WEEKEND IN REVIEW: February 21-23, 2020

The end is nigh – at least for the collegiate indoor track & field regular season.

There were 22 conference championships spread across the nation this weekend, including a near-even split in NCAA Division I (5), NCAA Division II (5), NCAA Division III (5), NAIA (6) and the NJCAA (2).

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But that doesn’t mean athletes and teams without conference bragging rights rested on their laurels this weekend. In fact, a number of last chance meets allowed athletes to improve their standing ahead of their respective national championship meets.

Chris Nilsen kicked started things with a pole vault collegiate record that is covered separately. Here are some of the other biggest performances from this weekend.

Distance Medley Weekend

The chase just to get into the NCAA Championships can be as competitive as the title race itself and this weekend is a favorite of many to stake their best marks. Two meets high among the favorite sites are the JDL DMR Invitational at Winston-Salem, N.C. and the Alex Wilson Invitational at South Bend, Ind.

The JDL Fast Track – a 200-meter flat oval – is popular as the NCAA converts the times there positively to match their equivalent at 200-meter banked and oversized flat tracks.

Prior to this weekend, the 12th spot on the descending order lists were 9:47.05 for men and 11:19.48 for women. Seven of the eight men’s teams and five of the six women’s squads moved into the top-12 – after conversions – following Friday’s JDL races.

The women were led by Wake Forest at 11:08.90, thanks to a nice 4:38.02 anchor by Johanna Schulz, with Virginia Tech next at 11:10.18. The Hokies led most of the race on the strength of the opening 1200 split of 3:20.86 by Sarah Edwards.

BYU won the men’s race at 9:38.02 with a 3:59.17 finish by Talem Franco, a finalist in last year’s outdoor 1500 final. Arkansas, the leader after three legs, was next at 9:39.16, followed by Virginia Tech (9:40.07). The Hokie men also had the fastest 1200 split at 2:56.39 by Jack Joyce.

By the time the invitational sections lined up at Notre Dame the next morning, the 12th position – after converting the JDL times – had improved dramatically, now down to 9:38.20 (men) and 11:10.63 (women). All seven of the men’s squads and five of the six women’s teams bettered those cutoffs.

The Notre Dame women’s race was first and was won by Wisconsin at 11:05.27 over Big Ten rival Michigan (11:05.89) as each ran seriously for the first time this year. The Badgers were anchored by Alicia Monson, a current member of The Bowerman Watch List.

The men’s race was a thriller as the host Irish beat Wisconsin by 0.04 seconds in the second and third fastest times ever recorded in collegiate competition – 9:25.80 and 9:25.84. The anchor pitted Notre Dame’s Yared Nuguse – the reigning NCAA outdoor 1500 champ – against the Badgers’ Oliver Hoare, who won the 2018 outdoor 1500. The 1600 splits were 3:54.1 for Hoare and 3:54.5 for Nuguse. The Irish also shined with an 800 split of 1:46.5 from Samuel Voelz, whose open best is 1:49.22.

This sets up an incredible NCAA title race, as history’s only faster team is Oregon, which earlier this year set the collegiate record of 9:24.52.

Throwing Their Weight Around

A number of weight throwers tuned up well for upcoming championships. Taylor Scaife of Houston became the 11th woman to eclipse the 22.00m (72-2) barrier in the weight throw this season in winning Friday’s LSU Twilight. That is one more than all of last year and equal to the combined total from the 2017 and 2018 seasons. Scaife threw 22.89m (75-1¼), which moved her No. 2 on the seasonal list.

On Saturday the Alex Wilson Invitational gave the list a 12th 22-meter thrower plus an improvement at the top, both from host Notre Dame. Rachel Tanczos improved her national lead to 76-5¾ (23.31) and teammate Abbey Kapitan became the year’s 12th member of the 22-meter club at 72-11¼ (22.23), a lifetime best by over four feet.

On the men’s side Minnesota’s Kieran McKeag improved his lifetime best by over three feet at the Minnesota Cold Classic with a heave of 75-2¾ (22.93). The effort moved him to No. 3 on yearly list. Elsewhere in other divisions, Joe Krall of Monmouth (Ill.) went to No. 2 on the Div. III list with a throw of 64-2½ and New Mexico JC’s Andrei Romanov moved his NJCAA record over the 70-foot barrier to 70-7 (21.51).

Other Performances of Interest

There were plenty of list-leaders this weekend.

Sydney Packard of WPI smashed the Div. III 1000 record with a 2:52.70 after last week just missing the 800 mark by just 0.01. In this race, she won the Springfield Triangle Classic by almost 20 seconds.

Emily Presley of Missouri Southern moved to No. 5 Div. II in the pole vault with a 14-1¼ (4.30) clearance at the Arkansas Qualifier.

At the Spartan Invitational in Dubuque, Iowa, Alison Beeman of Dubuque jumped to No. 8 all-time Div. III in the 200 with a 24.49 performance, just ahead of Gabrelle Noland of Loras, who already is at No. 4 all-time from last year.

Kennedy Lightner of Arkansas Baptist clocked a 46.20 400 at the Arkansas Qualifier to take the national NJCAA lead and become No. 4 all-time.