NCAA Sprint Preview: Make Way For The Sydney McLaughlin & Lynna Irby Show

While last year's women's sprint finals were dominated by the women of Oregon, the 2018 NCAA Division I Indoor Track and Field Championships look quite a bit different. Deajah Stevens and Hannah Cunliffe (as well as 4x4/800 star Raevyn Rogers) turned professional this year, and Olympian Duck Ariana Washington did not qualify for the championships after being a bit off her game this winter.

True freshman Sydney McLaughlin of Kentucky and Lynna Irby of Georgia have eagerly stepped up to fill the void, with potential team titles and podium finishes on the line for their respective Wildcats and Bulldogs — UK is ranked No. 4 in our most recent NCAA team rankings and UGA slots in at No. 1

Read on for highlights and insights into women's sprint and hurdle action this weekend, as well as why the 400m battle between McLaughlin and Irby could be the race of the meet.

Women's 60m

When: Prelims on Friday @ 6:15 PM CT; Final on Saturday @ 4:40 PM CT

Top Seed: Mikiah Brisco, LSU, 7.10

Top Returner: Ashley Henderson, San Diego State, 4th

Analysis: Reigning NCAA 100m champion Mikiah Brisco looks to lead an LSU 1-2 punch in the 60m this weekend as she and fellow senior Tiger Aleia Hobbs have been on fire all winter. 

Brisco's season-best mark of 7.08, clocked at altitude in Albuquerque, ties for the second-fastest collegiate time ever recorded — behind only Hannah Cunliffe of Oregon, who ran 7.07 last year and recently turned pro.

Watch Mikiah Brisco's 7.08 at the New Mexico Collegiate Classic:

TASTY RACE: Mikiah Brisco Runs Second-Fastest Time Ever In NCAA

The Tigers even have a shot at sweeping the top three podium spots, as junior Kortnei Johnson ties for No. 3 in the NCAA this year with Auburn's Jonielle Smith at 7.18. She was just fifth, however, at SECs, behind Auburn's Smith and Natalliah Whyte as Brisco and Hobbs went 1-2.

Women's 200m

When: Prelims on Friday @ 7:50 PM CT; Final on Saturday @ 6:00 PM CT

Top Seed: Lynna Irby, Georgia, 22.66

Top Returner: Deanna Hill, USC, 3rd

Analysis: The women's 200m is going to be spicy from the gun as NCAA leader Lynna Irby is matched against her quarter mile rival Sydney McLaughlin in the Friday evening prelims. McLaughlin has run 22.95 (NCAA No. 9) to Irby's 22.66, but still, I don't think we've ever been so excited for a preliminary race.

Realistically, though, Irby's mark — which ranks No. 1 in the world this year — made the SEC 200m final look like a cakewalk. Brisco of LSU, the overwhelming favorite for the NCAA 60m title, ran the second-fastest mark in the world behind Irby at SECs in 22.81 and, well, she was well behind Irby.

The X-factor on Saturday, though, is how athletes handle doubling back from other races. The 400m final is at 5 PM on Saturday, one hour before the 200m final, and it's sure to be a barn-burner after McLaughlin and Irby clocked world-leading marks of 50.52 and 50.62 at SECs.

Brisco, meanwhile, has 80 minutes to recover from the 60m final before the 200m final.

The most dangerous woman on the line may be USC's Deanna Hill, who will be fresh for the final. She placed third last year behind Washington and Cunliffe, neither of whom is competing this year, and ranks No. 3 in the NCAA this winter with a season's best of 22.82.

Women's 400m

When: Prelims on Friday @ 6:40 PM CT; Final on Saturday @ 5 PM CT

Top Seed: Sydney McLaughlin, Kentucky, 50.52

Top Returner: Kendall Ellis, USC, 2nd

Analysis: The women's 400m final very well could be the best race of the entire NCAA Championships. At SECs, Olympic hurdler Sydney McLaughlin took things out hard in 23.75 for the opening 200m and had just enough gas at the end to hold off a fast-closing Lynna Irby as the true freshmen clocked 50.52 and 50.62, the fastest times in the world this year and the No. 2 and No. 4 times in NCAA history.

This is far from a two-woman race, however. 

Don't forget about USC's Kendall Ellis, who made the world team last summer with a PB of 50.00 and placed second indoors and third outdoors at NCAAs in 2017. 

Irby did beat Ellis back in January at the Razorback Invitational, 51.48 to 51.53, but the veteran will have a lot less racing on her legs than rookies McLaughlin and Irby, both of whom are running the 200m and 400m prelims on Friday.

Sharrika Barnett of Florida, fifth in the NCAA outdoor final, has split under 51 seconds on the 4x400m relay this season and ranks No. 4 with a season's best of 51.64.

Women's 60m Hurdles

When: Prelims on Friday @ 7:05 PM CT; Final on Saturday @ 5:20 PM CT

Top Seed: Jasmine Camacho-Quinn, Kentucky, 7.95

Top Returner: Pedrya Seymour, Illinois (now competes for Texas), 3rd

Analysis: The only woman who has defeated Jasmine Camacho-Quinn of Kentucky in the 60m hurdles this season is Keni Harrison, who won the world indoor title and tied the American record last weekend in Birmingham. Both women train in Louisville under UK head coach Edrick Floreal, so can you blame us for favoring Camacho-Quinn for her first NCAA indoor title?

She's already won two outdoor titles: the 2016 100m hurdles crown and the 2017 4x100m relay gold.

Only two women in the field have come close to her NCAA-leading mark of 7.95: USC duo Dior Hall and Anna Cockrell have both clocked 7.96 and of the two, Hall has been more consistent and won the MPSF title in the event.

Watch Dior Hall win the MPSF Indoor Championships 60m hurdles:

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Women's 60m Hurdles, Round 2 Heat 2 - Dior Hall Goes Sub-8, Wins MPSF Title

Alaysha Johnson of Oregon looked great taking runner-up honors behind Hall at MPSF in 8.03, the fifth-fastest time in the NCAA this year tied with Georgia's true freshman Tara Davis, while wildcard Jeanine Williams of Georgia Tech has run 8.02.

Pedrya Seymour of Texas is the top returner after placing third last year while competing for Illinois. She owns a season's best of 8.09, though she appeared to be injured after winning the Big 12 Championships.

The Best Performance Of Every Men's Bowerman Finalist

The six finalists for The Bowerman racked up a ridiculous list of accolades during the indoor and outdoor seasons. With so many collegiate records and all-time marks it was hard to settle on each athlete’s best showing, but here’s one attempt and nailing down the three men’s nominees single best performance of 2018.

House Of Run: Ranking The Best Marathoners Of 2018

Jason and Kevin wind down 2018 by reading listener emails about the best hopes for American marathoning, biggest track and field fears, compiling a yearly marathon top-ten list, must-see running films, watching Wayde Van Niekerk’s world record in person and Lebron vs. Ashton Eaton.

Jordan Hasay, Sara Hall Join Elite 2019 Boston Marathon Field

(c) 2018 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved

Best Of 2018: Newcomers Of The Year

Some of the most entertaining and accomplished stars of the 2018 track and field season were either under-the-radar names before this year, or competed in their first season at a specific level of competition. Here are FloTrack’s top five newcomers of the year:

Which NCAA Stars Will Go Sub-4:30 For The First Time In 2019?

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Women's Mile, Heat 1 - Elinor Purrier 4:26.55, NCAA #2 ALL-TIME!

Among NCAA female milers, sub-4:30 provides the ultimate designation of elite status. 

The Best Moments In Bowerman History

On Thursday in San Antonio, Texas, the 2018 Bowerman Awards will celebrate a decade of crowning NCAA track and field’s brightest stars. And through those 10 years, the event has featured some of the greatest athletes in collegiate history.

FloTrack Is Confident About The Bowerman 2018

As we look ahead to 2019, we must first look back at the year of track and field that took place in 2018. The finalists for The Bowerman are as follows:

Which NCAA Program Would Win An All-Star Track Meet?

Who would win the NCAA indoor title if every school was allowed to enter their top all-time athletes in program history? We decided to take the all-time top-8 indoor lists and see who wins a team title when scored based on collegiate personal bests.

2018's 10 Most Improved In NCAA Cross Country

The Ultimate 2018 DI NCAA XC Championship Highlight

Within every NCAA cross country season there are always individual performers who improve dramatically from the year before, from total irrelevance to the very front of the national championship pack.

Tara Davis Reportedly Transferring From Georgia to Texas

Update (Dec. 13): Georgia head coach Petros Kyprianou announced that Tara Davis is transferring to Texas, though she has yet to personally respond with her official plans for the future.