Five things to watch at the NCAA outdoor track and field championships, Wednesday-Saturday at Hayward Field in Eugene, Ore.:
Tennessee junior Christian Coleman, the reigning indoor champ at 60 and 200 meters, will try to become the first man to complete the indoor-outdoor sprint double (60-200 and 100-200) in the same season since another Vol, Justin Gatlin, did it in 2002.
Coleman, the SEC outdoor runner of the year, has been spectacular in 2017. Among the highlights:
►He is the first collegian to record wind-legal times under 10 seconds in the 100 and under 20 seconds in the 200 on the same day.
►His winning time in the 200 in the NCAA regional meet, a Tennessee-record 19.85, is the second-fastest ever run by a collegian.
►He caused a stir this spring when he made abundantly clear how NFL speed compares — or doesn’t compare, really — to world-class track speed when he clocked a 4.12 40-yard dash. A full tenth of a second faster than John Ross’ NFL combine record of 4.22.
oleman’s main competition will come from LSU’s Nethaneel Mitchell Blake in both sprints, Cameron Burrell of Houston in the 100 and Jereem Richards of Alabama in the 200.
And the schedule: Coleman also is slated to run on Tennessee’s 4x100 and 4x400 (if the Vols make the final) relays. The semifinals for all these races are Wednesday. The finals are Friday.
The home team
The Oregon women, a big favorite to claim their second NCAA crown in three years, will provide the crowd at Hayward Field plenty to cheer.
It starts with an extra special sprint corps, led by junior Deajah Stevens — one of the favorites in the 100 and the 200. Toss in 2017 Olympian Ariana Washington, who is expected to score in both sprints.
That accounts for a lot of points, even without injured indoor 60 NCAA champ Hannah Cunliffe, who would have been a contender at 100 and 200, and the NCAA-recordholding quartet at 4x100, which was disqualified in the regionals for a passing zone violation.
In the 800, if anyone other than junior Raevyn Rogers crosses first, it might be the upset of the meet. Rogers is a six-time All-American, four-time national champ and the two-time defending champ in this event (also a two-time champ indoors). At the Mount SAC Relays she set a collegiate record, running 1:59.1.
The Ducks likely won't need it to come down to the final event, the 4x400 relay, to clinch the title — they also will contend for points in the 100 hurdles, the 1,500, the 3,000 steeplechase and the triple jump. If it does, the Ducks will be in the mix, and Rogers could make the difference — she split 50.2 in the West regionals.
How do you follow up a 43.70?
Texas A&M senior Fred Kerley joined a growing but still exclusive club on May 26 when he blazed to a collegiate record time of 43.70 in the 400 in the West regionals. Kerley became only the 15th man to go sub-44 in the 400, and he is now the seventh-fastest man in history.
Going sub-44 won’t be the concern this week. At championship meets, times and records rate a distant second in priority to victory, for Kerley and the Aggies, who will be in the hunt to win the men’s title. His main competition likely will come from Auburn freshmen Nathon Allen and Akeem Bloomfield.
Still, though, after that runaway win in the regionals, one wonders just how low he could go.
Any collegiate records at risk?
Women’s 4x100: This event lost a lot of the flash when Oregon, the co-recordholder, failed to make the field. But we still have LSU, which matched the Ducks with a time of 42.12 at the LSU Relays in April and has three of the top five times in the world. When Oregon ran its 42.12, at the Mount SAC Relays on April 15, it edged the Tigers in the process. The rematch would have been tantalizing. Still, LSU could do something special.
Men’s 800: Donovan Brazier set the mark of 1:43.55 on June 11 at last year’s NCAA championships. It might not make it a full year. Texas-El Paso freshman Emmanuel Korir of Kenya has run 1:43.73 this season, which is the No. 2 time in the world. The 800 semifinals are Wednesday, and the final is Friday.
Women's shot put: Ole Miss junior Raven Saunders (and 2016 Olympian; she was fifth in Rio) is the two-time defending champ and the collegiate recordholder. She is favored to make it three titles in a row. Can she better her record of 19.33 meters (63 feet, 5 inches)?
*Weather permitting, of course. Rain is in the forecast for much of the week.
Who will win the team titles?
Men: Expect a tight race between two SEC powers, Florida and Texas A&M, according to the Track and Field News formchart. The Gators will score big in the hurdles, relays and jumps. The Aggies will have Kerley, London Victor in the decathlon, the javelin and, of course, the 4x400. If it comes down to the final event and Texas A&M needs a win to claim the title, could the 12-year-old collegiate record (2:59.59, set by LSU in 2005) be in jeopardy? The Aggies have the three best times in the world this year, topped by a 3:00.69 on May 27.
Women: The Ducks are favored to bring home the title, and it shouldn't be that close. Bunched up in the chase for second: USC, Arkansas and Georgia.
When to watch