2016 Pac-12 Track & Field Championships: What to watch during multi events weekend
An Olympic qualifier and a fierce battle are two things to look forward to at the Pac-12 Track & Field Championships multi events competition this weekend. Before the rest of their teams arrive in Seattle, the heptathletes and decathletes compete to give their schools a strong start in the race for the conference team title.
During their time in the Pac-12, USC junior Amalie Iuel and Washington State junior Alissa Brooks-Johnson have had a virtual one-on-duel at the conference championships. Freshman year, it was Iuel who came out on top at the Pac-12 Championships. She finished ahead of Brooks-Johnson by 53 points to secure the individual title. The following year, the Cougar contender looked to bring the title to Pullman. The then-sophomore surged past the Trojans' reigning champ that year and won the conference by a staggering 167 points, which was 478 points better than she performed the previous year. That year, Iuel finished third.
Now going into the two athletes’ third conference championship, it looks to be another head-to-head battle. Brooks-Johnson has yet to compete in a full heptathlon this season, but has been working on events individually. Meanwhile, Iuel is gunning for the title – hard. She hit a major PR of 5,799 points in April, which is just four points short of Brooks-Johnson’s current best mark.
So what should you keep an eye on between these two? Their strengths lie in separate events. It is essential for multi-event athletes to be well-rounded, but typically they still excel at a particular set of events. For Brooks-Johnson, her advantage will be the throws. Her 44.75m (146 feet, 8 inch) javelin throw and 12.45m (40 feet, 8.5 inch) shot put personal bests are more than 11 and one meters better than Iuel’s top marks, respectively. On the flipside, Iuel turns to the track for points. Her marks in the three running events of the heptathlon (100m hurdles, 200m and 800m) hover around the top-ten best in the conference on their own and among the best in the heptathlon field. Both athletes are knocking on the Pac-12 all-time top-10 list, the threshold of which sits at 5,831 points.
Meanwhile on the men’s side, Olympic-qualifier and Arizona senior Pau Tonnesen is top male to watch. The defending Pac-12 Champion posted a season-best 7,993 points last month, shy of his personal-best 8,247 points he scored at the 2015 NCAA Championships. His 2015 mark surpassed the Olympic Games' “A” standard of 8,100 points, qualifying him to compete for his home country of Spain at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio. With his 7,993 points mark he scored this year, he sits as the 7th-best decathlete in the world this season.
Watch for Tonnesen to excel on the field amongst the Pac-12 decathletes. At last year's conference championships, he won the long jump, shot put, discus and pole vault of the multi-event competition to secure his 10-point contribution to the Wildcats’ sixth-place finish as a team last year.