Breaking Down The Race For The NCAA D1 Team Titles
EUGENE, Oregon — Tomorrow marks the start of the 2016 NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships at Hayward Field.
By Saturday night, a men’s and women’s team champion would have been crowned.
Can the Oregon men handle business like they have the past two years and become the first three-peat champion since Texas A&M did it from 2010-12? Or will top-ranked Texas A&M and the other three teams in the top-5 (No. 2 Florida, No. 4 LSU, No. 5 Arkansas) have something to say about that?
Like the men, the Oregon women have a chance at winning consecutive titles. This would be the Ducks’ second in a row and would match well with the one it won indoors.
However, Oregon is ranked sixth in the latest USTFCCCA National Team Computer Rankings and there are five teams looking to knock the Ducks off their perch including top-ranked Arkansas and second-ranked Kentucky.
What’s it going to take each top-5 team to win a title — and maybe the Oregon women? We’ll give you one event each team’s chances hinge upon.
No. 1 Texas A&M
Event: 800 Meters
Back in mid-March, the Aggies’ chances at reaching the podium in Birmingham, Alabama went up in smoke when Donavan Brazier pulled out of the preliminary heats of the 800. Valuable points were left on the track.
Brazier proved no worse for wear outdoors with a solid showing at the SEC Championships to his name. The freshman finished third behind Brandon McBride and teammate Hector Hernandez in 1:46.19.
Both Brazier and Hernandez will be in action Wednesday and should both run up to their potential, should make it through to Friday’s final. Brazier and Hernandez are nationally ranked fifth and fourth, respectively, and if they finish around that spot or above, they could add 10-plus points to Texas A&M’s haul and counter other teams’ scoring in events in which its not as strong.
No. 2 Florida
Event: 400 Hurdles
Eric Futch is the top-ranked male in this event entering NCAAs at 42.94 seconds.
TJ Holmes sits fifth within shouting distance of Futch (49.72).
There are four top-5 teams with athletes in the 400 hurdles (Arkansas, Florida, Oregon and Texas A&M), but the Gators are the only team with multiple men entered.
With Florida and LSU duking it out in the 400 and relays, this could be a critical spot for the second-ranked Gators to keep pace or put some distance between them and the rest of the field.
No. 3 Oregon
Name an event longer than 800 meters and Oregon is the only top-5 team from which multiple athletes are entered. Arkansas has a single entrant in the steeplechase and 10000.
The Ducks dominated this discipline indoors with titles in the 5000 (Edward Cheserek), 10000 (Edward Cheserek), distance medley relay and 13 points in the mile (second and fourth).
With Cheserek doubling (5000/10000) and the trio of Blake Haney, Matthew Maton and Sam Prakel looking strong in the 1500, Oregon could wrap things up early if that foursome runs to its potential.
No. 4 LSU
Event: 400 Meters
For the Tigers to roar for the first time since 2002, their talented one-lappers need to step up in a big way, not only in the open version but the relay, too.
Lamar Bruton, Michael Cherry and Fitzroy Dunkley all need to punch tickets to Friday’s final. If that comes at the expense of a Gator or two, even better for their team’s chances in the title hunt.
When it comes to the 4×400, it’s every team for itself once again and LSU holds the trump card with the nation’s top time entering Eugene (3:00.38).
No. 5 Arkansas
Event: 100 Meters, 200 Meters, 4×100 and Long Jump
Do those events look familiar? They should.
Those are the events in which Jarrion Lawson is entered in at NCAAs.
If the Razorbacks are to win their first outdoor title since 2005, they’ll go as far as Lawson takes them.
Going by ranking entering NCAAs, Lawson could add 12½ points to Arkansas’ total by himself. If Lawson reaches the 100-meter final for the second consecutive year, the Razorbacks could be sitting pretty.
No. 1 Arkansas
Event(s): 5000 & 10000 Meters
Indoors the Razorbacks fell three points shy of back-to-back titles.
Arkansas just didn’t have a chance to counter Oregon’s firepower in the distance events.
Well, that was then — this is now. Oh, and Dominique Scott-Efurd is back at it again.
The way NCAAs set up this season, Scott-Efurd is capable of adding to the Razorbacks’ total in a big way.
Scott-Efurd finished runner-up in both events last year to Emily Sisson and Molly Seidel, respectively. Guess what: Sisson and Seidel aren’t in the way any longer and Scott-Efurd is ranked No. 1 nationally in both.
No. 2 Kentucky
Event: 100 & 200 Meters
The Wildcats have seven entries in the sprints, two more than LSU and Texas A&M, three more than Oregon, four more than Texas and seven more than Arkansas.
No matter how you cut it, it’s time for Kentucky’s sprinters to step up in a big way.
Four of the Wildcats’ entries are in the 200 with Kianna Gray, Destiny Carter, Jasmine Camacho-Quinn and Precious Hitchcock. Carter, Gray and Javianne Oliver will contest half of that distance.
For Kentucky to reach the podium — and better yet, stand on top of it — it must pack the those finals.
No. 3 Texas
Event: 400 Meters
Just like the LSU men, the Longhorns have a lot riding on the shoulders of their one-lap quartet: Courtney Okolo, Chrisann Gordon, Zola Golden and Ariel Jones. Okolo and Gordon will compete in the open 400, while Golden and Jones will join them for the 4×400 relay.
During the indoor meet, Texas added 26 points to its total through these women (subtract Golden for Morolake Akinosun). The Longhorns finished fourth, one point behind third-place Georgia and six back of Arkansas.
A similar total puts Texas on the podium again. Anything less puts a heavy load on the rest of the Longhorns.
No. 4 LSU
Event(s): 100 Meters, 200 Meters & 100 Hurdles
If the Tigers want a shot at a team title, it has to match its rivals step for step.
LSU must cancel out or better Kentucky, Oregon and Texas A&M in these events.
Here are the Tigers to watch: Kourtnei Johnson and Jada Martin in the sprints and Mikiah Brisco and Chanice Chase in the 100 hurdles.
No. 5 Texas A&M
Entering NCAAs, the Aggies’ sprinters aren’t highly ranked. Despite five total entries in the 100 and 200, the best national rank for Texas A&M is Brenessa Thompson‘s mark in the former that’s tied for 15th.
For the Aggies to make some noise in the team standings, their sprinters need to rise to the occasion.
Texas A&M is going to have no trouble scoring big points in the 400 hurdles (Shamier Little), discus throw (Shelbi Vaughan) and javelin throw (Maggie Malone), so extra points in the sprints would go a long way.
No. 6 Oregon
Event: 800 Meters
The Ducks lost valuable team points with Jasmine Todd off the team. Todd, a sure-fire scorer in the 100 and long jump didn’t compete after the Pac 12 Championships.
Todd’s loss opens the door for a number of other athletes to step through it and the trio of Brooke Feldmeier, Annie LeBlanc and Raevyn Rogers need to be those athletes for Oregon.
The hometown track should help push Feldmeier, LeBlanc and Rogers, but anything less than the three of them in the Saturday’s final clips the Ducks wings as they try to fly to a repeat.