WEEKEND PREVIEW: Feast Your Eyes To The West
NEW ORLEANS — Wake up, people.
It’s too early in the season to be having a track & field hangover already.
We know this past weekend was a treat with the Clyde Littlefield Texas Relays, Florida Relays and Stanford Invitational, but the show must go on — and on it goes this weekend.
From "The Big Meet" (a dual between California and Stanford) to the Sun Angel Track Classic to LSU’s Battle on the Bayou and everywhere in between, athletes are gearing up to qualify for the postseason.
Here are a few meets to keep on eye on this weekend as we get deeper into the season.
Oregon Pepsi Team Invitational (Saturday)
Oregon welcomes Penn State, Southern California and Washington to Hayward Field for a quadrangular competition.
According to the most recent USTFCCCA National Team Computer Rankings, the Ducks boast the second-ranked men and sixth-ranked women, the Nittany Lion men are ranked 17th and the Trojans are 13th (men) and 2nd (women).
One event that could capture your attention is the men’s 5000 and that’s because of one name — Edward Cheserek. The two-time individual NCAA indoor champ makes his outdoor debut on Saturday.
Then what about the men’s 1500? It should be a dandy with three of the fastest milers from this past indoor season entered — Washington’s Izaic Yorks (1st), Oregon’s Blake Haney (3rd) and Sam Prakel (14th).
Elsewhere in the men’s entry list, Oregon’s Devon Allen is expected to pull double duty (110 hurdles, 400 hurdles) and Southern Cal’s Randall Cunningham should compete in the high jump. This is Allen’s first time racing at Hayward Field since he won the 2014 NCAA title in his signature event (110 hurdles).
Another high-profile Duck makes her debut in the 800 and that’s Raevyn Rogers. The sophomore will be looking to add a third NCAA title to her haul come June.
There should be some fireworks in the women’s 100 and 200, especially the latter. In the 100, Southern Cal’s Alexis Faulknor goes head to head with teammate Deanna Hill. Then in the 200, those two are joined by Oregon’s Jasmine Todd, who is ranked No. 1 at 100 meters according to the USTFCCCA Individual Rankings.
And feast your eyes on the women’s 4×400 as Oregon and USC square off. The Ducks and Trojans finished third and fourth at NCAAs in Birmingham and were separated by two-tenths of a second.
LSU Battle on the Bayou (Saturday)
The Battle on the Bayou is also the battle between the SEC, Big 12 and Big Ten. The No. 5 LSU men host No. 8 Alabama, No. 15 Ohio State, No. 24 Mississippi State, Kansas State, Purdue and Oklahoma; the No. 3 Bayou Bengals square off with No. 10 Kansas State, No. 11 Mississippi State, No. 14 Oklahoma, No. 24 Oklahoma State, Purdue and Alabama.
Reigning indoor/outdoor women’s long jump champion Quanesha Burks of Alabama headlines the field, and she’s got some superb competition to jump against. At No. 3 on the USTFCCCA list is Nataliyah Friar of LSU, and former NCAA Indoor pentathlon champion Erica Bougard of Mississippi State is No. 13 on the list.
Expect some great action in the men’s field events, as well, particularly in the throws. JC Murasky of Ohio State and Chuk Enekwechi of Purdue were third and fourth in the NCAA Indoor shot put and will stage a rematch in Baton Rouge this weekend. Enekwechi will also get a rematch with Alexander Young, the man who usurped him for the upset weight throw title at NCAA Indoors. Young competes for Southeastern Louisiana, but is unattached this weekend.
On the track, Mikiah Brisco showed her speed indoors with SEC titles in both the 60 and 60-meter hurdles and All-American finishes in both events at NCAA Indoors. She’ll take on the 200 meters this weekend against the likes of teammate No. 8 Jada Martin, No. 11 Aisha Cavin of Ohio State and No. 17 A’Keyla Mitchell of Kansas State.
The Big Meet: Cal vs. Stanford (Saturday)
These two teams have some history. Saturday will mark the 122nd time the Cal and Stanford men have dueled for dual meet honors since the rivalry’s inception in 1893(!), and the 37th time the women have squared off. The Golden Bear men have won three times in a row, while the women have each won once in the past two seasons with the most recent victory going to Stanford.
As if Stanford fans needed any more reason than the historic rivalry to get excited, Saturday is slated to be the collegiate track debut for freshman phenom Grant Fisher in the Stanford colors. Fisher, who finished 17th at the NCAA Cross Country Championships this fall, is entered both at 1500 and 3000 meters.
He ultimately may not run both, but he’s entered in both events alongside 2016 breakout star Sean McGorty and against Cal’s top runner Chris Walden. McGorty followed up a strong XC campaign – seventh at nationals – indoors with the second-fastest mile in the country at 3:53.62 and a runner-up finish in the NCAA 3000.
Elise Cranny was the indoor NCAA 3000 runner-up last year for the Stanford women, but has not been able to find the same success since. After an injury kept her out of cross country and the recovery process limited her indoor campaign, she’s certain to be hoping for a bounce-back outdoor season. She’s entered Saturday both at 1500 and 3000 meters, as is Cal’s top woman Bethan Knights.
Knights similarly missed a large chunk of the cross country season, but has already shown good form with a career-best 15:52.91 5000m just this past weekend at Stanford. Her teammate Kelsey Santisteban, once a 10th-place NCAA XC finisher in 2013, is also entered at 3000 meters.
Arizona Jim Click Shootout (Saturday)
Here are the teams competing in Tuscon, Arizona this weekend — Arizona, Iowa, Northern Arizona, Oklahoma State and TCU.
It shouldn’t need to be mentioned that the sprints are going to be special.
While the men’s 100-meter dash could be good, primarily because of TCU’s Ronnie Baker, it gets more interesting when the distance gets doubled. That’s where TCU teammates Baker and Sam Watts meet up with Oklahoma State’s John Teeters. Baker, Teeters and Watts are all stars at 60 and 100 meters, so we’ll see how they make the transition — at least for one weekend — to the 200.
We should see Baker and Watts team up once again in the 4×100, just like they did this past weekend in Austin, Texas. They helped TCU to the nation’s fastest time in the event (39.08) and Iowa’s team is currently 10th (39.73).
Arizona State Sun Angel Track Classic (Saturday)
Under the hot Tempe sun, two Texas A&M standouts are making their season debuts — Donavan Brazier and Shamier Little.
We’ll start with Little, who is scheduled to compete in the 200 and in her signature event, the 400 hurdles. Little is the two-time defending NCAA champ in the event and won the silver medal at the 2015 IAAF World Championships.
Brazier will contest the elite section of the 400. The freshman hasn’t competed since pulling out of the semifinals of the 800 at NCAA indoors.
Speaking of the 800, two finalists from this past season will compete in that event at this meet — Minnesota’s Goaner Deng and BYU’s Shaquille Walker. Deng didn’t finish, while Walker took third behind Akron’s Clayton Murphy and Middle Tennessee State’s Eliu Rutto.