Oregon Men Preseason Favorites for Third Consecutive National Title
NEW ORLEANS – All roads to the NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field national team title travel through Eugene, Oregon – and not just because that’s where the national championships are held.
TrackTown USA, widely regarded as the capital city of track & field in the United States, also doubles as the capital city to collegiate track & field’s latest dynasty, the men of Oregon.
Runaway winners of the past two NCAA Outdoor team titles and the last three NCAA Indoor crowns, the Ducks are heavy preseason favorites to make it three-in-a-row outdoors according to the preseason edition of the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) National Team Computer Rankings.
Led by the stellar Edward Cheserek, Oregon topped the preseason projections over the likes of recent national champions in No. 2 Texas A&M, No. 3 Florida, No. 4 LSU and No. 5 Arkansas.
A national title at their home Hayward Field on Friday, June 10, would put the Ducks into rare company alongside UTEP and Arkansas as programs that have swept the national indoor and outdoor team titles three consecutive years.
These early computer projections have the Ducks as strong favorites to do just that, checking in just shy of 300 ranking points to Texas A&M’s 225. The Aggies could be in for a dogfight with their SEC brethren, as Florida (221.77), LSU (207.46), and Arkansas (195.81) are all within about 30 points. (Read more about the points system in the sidebar below).
That 75-point gap between the Ducks and Aggies is the second-biggest preseason margin in the nine-year history of the rankings, behind only Florida’s massive 103.71-point chasm beyond Texas A&M in 2011.
But anything can happen in track & field, and those 2011 NCAA Championships ended up being one of the closest in history with Texas A&M taking the title with 55 points, one ahead of Florida State and two clear of Florida. The Gators’ loss was among losses by preseason favorites in four of the past six NCAA Championships.
Perhaps more telling than the recent performances of preseason favorites is a look at Oregon’s own performances of late. The current gap between the Ducks and the Aggies is right in line with the double-digit victories posted by Oregon the past two seasons, as well as double-digit wins indoors the past two years.
The cornerstone of all five Oregon title runs indoors and out the past two-and-a-half years has undoubtedly been Cheserek – the two-time defending 10,000 meters and defending 5000 meters national champion – and once again he’s the foundation on which the Ducks’ preseason favorite status is built.
Though he only gets credit in two distance events (since a 1500-5000-10,000 triple is highly unlikely), he will be the favorite in whichever two he chooses. Combine that with the return of 2014 NCAA/USATF 110-meter hurdles champion Devon Allen, whose comeback is already in superb form, No. 2 400-meter runner Marcus Chambers, No. 3 hammer thrower Greg Skipper and No. 4 javelin thrower Cody Danielson, and the Ducks are looking at the potential for some big points this June.
While Chambers’ status is up in the air after a very quiet indoor campaign, the Ducks do have some room for growth in the rankings with Blake Haney, last year’s third-place 1500 meter finisher and 2016 indoor mile runner-up, ranked No. 15 based on time.
Texas A&M also has a lot of room for growth with the 2016 indoor breakthrough 800-meter duo of frosh phenom Donavan Brazier and Hector Hernandez combining for just 3.52 points in this initial run of the data. Indoor performances are not included, nor are those by incoming freshmen.
Those two should pair well with top-ranked triple jumper Latario Collie, No. 2 javelin thrower Ioannis Kryiazis, No. 3 long jumper Will Williams and the Aggies’ always-solid relays to give A&M a fighting chance to potentially upset the Ducks and hold off the SEC onslaught in the podium race.
Florida will counter with its stable of sprinters, led by top-ranked Najee Glass at 400 meters and the No. 1 4×400 relay, as well as No. 3 Hugh Graham, Jr., at 400 meters and No. 2 Eric Futch in the 400 hurdles.
LSU will be battling for its share of the available points in the sprints with top-ranked 200-meter man Tremayne Acy, as well as the top-10 400-meter duo of Michael Cherry and Lamar Bruton, sixth-ranked 110 hurdler Jordan Moore, and top-three relays both in the 4×100 and 4×400.
Arkansas will be depending on standout Jarrion Lawson for big points, as Lawson is the top-ranked long jumper, the No. 2 sprinter at 100 meters and a member of the Razorbacks’ top-ranked 4×100 relay. Clive Pullen repeating his winning NCAA indoor triple jump performance would also be a significant boost for Arkansas.
Just outside the top-five, No. 6 Alabama is projected to make a significant step forward from its 31st-place finish a year ago, while No. 10 South Carolina is expected to drastically improve from its 63rd-place effort last season.
Big gains are also projected for No. 13 Ohio State (up 24 spots), No. 14 Virginia Tech (up 23), No. 17 North Carolina (up 51), No. 22 Colorado (up 29) and No. 24 Louisville (up 20).
Going the other direction are No. 16 Southern California (down 11), No. 18 Texas Tech (down nine) and No. 19 Penn State (down nine).
Men’s Outdoor Track & Field National Team Computer Rankings (Top 25)
2016 Preseason — March 22
|next ranking: April 4|
|Rank||Institution||Points||Conference||Head Coach (Yr)||2015 FINAL|
|1||Oregon||299.11||Pac-12||Robert Johnson (4th)||1|
|2||Texas A&M||225.12||SEC||Pat Henry (12th)||6|
|3||Florida||221.77||SEC||Mike Holloway (14th)||2|
|4||LSU||207.46||SEC||Dennis Shaver (12th)||4|
|5||Arkansas||195.81||SEC||Chris Bucknam (8th)||3|
|6||Alabama||179.50||SEC||Dan Waters (5th)||31|
|7||Texas||176.39||Big 12||Mario Sategna (3rd)||7|
|8||Virginia||164.73||ACC||Bryan Fetzer (5th)||17|
|9||Illinois||152.09||Big Ten||Mike Turk (7th)||10|
|10||South Carolina||138.31||SEC||Curtis Frye (20th)||60|
|11||Georgia||133.17||SEC||Petros Kyprianou (1st)||15|
|12||Stanford||130.18||Pac-12||Chris Miltenberg (4th)||16|
|13||Ohio State||121.32||Big Ten||Karen Dennis (2nd)||37|
|14||Virginia Tech||118.52||ACC||Dave Cianelli (15th)||37|
|15||Tulsa||118.46||American||Steve Gulley (14th)||NR|
|16||Southern California||114.50||Pac-12||Caryl Smith Gilbert (3rd)||5|
|17||North Carolina||111.84||ACC||Harlis Meaders (4th)||68|
|18||Texas Tech||107.97||Big 12||Wes Kittley (17th)||9|
|19||Penn State||94.85||Big Ten||John Gondak (2nd)||10|
|20||BYU||92.57||Independent (DI)||Ed Eyestone (3rd)||13|
|21||Middle Tennessee||91.45||Conference USA||Dean Hayes (52nd)||31|
|22||Colorado||89.28||Pac-12||Mark Wetmore (21st)||51|
|23||Arizona||87.36||Pac-12||Fred Harvey (14th)||19|
|24||Louisville||86.68||ACC||Dale Cowper (3rd)||44|
|25||Kansas State||86.33||Big 12||Cliff Rovelto (24th)||NR|
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