NCAA Track and Field Championships: 5 key athletes and events to watch at Hayward Field
The NCAA Division I Track and Field Championships kicked off Wednesday at Hayward Field in Eugene, Oregon, for the first time since the historic stadium underwent major construction in 2018.
This year's meet offers athletes the opportunity for redemption after the 2020 championships were cancelled due to COVID-19. For some, the meet will also serve as a stepping stone for the USATF Olympic Trials that begin June 18. The trials will also be held at Hayward Field.
The championships will be run through Saturday and can be streamed live on ESPN3. Select events will also be aired on ESPN2 and ESPNU. A full schedule of events can be found here.
These are some of the biggest storylines to follow:
Texas A&M freshman Athing Mu has been one of the biggest stars in track and field this season. (Photo: Kirby Lee, USA TODAY Sports)
Will Athing Mu take down her own record?
Texas A&M's Athing Mu has been one of the best track and field athletes in the world this year. She set the collegiate and American U-20 record in both the 400- and 800-meter races, and she is currently ranked in the top five internationally in both events. While she will not compete in the 800 at the NCAA championships, she will be chasing her collegiate records in the 400 and 4×400-meter relay. The final for both events will be held Saturday with the 400 at 7:02 p.m. ET and the relay at 8:21 p.m. ET.
LSU aims to sweep team titles
The LSU Tigers have a long history of success at the NCAA Track and Field Championships, and this year is no exception. The men's team comes into the meet ranked No. 1 in the country and has been dubbed the "overwhelming favorite" to win by the U.S. Track & Field Cross Country Coaches Association. It would be the first team victory for the men since 2002. While the women will face more competition from squads like USC and Texas A&M, they also enter the championships favored to win. The last time both LSU teams swept the team title was 1990.
Men's 1,500-meter promises fast times
The difference between the fastest and slowest entry time in the men's 1,500 final is less than five seconds, and the meet record of 3:35.30 is in danger of being broken by multiple runners. The fast field is led by Notre Dame's Yared Nuguse, who broke the collegiate record with his time of 3:34.68 earlier in the season. Freshman Eliud Kipsang from Alabama is right on his heels, coming in with a personal best of 3:35.49. The Olympic standard of 3:35 could be within reach for several of these men. The race begins Friday at 8:11 p.m. ET.
Showdown in the women's steeplechase
The stacked women's steeplechase field includes 16 athletes who have run faster than the U.S. Olympic Trials standard of 9:50. The event is currently led by BYU's Courtney Wayment, who ran 9:31.37 in April. She will be chasing the Olympic standard of 9:30, but she is far from a lock to win. Three other women have run times under 9:40. The steeplechase final will occur on Saturday at 6:24 p.m. ET.
How far can Tara Davis fly?
After a contentious transfer from the University of Georgia in 2019, junior Tara Davis will compete in her first NCAA Championship as a Texas Longhorn. Earlier this season, Davis had a long jump of 7.14 meters, shattering the 36-year-old collegiate record in the event that was previously held by Jackie Joyner-Kersey. At the 2018 NCAA Championships, Davis placed fifth in the long jump, but she is the favorite to win this year. The event begins tonight at 8 p.m. ET.
Contact Emily Adams at [email protected] or on Twitter @eaadams6.
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