March 11, 2010

By Glen Rosales, Special to NCAA.com

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- St. Augustine's College track and field coach George Williams follows a simple recipe for success.

"We just do three or four things," he said. "We spring, we jump and we hurdle."

It's a formula that has proven to be amazingly effective of late as the Falcons have won four consecutive Division II indoor track and field championships on the men's side of the ledger. St. Augustine's (Raleigh, N.C.) goes for a record-tying No. 5 Friday and Saturday at the Albuquerque Convention Center.

"If you're going to beat us, we're going to make you beat us there," Williams said. "We don't do distance races. We're going to run, jump and sprint."

The lead Falcon is junior middle-sprinter Josh Scott, who is the top seed in both the 200-meter and 400-meter dashes. He also anchors the school's No. 1-seeded 4x400 relay squad.

Given St. Augustine's emphasis, the Falcons will be less bothered by the site's mile-high elevation, but it can be a concern for schools that rely on strong performances from their distance squads.

Likewise, schools like event host Adams State (Alamosa, Colo.), which sits at 7,539 feet, should benefit from an atmosphere that that will cause some athletes to feel oxygen deprived.

"It's kind of like having a home track meet," said Ashland (Ashland, Ohio) coach Jud Logan. "I don't think it's going to be a big advantage. I'd be surprised by that. But it could affect some of the teams that rely on the distance events."

Shot putter Kurt Roberts is one Eagle who probably won't be affected either way by the altitude.

The junior enters the event as the top seed with a throw of 64 feet, 4 inches, which is a sliver better than the D-II current record set by former Eagle Bryan Vickers four years ago.

"He realizes that he's not going out there to set the record," Logan said. "He's going out, number one, to win. And number two, if in the course of winning, he should happen to set the record, that's great."

When it comes to the team event, however, he sees St. Augustine's reign coming to end this season.

"Adams State should absolutely run away with the whole thing," Logan said.

If the seeding holds form, the Grizzlies should possess a sizeable advantage in the distance events, led by senior Aaron Braun, the No. 1 seed in both the 1-mile and 5,000-meter runs.

Adams State has the top five times in the 5,000 and six of the top seven, as well as the two best times in the mile, and again, six of seven.

On the women's side, defending champion, Lincoln University (Jefferson City, Mo.), likely won't be the runaway victor like a year ago when the Blue Tigers lapped the field, doubling the nearest competitors.

"I think we have a good chance of repeating," said coach Victor Thomas. "But it won't be a walkover like last year."

A number of the Blue Tigers who fueled the performance of last year have graduated, a leaving a new set of athletes to fill the void.

Lincoln's strength is in the sprint events, particularly the 60-meter dash, in which the Blue Tigers enter the meet with the second, third and fourth best times. Sophomore Semoy Hackett, who was a big scorer for Lincoln last season, returns as the No. 2 seed in the 60 and is the third seed in the 200.

The Blue Tigers will likely face a strong challenge from Adams State, St. Augustine's and Ashland, Thomas said.

"We're hoping we get both squads in the top three," Grizzlies coach Damon Martin said. "I certainly think Lincoln has a great team for the women and has for a number of years. Ashland, St. Augustine's. Hopefully we'll be in the mix with them."

Unlike the Grizzly men, the women have a good chance to score points in many events.

"I think our women's team is a little more well-rounded," Martin said

The women's side could be so close that it might be decided not so much by what the top teams do, but by how some of the other athletes do in denying anticipated points throughout the course of the two-day meet.

"We've been getting bonuses and we haven't been giving any away," St. Augustine's Williams said. "But if there are three or four teams that get bonuses or lose bonuses that's going to make a big difference."

So little points lost or won here and there will add up.

"In the team event, every point matters," Martin said. "When we add it up at the end of the day, we'll see what happens. We just hope we're in there somewhere."