2024 NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships

These Five NCAA Freshmen Will Impact The National Championship Team Race

These Five NCAA Freshmen Will Impact The National Championship Team Race

Ja'Kobe Tharp, Kaylyn Brown and a few others should have major impacts ahead at the NCAA Outdoor Championships in Eugene, Oregon.

May 23, 2024 by Lincoln Shryack

Before we can formally look ahead to the 2024 NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships in Eugene, Oregon, the first rounds of the championships beckon this week in the form of the NCAA East and West regionals.

At the risk of getting ahead of ourselves, we've gone ahead and identified five freshmen who will have an outsized impact on the NCAA team title hunt relative to their experience. 

This is, of course, assuming they will all advance through regionals this weekend.

Kaylyn Brown, Arkansas 

Events: 400m/4x100m/4x400m

Brown is the fastest-freshman quarter-miler in NCAA history (49.47 PB) and she’s hoping that that talent helps second-ranked Arkansas to a trove of NCAA points in the 400m, 4x100m and 4x400m. After a runner-up finish at SECs in the 400m, Brown is projected to finish second at NCAAs -- only behind her teammate, Nickisha Pryce. With Arkansas needing strong runs in the relays, the freshman will be critical for the Razborbacks to overcome our No. 1 ranked team, LSU, in the team race.

Samuel Ogazi, Alabama 

Events: 400m/4x400m

Similar to Arkansas’ Brown, Alabama frosh Samuel Ogazi is a critical piece for the second-ranked Crimson Tide in the 400m and relays. 

Ogazi seems to be breaking out at the perfect time— his 44.58 in the SEC final was his first time under 45 seconds in the open 400m and the second-fastest time in the NCAA this season. 

With Alabama just a point behind projected team champion Arkansas in the rankings, Ogazi figures to have an outsized role in the championship in a meet that could hinge on the 4x400m; Arkansas beat ‘Bama by just .03 to win the SEC title two weeks ago.

Ja'kobe Tharp, Auburn 

Event: 110mH

Our No. 7 ranked Auburn men leapt into the top 10 last week for the first time all season, and that was due in large part to freshman Ja'kobe Tharp’s stunning win the SEC 110m hurdles final. 

Tharp dominated in Gainesville with his 13.18 personal best, winning comfortably by 0.22 seconds while posting the fastest time in the NCAA for 2024. Before SECs, his previous wind-legal PB was 13.46. 

That performance has vaulted the rookie into the NCAA pole position in the high hurdles, a spot he’ll have to claim in Eugene for his squad to crack the podium.

Akala Garrett, Texas 

Event: 400mH

Texas’ Akala Garrett smashed her old 400m hurdles personal best by over a second in winning the Big 12 Championship in 54.73. 

She’s currently projected to finish fourth in the 400mH at NCAAs and her big improvement already this season suggests more could be in store at nationals.

The Texas women are down compared to their national-title team from a year ago, but Garrett could certainly help the No. 7 Longhorns onto the podium with a big day in Eugene. 

JaMeesia Ford, South Carolina 

Events: 200m/4x100m/4x400m

To be clear, this list isn’t a ranking of top freshmen but instead a look at the rookies who will have the biggest impact on the NCAA team title race. 

If it was the former, South Carolina’s JaMeesia Ford would be near the very top of the list.

Ford matched Allyson Felix’s U20 U.S. 200m record with her 22.11 runner-up finish in the SEC final on May 11, another sparkling performance for the freshman who won the NCAA Indoor 200m title back in March. 

Ford enters regionals ranked second in the 200m and she’s also a key contributor for the Gamecocks in the 4x100m and 4x400m, both events that they’re expected to score in at nationals.

South Carolina fell out of the top 10 last week, but a strong NCAA showing from Ford should put them back in at nationals.

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