NAMPA, Idaho — Nobody mentioned it directly at the coaches media conference on Thursday afternoon, but make no mistake it was the elephant in the room. Well, more precisely it was the presence of Florida and Oregon in the room.
|BETTER THAN EVER?|
Oregon’s Brianne Theisen was forced to miss the 2011 outdoor season after dealing with a fascia injury in her lower back. She’s back healthy now, and gunning for a third consecutive pentathlon title.
• Complete story, click here
The Gator men and Duck women each have a shot at winning their third consecutive titles here at the NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships.
Florida, which lost the SEC indoor championship to Arkansas, comes in as the favorite again, with its stiffest competition — it would seem — coming from the Razorbacks and future SEC opponent Texas A&M. Florida coach Mike Holloway looks at it another way.
“We have tremendous respect for everybody,” Holloway said. “As I told someone earlier, we’re just going to come in here and do what we do. I can’t concern myself with other teams. It’s not like basketball or football where if they are a fast-break team we are going to slow the ball down. We have no control over what other teams do.
“We’re going to focus on Florida. That’s all we can do. I tell my team like I told them before the championships started, it’s the computer that takes care of the score. Our job is to give the computer something to do.”
One to watch for the Gators will be sprinter Jeff Demps. This year Demps, who also is a running back for the football team, concentrated solely on track and it seems to have paid off. He turned in a 6.54 in the 60-meter dash earlier this year — the fastest time this season.
“A lot of that has to do with talent,” Holloway said. “He’s a student of the sport. He really wants to be a great sprinter. He doesn’t want to be just a guy to participate. I’m pretty tough on him. I demand a lot from him. He accepts those demands. That’s why you see the progress he’s made every year.
“He’s not as beat up in practice as in the past. He recovers better from competition. Another thing with him focusing on track and field he retains things from practice to practice better.”
On the women’s side, it looks to be all Oregon. Being in position to win a third consecutive title — with a program that does not have an indoor track facility — is quite an accomplishment.
“We look at it as one moment in time, the indoor season. We try to make it part of the process and not the end result. No question about it, once we get here, we do just like we do any other meet,” Oregon coach Vin Lananna said. “Because there is no indoor conference meet. There is no indoor facility, so as a result we have to think this way.
“In no way does that take away from the championship. Once we’re here, I don’t think any of the athletes go to the line thinking, ‘Well, we really don’t emphasize indoor track.’ We go out and compete. They compete the best they can.”
Returning for a chance at her third pentathlon title for the Ducks is Brianne Theisen. She missed the 2011 outdoor season with a back injury, but has been outstanding during indoor competition. Oregon needs a strong showing by both Theisen and its middle distance runners to hold off LSU, as the Tigers are widely considered to be its chief competition.