WEEKEND PREVIEWS: Arizona, Tennessee, Arkansas and More
We’ve covered the Oregon Pepsi Invitational and the Arizona State Sun Angel Classic – both of which will be streamed live online (and televised on the Pac-12 Network in Oregon’s case) – but those two meets are far from the only highlights of this upcoming weekend.
Below are several more meets with big national implications as the Countdown to Tracktown is at nine weeks – just nine weeks until the NCAA Championships in Eugene, Oregon, June 10-13.
From Tennessee in the East to Arkansas in the middle of the country and Arizona on the West Coast, great track & field will be widespread across the country this weekend.
More significant action could go down at the Texas Invitational, the Cal-Stanford "Big Meet" dual and the Alabama-Mississippi Border Clash, but entry lists were not available at publication.
Arizona Jim Click Invitational
Women’s 100 and 200
2015 collegiate leader Deanna Hill of Southern California will pair with teammates Tyinia Gaither and Ky Westbrook to take on LSU’s Jada Martin. Hill ran 22.88 this past weekend, while Gaither also checked in sub-21 at 20.98. Martin, who missed the indoor 200 national final by .01, has yet to run the event outdoors this year, while Westbrook will attempt to bounce back from a disappointing Florida Relays (ninth at 100 meters, 26th at 200) after a national runner-up finish indoors at 60 meters.
Those USC sprinters will be pulling double-duty at 100 meters, along with Alexis Faulknor, who’s currently the No. 2 sprinter in the country at 11.32. Based on the USTFCCCA lists that include 2014 marks for returners, Giather is No. 12 after finishing eighth at NCAAs a year ago, while Faulknor is No. 20. Westbrook’s and Hill’s efforts from Florida netted them No. 34 and No. 46 respectively – sandwiching No. 43 Mikiah Briscoe of LSU.
If the final indoor 60 meters descending order lists for the 2015 season are any sort of indication – and they well may not be – these women will all be competing for national recognition at the end of the season. Westbrook finished No. 5, Brisco and Gaither tied at No. 9, and Faulknor and LSU’s Aleia Hobbs (also in this race) tied at No. 11.
Many of these women will also be back for the 4×100 relay.
Men’s 100 and 200 Meters
Southern California might have the best short sprints corps of any team in the country. The duo of Andre De Grasse and BeeJay Lee make the Trojans the only school in the country with two men ranked in the top five on the USTFCCCA lists at both 100 and 200 meters, with De Grasse No. 3 on both and Lee No. 5 on both.
That duo, along with Just’N Thymes (No. 10 at 200, No. 19 at 100), will take on rival top-10 talent in both events – particularly at 200 meters. De Grasse, after becoming the third-fastest collegian of all time indoors, has carried his momentum to the outdoor season with a 20.20 debut two weekends ago. He’ll have to contend with No. 2 Aaron Ernest of LSU, who was fourth at NCAAs a year ago, as well as 2015 indoor 400-meter champion Vernon Norwood of LSU.
At 100 meters, Lee is the faster of the two this season at 10.09. He and De Grasse will square off with LSU’s No. 9 Tremayne Acy, who has gone 10.12 with the aid of the wind this season.
Again, watch for many of these sprinters in the 4×100 and 4×400 relays.
More Athletes to Watch
Women’s 100-Meter and 400-Meter Hurdles – No. 8 Dior Hall of Southern California was on pace to challenge for the indoor NCAA 60-Meter Hurdles title before tripping up halfway through the race. She made her outdoor debut in the hurdles with a windy 13.00 two weekends ago at Florida, and will look to go even lower this weekend against fellow frosh No. 15 Daeshon Gordon of LSU, who went a windy 13.09 In late March.
In the longer hurdles, No. 4 Jaide Stepter (55.83 this year) and No. 7 Chanice Chase (56.27 last year, fifth at NCAAs) will square off at 400 meters.
Men’s 800 – With his big PR of 1:46.87 from late March, Collins Kibet of Arizona is No. 8 on the USTFCCCA lists that include 2014 times and No. 2 on the 2015 collegiate list. How much farther can he drop his career-best now that he’s no longer an underdog and among the names to beat?
Men’s High Jump – Just a frosh, Randall Cunningham – yes, son of the former NFL quarterback of the same name – is already among the nation’s best high jumpers. He cleared 7-4¼ (2.24m) in his outdoor debut at Florida for shares of the No. 6 spot on the USTFCCCA list and No. 3 on the 2015 list. He’ll be joined by teammate Michael Krone, who cleared 7-3¾ (2.23m) a year ago.
Arkansas John McDonnell Invitational
Men’s 110-Meter Hurdles
Fresh off his indoor collegiate 60-meter hurdlers record and national title, Omar McLeod of Arkansas is among the early favorites for the outdoor 110H crown (especially with defending NCAA/USA Champion Devon Allen of Oregon still navigating the path to recovery after an ACL injury in the Rose Bowl). He’ll square off with the early favorite in the other hurdles event, Michael Stigler of Kansas. Stigler is a two-time NCAA runner-up in that 400H event, and has already run 48.44 this season. He has run 13.77 in the 110H, to McLeod’s 13.44.
Women’s Pole Vault
That outdoor collegiate record of 15-1½ (4.61m) is just itching to be broken after both NCAA indoor champion Sandi Morris of Arkansas and indoor collegiate record-holder Demi Payne of Stephen F. Austin went far higher this past winter. Morris will get another shot at it this weekend on her home track, but soaring to historic heights outdoors has proven to be more elusive than indoors. She’s cleared heights of 4.55m (fifth-best in outdoor history) and 4.45m in her first two meets this season. She’ll have stiff competition in former Olympian April Steiner-Bennett (who she defeated on several occasions during the indoor season) and former NCAA outdoor champion Natalya Bartnovskaya, who has graduated from Kansas.
Men’s 200 Meters
2015 indoor sprinting breakthrough star John Teeters of Oklahoma State makes his outdoor debut after finishing runner-up at 60 meters by the slimmest of margins. Among those he’ll face is Tulsa’s Bryce Robinson, who finished third in this event nationally indoors.
Women’s 400 Meters
This could be interesting as indoor 400-meter national runner-up Taylor Ellis-Watson of Arkansas is slated to square off against 2015 indoor 800-meter national runner-up Kaela Edwards of Oklahoma State and fourth-place 800-meter woman Chrishuna Williams of Arkansas – who herself is a converted 400-meter runner. Edwards is also entered at 800 and 1500 meters, and Ellis-Watson is also scheduled at 200 meters, so time will tell which event(s) they contest.
More Events To Watch
2014 indoor long jump champion and 2015 runner-up Jarrion Lawson makes his outdoor debut in the long jump (and at 100 meters against Robinson of Tulsa) in his first competition since losing the NCAA indoor LJ crown by just one centimeter. In the throws, indoor weight throw champ Kearsten Peoples of Missouri is slated to compete in the shot put, discus and hammer throw. Back on the track, seemingly every men’s distance runner Oklahoma State has will be contesting the 1500, including standouts Kirubel Erassa and Chad Noelle. In the other men’s mid-distance event, Patrick Rono of Arkansas headlines the men’s 800.
Tennessee Sea Ray Relays
Hometown favorite Tavis Bailey finished third at last year’s NCAA Championships, and no returner from the 2014 season has thrown farther than his 64.51m recorded in May of last year. He’s gotten off to something of a slow start in 2015, having thrown just 58.74m for No. 12 on the collegiate list. That’s right in the ballpark of defending national hammer throw champion Matthias Tayala’s 2014-best 58.15m, though the Kent State senior has yet to debut in 2015. Also in the field is No. 13 Macklin Tudor of Cincinnati, who has a 2014-best of 59.37m but has only managed 56.94m this season.
More Athletes to Watch
Men’s Long Jump – No. 5 Roelf Pienaar of Arkansas State nearly broke eight meters indoors, but got stuck at 7.97m – which is exactly his outdoor best (including wind-aided). He’ll look to finally clear that threshold against indoor triple jump runner-up Donald Scott of Eastern Michigan and Tennessee’s sprinting frosh phenom Christian Coleman, who recorded the 10th-longest jump of the 2014 high school season at 24-7½.
Men’s 200 – Speaking of Coleman, he’s also slated for the invitational section at 200 meters. He’ll be up against former NCAA standout Brycen Spratling and two-time defending NCAA Division II indoor champion Lamar Hargrove of Tiffin.
Women’s Shot Put – It’s always noteworthy when Southern Illinois’ indoor NCAA champion Raven Saunders competes. By her standards, she’s gotten off to a slow start with a 17.70m debut, but that’s still good for the early collegiate lead and No. 3 on the USTFCCCA list (including returning 2014 marks) behind indoor weight throw champ Kearsten Peoples of Missouri and defending outdoor shot put champ Christina Hillman of Iowa State.
More Meets to Keep an Eye On
Georgia Spec Towns Invitational
Thursday through Saturday
After a first two days that saw a pair of Bulldogs post all-time top-10 collegiate combined events scores (and neither one was three-time NCAA champion Kendell Williams!), this weekend’s competition will also feature the outdoor debuts of three-time NCAA high jump champion Leontia Kallenou and frosh triple jump sensation Keturah Orji, who finished her debut indoor season as the national runner-up.
Back to those combined events. Quintunya Chapman posted a women’s heptathlon score of 6146 points to break the school record and move to No. 8 on the all-time collegiate performers list. That’s right; the Bulldogs now have the defending national champion and another woman who actually owns the school record.
In the men’s decathlon, Garrett Scantling – competing in his first combined event since his narrow upset indoors at the hands of Minnesota’s Luca Wieland – scored 8232 points to break the school record held by defending NCAA champion Maicel Uibo (again, Georgia has separate defending champions and school record holders for both events) to move to No. 9 on the all-time collegiate performers list.
Big Ten/ACC Challenge (Louisville)
The biggest headline from this meet is the outdoor debut of defending indoor mile and outdoor steeplechase champion Leah O’Connor from Michigan State, who is entered both at 800 and 1500 meters. This will be the senior’s first competition since becoming the No. 2 collegiate miler in history at the NCAA Championships in mid-March. In terms of elite NCAA competition, O’Connor is likely on her own in whichever events she ultimately runs, but that hasn’t hindered her of late: She won a pair of indoor miles this winter by eight and nine seconds.