On the surface, the only objective at the NCAA preliminary rounds is to survive and advance, but of course the final meet before the actual thing tells a much broader story than just who’s in and who’s out. All the best athletes are near their peak, and performances at the penultimate competition tend to reveal hints of what’s to come.
With that, here were the big winners from the East and West Preliminary Rounds:
Grant Holloway/Daniel Roberts Rivalry
The East prelim was the final dress rehearsal for easily the most-anticipated matchup at NCAAs, and Grant Holloway and Daniel Roberts-- without even racing each other in Jacksonville-- added more intrigue to the men’s 110m hurdles.
Holloway went first in the quarterfinal round and ran an NCAA Champs record of 13.10, after which he happily declared himself the underdog to “big bro Daniel” with a grin. It’s clear that the two-time defending NCAA champion and 60m hurdles American record holder, who shockingly lost SECs to Roberts, is relishing his new role as the hunter.
Roberts turned in a 13.13 two heats later, also under the old NCAA champs record of 13.16, and said he still has some work to do on his start before Austin. If he figures that part out, Holloway better watch out, as D-Rob had a comparatively slow start at SECs and still managed to run 13.07 and beat arguably the greatest all-around hurdler in collegiate history.
The subplot surrounding this colossal showdown looms large as well. With both men having run 13.07 this season and then posting quick times in the qualifying rounds in Jacksonville, the collegiate record of 13.00 has never been more vulnerable. After Holloway’s 13.10, I asked him if sub-13 was coming in Austin. He replied with a wink and a quick click of his mouth as if to say, “You’re about to find out.”
Indiana Men's Distance
The Indiana men’s distance squad accomplished a feat of depth that no other program-- men or women-- equaled at either prelim. The Hoosiers qualified at least one athlete to nationals in every distance from 800m up, including three in the 1500m. Here are the names who made it happen:
800m: Cooper Williams (JR)
1500m: Joseph Murray (SR), Teddy Browning (SO), Kenneth Hagen (SR)
3,000m Steeplechase: Daniel Michalski (SR)
5k: Kyle Mau (JR)
10k: Ben Veatch (SO)
And now you may be saying, “Yeah, but the East is much weaker than the West for distance,” to which I would respond by reminding you that Indiana finished fourth in the DMR in March. This is a strong group.
Kyle Mau won his 5k semifinal heat at the East prelims:
Just like they did before their national title indoors, the Arkansas women have the most entries (17) heading into NCAAs and look prepared to lap the field once again.
Super sophomore Janeek Brown, #1 ranked in the 100m hurdles and #2 in the 200m, has an excellent shot to win two events for the Razorbacks, while her running mate Payton Chadwick could score in both events as well. There’s also the Hogs’ trio of pole vaulters, who tallied 21 points at the indoor championships. And, of course, don’t forget about the distance events, as the Razorbacks have five entries there as well.
Brown ran a 22.47 PB in her 200m quarterfinal in Sacramento:
It’s truly an embarrassment of riches, and with defending champion USC losing a key cog in PAC-12 400m winner Kaelin Roberts, the women’s team battle is essentially over before it has even begun.
Texas Tech and Florida Men
Not only did top-ranked squads Texas Tech (18 entries) and Florida (16) get the most and second-most NCAA entries on the men’s side, but they also collectively benefitted from some shocking misfires by other teams in the title hunt. SEC champs LSU saw their title chances plummet as their 4x4 squad DNF’d due to injury, while Houston-- the reigning 4x1 NCAA winners-- could now miss the team podium after tragically dropping the stick in Sacramento.
Texas Tech's Andrew Hudson ran a 20.04 200m PB at prelims, #2 in the NCAA behind teammate Divine Oduduru:
With LSU gone from the 4x4, Florida figures to finish higher in that event than they would have otherwise, while both Tech and the Gators will enjoy not having the second-fastest 4x1 team in 2019 to chase in Austin.
Victories in prelim rounds mean next to nothing, but it’s worth pointing out that NCAA indoor champ Bryce Hoppel’s perfect season in the 800m lives on heading to nationals. With his heat wins in the first round and quarterfinals in Sacramento, Hoppel is now 17-0 since January, a streak he is fully capable of maintaining through the collegiate season.
Hoppel seems to be enjoying keeping his perfect run alive, as he said he couldn’t resist chasing down Texas A&M’s 1:44 man Devin Dixon in Friday’s quarterfinal even with his spot to Austin secured with 100m to go.
The Kansas junior finishes better than any other NCAA 800m runner right now, and there’s no doubt he has the most momentum as well.
NCAA Women's 100m
With both Teahna Daniels of Texas and Sha’Carri Richardson of LSU running 10.99 over the weekend to join the sub-11 club, the women’s 100m just got a whole lot more interesting. What looked like 2019 world leader Kayla White’s race to lose suddenly appears wide open between four women with 10.9 PBs: White (10.96), Twanisha Terry (10.99), Daniels (10.99) and Richardson (10.99).
All four women have reason to like their chances. White didn’t have a good start at East prelims, but she’s clearly the best if she’s on top of her game. The freshman Richardson beat White with ease over the weekend and is the top sprinter in the SEC. Daniels put together the best 100-200 double from prelims with 10.99/22.51 PBs and will run NCAAs on her home track. And not to be forgotten is USC's Terry, the 2019 NCAA 60m champion and the only woman of the four who ran in the 100m final last year.
You can’t pick wrong with one of these four sprint stars.
BYU Men’s 10k
BYU’s distance depth has been a known entity for awhile now, but still, qualifying six guys through to nationals in the 10k out of the tough West prelim had to be a special night for the Cougars. Ed Eyestone’s group is so strong this year that two guys who didn’t even make their top seven in cross country-- Dallin Farnsworth and Connor Weaver-- earned a trip to nationals.
The performance was so impressive that even former Northern Arizona All-American Matt Baxter, who has been fond of adding fuel to the NAU-BYU rivalry in the past, sent his congratulations:
Seeing @BYUTFXC put 6 guys through to Nationals in the 10,000m is deserving of a compliment. So I will give them one that they will not quote me on.— Matthewrobertbaxter (@MatRobertBaxter) May 24, 2019
Good shit on putting six fuckers through to Nationals BYU. Have one hell of a great time there.