Ok, after a week’s delay we will get the semi finals and finals of the NCAA Championships. If you find that comment odd, it’s because essentially the Regional meets were the first and second rounds of the Championships. If that still sounds odd, it’s because it is. We had two meets that solved nothing other than to decide who would get to compete in the semis and finals of the actual NCAA Championships.
Yes I’m making it sound rather silly, but really it is rather silly. There were no finals in the meet. No Regional champions were crowned – team or individual. They didn’t keep score. They just competed until enough individuals had been eliminated to send the rest to Des Moines – and the athletes competed as if that were the case. With the country’s best collegiate athletes competing in two locations – East & West regions – there were few exceptional performances as everyone went through the motions to just not get eliminated. The two meets looked like the opening and quarterfinal rounds of any major track meet – do just enough to move through. After all there was nothing else to compete for!
If that’s how the NCAA is going to treat the regional meets, they’d be better off to do away with them and expand the NCAA Championships by a couple of days to account for the additional rounds. It would be more cost effective in the long run, and would save us from what have become a couple of throw away meets. Because after all of that, we will finally get what it’s taken over two weeks to provide – the action and excitement of another NCAA Championships.
Now that I have given my two cents on the current regional concept, it’s time to look forward to the BIG meet itself. I’m going to stick with my earlier predictions of Florida’s men and Texas A&M’s women taking home their respective team titles. Watching them get there will be the fun part.
This should be one of the best meets of the season – collegiate or otherwise. With both team and individuals titles on the line, every event at the NCAA Championships seems to rock with excitement. Having said that, however, here are ten people/events that I think will heavily affect the outcome in Des Moines.
Florida’s Jeff Demps has been on a roll. He set the HSR (10.01) in ‘08. He was injured in ‘09, but since then has been on a tear winning the NCAA Indoor 60 title last year and this year, and winning the outdoor 100 title last year. He’s looking for his second “double” by adding the 100 title here. If he does all should bow and say “we’re not worthy” because this is one of the toughest fields I’ve seen in some time. In addition to Demps (9.96w/10.16) the field has Ngoni Makusha (FlSt) 9.97, Maurice Mitchell (FlSt) 10.03, Rakieem Saalam (OK, 10.04w/10.20) and Gerald Phiri (Tx AM) 10.06. Take note that Florida, Florida St and Texas A&M are all represented – and should all be in the thick of the team race. Making this a key event not only because of Demps attempt to repeat, but in the points race for the team title. I think Demps repeats, but look for a blanket finish at the line.
Another race with team implications and facing a blanket finish as lots of new names have emerged in this event for 2011. We’ve had sizzling windy times from Jeneba Tarmoh (TxAM) 10.94w, Semoy Hacket (LSU) 10.98w, LaKya Brookins (S Car) 11.02w and Kimberlyn Duncan (LSU) 11.02w. And we’ve had an AJR from English Gardener (OR) 11.03. And as with the men, most of the contenders are on teams in the running for the overall championship! If Oregon is to have a shot, English has got to get max points. Meanwhile the tussle between Texas AM & LSU could take a major turn right here. My original pick was Hacket and I’m going to stand by it, but Tarmoh keeps looking tougher and tougher each week.
Kirani James – 400
This is the resident man child in the NCAA – that athlete that just seems to be better than everyone else. Ironic since he’s only 18 years old! Be that as it may, he’s the most talented young quarter miler since Steve Lewis in 1988 – who shortly after turning 19 went on to win the Olympic title in 43.87! And yes I think James is that good. I don’t think he’ll run 43 seconds here, but I do expect him to set a new personal best (currently 44.86). Yes his competition is getting better – especially Mike Berry (OR) 44.91, Tabarie Henry (Tx A&M) 44.83, Demetrius Pinder (TxA&M) 44.87, and Joey Hughes (USC) 45.05. And with the Texas AM duo and Florida’s Tony McQuay (45.87 coming back from earlier injury) there are heavy team implications here as well. But I’m expecting this race to be James’ lead in to Daegu, with something in the 44.50 range setting the stage for even faster summer runs, while the others fight it out for team positioning.
Jordan Hasay – 1500/5000
Simply put I like her heart. That’s why I picked her to win the double indoors (1500/3000) and why I picked her to win the double next week (1500/5000). This young lady is a winner. She won in high school. She competed against the women at the Trials in ‘08. And she pulled off the double indoors this past March. She doesn’t always have the fastest times, but she always seems to have the biggest heart in spite of her small stature. Oregon always seems to make a run at some point in this meet, even if they don’t win it. My gut says this year’s run will be made on the feet of Ms. Hasay.
Will Claye and Christian Taylor – long and triple jump
This pair of Florida Gators just may be the best long & triple jump tandem in NCAA history. Claye has best of 27’ 2.5” & 56’ 4.75” (56’ 10” indoors). Taylor’s bests are 26’ 10.5” & 56’ 3.25” (56’ 11.5” indoors). Both are great big meet jumpers and have the potential to go 1,2 in the triple jump as well as placing within the top levels of the long jump. Florida’s sprinters and relays get the bulk of the headlines but this pair could be the engine that gets the Gators an outdoor title in 2011.
This year’s team race on both the men’s and women’s side will most likely go through the relays – all four of them.
The men’s 4x1 will feature four squads that are under 39 seconds AND in contention for the team title: Florida (38.53), Texas A&M (38.71), LSU (38.77) and Florida St (38.87). Each squad has had some outstanding performances as their times show, but all have also had a slip here or there. Everyone will be looking to get things rolling with 10 big points in this event, but the edge has to go to Florida who is a two time defending champion and enters with the best time. Of course one bobble here and you’re chasing after the leaders – both in this event and in the team title hunt. This even will set the tone for the rest of the meet.
Ditto the women’s 4x1, though Texas A&M (42.87) has a bit more breathing room over it’s biggest rivals – LSU (43.31) and Oregon (43.82). Of course the relay is about moving the baton around the track, as the baton goes so goes the team. And a drop here could mean “0” points. So A&M must get the baton around before it can start counting points. Not to mention that LSU has a penchant for running it’s best relays at this meet, and Oregon always runs like it’s hungry. A bobble by A&M could see LSU or Oregon sailing to the win.
Just as the meet will open with the contenders on the track, it will close the same way with the 4x4. On the men’s side Texas A&M (3:00.45), LSU (3:02.23), Florida St (3:02.41), and Florida (3:04.27) should all be on the track. Injuries and fatigue always play a factor by the end of the meet, but teams that are still in contention for a title usually find a way to overcome these and find their best performances. Winning is not always the key here – securing enough points to solidify your place in the team hunt is! Watch the coaches counting points and athletes running for placing as the meet closes!
Once again Texas A&M (3:27.33) is well ahead of rivals Oregon (3:29.63) and LSU (3:32.09) on the clock. However, if either LSU or Oregon has a shot at the team title, look for someone to run out of her head to try and secure the necessary points.
What a way to start a week’s worth of track and field. Just as things get going we will have the Bislett Games on Thursday and the Adidas Classic on Saturday as things are coming to a climax. I’m going to try and keep up with it all once the action heats up!