Soon the Division I women's outdoor track and field championships will commence in Eugene, Ore., making it the perfect time to predict the winners of each event.
Before diving into the predictions, I'll explain how I selected each winner. The start lists are out and in events with three heats, the top two in each heat, plus the competitors with the next three best times, will advance. In events with two heats, the top five in each heat, plus the next two best times, advance. In making my predictions, it helped to look at which athletes are likely to win their heats because they will be guaranteed a spot in the finals.
The field in the 100 meters is deep this year and finishing in the top two in a heat will be important to securing a berth in the 100-meter final. From heat 1, Texas' Julien Alfred should advance as she's coming off back-to-back meets with 10.80-second performances.
Alfred has a chance to continue her recent trend of sub-10.8 performances in the finals — the last two winners ran times of 10.74 and 10.75 seconds. Even if she doesn't come close to a championship record in the 100, Alfred is my pick to take home the title, picking up 10 points for the Longhorns.
COMPLETE COVERAGE: Everything you need to know for the DI outdoor track and field championships
All eyes will be on the women's 200 meters as the field consists of some of the country's biggest names in track and field, like Favour Ofili (LSU), Abby Steiner (Kentucky) and Anavia Battle (Ohio State), who will finally all be on the same track. You can flip a coin to pick who will win this race; that's how close the finish might be. I'll give the slight edge to Favour Ofili as the 200-meter champion since she owns the 200-meter collegiate record and beat Steiner head-to-head in the SEC championships.
The 400 meters will go to Texas A&M's Charokee Young. Young is the only woman in the country to run sub-50 seconds in the event this season. She'll stand atop the podium after one lap around the track.
Florida's Imogen Barrett will win the 800 meters, picking up key points as the Gators try to complete the rare indoor-outdoor team title sweep. Barrett will try to beat the nation's co-leaders in the 800 — Katy-Ann McDonald (LSU) and Sarah Hendrick (Kennesaw State). She most recently took down McDonald at the SEC championships for the title.
My pick in the 1500 meters is Ole Miss' Sintayehu Vissa. Vissa owns the second-fastest time in the 1500 meters this season and the owner of top time this year won't be participating. Vissa has been one of the best mid-distance runners this season and she will have plenty of energy to run a winning race thanks to her scratch in the 800 meters.
Before the preliminary meets, BYU's Courtney Wayment ran the steeplechase just one time this season. She ran the nation's fastest time. Wayment then qualified for the championships her second time running the event at the West prelims. Now, she'll continue her string of impressive outings in the steeplechase with an individual title.
NC State's Katelyn Tuohy will take home the trophy in the 5000 meters. Tuohy opted against going for a distance double as the nation's leader in the 1500 and 5000 meters, instead putting all of her energy into the latter. I think that decision will pay off for Tuohy. An individual championship will be the latest notch on Tuohy's belt after she landed on the latest Bowerman watch list.
Alabama's Mercy Chelangat is my pick in the 10000 meters. Chelangat will be going for the distance double in Eugene in the 5000 and 10000 meters. While I don't have Chelangat pulling off the feat, I project the 10000-meter SEC champion and the fastest preliminary qualifier to walk away with at least one title — in the longest distance event of the meet.
LSU's Alia Armstrong will win the 100 meter hurdles at the 2022 championships. Don't let her fastest wind-legal time of 12.61 seconds fool you, Armstrong has also ran faster than 12.5 seconds on three different occasions. She's not in control of the wind after all. If the wind cooperates, Armstrong should drop that wind-legal time down en route to a championship.
When athletes scratch from multiple championship events, it's often so they can devote all of their focus to one event. That's what Arkansas' Britton Wilson is doing in the 400-meter hurdles. It's also why she's the pick to win the event in Eugene. Wilson won the SEC title in the event by more than a second, putting her on a different level than most of the field.
The 4x100-meter relay kicks off Saturday's action on the track and it shouldn't disappoint. Four schools in the field ran sub-43 seconds in the prelims. Yet, it's Texas, the school that ran 43-flat at the prelims, that I think will take the title. The Longhorns have the three fastest 4x1 performances in the nation this season, standing as the only team to run sub-42.40 twice.
The top three collegiate women's 4x400-meter relay teams EVER will be racing at the 2022 championships. When Kentucky, Texas A&M and Arkansas last raced at the SEC championships, the 4x4 record was shattered. That, of course, was without a fourth sub-3:23 relay team, the Texas Longhorns, in the race. Now, all four schools will compete for the win in the 2022 championships.
Who takes the victory? I have to give it to Texas A&M. While Kentucky does hold the collegiate record and Arkansas won the indoor title, the Aggies did win the last two 4x400-meter titles. Make it a three-peat.
To win the 2022 pole vault title, competitors will likely have to break the 4.50-meter threshold. Only five women have done so this season, led by LSU's Lisa Gunnarsson's 4.65-meter mark to start the season. However, Gunnarsson has failed to surpass 4.50 meters since, falling short on three attempts at the SEC championships. As a result, my pick to win is Virginia Tech's Rachel Baxter. Baxter won the indoor title and hit the 4.5-meter threshold twice during the regular season. That consistency makes her my pick.
Texas A&M's Lamara Distin secures the 2022 high jump title and maybe a spot on the Bowerman watch list. Distin has been the most impressive high jumper throughout the season, setting records with her nation-leading 1.97-meter jump.
Forecasting a winner for the long jump is one of the hardest predictions this year. There are at least eight athletes that could take home the title with Florida, Texas and Texas Tech leading the pack with multiple entrants. There are intriguing storylines throughout, including Gator Jasmine Moore's pursuit of a long jump and triple jump indoor-outdoor sweep.
However, I don't think the long jump title will go to any athlete from the schools mentioned above.
The 2022 women's long jump champion will be Texas A&M's Deborah Acquah. Acquah landed the furthest jump at the preliminary meets.
Many of the athletes competing in the long jump will compete in the triple jump at this year's championships. In another competitive field, Florida's Jasmine Moore will emerge victorious. She leads the nation in the triple jump this season with an impressive 14.46-meter leap at the SEC Championships.
California's Camryn Rogers will win the hammer title for the second consecutive season. She's the overwhelming favorite, with her name in the record book multiple times in the event.
The javelin title has multiple elite competitors, highlighted by the only two collegiate women to surpass 60 meters this season in BYU's Ashton Riner and North Carolina's Madison Wiltrout. Between the two, I think Riner takes home the 2022 trophy. She has thrown over 57 meters in each of her last three meets.
The defending shot put champion, Ohio State's Adelaide Aquilla, will repeat as champion in 2022. Aquila enters the meet with the furthest shot put mark during the regular season and at the prelims. An outdoor championship win will give Aquilla three of the last four DI shot put titles.
Arizona State's Jorinde Van Klinken goes back-to-back in the discus, winning the 2022 title. Van Klinken has the nation's furthest throw this season by over three meters. At the prelims, she threw 63.55 meters to qualify. The next-closest qualifier's distance was almost five meters away.
Florida's Anna Hall started the season in the heptathlon with a record-setting performance at the Texas Relays. Then she scored the most points in the world this season at the USA Track and Field Championships. Now, she'll end the season at the championships with a Division I title, capping off an impressive season.