Florida hopes its path to an NCAA Indoor Track title can be quick and decisive. Oregon will take the long way if it can.
The two NCAA powers are among the favorites to earn the team title on Saturday night at the Randal Tyson Track Center, along with host Arkansas.Florida coach Mike Holloway will look to score big with Najee Glass, who has the top time in the 400 meters coming into the meet at 45.34, just ahead of Texas A&M duo Deon Lendore and Bralon Taplin. The Gators will also look to Andrea Arroyo in the 800 and jumper Marquis Dendy, who has the top triple jump and second-best long jump coming into the meet.
For Holloway, seeing Dendy compete for the final time in an indoor meet is bittersweet.
“He’s just a special athlete and a special person,” Holloway said. “He had some adversity last year with a labrum tear, but he had surgery in the fall. We talked about redshirting him, but he said, ‘Coach, I want to help the team.’ He’s had a phenomenal year. I’m glad he’s on my team.”
Oregon’s distance runners will carry the Ducks’ team chances as Eric Jenkins has the top times in both the 3000 (7:44.91) and the 5000 (13:31.76). Jenkins is not the only Oregon distance runner to be a title threat. Teammate Edward Cheserek will be a favorite in the mile and will push Jenkins in the 3000 as well.
“Those two guys have a great camaraderie,” said Oregon coach Robert Johnson. “They are great training partners and they push each other every day.”
Oregon has five entries in the men’s 3000 besides Jenkins and Cheserek. Will Geoghegan has the second-fastest time behind Jenkins at 7:45.91. Jeramy Elkaim brings the fourth fastest time into the meet at 7:48.48. And Parker Stinson may also be a factor.
“We know what we’re here to do,” Johnson said. “I’ll look each one of them in the eye and their goal will be to win the event, teammate or no teammate. That is the only way to go about it.
“These guys have been doing this their whole [lives]. Nothing has changed once we got here. It’s in our fabric at the University of Oregon to compete for these things.”
The Pac-12 does not hold an indoor meet, but Johnson does not see that as a factor heading into this weekend. He said the team, which has competed in just a handful of indoor meets this season, is ready to go.
“We’re probably one of the more underrated teams in the meet,” Johnson said. “This is probably our fourth meet of the year. We’re here, we’re rested, we’re healthy and we’re ready to go.”
Arkansas comes into the meet with a solid chance to walk away with the team title. Razorbacks men’s coach Chris Bucknam also has a talented group of distance runners including Kemoy Campbell and Stanley Kebenei in the 3000 along with Omar McLeon in the 60 meter hurdles, who has the top time coming in at 7.49. Pole vaulter Andrew Irwin and long jumper Jarrion Lawson should also score well.
Georgia could pick up key points from heptathletes Garrett Scantling and Maicel Uibo, who rank first and second coming into the meet.
Bucknam said the Razorbacks have not settled on their order for the distance medley relay, where they rank third behind Georgetown and Penn State.
“We’re blessed with middle distance runners,” Bucknam said. “We have a few options. We’re not ready to say what order we will be, but we’re going to put a good team out there and we expect to run really well.”