Day one went pretty much according to script, with the weather providing the most drama with rain coming and going throughout the first day. On the track most of those expected to qualify moved through to the finals. The huge notable exception was Ahmad Rashad’s false start DQ in heat 2 of the men’s 100. I hate the no false start rule for many reasons, but watching Rashad get tossed for what appeared to be a minor flinch (if that) was just a sad testament to the rules of the sport. His loss could affect the final outcome of the team standings, as he was a returning medalist from last year and looked pretty good for a top 3 or 4 spot again this year. With Rashad out there will be some lower points that will move up in this event. We will see what happens in the final.
In the team race, the LSU men lost valuable team points when 800 meter runner Richard Jones failed to make the final after leading his heat until the final stretch then fading badly. And Texas A&M’s men got a scare when Tabarie Henry missed out on a top 2 finish in his heat finishing fourth and slipping into the final as the last qualifier on time. For the women, LSU’s Samantha Henry missed the final, which could affect their bottom line, and Texas A&M’s Gaby Mayo didn’t start the 100 and was missing from the 4x1. We will see how this affects the Aggies in their battle with Oregon.
In Day One finals, Lisa Koll had more difficulty with the rain than with the competition as she cruised to an easy win. Koll was able to lead an Iowa St 1-2 as teammate Betsy Saina got up for 2nd while Oregon’s Nicole Blood got up to 3rd for big points for the Ducks. Likewise Florida’s Christian Taylor got the Gators off to a solid start with a collegiate leading 56’ 1” in the triple jump with frosh teammate Omar Craddock picking up extra points with a 6th place finish. Texas A&M also picked up multiple points in the triple jump with a 2-3 finish behind Tryon Stewart & Zuheir Sharif. And showing the heart of a champion, shot favorite Ryan Whiting (AzSt) came up huge in the discus with an upset victory over favored Mason Finley (Kansas) with a big 193’ 9” toss on his 5th throw. And while it wasn’t a final, Oregon’s Brianne Thiessen was in perfect position in the Heptathlon at the end of day one trailing Alabama’s Chealsea Taylor by only 4 points.
Outside of Whiting’s victory in the shot, the biggest surprise for me was Robbie Andrews (Virginia) in the 800. Not that I’ve overlooked him this season, but with Andrew Wheating in the field, I had conceded in my mind that a Wheating win would be automatic. Not so much any more after watching Andrews in his semi. With his typical come from behind move down the stretch, Andrews ran an easy looking 1:45.54 – a PR making him the #3 all time American Jr in the event. If Andrews can keep contact with Wheating, we could see a fantastic finishing stretch between the two kickers – and Andrews has the leg speed to beat him. We will see how this match up develops as Wheating has 1500 qualifying today while Andrews gets to rest.
And speaking of match ups, both the men’s and women’s 400 hurdles had their prime combatants move forward looking very very good. So look for two outstanding hurdle races to start off Friday’s finals – Jeshua Anderson (WaSt) v Johnny Dutch (S Car) and Ti’erra Brown (Mia) v Queen Harrison (VaTech).
Day Two will feature 200 and 1500 meter qualifying. In the men’s 200 Texas A&M will be looking for Curtis Mitchell and Gerald Phiri to show up big. Florida State will be looking for the same from Maurice Mitchell and Brandon Byram. Florida will be looking for Terrell Wilks to get in the final and garner some points to keep their train on track. Both Mitchell’s (no relation to my knowledge) will be looking to win the race, but will have much to handle in Rondell Sorrillo (Kentucky) who looked good in this event at Regionals and in his semi of the 100 here. For the women, Texas A&M is going to need both Jeneba Tarmoh and Porscha Lucas to score high here as they try to derail Oregon’s title hopes. Both young ladies looked good in the 100 semis, with Tarmoh looking more and more like a potential champion in my humble opinion.
While the sprint squads will be looking for their 200 meter runners to get in scoring position, Oregon will be looking to advance it’s 1500 meter runners. The men will need Matt Centrowitz and Andrew Wheating to show up big here. The women need Zoe Buckman to move forward and score well.
Perhaps the most key qualifying Thursday will be in the 4x4 as all the schools in contention for the team title will have a squad capable of making the final in this event – except for the Oregon men. Everyone will want to have a say come the end of the meet, and this event could be the one to decide a title – especially if other points are lost along the way. So keep an eye of the men’s squads from Florida, Florida St, Texas A&M and LSU; and the women’s squads from LSU, Texas A&M and Oregon. The decathlon also starts today with Oregon’s Ashton Eaton a huge favorite, and Florida’s Gray Horn in the hunt for valuable team points.
There are finals today in the men’s pole vault and javelin and the women’s hammer and triple jump and heptathlon. The men’s javelin will have team implications as Cyrus Hostetler (Or) and Sam Humphreys (Tx A&M) are two of the top contenders for the individual title. Ditto the heptathlon with Oregon’s Thiessen looming large.
Checking the weather report it looks like more rain is predicted for today. It didn’t seem to affect the events too much – though the main live feed was down for several events. If the top qualifiers continue to move forward today we’re shaping up for a hot final two days of action on Friday and Saturday!