Academy of Art heads into NCAA championship with No. 1 ranking
For the third week in a row the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) rankings feature a new No. 1 team in indoor champion Academy of Art, which is poised to sweep the 2013 NCAA track & field titles.
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The Urban Knights are in position to sweep the Division II track & field team titles in their first year as an NCAA program, but doing so will mean overcoming a trio of tough competitors who are nearly equally favored to claim the title.
Academy of Art is No. 1 with a team score of 236.27, while No. 2 Lincoln (Mo.) is fewer than two points back at 234.84 and Grand Canyon is just beyond two points behind at 234.15. All while defending outdoor champ Grand Valley State sits at No. 4 with a score of 208.32.
The Urban Knights trail all three teams in terms of qualifiers to the championships, but that was also the case when the squad claimed the final indoor rankings before taking home the DII team crown. Standout Vashti Thomas will again be a significant factor in their run for a title, as she is ranked No. 1 at 200 meters and in the 100 hurdles and the long jump, and is No. 3 in the triple jump. She leads a crew of 100 hurdles that features five of the division’s 11 best.
Lincoln enters the championships with the largest number of qualifiers with 24 total, including a division-best 14 in the sprints and hurdles. The Blue Tigers will send 10 top-12 ranked sprinters and hurdlers, including two of the top three in the 400 hurdles in No. 2 Yanique Haye and No. 3 Michelle Cumberbatch, the defending NCAA champ.
The Lakers of Grand Valley State sit right behind Lincoln with 23 entries into the championships, buoyed by seven distance runners and seven throwers. Chief among the Lakers qualifiers is Sam Lockhart, who is ranked No. 1 in the division in both the discus and shot put, and No. 3 in the hammer. Hannah Osborn (No. 4 steeple, No. 10 5,000) leads six middle distance and distance runners in the top 15 of their events.
No. 3 Grand Canyon will send the largest jumps group with six competitors, and the third-largest sprints/hurdles group with nine -- both of which are mostly composed of top-10 talent. Shavine Hodges is the No. 2 seed at both 100 and 200 meters to lead a sprints corps in which all seven sprinters are ranked within the top 10 of their events. The same is true of the jumps, where none of the six student-athletes are ranked lower than ninth in the nation with two each in the pole vault, long jump and triple jump.
Adams State rounded out the top five with 14 qualifiers and a 141.06 score in the rankings.