Can USC Break The 4x400 WR? Who Will Prevail In The DMR?

The 2018 NCAA Indoor Championships are just one day away. To get you ready, we’ve previewed the men’s and women’s sprint and distance fields convening this weekend in College Station, Texas. 

Below I pulled out five other men’s events that we are excited for. For full 2018 NCAA Indoor Championships event coverage, check out our event page where you can find entries, schedule and the full list of previews.

Men’s Distance Medley Relay 

Time: Finals, Friday 8:45 PM CT

Top Seed: New Mexico - 9:24.73

Top Returner: Virginia Tech - 2nd Place

The big question surrounding this race is whether New Mexico’s Josh Kerr runs the for the Lobos. The distance medley relay takes place a few hours after the mile prelims, and it’s unclear whether or not Kerr will add the relay to a weekend when he’s trying to defend his title in the mile. If he does run, his squad is one of the favorites. 

At the Mountain West Conference Championships, the Lobos ran an altitude-adjusted 9:24.73 to beat out a Utah State quartet that put up a 9:25.97. After conversions, both of those marks are quicker than the NCAA record of 9:25.97 and are the top two seeds in the nation this year. 

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Men's Distance Medley Relay - New Mexico NCAA Record* 9:24.73 w/ Conversion

With Kerr, New Mexico would have the best anchor leg in the field and the ability to cover any gaps that exist from the first three legs. Regardless of whether Kerr runs, Utah State should be in the mix just as they were at Mountain West. The combination of Clay Lambourne and Dillon Maggard (two athletes who qualified in individual events) is a strong 1-2 punch for the Aggies. Stanford comes in as the third seed and will presumably have the services of a fresh Grant Fisher. The Stanford sophomore is racing the 3000m the next day and won’t have anything on his schedule for Friday. 

Oregon has a very deep bench and it will be interesting to see how they strategize the different legs of the relay. Sam Prakel, Mick Stanovsek, and Reed Brown will all be racing in the semifinals in the mile earlier in the evening. Do any of them double back to run the distance medley relay? Even if only one of them does, Oregon can supplement their squad with Blake Haney and Cooper Teare, two runners who didn’t qualify individually but have season bests of 3:59. Both could work well on either the 1200m or 1600m legs.

Like Oregon, Virginia Tech also has three entrants in the individual mile event. They were runner-up last year and their depth leaves them many different combinations to choose from between the three longer distance legs. 

Two other teams to keep tabs on: Indiana beat Stanford earlier this year and has two individual qualifiers in Kyle Mau (3000m) and Daniel Kuhn (800m). They also can use Teddy Browning and Joseph Murphy, the two runners who helped Mau complete a 1-2-3 sweep in the Big Ten mile. 

Men’s 4x400m  

Time: Finals, Saturday 6:40 PM CT

Top Seed: USC - 3:01.98

Top Returner: Texas A&M - 1st Place

This race will likely decide the team race. But even if a team has officially clinched the championship by this point in the meet, the 4x400m will be fantastic. The USC squad comes in with a legitimate chance of breaking the world record that Poland set at last weekend’s world indoors. 

The Polish team ran 3:01.77 in Birmingham — just two tenths faster than what the USC quartet of Zach Shinnick, Rai Benjamin, Ricky Morgan, and Michael Norman ran at the Tiger Paw Invitational. All four of those men are competing in individual events — Benjamin is in the 200m, and the rest are in the 400m. Looking at the splits from USC’s 3:01.98, it’s clear that they can drop some time. In that race, Norman split a 45.35. He’s run a 45.00 in the open 400m so there’s is one spot where USC can try to shave the time. 

Watch USC Go 1-2-3 in the MPSF 400m

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Men's 400m, Heat 1 - Three USC Men Run Sub-46!

Fatigue will be a factor by the time Saturday evening rolls around, but the Trojans will have some competition to push them along the way. Florida, who is one of the favorites for the team championship, ran 3:02.23 to finish just behind USC at the Tiger Paw Invitational, so the margin between setting the world record and finishing second place in this meet is actually quite small. Texas A&M also has a seed time in the 3:02s with a 3:02.35 clocking from SEC Indoor Championships two weeks ago.  

Men’s High Jump 

Time: Finals, Saturday 3:30 PM CT

Top Seed: Vernon Turner - Oklahoma, 2.33m; Trey Culver - Texas Tech, 2.33m

Top Returner: Trey Culver - Texas Tech, 1st Place

This high jump is expected to come down to a Big 12 battle between Oklahoma’s Vernon Turner and Trey Culver of Texas Tech. The two have separated themselves from the rest of the NCAA and their season bests of 2.33m put them in range of the NCAA record of 2.37m. Culver is a senior and won this meet last year. Outdoors, he placed second and went on to take eighth at the USATF championships. His 2.33m is a lifetime best and came from the Corky Classic in mid-January. 

Pushing him on Saturday will be the freshman Vernon Turner. Last year as a prep, Turner moved to No. 2 high schooler of all-time when he jumped 7-foot-6 (2.286 meters). He improved that this year and jumped his lifetime best of 2.33m in February. The two met two weeks ago with Culver clearing 2.31m to take the victory. Culver clearly has the experience edge, but Turner isn’t unfamiliar with big meet competition. As a high school junior, he competed at the 2016 Olympic Trials. 

The event will also have team title ramifications with Texas Tech (Culver), Georgia (Keenon Laine and Darius Carbin), and USC (Randall Cunningham) all having entrants on Saturday. 

Men’s Shot Put 

Time: Finals, Friday 7:20 PM CT

Top Seed: Jordan Geist - Arizona, 21.45m

Top Returner: Mostafa Hassan - Colorado State, 1st Place

Here’s another event where a freshman is expected to have a big impact. Jordan Geist of Arizona dominated the high school scene last year and has carried that success into his first in the NCAA. In just his second competition as a collegian, Geist threw 21.45m at the UW Invitational. The massive toss is tops in the nation and tied for the ninth-best in the entire world this year. In his two other competitions, he’s come down to earth, with two competitions in the mid-19 meters. 

But Geist showed in Seattle that he is capable of marks that few can match. Will Friday be the beginning of a run of NCAA titles? Or will the upperclassmen be able to leverage their experience to hold off Geist? 

Josh Awotunde’s season has looked like Geist’s in reverse. The senior from South Carolina started out with two competitions in the 19 meters range before popping a 21.33m throw at the SEC Championships. That’s good for second best in the year behind Geist. 

Sitting third on the yearly list is Mostafa Hassan of Colorado State. He took the title last year and backed that up with a second-place finish outdoors. In three separate competitions throughout his career, he has exceeded the 21-meter mark. His season best of 20.62m is behind Geist and Awotunde, but he’s the pick if you are looking for someone with championship experience. Denzel Comenentia of Georgia finished second to Hassan last year and has thrown 20.44m this season. He’s also the second seed in the weight throw. 

Another name to keep note of is Kord Ferguson of Alabama. He finished between Awotunde and Comenentia at the SEC Championships two weeks ago. That same weekend, Nicholas Demaline threw a season’s best of 20.24m to win the Big Ten championship. He finished sixth in this meet last year. 

Men’s Long Jump

Time: Finals, Friday 5:30 PM CT

Top Seed: Zack Bazile - Ohio State, 8.13m

Top Returner: KeAndre Bates - Florida, 1st Place

There’s a plethora of storylines to follow in the men’s long jump. First, four of the top five teams in the FloTrack projections have an entrant in the event with Florida, Arkansas, Texas Tech, and Texas A&M trying to maximize their points on the first night of the championships. 

Florida in particular will be looking to run up some points with KeAndre Bates and Grant Holloway. Bates is seeded 10th, but is last year’s champion indoors and outdoors. He was only seventh at the SEC Championships two weeks ago and will be looking to show that result was an aberration. Holloway, in addition to becoming the greatest hurdler in the NCAA, has excelled in this event. He finished runner-up to Bates last year at outdoors. Look for the university that has produced Christian Taylor, Will Claye, Omar Craddock, and Marquis Dendy to vastly outperform their entry marks. 

Atop the list of those entry marks is Ohio State’s Zack Bazile. The senior has a jumped over eight meters twice this season including an NCAA leading 8.13m at the Music City Challenge and an 8.04m jump to win the Big Ten Championships. Only two other men have jumped eight meters this year — Charles Brown of Texas Tech and Corion Knight of Florida State. Brown is one of those athletes who will be called on by his team for points. Ditto for Will Williams. The senior from Texas A&M won the SEC Championships, finished third last year outdoors and was runner-up to Bates indoors in 2017. 

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