As the 2011 NCAA Track & Field Championship in Des Moines, Iowa starts today, June 8, there are several intriguing questions floating around that will be answered when the dust settles on Saturday evening, the 11th. In the meantime, we cannot resist sharing our thoughts and predictions. Here are seven questions we have considered.
1. Can the Caribbean sweep the Men’s 400m?
The men’s 400m is loaded with future Caribbean quarter-milers including Kirani James (Uinversity of Alabama/Grenada), Demetrius Pinder (Texas A&M/Bahamas), Tabarie Henry (Texas A&M/US Virgin Islands), Riker Hylton (LSU/Jamaica), and Zwede Hewitt (Baylor/ Trinidad).
James, in only his third semester at Alabama, stopped the clock at 44.86secs, for this first sub-45 in the Regionals a few weeks ago. In all interviews with the media this season, James has insisted that he just wants to run fast. This is his opportunity to do so, as he has the veteran Pinder and Henry with whom to contend.
Pinder is the reigning Bahamian 400m national champion, and he has been battle-tested and has gone under 45.00secs on several occasions. Henry competed in the 400m at the 2009 World Championships, an experience, which along with his season best 44.87, should serve him well this weekend. Hylton and Hewitt should also be a factor.
Challenge should also come from the likes of Torrin Lawrence (University of Georgia), Tarvaris Tate (Mississippi State) and former New Jersey State Champ Clayton Parros (University of North Carolina). However, James, Pinder and Henry have the experience, talent and explosiveness and should easily sweep the top three spots in this event.
2. Can anyone defeat Kim Williams in the Women’s Triple Jump?
Kimberley Williams (Florida State University/Jamaica) has turned the NCAA triple jump event into her own showcase for amassing goal medals. The senior who last won this outdoor title in 2009 will be aiming to recapture it for the last time. Williams has won an impressive 4 NCAA’s triple jump titles (3 indoors & I outdoors). She represents the future for Jamaican triple jump and will no doubt represent Jamaica at the World Championships in August.
Her main Caribbean rivals include Chantel Malone (University of Texas/British Virgin Island), Melissa Ogbourne (LSU/Jamaica) and Sasha-Kay Matthias (Texas A&M/Jamaica). However, Williams, who is a staple on the Bowerman watch list all season long, should easily dispose of her rival and capture the triple jump title.
3. Will Barbados 100m hurdles champion Beckles run her fist sub-13?
Caribbean track fans may not be very familiar with this talented hurdler; however, we predict that Kierre Beckles (University of Georgia/Barbados) is poised to run her first sub-13 100m hurdles this weekend. The confident Beckles told Caribbean TrackLife Magazine (CTL) recently that there is more to come, and we belief that the Barbados bullet will continue her assault on her own 100m hurdles record.
In term of copping the NCAA glory, however, Beckles goes up against an impressive field that includes Natasha Ruddock (Texas A&M/Jamaica), freshman Ivanique Kemp (University of Arkansas/Bahamas), Gabby Mayo (Texas/USA) and Ti’erra Brown (University of Miami/USA). A top-three finish for Beckles is highly likely.
4. Can Andrew Riley defend his 110m hurdles title?
Andrew Riley (University of Illinois/Jamaica) is having a superb 2010-11 season. He was the indoor champion in the 60m hurdles and is now seeking to add the outdoor hurdles title to his trophy case. Incidentally, Riley, the Calabar High School graduate, is also the 2010 NCAA hurdles champion, and he is out to defend his title this weekend. He has a season best 13.32secs and will line up against Kieron Stewart (University of Texas/Jamaica), Shane Braithwaite (Texas Tech/ Barbados). Stewart and Braithwaite has been impressive this season; so too is the SEC champion Barrett Nugent (LSU/USA). One of Riley's prime rivals is American Omo Osaghae of Texas Tech. He is the US Indoor 60m hurdles champion and has run 13.23 for a seasonal best. Despite the fierce competition, Riley has the experience and talent to defend his title.
5. Will Tonya Nero claim title in the Women’s 10,000m?
Tonya Nero (Wichita State University/Trinidad) has one the fastest time in the women’s 10,000m race (33:24.12). Nero, the Colby (Kansas) Community College graduate has the Trinidad &Tobago 10,000m national record (33:24.12). She has been the Missouri Valley Conference Champion for 5K and 10K (both indoor and outdoor) and has achieved All-American status in Cross Country. Given her impressive resume, Tonya should no doubt be atop the podium in the women’s 10,000m this weekend.
6. Can Texas A&M or its rival produce a sub-3 minutes in the men’s 4x4 relay?
The sub-3-minutes 4x4 is hard to achieve, especially in an atmosphere in which athletes are required to run in different events to secure valuable points for their teams, when team titles are at stake. Mississippi State University (MSU) has the fastest qualifying time of 3:03.23, ahead of Texas A&M (3:03.95) and LSU (3:03.95). Texas A&M ran 3:01.73 at the Penn Relays in April, followed by LSU 3:02.33.
As the season progresses, athletes tend to get faster, and as recent performances indicate, the Texas A&M duo of Henry and Pinder are in sub-45 shape. Since this is the final race of the Championships where points and team titles are at stake, we are expecting one of the big three (Texas A&M, LSU and MSU) to go below 3 minutes in the 4x4.
Semoy Hackett (LSU/Trinidad) is in fine form and is set to compete in both the women’s 100m and 200m. The junior transfer from Lincoln University will, however, be challenged by her LSU teammate Kimberly Duncan (USA) in both sprints.
In the 100m, in addition to Duncan, Hackett will face fierce competition from Caribbean rivals Sheniqua Ferguson (Auburn University/Bahamas) and Shawna Anderson (Oklahoma University/ Jamaica). Added to the mix is the talented and explosive USA duo of Jeneba Tarmoh (Texas A&M) and Tiffany Townsend (Baylor University).
In the 200m, in addition to Townsend and Duncan, Hackett will match strides with Auburn University duo of Nivea Smith (Bahamas) Kai Selvon (Trinidad). Hackett has the power, talent and strength to factor in both sprints but will face an uphill battle to take both sprints. She is definitely poised to win at least one of the two events.