Phyllis Francis Double, Spicy Men’s 4x400 On Tap At Michael Johnson Invite

Some of the NCAA’s best sprinters will descend on Waco, Texas, looking for fast times at the Michael Johnson Invitational. Joining the top talent from Arkansas, Texas Tech, Texas A&M, and Baylor will be several professional athletes—including 2017 world 400m champion Phyllis Francis. You can watch the meet live on FloTrack and find the full schedule and entries here

Below are a few of the most interesting events to watch on Saturday.

Watch The 2018 Michael Johnson Invitational Live On FloTrack

Men’s 400m: 6 PM CT

Athletes To Watch: Wil London Jr., Obi Igbokwe

Wil London of Baylor turned in one of the most surprising performances of 2017 when he went from eighth place at the NCAA championships to third place at U.S. championships, running a lifetime best of 44.47. This year, he wasn’t able to qualify for the finals of the 400m at the NCAA indoor championships and has turned in an outdoor season best of 45.90. 

On his outside will be Obi Igbokwe of Arkansas. Igbokwe is running his first 400m of the outdoor season and has qualified for the last five NCAA championships. Howard Fields III, a Baylor freshman, ran 46.38 to finish second at the Texas Relays.  

Women’s 100m: 6:10 PM CT

Athletes To Watch: Phyllis Francis, Angela Tenorio, Tiffany Townsend and Candyce McGrone

Gold medalist and 400m specialist Phyllis Francis looks to use this meet to get in some speed work. She is entered in both the 100m and 200m, and while neither are her specialty, it will be interesting to see how fast she can go. Her 11.55 personal best means she’s not the favorite to win, but surely she’d be happy with a fast time. 

Angela Tenorio of Ecuador has a sub 11-second personal best: a 10.99 from 2015. She also made the semifinal at the 2016 Olympics in Rio. Tiffany Townsend and Candyce McGrone have personal bests of 11.08 and 11.00, respectively, and are strong candidates to get the win. 

Men’s 100m: 6:15 PM CT

Athletes To Watch: Divine Oduduru, Roy Ejiakuekwu

Divine Oduduru of Texas Tech enters as the clear favorite. Last outdoor season he ran 10.09 with +2.1m/s wind, and this winter he placed second in the 200m at the NCAA indoor championships and sixth in the 60m. 

It looks like his best competition will come from Roy Ejiakuekwu of Arkansas. The junior from Great Britain has a bunch of relay experience for the Razorbacks and qualified for the NCAA outdoor championships last June in the 200m. 

Men’s 400m Hurdles: 6:40 PM CT

Athletes To Watch: Javier Culson, Ilolo Izu

Based on resume, Javier Culson of Puerto is a cut above the field. He has two medals from the world championships and one from the Olympics. But those accomplishments are several years old at this point, making the 33-year-old vulnerable against the rest of the field. 

The best candidate to beat him is Texas A&M’s Ilolo Izu. The junior just set his lifetime best in the event: a 50.00 at the Texas Relays. Considering Culson just ran 49.91, the two look to be neck-and-neck despite being at different points in their careers.

Women’s 200m: 6:55 PM CT

Athletes To Watch: Phyllis Francis, Angela Tenorio, Tiffany Townsend and Candyce McGrone

Francis should be on firmer ground here than she is in the 100m. She’s run this race much more frequently than the 100m and has a personal best of 22.50. Candyce McGrone and Tiffany Townsend will also be doubling back. 

Townsend’s best time in the event is 22.26 and comes from 2013, while McGrone has run 22.01. Of the three, McGrone’s fourth-place finish at the 2015 World Championships makes her the favorite, but it’s still early season and this will be her second race of the day. 

Men’s 200m: 7 PM CT

Athletes To Watch: Kenzo Cotton, Obi Igbokwe, Maxwell Willis

This race will be Maxwell Willis against four athletes from Arkansas. Willis has run 20.39 in the 200m and 10.18 in the 100m and qualified for both events at last year’s NCAA championships. 

Kenzo Cotton ran a windy 10.12 100m this season and, along with Obi Igbokwe and Roy Ejiakuekwu, is the best competition for Willis.  

Men’s 4x400m: 7:50 PM CT

Teams To Watch: Arkansas, Baylor, Texas A&M, Texas Tech

The presence of the above four teams means this race will be quick. Texas A&M, the runner-ups at the NCAA indoor championships (and indoor world records holders), have entered Mylik Kerley, Bryce Deadmon, Devin Dixon, and Ilolo Izu. That quartet has already run a 3:02.43 this outdoor season, good for second best in the NCAA. Arkansas is running Obi Igbokwe, Kemar Mowatt, Roy Ejiakuekwu, and Larry Donald. Baylor has Howard Fields III listed as lead-off and Wil London Jr. on the anchor. Divine Oduduru and Vincent Crisp are on the start list for Texas Tech. Unless there's a flood of scratches, there’s no way this race isn’t fast. 

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It’s mid-October, the Nuttycombe Invitational and Pre-Nationals have come and gone, conference meets are on the horizon and the NCAA Championships are only a month away. The results thus far have altered some pre-season projections and solidified some of the expected favorites. However, “regular season” results aren’t always a predictor of post-season success. This is especially true when accounting for the fact there are some top runners who have yet to race this fall.  

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