Three Conference Championship Storylines In The Big Sky, SEC And Big 12

Three Conference Championship Storylines In The Big Sky, SEC And Big 12

From NAU's distance contingent, to Arkansas' many weapons, to Texas' last stand in the Big 12, there is a lot on deck this weekend around the country.

Feb 22, 2024 by Maxx Bradley
Three Conference Championship Storylines In The Big Sky, SEC And Big 12
Conference weekend is upon us, and there are a ton of can't-miss storylines.

Whether it's the dogfight on deck at Big 12's or the continuation of Arkansas' grip on the SEC, this conference championship weekend has it all.

How Much Damage Can NAU's Distance Do?

A year ago, the Lumberjack men combined for 80 points across the 800m, mile, 3,000m, 5,000m and the DMR. 

This weekend, it's possible Mike Smith's squad goes north of 100. How is that possible exactly? When a team like NAU has incredible depth, it makes it relatively easy to spread a lot of guys over different races.

With some time in between conference and NCAA's, there's no reason to really hold any guys back, meaning there's a good chance each athlete is going to run more than one race. 

Here is a breakdown of the 12 distance entries for NAU. 

  • Theo Quax -- 800m, Mile, 3k, DMR
  • Kang Nyoak -- 800m, Mile, 3k, DMR
  • Colin Sahlman -- 800m, 
  • Nico Young -- 800m, Mile, 3k
  • Aaron Las Heras -- Mile, 3k, 5k
  • Caleb Easton -- Mile, 3k, DMR
  • Drew Bosley, 3k, 5k
  • Corey Gorgas -- 3k, 5k
  • Brodey Hasty -- 3k, 5k
  • Zack Munson -- 3k, 5k
  • Aidan Puffer -- 3k, 5k
  • Jack Scherer -- 3k, 5k

As you can see, they've all got a busy weekend on deck, and could potentially score way more than they did last year in Idaho.

If everything goes perfectly according to plan, the Lumberjacks could put up 101 points, without including their more than likely top three finish in the DMR.

If you throw in the athletes that are entered in an event they have yet to run this season, like Nico Young in the 800m. It's hard to tell exactly what this team is capable of in terms of total points.

Is Arkansas Untouchable, Again?

Since 2000, the Arkansas men and women have accumulated 30 indoor SEC titles, meaning they've won nearly two-thirds of the possible conference titles in that span. 

This year won't shape out any different than it has in years past (at least we think so), with both Razorback programs in a league of their own so far this winter. The craziest part is that it's not just one event group other teams have to worry about, it's practically every single one. 

For example, there are just five events out of the 34 that they don't have an athlete ranked in the top eight heading into the weekend.

Although, there are definitely some specific events where Arkansas will hope to drop the hammer.  

For the women, the 400m is their bread and butter, with four athletes already under 51.6. Obviously, that means that their 4x400m is pretty quick as well, just adding to the carnage. Throw in the other sprints and their distance squad, and you've got yourself an all-around juggernaut.

The men share similar qualities, just in a few different events. The 5000m is arguably their strongest, with seven men under 14:00 and four ranked within the top five. They've also got the top four men in the Heptathlon as well, matching the output from the 25-lap crew.

It really doesn't matter what event you focus on, because more than likely, it's going to be a team effort that brings home more hardware to Fayetteville. 

Texas' Will Have Its Big 12 Send Off

For the last time, Texas is a day away from the start of their final indoor conference championship as a member of the Big 12 before they depart for the SEC. 

Since the turn of the century, the Longhorn women have collected 12 indoor Big 12 titles, while the men add nine of their own. 

Last year, the women were edged out by Oklahoma State, while the men finished 3rd behind Texas Tech and Oklahoma State. 

In their last hurrah, the Longhorns would love nothing more than to leave the conference with a pair of titles, but the rest of the conference will do anything in their power to prevent that from happening. 

With how things look, it's going to be a dogfight on both sides, with BYU's distance squad posing the biggest threat on the women's side, while the men of Texas Tech want to successfully defend their 2023 title. 

Ackelia Smith is set to be the biggest factor for Texas, as the NCAA's No. 1 long jumper will test her speed over 60m and as a leg in the 4x400m. BYU's strength comes in numbers, as Lexy Halladay-Lowry and Riley Chamberlain lead Diljeet Taylor's elite distance squad, with a chance to snag the second title in a potential triple crown.

For the Longhorn men, mid-distance star Yusuf Bizimana and multi-star Leo Neugebauer will carry a lot of weight over the next two days. 

Bizimana will probably run some combination of the 600y, 800m, 1k, and DMR, and the team will need every point he can get. Despite being the top seed in the Heptathlon, Neugebauer could easily compete in four individual events and shoot for more than ten points, or compete in another three events in addition to the Heptathlon.

The Red Raiders need their national champion Terrence Jones to lead the way in both the 60m and 200m, as well as guys like Don'dre Swift and Shawn Brown to finish as close to him as they possibly can.

Without entries, it's uneasy to really analyze potential scenarios, but regardless, whoever wins the title on either side is going to have to earn it.