What to Watch on Friday at the NCAA Championships
Today is Day 3 of the NCAA outdoor track and field championships and the men’s champions will be crowned. This is the last meet ever held in the historic version of Hayward Field. On Wednesday I helped Chris Chavez preview the meet on the CITIUS podcast, and below is everything you need to know about today’s action.
HOW TO WATCH
3:20pm EDT (12:20pm PDT) at ESPN3.com — separate feeds for heptathlon and each field event
8:30pm EDT (5:30pm PDT) on ESPN
You’ll also want to follow the live results and use our handy visual schedule:
The USTFCCCA’s National Championships Central is a treasure trove of information.
Here is a fun and useful team scoring tracker with several different ways to project team scores–you can even customize it. It will be updated after each semifinal and final.
TEAMS TO WATCH
Florida is the favorite to win the team championship, but nothing is guaranteed. The Gators have 13 points on the board and are projected for 41 more today in the 110 hurdles, both relays, and triple and high jumps. The most precarious of those points are in the jumps; KeAndre Bates is favored to win the triple jump but did not look good in Friday’s long jump, and Clayton Brown will be doing simultaneous double-duty in the triple and high jumps.
Houston is the top-rated challenger, and if the Cougars win they would be the first men’s mid-major champion since 1982. In fact, no mid-major has finished in the top four since 2005. Houston’s points will all come from the 100, 400, relays, and steeplechase.
Georgia is the other team within striking distance. The Bulldogs have 34 points on the board and their remaining scoring opportunities are in the 100, 200, and high jump.
The sprints have no obvious stars this year and that means anything can happen. Houston has three finalists in the 100 and are hoping for some big points.
Three 100 meter finalists means Houston is the favorite in the 4×100 relay, but we all know what kind of disaster can strike in that event. On the other hand, Cougar coaches Leroy Burrell and Carl Lewis were veterans of Team USA relays in the no-drama era of just going out and getting the job done. Florida is quite capable of winning this event too, so it will make a difference in the team competition.
New Mexico’s Josh Kerr has won the last three NCAA championships in the 1500 meters or mile and looks invincible. He has suggested he may go after his own collegiate record of 3:35.01.
The steeplechase looks like a tossup. It’s the only distance race where you can depend on PRs and season’s best times to give you a pretty good read on how things will turn out, and all 12 finalists are within 8 seconds of each other in that regard. Houston needs points out of Brian Barraza.
One place where the USA never seems to be short on talent is in the hurdles, and we’ll likely see that today. Florida’s Grant Holloway is approaching Renaldo Nehemiah’s 39-year-old collegiate record in the 110 hurdles. USC’s Rai Benjamin is among the best collegians of all time in the 400 hurdles and could take a stab at the Hayward Field record. His teammate Michael Norman is similarly dominant in the flat 400 meters.
I think the most intriguing races of the day will be the 800 meters and 5000 meters. In the first of those, UTEP’s Michael Saruni is the collegiate record holder but not the most brilliant tactician, and the 800 is an inherently unpredictable event anyway. In the latter, Syracuse’s Justyn Knight runs his last collegiate race and faces a murderer’s row of opponents, led by Stanford’s Grant Fisher.
And then of course there is the king of events, the most exciting three minutes in sports: the 4×400 relay. Florida and Houston are in the final and the championship could very well be on the line. If you like seeing a superstar run people down from behind – and who doesn’t? – keep your eyes on USC anchor leg Michael Norman.