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Stan Becton | NCAA.com | March 18, 2022

7 storylines to know ahead of the 2022 women's outdoor track and field season

Texas A&M breaks collegiate record in 4x400-meter relay

Are you ready for an exciting women's outdoor track and field season in 2022? Here are the top storylines to know ahead of a season where records could fall, history will be made and champions will be crowned.

Talented returners could wow all season

In 2022, there are seven returning individual women's outdoor champions from the 2021 season. Expect them to once again be at or near the podium throughout the season. Here's the list of returning champions and their events.

  • Camryn Rogers | California | Hammer
  • Lisa Gunnarsson | LSU | Pole vault
  • Adelaide Aquilla | Ohio State | Shot put
  • Ruth Usoro | Texas Tech | Triple Jump
  • Tyra Gittens | Texas (won in 2021 with Texas A&M) | Heptathlon
  • Jorinde van Klinken | Arizona State | Discus
  • Rachel Glenn | South Carolina | High Jump

BIG NAMES: 40 names you should know before the 2022 women’s outdoor track season

Some of last year's young stars have moved on

Three elite underclassmen have begun their professional careers after shining on the NCAA stage in 2021. Tara Davis (Texas), Athing Mu (Texas A&M) and Cambrea Sturgis (North Carolina A&T) have all moved up after winning outdoor titles.

Davis won the outdoor long jump title, giving her a sweep in the event during 2021. She set new records in the indoor and outdoor long jump, breaking Jackie Joyner-Kersee's record in the latter.

As a freshman, Mu quickly became one of the best middle-distance runners in the sport. Before winning gold medals in Tokyo, Mu set outdoor records in the 400 and 800 meters while also running in Texas A&M's record-breaking 4x400 meter relay.

Sturgis was the best sprinter in the sport as a freshman, winning the 100 and 200-meter titles at the 2021 outdoor championships. Her times are among the best in NCAA history.

Former Alabama sprinter Tamara Clark joins the underclassmen with a move to the professional level. Clark turned pro after a runner-up finish in the 200 meters at the 2021 championships.

Additionally, two more elite women are in new places this season. Tyra Gittens transferred to Texas from Texas A&M. Jasmine Moore transferred from Florida to Georgia. Each finished second at the 2021 DI outdoor championships in the long jump and triple jump, respectively.

🗓: Here's when the 2022 outdoor track and field season starts

The SEC is as dominant as ever

Last year, the SEC took 50 percent of the top-10 finishes at the national championship and placed eight schools among the top 21. Entering 2022, the conference again stands as the nation's best, thanks to its high-quality depth.

If you were to pick a preseason women's outdoor national champion, there's a high chance that it could come from the SEC. Yet before that, it's ever-difficult to decide which program will win the conference's title in 2022. Six teams sit at the top of the conference with an SEC championship squarely in sight. There are a couple more teams that could make a run as well. 

The conference has a high level of high-quality teams filled with elite athletes. Expect it to show all season long. 

💨: Wind and scoring in track and field, explained

Multiple contenders have a shot at this year's team title

Southern California won the 2021 team outdoor title, but a repeat effort will not come easy. Expect the Trojans to once again be in the thick of things at this year's championships, but they'll be in the mix with plenty of contenders.

Out west, Oregon remains a power in the sport, and with home-track advantage, you can never count out the Ducks.

In the south, Texas A&M finished second last year and even without Mu, the Aggies have what it takes to win another title. Remember, Arkansas is always a threat too. Don't forget about LSU either; the Lady Tigers have the most women's outdoor titles by a wide margin.

There are also contenders shooting for their first women's outdoor championships in Kentucky and Florida; the Gators won this year's indoor championship and are loaded with stars in multiple events. Similarly, Alabama and North Carolina A&T could retool and make their first championship run after each tied for fourth place last year and finished in the top 15 in 2019.

💍: 5 track and field programs that could be the next first-time national champion

These records should be on notice

It seems like an NCAA record falls at the outdoor championships every year. In 2022, watch out for the 100 meters, long jump and high jump as these records could be the next to go.

RECORDS: Here are the women’s track and field records that could be next to fall

Here are some must-watch meets in 2022

The Texas Relays, Florida Relays, Michael Johnson Invitational and Penn Relays are a handful of the must-watch meets for any track and field fan in 2022.

MUST-WATCH: 5 outdoor track and field meets to pay attention to in 2022

The Bowerman Trophy remains up for grabs

Entering the outdoor season, the Bowerman Trophy, recognizing the best athlete in men's and women's track and field, is anyone's to win. Here's who's on the watch list as of March 2.

Women's Bowerman watch list | March 2

  • Alia Armstrong | LSU | Sprints/Hurdles
  • Tyra Gittens | Texas | Combined Events
  • Anna Hall | Florida | Combined Events
  • Alexis Holmes | Kentucky | Sprints
  • Jasmine Moore | Florida | Jumps
  • Camryn Rogers | California | Throws
  • Grace Stark | Florida | Sprints/Hurdles
  • Abby Steiner | Kentucky | Sprints
  • Jorinde van Klinken | Arizona State | Throws
  • Courtney Wayment | BYU | Mid-Distance/Distance

Six of the athletes on the women's Bowerman watch list won individual titles at the 2022 indoor championships. It's a stacked field for the award, so stacked that Olympians and national champions missed the list.

Even with the next update to the watch list scheduled for March 23, expect the race for this award to come down to the wire.

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