WEEKEND PREVIEW: NCAA DI Indoor Conference Championships

WEEKEND PREVIEW: NCAA DI Indoor Conference Championships

NEW ORLEANS – Conference championship season is upon us.

Well, it has been for quite a while if you’re counting a few of the smaller NCAA Division I conferences as well as many of the conferences in NCAA Division II and NCAA Division III.

But this weekend is a big one in NCAA Division I Indoor Track & Field as the major players will hold their championships. By that we mean the ACC, Big 12, Big Ten, MPSF and the granddaddy of them all, the SEC.

MORE INFO: Conference Championships Central | Broadcast Schedule

We took the time to break down the events you need to watch from each of those fives meets.

Don’t let that discourage you from paying attention to those other meets around the nation, though. A lot changes on the NCAA Division I Descending Order List during Conference Championship Weekend.

For example, what could happen over 5000 meters at the Big East Championships where Butler’s Erik Peterson (4th, 13:40.90) faces Georgetown’s Jonathan Green (12th, 13:45.73) and any other number of challengers coming his way.

Or in the Mountain West, where Air Force’s Shelley Spires could take over the national lead in the high jump with a great meet. Spires is currently tied for 3rd with Kansas State’s Kimberly Williamson behind Georgia’s duo of Madeline Fagan and Tatiana Gusin.

Those are just a few examples, but let us detail those five meets we discussed earlier and visit Conference Championship Central for all of your other needs.

SEC
Friday & Saturday | Nashville, Tennessee (Host: Vanderbilt)
Meet Home | Live Results | WATCH LIVE on SEC NETWORK+/WatchESPN
Defending Champions:
Arkansas (Men), Arkansas (Women)
| Meet History

RANKED MEN’S TEAMS

#1 Florida
#2 Arkansas
#4 Georgia
#5 Texas A&M
#8 LSU
#9 Alabama
#12 Tennessee

RANKED WOMEN’S TEAMS

#2 Arkansas
#3 Georgia
#4 LSU
#6 Kentucky
#9 Alabama
#10 Texas A&M
#11 Florida
#13 Ole Miss

Men’s Events to Watch

Women’s Events to Watch

400 Meters

Final: Saturday | 3:25 pm CT
Prelims: Friday | 7:05 pm CT

You won’t get a better preview of the men’s 400-meter race at NCAAs than what you’ll see Friday and Saturday in Nashville, Tennessee. Nine of the 16 fastest men in NCAA DI square off, including 6 of the top-8. Texas A&M’s Fred Kerley is the national leader and has been on a mission this year when competing in the quarter mile. Kerley’s 45.02 leads the way, but don’t forget about LSU’s Michael Cherry (45.61 Indoor PR) or upstart Obi Igbokwe of Arkansas, who is 6th in DI fresh off a PR of 46.16. Defending champion Kahmari Montgomery of Missouri lurks not too far behind.

4×400 Relay

Final: Saturday | 6:15 pm CT

What’s understood doesn’t need to be said, right? Well, we’ll say it anyway. This event is always a treat at SECs and this year is no different. Texas A&M broke its own collegiate record earlier this season (3:02.52) and is one of five SEC relay teams ranked in the top-9 nationally. Also in the mix will be No. 2 Alabama (3:04.73), No. 3 Arkansas (3:04.88), No. 5 Florida (3:05.14) and No. 9 LSU (3:05.68).

High Jump

Final: Friday | 1:30 pm CT

Usually it’s the women’s high jump that stands out at the SEC meet, but this year it could very well belong to the men. The SEC features four of the top-6 vertical jumpers in the nation this year: No. 1 Clayton Brown of Florida (2.25m/7-4½) and three men who are tied at No. 3 – Georgia’s duo of Darius Carbin and Keenon Laine as well as Arkansas’ Ken LeGassey.

60 Meters

Final: Saturday | 2:20 pm CT
Prelims: Friday | 5:10 pm CT

If someone from the SEC wants to prove they can put a scare into Oregon’s Hannah Cunliffe, now is the time. Cunliffe, the collegiate record holder at this distance, is the clear-cut favorite to win the NCAA title. However, there are six women from the SEC ranked in the top-10 with her, namely Kentucky’s Javianne Oliver (2nd, 7.18) and LSU’s Mikiah Brisco (3rd, 7.19). Elite athletes thrive on competition and there won’t be a shortage of it this weekend in Nashville.

Long Jump

Final: Friday | 5:30 pm CT

Here’s how the top-6 of the NCAA DI Descending Order List reads in this event as it pertains to conferences: SEC, SEC, SEC, SEC, SEC, SEC. Pretty diverse, right? We’ll see Kentucky’s Sha’Keela Saunders – the national leader at 6.73m (22-1) – go against Georgia’s trio of Keturah Orji, Kate Hall and Kendell Williams (if she chooses to compete while also trying to defend her title in the heptathlon). Throw in 2016 NCAA champ Quanesha Burks as well as Florida’s Darrielle McQueen, the event has all of the recipes for fireworks.

Shot Put & Pentathlon

Final: Friday | 6:30 pm CT

If NCAAs started today, the SEC would only have four women in the field of 16. That’s OK, because the indoor-outdoor collegiate record holder and outdoor NCAA champ is in the mix – Raven Saunders. We’ve championed Saunders a bunch this year, thinking she’d break her indoor collegiate record. This might finally be the week she does it. We’ll see her pushed by Florida’s Lloydricia Cameron (No. 6) and her own teammate Janeah Stewart (No. 10).

 

SEC
Thursday to Saturday | South Bend, Ind. (Host: Notre Dame)
Meet Home | Live Results | WATCH LIVE on ESPN3
Defending Champions
: Syracuse (Men), Miami (Fla.) (Women)
| Meet History

RANKED MEN’S TEAMS

#15 Virginia
#21 Virginia Tech
#25 Syracuse

RANKED WOMEN’S TEAMS

#15 Miami (Fla.)

Men’s Events to Watch

Women’s Events to Watch

Mile

Final: Saturday | 12:45 pm ET
Prelim: Friday | 3:15 pm ET

This is a big event for several reasons, namely because we’ll find out if 2016 NCAA mile champ Henry Wynne of Virginia makes it to College Station, Texas to defend his title. Right now Wynne sits outside the top-30 on the NCAA DI Descending Order List, which is a perilous place to be. Luckily for him, the ACC has four top-25 milers in its midst: Virginia Tech’s Neil Gourley and the Syracuse trio of Adam Palamar, Joel Hubbard and Justyn Knight. We’ll see which of these athletes compete on Friday.

Pole Vault

Final: Saturday | Noon ET

It will be teammate versus teammate as Virginia Tech sends Deakin Volz and Torben Laidig to the runway on Saturday. Volz is ranked 2nd in the nation with his clearance of 5.66m (18-6¾), but Laidig isn’t too far behind at 5.52m (18-1¼). Notre Dame’s Nate Richartz is ranked 8th in the nation, so that’s three vaulters surely headed for NCAAs.

Mile | 3000 Meters | 5000 Meters

Friday & Saturday

We threw the lot at you on this one, because all of the races have important storylines when it comes to the national landscape. First off, will we see Notre Dame’s Molly Seidel on her home track? Seidel hasn’t competed since mid-January and is the defending NCAA champ at 3000 and 5000 meters, so inquiring minds want to know (specifically those athletes trying to win those titles, namely Michigan’s Erin Finn). Outside of Seidel, NC State has a bunch of distance runners who fared quite well during the cross country season that have yet to find their groove indoors. As fof right now, the Wolfpack have three runners qualified in different events – Erika Kemp (5000), Rachel Koon (3000) and Megan Moye (mile) – but they’d like to have a few more. We’ll see if the Frazier sisters (Ryen and Wesley) make an impact or Kemp, Koon and Moye cement their spots at NCAAs.

400 Meters

Final: Saturday, 1 pm ET
Prelims: Friday, 3:35 pm ET

This is all about Miami (Fla.)’s Shakima Wimbley. Back in mid-January, she established the national lead in this event at 51.28. Wimbley also ran one of the fastest times over 300 meters in collegite history. Can Wimbley stay on top and lower her time even more and become the odds-on favorite to win an NCAA title?

 

SEC
Friday & Saturday | Ames, Iowa (Host: Iowa State)
Meet Home | Live Results | WATCH LIVE on Flotrack PRO
Defending Champions: Oklahoma State (Men), Texas (Women, x3) | Meet History

RANKED MEN’S TEAMS

#6 Kansas
#14 Texas
#16 Texas Tech
#20 Oklahoma State

RANKED WOMEN’S TEAMS

#7 Baylor
#8 Texas
#12 Kansas State

Men’s Events to Watch

Women’s Events to Watch

Triple Jump

Saturday | 12pm CT

Don’t be surprised if you see three or four of the competitors in this event pushing for a national title two weeks later. Oklahoma’s Hayden McClain owns a 16.56m (54-4) leap on the year, but has TCU’s Scotty Newton breathing down his neck. Don’t rule out Kansas’ Barden Adams or Texas Tech’s Charles Brown, either; both could find themselves on the podium in Ames when it’s all said and done.

High Jump

Saturday | 3pm CT

This event features the defending NCAA Indoor Champion in Texas Tech’s Trey Culver. However, only three-quarters of an inch separate Culver and Christoff Bryan of Kansas State in the national Descending Order Lists. Culver will have his work cut out for him this year with Bryan and Red Raider teammate Charles Brown vying for the conference title.

4×400 Relay

Saturday | 5:25pm CT

This is the event that could determine a conference title on the men’s side, and there are some heavy hitters on the national scene competing. Texas, Texas Tech, Kansas, Iowa State and Baylor are all sitting pretty in terms of qualifying for the NCAA National Championships, with TCU right on the cusp. Get your popcorn ready, folks.

400 Meters

FINAL: Saturday | 3pm CT
PRELIM: Friday | 5:10pm CT

Looking for a sprint with three of the top-10 Division I runners competing? Look no further. Texas’ Chrisann Gordon will square off against Leticia De Souza of Baylor and fellow Longhorn Zola Golden in what is sure to be an exciting race. After finishing 3rd during the NCAA Indoor Championships a year ago, look for Gordon to shine with former teammate Courtney Okolo no longer in the picture.

Mile

FINAL: Saturday | 2:10pm CT
PRELIM:
Friday | 3:10pm CT

To be honest, Oklahoma State’s Kaela Edwards should run away with this event. She is the lone participant in the top-20 of the NCAA Division I Descending Order Lists and the defending national champ. But fans shouldn’t pass up the opportunity to watch Edwards compete in her penultimate indoor meet as a collegiate athlete before making her last push for another indoor national championship.

Pole Vault

Friday | 3pm CT

In-state rivals Kally Long of Texas and Annie Rhodes of Baylor are neck and neck in the NCAA Descending Order Lists. With just three-quarters of an inch seperating the two on the season, who will come out on top? Also, don’t sleep on Shay Petty, as she should find her way to the podium over the weekend.

 

SEC
Friday & Saturday | Geneva, Ohio (Host: Ohio State)
Meet Home | Live Results | WATCH LIVE
Defending Champions
: Nebraska (Men), Michigan (Women) | Meet History

RANKED MEN’S TEAMS

#10 Indiana
#18 Iowa

RANKED WOMEN’S TEAMS

#14 Penn State
#16 Indiana
#18 Michigan
#21 Purdue
#24 Illinois

Men’s Events to Watch

Women’s Events to Watch

800 Meters

Final: Saturday | 2:20 pm CT
Prelims: Friday | 2:50 pm CT

Three of the top-10 half milers in the nation will duke it out over the course of two days as Indiana’s Daniel Kuhn (No. 3, 1:46.42) goes up against Penn State’s Isaiah Harris (No. 5, 1:46.65) and Iowa’s Carter Lilly (No. 8, 1:47.33). This will be a great way for the trio to stretch their legs before making their way to College Station, Texas to compete alongside the talented UTEP duo of Emmanuel Korir and Michael Saruni.

Heptathlon

Right now the Big Ten has four athletes qualified for NCAAs in the heptathlon: Minnesota’s Luca Wieland (national leader), Michigan’s Steven Bastien, Illinois’ Jonathan Wells and Michigan State’s Tim Ehrhardt. The conference would like a few more. That could happen as Wisconsin’s Brandon Mortensen (18th) and Nebraska’s Cody Walton (19th) are on the outside looking in at the moment, but could be urged forward by the competition this weekend.

3000 | 5000 Meters

Friday & Saturday

Many of the same women will compete in both the 3000 and 5000, but our eyes are specifically on the 3000 final on Friday. That’s because it features two women – Penn State’s Tessa Barrett and Michigan’s Erin Finn – who need to cement their spots in the final at NCAAs. Barrett and Finn are ranked 14th and 15th in NCAA DI, but have a few women hot on their heels including Michigan State’s Alexis Wiersma (22nd).

60 Hurdles

Final: Saturday | 2:50 pm CT
Prelim: Friday | 3:50 pm CT

Two of the top hurdlers in the nation meet up as Illinois’ Pedrya Seymour squares off against Purdue’s Devynne Charlton. Seymour is tied for 2nd in the nation at the moment with her time of 7.98, while Charlton is alone in 5th at 8.02. Both are still off Sasha Wallace’s leading time of 7.91, but the competition could push them toward and/or past their PRs of 7.98 and 7.97, respectively.

 

 

SEC
Friday & Saturday | Seattle, Washington (Host: Washington)
Meet Home | Live Results | WATCH LIVE (Flotrack Pro)
Defending Champions: Southern California (Men), Oregon (Women) | Meet History

RANKED MEN’S TEAMS

#3 Oregon
#7 Colorado
#17 Southern California
#19 Washington
#22 Stanford

RANKED WOMEN’S TEAMS

#1 Oregon
#5 Southern California
#17 BYU
#20 Arizona
#22 Colorado
#23 Stanford

Men’s Events to Watch

Women’s Events to Watch

3000 Meters

Saturday | 1:45pm PT

Edward Cheserek of Oregon is the reigning national champion in this event, but Colby Gilbert of Washington currently holds the lead on the Descending Order Lists. Neither of them are a shoo-in to win, either, as three more runners from the MPSF are in the top-10 in the Descending Order Lists. This event is sure to virtually mirror NCAA Indoor Track and Field National Championship field. We have also yet to see Grant Fisher or Sean McGorty of Stanford, so maybe they’ll add to the fun.

5000 Meters

Friday | 5:40pm PT

The tables are turned from the 3,000 meter, as Cheserek holds the top spot with Gilbert right behind him. As a matter of fact, Cheserek defeated Gilbert in their lone head-to-head meeting this year at the Husky Classic. John Dressel of Colorado and Clayton Young and Rory Linkletter of BYU could make things interesting for the nation’s pacesetters, while C.J. Albertson of Arizona State and Oregon’s Tanner Anderson make this one of the deepest fields at the MPSF Championships.

Mile

Saturday | 11:15am PT

Three Colorado Buffaloes lead the nation in the event in Ben Saarel, Joe Klecker and Zach Perrin. Can the trio hold off the advances by four other top-20 competitors? That remains to be seen. What fans can expect, though, is a solid, exciting race from some of the top distance runners in the nation.

Sprints

Friday & Saturday

It’s way too hard to pinpoint which sprint events will be the most exciting ones to catch. When you have the likes of Hannah Cunliffe, Deaja Stevens, Deanna Hill, Ariana Washington, Kendall Ellis, Sage Watson, Cameron Pettigrew, Alaysha Johnson and a host of other top-15 athletes competing a cross a variety of events, just make sure you see as many of these as humanly possible. Many of these women will be competiting for national titles in just a few weeks.

3000 Meters

Saturday | 1:20pm PT

Six of Division I’s top-10 runners – as well as eight of its top-15 – have competed in this event on the season. Oregon’s Katie Rainsberger leads the pack as a freshman, but Dani Jones of Colorado, Vanessa Fraser of Stanford, Samantha Nadel of Oregon, Erin Clark of Colorado and Claire Green of Arizona could give her a run for her money.

DMR

Fridy | 7:10pm PT

Oregon, BYU and Stanford have basically punched their ticket to the NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships in this event, but there is some unfinished business to attend to prior to that meet. It remains to be seen if all three teams will compete – Oregon did not field a team in this event a year ago at the MPSF meet – but if they do, this is one race fans won’t want to miss.