The outdoor track & field championships are off to the races
The GIST: Lace up your shoes (eh oh, eh oh) — it’s time for yet another natty. The preliminary round of the outdoor title chase, aka prelims, runs from today through Saturday, and we have everything you need to know before the athletes take off. Don’t blink.
How it works: The top 48 women and men in 19 individual events qualify for the two regional prelims: the East and the West. By Saturday, those fields narrow to 12 athletes for a total of 24 national contenders in each event. In other words, only a quarter of the qualifiers will survive the weekend. Cutthroat.
- The process for the relay teams is slightly less dramatic: 24 squads compete at each prelim, and the top half advances to nationals. It’s even less tense for heptathlon and decathlon racers, whose Top 24 head straight to the natty, no prelims required.
- Team scoring won’t come into play until nationals begin on June 7th, but the more athletes a school qualifies, the better their chance at the team trophy — more athletes mean more scoring opportunities.
Who to watch: Leading the women’s Bowerman Award watch list (track’s Heisman-level honor) is electric sprinter and hurdler Britton Wilson of No. 5 Arkansas, who broke multiple records at the SEC championships two weeks ago. Also in the hunt are No. 1 Texas’ sprinting phenom Julien Alfred and No. 2 Florida’s dominant long and triple jumper Jasmine Moore.
- On the men’s list, No. 8 Tennessee distance runner Dylan Jacobs has put Rocky Top on the map, while No. 1 Arkansas’ triple jumping freshman Jaydon Hibbert broke the NCAA record by more than a foot at the SEC meet. Holy hell.
Not-to-miss events: If sprints are your speed, peep Julien Alfred in the women’s 100m or Britton Wilson in the 400m hurdles. For some high-flying drama, don’t miss Princeton's Sondre Guttormsen, who’s knocking on the door of the pole vault record. And with several men’s 4x400m teams capable of creating history, it’s the relay to watch.