NEW ORLEANS -- With the 2014 Division I outdoor regular season now wrapped up and only one step – the East and West Preliminaries – remaining between now and the national championships, the Texas women have taken control of the National Team Computer Rankings released Tuesday by the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA).
The Longhorn women stampeded to the top of the rankings following a Big 12 title and a collegiate 400 meters record by co-National Athlete of the Week Courtney Okolo, while the defending national co-champion Florida men – despite a poor showing at the SEC Championships – improved their lead atop the men’s rankings.Out West with a pair of Pac-12 titles to their names, both the No. 3 Oregon men and women made significant strides toward the top, with the men nearly surpassing defending national co-champion Texas A&M for the No. 2 spot.
It should be noted that the USTFCCCA National Team Computer Rankings reflect the potential of a given team in a national championship meet setting, and not necessarily at a smaller meet like the conference championships with fewer teams represented.
Next week’s rankings will take into account only entries into the East and West NCAA Preliminary sites.
For the Texas women, their performance in Lubbock, Texas, boosted their team rankings score by nearly 22 points to 382.88. Driving that gain was a trio of top-ranked times at 400 meters, led by Okolo’s collegiate-record 50.03. Kendall Baisden posted the No. 2 time, while Briana Nelson came in at No. 4 – all of whom joined two-time defending national champion, fifth-ranked Ashley Spencer.
While the Longhorns rose, the Florida Gators fell. The Gators checked in at 346.45, down nearly 26 points from last time to slide to No. 2.
Jenna Prandini’s second-ranked 200 and eighth-ranked long jump propelled No. 3 Oregon closer to the top two, as the Ducks gained nearly 37 points to come in at 329.27. No. 4 Texas A&M (310.31) gained 27 behind No. 3 Shamier Little at 400 meters and Janeil Bellille in the 400-meter hurdles.
Kentucky (259.60) logged the biggest improvement to its score of any top-five team – a 43-point gain – to slide back into the No. 5 position and round out the top five.
The furthest move up the rankings came courtesy of No. 14 Texas Tech, which jumped up 13 positions to settle in right behind defending national champion No. 13 Kansas.Despite finishing a distant third at the SEC championships, the Florida men were able to grow their lead over No. 2 Texas A&M – and now No. 3 Oregon – to nearly 80 team rankings points. Behind a top-ranked triple jump showing from Marquis Dendy and the No. 6 time at 800 meters from Ryan Schnulle, the Gators improved by nearly 32 points to 360.56.
SEC champion No. 2 Texas A&M (278.77) also improved by more than 17 points, but it wasn’t enough to keep pace with rival Florida, and was just barely enough to keep ahead of No. 3 Oregon (278.66) as the Ducks improved by nearly 50 points.
A pair of second-ranked national performances from quarter-miler Mike Berry and distance runner Edward Cheserek (1,500 meters) were the wind underneath Oregon’s wings.
Fourth-ranked Arkansas (240.31) and Big 12 Champ No. 5 Texas Tech (171.18) – up a position from a week ago – both recorded double-digit gains to their team rankings scores to round out the top five. A trio of teams wait just beyond in No. 6 Georgia (168.86), No. 7 Texas (165.96) and No. 8 LSU (164.63).
Behind National Athlete of the Week Lawi Lalang, the Arizona men were this week’s biggest gainer. The Wildcats improved 14 positions to No. 22. No. 24 Auburn also made a significant move with a 10-position climb from a week ago.