The second half of the men's and women's outdoor track and field season is underway, with the championships rapidly approaching. Here are some predictions for the rest of the season.
1. A record-breaking year will continue at the championships
This prediction might seem bold at first, but given the way the year has gone, it really isn't. There were five outdoor records set by mid-April and over 25 records set during the indoor season. There will be higher stakes, better talent and potentially nicer weather (fingers crossed) at the DI outdoor championships. That should make a perfect formula for more records to fall.
2. At least one of the SEC team champions will win the DI title
Week 4's USTFCCCA ratings have six men's teams and seven women's teams inside the top 10 hailing from the SEC. The conference where "It just means more" is the best conference for track and field. That said, at least one of the SEC conference team champions, men's or women's, will win the DI team title.
Every year since 2016, an SEC team has won at least one of the DI team titles. This year, after making it through the gauntlet that is SEC championships, another team will prevail.
SUPERLATIVES: Midseason superlatives, sleeper teams in men's and women's track and field
3. The women's 4x400 meter relay will decide the championship
Last year, Florida had the 2022 women's title clinched before the 4x400 meter relay, taking away some of the event's luster. Nonetheless, Kentucky, led by Bowerman winner Abby Steiner, set a collegiate record in the race. It was yet another feather in the 4x4's championship hat.
In 2021, Texas A&M set a new collegiate record in 3:22.34, with anchor Athing Mu running the fastest split in meet history. In 2019, Arkansas and Southern California tied for the lead at 57 points entering the 4x4. The Trojans dropped the baton while the Razorbacks finished second, giving Arkansas the national title. In 2018, Southern California won the title, thanks to its comeback to end all comebacks.
Fast forward to 2023, and I think the 4x4 will once again have championship implications as the last event of the meet. Texas has already run at a near-collegiate record pace in the event and will be racing on its home track. Meanwhile, other title contenders will likely be in the final race, where final point scoring may come down to the places in the 4x4.
Everyone should be on the edge of their seats until the very finish.
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4. The 10K will be the men's race of the year
The 10,000 meters, not a sprint event, will be the best men's race at the DI championship meet. Why? Because the talent at the top makes this race wide open and the battling for positioning across nearly 30 minutes will be exciting.
You read that right. Thirty minutes. That's 30 minutes of racing. While some may use this time as a break before the 4x4, you may leave your seat or screen on one lap and a different athlete is in front by the time you return.
Dylan Jacobs is the defending champion in the event and is donning new threads at Tennessee. However, Stanford and BYU are likely to have multiple athletes capable of winning in the race that could run strategically to the finish line. Bob Liking (Wisconsin), Victor Kiprop (Alabama) and Patrick Kiprop (Arkansas) are also top contenders. The race is wide open and will be must-watch.
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5. These will be the three closest women's races
The women's 400 meters, 800 meters and 100 meter hurdles will be the most exciting races at the outdoor championships, and they will come down to the wire in every finish. The top-end talent is special in each event, with current Bowerman candidates Rhasidat Adeleke, Talitha Diggs, Britton Wilson (if she picks the 400 flat), Michaela Rose, Juliette Whittaker, Masai Russell and Ackera Nugent.
With such talent, it may take a collegiate record to win each race. You don't want to miss any of these three races come June.
MORE: Elite outdoor track and field performances tease an April primed for more broken records
6. There will be at least 12 repeat champions
There were nine returning men's and 10 returning women's outdoor track and field individual event champions to start the year; all have been successful so far this season. Here are the returning champions and their events:
- 400H - Sean Burrell | LSU
- 1500M - Joe Waskom | Washington
- 3000M Steeplechase - Ahmed Jaziri | Eastern Kentucky
- 10000M - Dylan Jacobs | Tennessee (won title at Notre Dame)
- Long jump - Wayne Pinnock | Arkansas (won title at Tennessee)
- Pole Vault - Sondre Guttormsen | Princeton
- Discus - Claudio Romero | Virginia
- Javelin - Marc Minichello | Georgia (won title at Penn)
- Combined events - Ayden Owens-Delerme | Arkansas
- 100M - Julien Alfred | Texas
- 100H - Alia Armstrong | LSU
- 400M - Talitha Diggs | Florida
- 5000M - Katelyn Tuohy | NC State
- 10000M - Mercy Chelangat | Alabama
- 400H - Britton Wilson | Arkansas
- Long jump - Jasmine Moore | Florida
- Triple Jump - Jasmine Moore | Florida
- High jump - Lamara Distin | Texas A&M
- Discus - Jorinde Van Klinken | Oregon (won title at Arizona State)
- Javelin - Ashton Riner-Lunt | BYU
I predict at least five men and nine women will repeat as champions. Waskom, Jacobs, Guttormsen and Minichello all have top-10 marks among the men. Every woman except Riner is within the top-3 nationally in their events, with five nation-leading marks. Diggs and Tuohy have yet to run their championship-winning events this season. We should see plenty of repeats.
CHAMPIONSHIP INFO: Everything you need to know for the 2023 outdoor DI track and field championships
7. Fewer than 50 percent of the indoor champions will complete the season sweep
Not counting relays, there are 10 individual events where athletes from the indoor season will have a chance at a season sweep in the outdoor season. I only see three of 10 men and five of nine women completing the season sweep. Take a look at all of the champions below:
- 200 meters | Matthew Boling | Georgia
- 400 meters | Elija Godwin | Georgia
- 800 meters | Yusuf Bizimana | Texas
- 5000 meters | Dylan Jacobs | Tennessee
- Long jump | Carey McLeod |Arkansas
- High Jump | Romaine Beckford | South Florida
- Triple Jump | Jaydon Hibbert | Arkansas
- Shot Put | Jordan Geist | Arizona
- Pole Vault | Sondre Guttormsen |Princeton
- Combined Events | Kyle Garland | Georgia
WATCH LIST: The 2023 Bowerman watch list for men's and women's NCAA track and field
- 200 meters | Julien Alfred | Texas
- 400 meters | Britton Wilson | Arkansas
- 800 meters | Roisin Willis | Stanford
- 5000 meters | Katelyn Tuohy | NC State
- Long jump | Jasmine Moore | Florida
- High Jump | Lamara Distin | Texas A&M
- Triple Jump | Jasmine Moore | Florida
- Pole Vault | Amanda Fassold | Arkansas
- Combined events | Jadin O'Brien | Notre Dame
I see just 42 percent of returning champions across genders lifting the trophy during both the indoor and outdoor seasons. As of April 20, only two men and four women that won indoor titles currently lead the nation in the same events. I don't see the majority of the indoor champions sweeping events come June.