(Header photo credit: Dane Schubert for DailyRelay.com)
The NCAA Championships get underway today, starting with the decathlon at 3:30pm Eastern time (12:30 Pacific). I’m splitting my preview for today into two parts; track events will be published later today. Below is everything you need to know about today’s decathlon and field event action.
Blue for all events indicates that it’s men-only competition today. Starting times for field events are exact but how long each will take is a guess.
ESPN3 will cover the decathlon and field events up through 7:30pm (Eastern), when the television broadcast will begin on ESPNU. It will switch over to ESPN2 at 8:30pm.
Who is going to win the team championship?
Texas A&M won the NCAA indoor championships, so that makes them the favorite, right?
Not necessarily. While the indoor and outdoor slate of events are similar, they’re not exactly the same. The way to look at a track and field team competition is to predict the outcomes of each event (called a “dope sheet” for reasons that are beyond me) and add up the scores. You then make updates as each event finishes.
Track and Field News’ predictions say the men’s championship is going to be a dogfight between Texas A&M and Florida. The USTFCCCA’s computer rankings, which are basically a fancied-up dope sheet, say the same. In the event previews below I’ve highlighted all of the teams that I think are most likely to contend for the trophies awarded to the top four teams. Those teams are Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, BYU, Florida, Georgia, LSU, Oregon, and Texas A&M.
Begins at 3:30pm (Eastern) and goes all day
A summary of information about the qualifiers is below. “TFN” indicates the athlete’s position in the most recent Track & Field News formchart. Teams shown in color are those most likely to have a shot at the team championship.
Following the decathlon is a fun workplace time-wasting activity, especially if you work a desk job. There are short periods of competition interspersed throughout the day, and you can both watch online and follow the live results.
Barring disaster, Texas A&M’s Lindon Victor should win this relatively easily. He set the collegiate record at the Texas Relays, then broke it at the SEC Championships. Williams certainly looks to be second best, and it could be a tight competition after that.
Much like track & field team competition, early standings in the decathlon are highly dependent on each individual’s strengths and weaknesses. Each man has his strengths and weaknesses, and the way to follow the changing fortunes of the decathlon is to compare their results in each event to expectations. For example, a good hurdler on a bad day may still beat a bad hurdler on a good day, but the first has given up available points and the second has gained.
So right here I have each athlete’s PRs (according to TFRRS) for the five events of the first day. It’s highly unlikely that any of these athletes will score as much as the totals of their PRs, but it’s a nice way to look at scoring potential. Note that while Victor is a prohibitive favorite, it’s quite possible that he won’t be leading after the first day. The high jump tends to be an event where the most points can be lost as compared to the form chart.
Begins at 5:00pm (Eastern)
Format: two flights then finals
Winkler was a surprise Olympian last summer and is the top returnee from last year, but Dudarev is the clear favorite. He is the Belarus national junior record holder. Georgia should rack up points here and LSU could chip in a few as well; it would be an extreme upset were Oregon or Texas A&M to score.
Begins at 8:00pm (Eastern)
Nilsen may be young but he’s proven himself to be the best pole vaulter of the year–and moreover he’s consistent, which is important given the inherent inconsistency of the event. Texas A&M is hoping for significant scoring here, and Wyatt’s runner-up finish back in March at the NCAA Indoor Championships gave the Aggies crucial points (they only won the title by half a point). Oregon’s Walsh could benefit from competing at his home field since winds can be tricky at Hayward Field and he should know how to deal with them.
Begins at 8:45pm (Eastern)
Format: two flights then finals
Believe it or not, defending champion Curtis Thompson (Mississippi State) is picked for just fourth. Texas A&M’s Kyriazis put up a massive 88.01 meter (288′ 9″) throw at the Texas Relays two months ago which put him #2 on the all-time collegiate list, and anything remotely close to that will win. Oregon or Alabama could pick up some points here.
Begins at 9:00pm (Eastern)
Format: two concurrent flights in adjacent pits, then finals
This is going to be a very important event in the team championship race since the top three picks are on the two teams expected to battle it out. Superfrosh Holloway did not jump well at the NCAA indoor and finished third at the SEC Championships last month, so picking him for second may be placing outsized expectations on the youngster.
Begins at 9:40pm (Eastern)
Format: two concurrent flights in adjacent circles, then finals
Mihaljevic has been one of the top putters in the NCAA for years but the strong favorite is Hassan. The Egyptian has made big improvements over the last few years and became familiar with Hayward Field before he ever came to Colorado State–he was eighth at the 2014 World Junior Championships. Demaline has been on a sharp upward improvement curve since transferring to Ohio State from Western Kentucky and could upset the formchart.