Pac-12 track and field championships field events preview
The 84th annual men’s and 28th-annual women’s Pac-12 Track & Field Championships continue this weekend after the multi-events ended with OREGON’s Dakotah Keys winning his third-consecutive Pac-12 decathlon title and USC freshman Amalie Iuel claiming the heptathlon crown. Now the focus turns to the running and field events which are set to take place at Moorberry Track & Field Complex on the campus of Washington State, Saturday-Sunday, May 17-18.
Pac-12 fans have grown accustomed to being treated to some of the best track and field competition in the country and the world. Four men’s teams and six women’s teams are ranked in the top 25 in the country heading into the weekend. Additionally, four different league athletes have posted the best times/marks in the country.
In the team competition, OREGON has been tough to beat as of late, having won the men’s crown the last seven years and the women’s crown five years in a row. The squad is coming off a strong indoor campaign where it swept both the men’s and women’s NCAA titles. Coming into the weekend, the Ducks are ranked third in the country on the men’s and women’s side. Strong contenders will come from UCLA and USC, who are both in the top-15 in the country on the men’s side, and STANFORD, USC and ARIZONA are all in the top 15 on the women’s side and will do what they can to try to unseat the Ducks.
Regardless of the outcome, the Pac-12 Men’s & Women’s Track & Field Championships is sure to be one of the most exciting meets in the country and guaranteed to showcase some of the nation’s top talents in the nation and the world.
Below a look at the men’s and women’s field competition, the first part of a two-part championships preview. Check back on Friday for a preview of the runnings events.
High Jump - Men
ARIZONA has had a strangle hold on the high jump title lately with a Wildcat winning the event the last three years on both the men’s and women’s side. And a Wildcat looks to be the favorite again. Redshirt senior Nick Ross returns after sitting out the 2013 outdoor campaign looking to reclaim the Conference crown he won in 2011 and 2012. He currently has the top mark in the country (7-6.5/2.30m) with the next closest mark in the Pac-12, coming from ARIZONA STATE’s Bryan McBride (7-3.75/2.23m), is nearly three feet shy of Ross’ top outdoor mark but ranks tied for fifth in the country this season. UCLA’s Cody Crampton could also challenge for a podium spot in the event after posting a top-15 mark in the NCAA in early March.
High Jump - Women
Arizona has dominated the women’s high jump, thanks in large part to London Olympics silver medalist Brigetta Barrett, who claimed the event three years in a row. A Wildcat has won the high jump in five of the last six years, with Elizabeth Patterson winning in 2008 and 2010. With that said, strong consideration should be given to Wildcat junior Shakayla McEaddy, who has posted the Conference’s fifth-best mark in the event this season. But a strong contingent of juniors will make for a very exciting and tough competition. Leading the way is OREGON’s Lauren Crockett and Chancey Summers. Crockett has the ability to bring the high jump crown back to Eugene for the first time since 1988 after posting the sixth-best mark in the country this season. Summers’ indoor mark is the second-best in the league this year and would rank in the top 15 in the outdoor. UCLA’s Alexis Walker and COLORADO Kelsey English have also posted top-15 marks during the outdoor campaign this year.
Pole Vault - Men
UCLA’s Michael Woepse returns to defend his 2013 league title, a title that his brother, Greg, also won in 2011. Woepse looks to carry on, not just a family tradition, but a UCLA tradition of pole vaulters which have won a league-best 15 individual titles in the event all-time. Woepse appears to be the favorite going into the Championships as the highest-rated Pac-12 pole vaulter, ranking third in the nation. But he will be challenged by fourth-ranked Jax Thoirs, a sophomore from WASHINGTON. Look for ARIZONA STATE’s Derick Hinch and STANFORD freshman Dylan Duvio to challenge for a podium spot.
Pole Vault - Women
Seven of the top 10 finishers from last year’s Championships return for the pole vault competition this season, including WASHINGTON STATE’s Kristine Felix, who was the Cougs’ first-ever league champion in the event. Felix will have to hold off WASHINGTON’s Diamara Planell Cruz and ARIZONA STATE’s Heather Arseneau who have posted the top-two marks in the Pac-12 this season, with Planell Cruz ranking 11th in the country in the event. OREGON’s Sammie Clarke will also try to make her way onto the podium as one of only two Pac-12 athletes ranked in the top 25 in the pole vault this year, tying with Felix for the third-best mark in the Conference.
Long Jump - Men
Returning champion CALIFORNIA’s Hammed Suleman is back again looking to hang on to the long jump crown. In last year’s competition, he blew away the field with a winning mark that was more than 1.5 feet further than the second-place mark. This season, he looks to be the favorite again as the only Pac-12 long jumper to break 25 feet. However, his best mark of 25-3.25/7.70m was recorded during the indoor campaign and is nearly three feet better than his outdoor mark. Leading contenders to dethrone Suleman are ARIZONA freshman Avery Mickens and USC’s Viktor Fajoyomiwho is fresh off the multi championships competition last weekend where he placed second.
Long Jump - Women
The long jump competition looks to be another closely-contended event at the Championships. Second-place finisher UCLA’s Kylie Price has the best outdoor mark of the season and is ranked sixth in the nation in the event. She will look to break through this season, but will get a strong push from OREGON freshman Jasmine Todd, who’s indoor mark would rank third-best in the country. CALIFORNIA’s Malaina Payton is also one of only three Pac-12 athletes to have reached the 21-foot mark, along with Price and Payton.
Triple Jump - Men
Another 2013 champion is in the field looking to defend his title. WASHINGTON’s Kason Covington is back this year in what looks like will be a close competition. His best mark this season came during the indoor campaign and is the third-best Pac-12 mark this year. Challenging him will be CALIFORNIA’s Hammed Suleman, who came in second last year to Covington. Suleman has the best mark in the field this weekend, but was also recorded during indoor competition. ARIZONA STATE Josh Dixon is one of five sophomores in the field and his best mark is the Conference’s best outdoor mark this season. He was third in the event in 2013 and will look to build on that experience to get back on the podium.
Triple Jump - Women
The top triple jump mark in the Pac-12 was posted by a freshman as OREGON’s Sasha Wallace leads this contingency. She, along with WASHINGTON’s Shaniae Lakes, are the only two in the Conference to break the 42-foot mark. Lakes and USC’s Melia Cox, third in the Pac-12 in the event and second at last year’s Conference meet, are the only two who return that placed in the top eight in 2013.
Shot Put - Men
For the first time in three years, the Conference will have a new champion in the shot put after ARIZONA STATE’s Jordan Clarke claimed the title from 2011-12. The title is up for grabs as UCLA’s Nicolas Scarvelis appears to be the frontrunner after placing second last year as a freshman. His best mark this season is also ranked in the top 15 in the country. The shot put field is the youngest in the competition with eight of the 15 competitors being underclassmen, including five freshmen. Three of those freshmen — ARIZONA’s Aaron Castle, UCLA’s Braheme Days and ASU’s Thomas Anderson — are the top challengers to earn podium spots.
Shot Put - Women
The top three placers from last year return to compete in one of the best shot put competitions in the country. Among the returnees are a pair of Pac-12 Champions including three-time champion ARIZONA’s Julie Labonté and 2012 champion ARIZONA STATE’s Anna Jelimini. Looking to give a run for the title is Wildcat Alyssa Hasslen, who was second at last year’s championship ahead of Jelmini. Labonté goes into this weekend ranked fifth in the nation, but Jelmini and Hasslen’s best indoor marks would be among the top 10 this season, as well.
Discus Throw - Men
UCLA’s Julian Wruck is the incumbent and the overwhelming favorite in the event. He has, by far, recorded the furthest throw of anyone in the Pac-12 this season. He is the only thrower in the league to record a mark of more than 197 feet and one of only 10 in the country to break the 200-foot mark (213-3/65.01m). He shattered the record by a collegian last year, posting a mark of 223-7/68.16m. The top-three throws posted by a Pac-12 athlete this season were by seniors. After Wruck’s leading mark, teammate Matthew Kosecki, the 2012 league champion in the event, has the second-furthest throw this year. He was also second at last year’s competition. The third-best Pac-12 mark in the discus this season has been courtesy of CALIFORNIA’s Derek White.
Discus Throw - Women
Fans will also want to keep an eye on the women’s discus competition, as well, as four Pac-12 athletes ranked in the top 10 in the country in the event, and six are in the top 25. ARIZONA senior Anna Jelmini, who is one of the favorites for the shot put, will try to make it a four-year sweep in the discus. She is currently ranked ninth in the event and will have a tough competition to go up against to make it four in a row. STANFORD freshman Valarie Collatz is the highest-ranked league athlete in the discus, but she’s followed closely behind by USC’s Alexandra Collatz (6th), who was a Pac-12 Women’s Field Athlete of the Week this season, and ARIZONA’s Julie Labonté (7th), who placed second last year. Also figuring in the mix could be ASU’s Alex Hartig, ranked 18th, and OREGON’s Laura Bobek, 22nd nationally.
Hammer Throw - Men
The hammer throw looks features three of the nation’s top-three throwers in the nation and should be a close competition for the individual title. Second-ranked USC senior Remington Conaster will be going for a second-straight Pac-12 crown in the event after winning the 2013 title by just four inches. He edged out OREGON’s Greg Skipper who was a freshman last year and the duo will go head-to-head again. Skipper is sixth in the country in the event, posting the second-best mark in the Conference. However, ARIZONA freshman will also look to break into the top three, ranking an impressive ninth in the event going into the weekend.
Hammer - Women
It seems like the competition could not get any tougher after looking at the field in the shot put and discus competitions. But the hammer throw competition could make it the toughest of the throws event. The top-six hammer throwers in the Pac-12 are among the top 25 in the country and five of them have thrown at least 200 feet this season. COLORADO’s Emily Hunsucker, a Pac-12 Women’s Field Athlete of the Week earlier this season, has posted the furthest throw at 212-11/64.91m and beats the field by over 11 feet. She ranks seventh in the nation in the category. Also in the top 25 are USC’s Lauren Chambers, OREGON’s Jillian Weir, CALIFORNIA’s Shelby Ashby, ARIZONA STATE’s Jessika Byrd and UTAH’s Aoife Hickey.
Javelin - Men
With two Pac-12 javelin titles under his belt already, OREGON’s Sam Crouser is aiming to become only the second athlete all-time to win the event three times and first since ARIZONA’s Esko Mikkola won it from 1998-2000. Crouser comes from a legacy of throwers that were individual medal winners, including his uncle, Brian, who won the Pac-10 javelin crown in 1984 and 1985. His father, Dean, is a two-time Pac-10 discus and shot put champion (1983 and 1983), and his sister joined the Oregon squad this season and is a thrower, as well. A junior and ranked fourth in the country, Sam has never lost the event at the league meet. WASHINGTON’s Hale Quinn, who is ranked 12th in the country, will try to break that streak and contend for a spot on the podium. Fellow Husky Carson Fuller and WASHINGTON STATE junior will also battle for a top-three final spot.
Javelin - Women
Rounding out the list of events is the women’s javelin where STANFORD junior Brianna Bain has won back-to-back titles and will be looking for a third. The only Cardinal to ever win the event, she ranks fifth in the nation and also boasts the fifth-best mark in Pac-12 history, a throw she achieved last year. She has, by far, the best throw in the Conference this season and will be tough to top. But battling for podium spots will be OREGON senior Rachel Sherrell and UO freshman Haley Crouser. Crouser will be making her first appearance at the Pac-12 meet, but her name is already well known. She is the younger sister of Pac-12 two-time champion Sam Crouser, and comes from a family legacy of throwers that have won Pac-10 and NCAA titles.