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Stan Becton | | June 5, 2023

7 must-watch semifinal races at track and field championships

Previewing the 2023 DI outdoor track and field championships

It's almost time for the first starter's pistol to fire to kick off the 2023 DI outdoor track and field championships. When action begins on Wednesday for the men and Thursday for the women, most of the events on the track will be in the semifinals. Even though a championship won't be on the line, the semifinal races still feature intriguing storylines. Here are seven races that you don't want to miss.

LIVE UPDATES: Follow along for live updates of DI outdoor T&F championships in Austin, Texas

Men's 100 meters Heat 3

Three of the fastest sprinters in the country this year are all in Heat 3 of the 100 meters. Stanford's Udodi Onwuzurike ran the fastest wind-legal time in prelims at 9.92 seconds. LSU's Godson Oghenebrume ran a 9.94 (+2.4) at prelims and the SEC Champion hasn't run slower than 10.18 this year. Then there's Houston's Shaun Maswanganyi who's broken the sub-10 mark too.

If that wasn't enough speed, Oregon's Micah Williams is also in the heat as he continues his journey back to his peak form that is a 9.86 wind-legal personal best. This heat is loaded and the battle for the two automatic qualifiers to the final (Big Qs) will be intense.


Men's 400 meter hurdles Heat 2

The two best 400 meter hurdles all season have been Arkansas' Ayden Owens-Delerme and Texas Tech's Caleb Dean. We'll get to see the two go head-to-head for the second straight race in Heat 2 of the semifinals after they battled in the west quarterfinals (video below). It's rare that we get to see athletes of this caliber race prior to the championship final, but we're getting to see it twice in as many races.

Dean will be in lane five while Owens-Delerme will be in lane six, reversing the rabbit look of the prelims. Throw in Georgia's Caleb Cavanaugh running out of lane nine and we could be seeing the three 400 hurdles podium finishers all race a round early.

Men's 800 meters Heat 2

The last time we saw Texas' Yusuf Bizimana race Mississippi State's Navasky Anderson in the 800 meters it was in the 2023 indoor championship final. If you don't remember what happened in the race, let me remind you (you can also watch it below).

Anderson looked like he was going to win the race and originally did win the indoor 800 meters. However, upon further review it was determined that Anderson impeded Bizimana during the final stretch of the race, resulting in a disqualification for the Mississippi State Bulldog and a title win for the Texas Longhorn. 

The two haven't met on the track since.

That memory will surely be somewhere in the minds of both when they meet again on the track, and it could lead to another down to the wire race.

Men's 1500 meters Heat 2

Oklahoma State's Fouad Messaoudi, South Carolina's Anass Essayi and Washington's Nathan Green will all meet in Heat 2 of the men's 1500 meters. After the seasons all three mid-distance runners have had, any could win this heat and even the championship final. The top five from this heat will advance to the final so all three could earn Big Qs. Yet, this race could be an early preview of the 1500 meter's best when it's all said and done.

🔮: Predicting every men's individual event winner at DI outdoor track and field championships

Women's 100 Hurdles Heat 2

In Heat 2 of the 100 hurdles the favorite for one of the Big Qs has to be Kentucky's Masai Russell, the collegiate record holder. The question remains who will take the second auto-qualifying berth in a stacked heat with only two available.

In lane two there's UCF's Rayniah Jones, the AAC champion. In lane three there's Tennessee's Charisma Taylor running in one of her four events of the weekend. In lane four there's North Carolina A&T's Paula Salmon, the CAA champion and last year's fourth-place finisher at nationals. In lane six there's Texas Tech's Demisha Roswell, the Big 12 champion.

Picking who takes the Big Q is anyone's guess, but it will be an exciting race for sure.

🔮: Predicting every women's individual event winner at DI outdoor track and field championships

Women's 200 meters Heat 2

This year Texas' Julien Alfred ran the second-fastest 200 meters in collegiate history at 21.91 seconds. She bumped down LSU's Favour Ofili on the all-time list who ran her sub-22 second time last year. Both are in Heat 2 of the 200 meters. While Ofili hasn't hit her peaks of last year yet, (the keyword there is yet) anything could happen now that a championship is on the line. 

However, Ofili isn't even Alfred's biggest threat in this race based on this season's results. That would be Ole Miss' McKenzie Long and her 22.13-second all-conditions personal best ran in the prelims. At least one of the three of Long, Alfred and Ofili will miss out on a Big Q and potentially be at risk of missing the championship final. That means we should see some fast times here.

RECORDS: Watch every collegiate record set in 2023

Women's 400 meters Heat 3

In Heat 3 of the women's 400 meters you'll find Florida's Talitha Diggs, the defending 400 meter champion in the NCAA and America. However, Texas A&M's Tierra Robinson-Jones and Jermaisha Arnold have run faster than the reigning champion this year and are in this heat. Also in the heat is Texas' Kennedy Simon, a sprinter capable of winning it all as much as anyone.

Will all four be able to qualify? There are only three at-large berths to the championship final and two other heats will be in contention for those spots. Luckily for these women, they are in the last heat so they'll know what time they'll need to beat. This race will be exciting because these women will be racing each other, and the clock.

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