Division I Indoor Championships Preview – Men
NEW ORLEANS – Having taken a look at the team race at the NCAA Division I Indoor Championships earlier this week when the final National Team Computer Rankings were released, the attention now shifts to some of the biggest individual storylines of the upcoming weekend.
Will Lawi Lalang sweep the distance title trifecta? Who will win the latest chapter of the Deon Lendore vs. Arman Hall rivalry? Will either of the former national champion long jumpers in the field be able to regain their crown? Could this be the best heptathlon in meet history?
Get the background on these questions and more as The Warm-Up Lap takes a brief look at some of the top storylines in each of the event disciplines this weekend.
Also, be sure to check out the USTFCCCA National Championships Central page for all the details on the meet, including the info on how to watch the meet live.
No defending champions return in the sprints events, leaving the stage wide open for breakthrough performances.
Overarching the sprints/hurdles discipline is the individual rivalry between Texas A&M’s Deon Lendore and Florida’s Arman Hall, both of whom are season-long members of The Bowerman Watch List. The two will meet both at 400 meters and in the 4×400 relay with team title positioning at stake.
Lendore enters as the top seed at 400 meters for the second consecutive season, though he ultimately finished runner-up in the event a year ago both indoors and outdoors. He will have to get past No. 2 Hall and seven other man who have gone sub-46 this year – not to mention perennial contender Mike Berry of Oregon.
Should he make it to Saturday’s 400 meters final, Hall will have a full day of not only 400 meter prelims, but also 200 meter prelims and finals. Having already defeated a pair of then-collegiate leaders at 200 meters earlier this year in Texas A&M’s Prezel Hardy, Jr., and his own teammate Dedric Dukes, Hall is looking to become the first man in DI indoor history to sweep both the 200 and 400 meters titles at the same meet.
The 60-meter hurdles feature a similarly dynamic match-up between a pair of "also receiving votes" members of The Bowerman Watch List in defending indoor champion Eddie Lovett of Florida and defending outdoor 110-meter hurdles champ Wayne Davis II of Texas A&M. Lovett bettered Davis at the SEC Championships for the league title two weekends ago.
However, the duo is ranked just No. 6 and No. 9, respectively, as part of a group of 12 hurdlers who have run 7.70 or faster this year. Sophomore Oladapo Akinmoladun of Nebraska is the top seed at 7.61.
Each of the top three teams in the nation – No. 1 Arkansas, No. 2 Florida, No. 3 Texas A&M – are slated to have a 4×400 team in the meet’s final, often-deciding event.
Lendore and his Aggies are No. 1 with the collegiate record 3:03.20; Hall and Florida are No. 2 with an equivalent of the old collegiate-record 3:03.50; and Arkansas, the previous collegiate record holder, is No. 4 at 3:05.02.
Arizona’s Lawi Lalang, a finalist for The Bowerman in 2013 and an early favorite in 2014, is attempting a feat no other Division I competitor has ever accomplished indoors: three individual titles at the same NCAA Championships. The Wildcat will attempt to defend his national mile and (second-consecutive) 3000-meter titles from a year ago as the top seed, and will look to reclaim his 2012 title at 5000 meters. He is the collegiate record holder both in the mile and at 5000 meters.
Who will challenge him? The Bowerman Watch List rival Anthony Rotich of UTEP, defending outdoor 1500 meters champion Mac Fleet and collegiate 1000 meter record holder Rich Peters of Boston U. are among those in the mile field, while cross country champion and frosh sensation Edward Cheserek of Oregon awaits both at 3000 and 5000 meters.
A piece of history against Lalang: the collegiate record in the mile has been set in each of the past three seasons at the Millrose Games, but the previous two record holders have failed to win the NCAA title. Miles Batty of BYU set it in 2012 before losing the NCAA title to Chris O’Hare of Tulsa, who went on to break the collegiate record in 2013. But, alas, O’Hare was beaten at NCAAs by Lalang, who, of course, broke the record this year.
Lalang is ranked No. 4 at 5000 meters, behind top-seeded Reed Connor of Wisconsin and a pair of froshes in Villanova’s Patrick Tiernan and Cheserek.
Cheserek’s young collegiate resume already includes the dethroning of formerly unbeaten cross country champion Kennedy Kithuka of Texas Tech, who defeated then-reigning champion Lalang the year before in cross country.
The distance medley relay could be an all-time great race with the second-fastest team all-time, Penn State, leading a group of five teams that broke into the all-time list. Villanova is No. 4 all-time, Stanford is No. 6 and Georgetown is No. 7, while Indiana ran an oversized-track time that ranks third all-conditions.
At 800 meters, Iowa State’s Edward Kemboi at 1:45.98 is the class of a field that is otherwise separated in seed time by just over a second between 1:47.45 and 1:48.84.
Another man going for three individual titles, or at least points in each event, is Kennesaw State’s Andre Dorsey. He is ranked No. 4 in the triple jump, No. 9 in the high jump and No. 10 in the long jump.
Two-time defending indoor pole vault champion Andrew Irwin of Arkansas is rounding into his usual form after a slow start to the season, but he’ll have to overcome The Bowerman Watch List member Sam Kendricks of Ole Miss and Canadian record holder Shawn Barber of Akron to make it three titles in a row. Irwin and Kendricks, who are tied at No. 9 on the all-time indoor collegiate performers list, also cleared identical heights at the SEC Championships.
A pair of former champions will compete in the long jump with defending champion Marquis Dendy of Florida and Kendall Spencer of New Mexico. At No. 4 and No. 7, they will both have to overcome a field topped by Rutgers’ Corey Crawford.
Arizona’s Nick Ross will also be looking to regain his 2012 high jump title after a redshirted 2013 season. The Bowerman Watch List member is the only qualifier to have cleared 7-7 (2.31m) this season. James Harris of Florida State is the No. 2 seed, and is looking to become the first man in DI indoor history to claim both individual track titles and field titles at the same meet.
The weight throw could be one of the best in meet history with The Bowerman Watch List member and all-time best Division I thrower Michael Lihrman of Wisconsin up against the No. 10 collegian in history in Chukwuebuka Enekwechi of Purdue and Minnesota’s Jon Lehman, who are ranked second and third. Lihrman topped Lehman and Enekwechi, in that order, at the Big Ten Championships.
Rival Watch List member Ryan Crouser of Texas is the headliner in the shot put, where is the favorite over a field that includes No. 2 Stephen Mozia of Cornell, who is coming off an IAAF World Indoor Championships competition representing Nigeria.
Last year’s finish between champion Kevin Lazas of Arkansas and Japheth Cato of Wisconsin – just 10 points between them – was one of the closest in meet history, and this year looks to be more of the same with both Lazas and Cato returning – along with 2012 national champion Curtis Beach after a redshirted 2013 indoor season.
Lazas is third on the all-time collegiate performers list, Cato is No. 4 as one of just two men (Ashton Eaton, Oregon) with two all-time top-10 performances, and Beach is No. 6.