Conference Championships Heat Up
May 13, 2010
By Amy Farnum
Several of the nation’s top teams will be competing for their respective conference crowns as the Big 12, Big Ten, Pac-10 and Southeastern Conferences are all holding their league championships this weekend. Here are a few items of note as the best-of-the-best contend for titles.
Both the men’s and women’s track & field teams from the University of Oregon jumped out a an early points lead last weekend as the Pac-10 Track and Field Multi-Events athletes competed at the University of California. Senior Ashton Eaton won the men’s decathlon with a personal-best score of 8,154 points, placing first in 10 events as the Ducks earned 16 points entering this weekend’s championships. On the women’s side, junior Brianne Theisen defended her league heptathlon title with 5,917 points, placing first in five of eight events to give Oregon 14 events heading into this weekend.
The No. 2 men’s team and third-ranked women’s squad both look to defend their titles at the Pac-10 Championships on May 15-16 in Berkeley, Calif. The women’s team holds nine of the league’s top marks, including Amber Purvis in the 100 (11.38w) and 200 meters (23.00w), while the men’s team has four conference-leading marks led by Andrew Wheating’s 800 (1:46.36) and 1,500 (3:37.83) meter times.
The University of Florida women’s team will look to defend its 2009 Southeastern Conference outdoor title this weekend, while seeking a league championship “triple crown” after winning the 2009 SEC Cross Country title and the 2010 SEC Indoor Championship. The Gators also accomplished the feat during the 1996-96 academic year. The Gator women are led by the nation’s top-ranked shot putter and two-time SEC Champion Mariam Kevkhishvili, who paces the NCAA with a mark of 18.46m/60-6.75 and has gone undefeated throughout both the indoor and outdoor seasons.
Meanwhile, the Florida men’s squad is ranked third in the nation as it competes for the program’s first SEC outdoor title since 1987. Calvin Smith sparks the Gators as the world’s top-ranked 400 meter runner with a time of 44.81. The University of Tennessee will host SEC Championships on May 13-15.
Indiana University will host the Big Ten Championships on May 14-16 for the first time since 2001, giving the Hoosiers a chance to show off the Billy Hayes Track’s new surface – the only one of its’ kind in the Western hemisphere. The new Polytan surface is made from the same materials as the track that hosted the 2009 IAAF World Championships in Berlin.
Last weekend, the new surface made its’ debut as IU hosted the Billy Hayes Invitational and the Hoosiers’ Molly Beckwith set a new track record in the 800 meters with a mark of 2:02.18 – the second-fastest time in school history and the second-best in Division I this season. Penn State senior Bridget Franek will certainly be looking to better her NCAA-leading mark in the 3,000-meter steeplechase on the new track after running the nation’s fastest mark (9:54.70) in the event last weekend at the Penn State Outdoor Open. The No. 7 Nittany Lion women’s team is gunning for their third straight Big Ten title.
Texas A&M boasts both the nation’s No. 1 men’s and women’s squads as the Aggies enter the Big 12 Championships at the University of Missouri on May 13-16. The men’s team is the defending national champion, but is seeking its’ first league title since 2001 after finishing as the runner-up each of the last two years. The women’s squad has won three straight Big 12 outdoor titles, as well as four consecutive indoor championships.
"This is a different meet than the national championships for us,” said Texas A&M head coach Pat Henry. “This is a meet that our men have not won. We want to try to win this track meet. It's an important championship and it will take everyone being successful for us on the same day. It takes elite performances to win the national meet, while the conference meet is a little bit different."
The Aggies combine for 15 event leaders (8 men, 7 women) heading into the championships – 10 of which are sprint events as Texas A&M athletes lead the men and women in the 100, 200, 400, 4 x 100 and 4 x 400.