Auburn, LSU, Mississippi, Mississippi State, South Carolina, Tennessee and Vanderbilt — will face off against seven programs from four other Power 5 Conferences — Arizona, Florida State, Georgia Tech, Ohio State, Purdue, Southern California and Texas.
Ten of those teams were ranked in the Preseason National Team Computer Rankings — Alabama’s men (No. 5), LSU’s men (No. 14) and women (No. 12), Mississippi’s women (No. 25), South Carolina’s men (No. 19), Tennessee’s men (No. 15), Purdue’s men (No. 24), Southern Cal’s women (No. 7) and Texas’ men (No. 2) and women (No. 3).
With so many athletes competing, it might seem daunting to figure out what events will have the hottest competition. Don’t worry, we got you covered.
Note: USTFCCCA Individual Rankings are used in this article. Those rankings are preseason marks of returning athletes as well as marks from the current year.
FINAL: Saturday, 12:08 p.m. CT
PRELIMS: Friday, 5 p.m. CT
Expect fireworks in the final if all things go according to plan.
Five of the women in the top-8 of the USTFCCCA Individual Rankings are entered in the event — Texas’ Morolake Akinosun (No. 3), LSU’s Mikiah Brisco (No. 5), Texas’ Teahna Daniels (No. 6), Southern California’s Alexis Faulknor (No. 7) and Southern California’s Deanna Hill (No. 8).
Using this season’s marks alone, expect a close duel between the Longhorn sprinters.Akinosun and Daniels both ran this past weekend at the Texas A&M Team Invitational and clocked identical 7.26 times.
Even though she’s not listed among the top-10 in the USTFCCCA Individual Rankings, keep an eye out for Auburn’s Jonielle Smith. She owns the seventh fastest time of the season thus far (7.33).
Men’s Weight Throw
FINALS: Friday, 3 p.m. CT
Purdue’s Chukwuebuka Enekwechi and Tennessee’s Cameron Brown will test the limits of the Birmingham CrossPlex this weekend.
Coming into the meet, Enekwechi and Brown are No. 1 and No. 2, respectively, on the USTFCCCA Individual Rankings. That’s also where they currently stand on the National Descending Order List for Division I.
Every time Enekwechi throws, he has a chance to move up the all-time collegiate performers list. Right now he is No. 4 on that and right outside the top-10 heaves. If Enekwechi tacks three more inches onto his personal best of 24.39m (80-1/4), he’d slide past collegiate record holder Michael Lihrman for 10th.
Many expect to see Enekwechi and Brown tango for the NCAA title in March, so this should be an appetizer for that.
Men’s Shot Put
FINALS: Saturday, 1:30 p.m. CT
Four of the top-10 sphere throwers according to the USTFCCCA Individual Rankings will toe the circle on Saturday.
They’ll be led by Texas’ Ryan Crouser, who is ranked No. 1 and finished runner-up last year at NCAAs. When it comes to this season, Crouser is actually No. 2 on the National Descending Order List behind UCLA’s Nicholas Scarvelis.
Joining Crouser will be Southern California’s Nicholas Ponzio (No. 7), Ohio State’s JC Murasky (No. 8) and Purdue’s Chukwuebuka Enekwechi (No. 9). Each of those men are ranked inside the top-6 of the NDOL, with Ponzio holding the best mark of the group at 19.43m (63-9).
Other Notable Events
Women’s Shot Put (Saturday, 11 a.m. CT) — Fans will see if Ole Miss’ Raven Saunders can improve her standing as the world leader. Saunders broke a meet record and school record last week with a heave of 18.67m (61-3). She was on the first Bowerman Watch List.
Women’s Long Jump (Saturday, 11 a.m. CT) — This is the first time this season that Alabama’s Quanesha Burks will have competed in the event. Burks, who is on the Bowerman Watch List, won the NCAA Outdoor title last year.
Women’s Triple Jump (Friday, 3 p.m. CT) — With Kentucky’s Sha’Keela Saunders jumping so well early in the season, Vanderbilt’s Simone Charley wants to make sure she keeps pace. Charley is currently No. 2 on the USTFCCCA Individual Rankings and will be pushed at the meet by Auburn’s Marshay Ryan.
Men’s Pole Vault (Saturday, 11 a.m. CT) — Tennessee’s Jake Blakenship, who was among the 10 candidates on the Bowerman Watch List, will look to capture his second title of the season and re-capture the national lead. Blakenship is No. 1 on the USTFCCCA Individual Rankings.