The CHill Zone of T&F: Conway's View From the Finish Line

Pre Championships Update

May 10th, 2022
11:04 am PDT

After watching several early season meets including Texas, Tom Jones, and MtSAC among others. As we approach the qualifying events that lead to the NCAA Championships what has become evident, is that the collegiate champs are going to be HOT! As in extremely exciting and blazing fast. Faster than last year as a matter of fact. But then, 2022 is shaping up to be the fastest year ever. It’s just going to start with the NCAA Championships.

Luckily for fans of the sport, the path to the NCAA champs includes Conference (this weekend)and Regional meets. So we will be treated to a month’s worth of high quality competitions and non stop entertainment! Meaning that as hot as things have been, additional fuel is about to be thrown on the fire. I’m going to look at about a half dozen athletes that I expect to lead the results and conversations heading into the finals in Oregon. Well, a bit more than half dozen. I just couldn’t decide who NOT to mention. So, let me take a minute to tell you who I plan to watch closely as the collegians make their way to Eugene.

Abby Steiner – Abby Steiner has gone from indoor record holder with outdoor potential. To one of the most exciting sprinters in college today. After running an indoor collegiate record of 22.09 in the deuce. She’s come outside and blitzed 10.92 & 22.05. The 200 was expected. She’s run many fast 200’s already in her career. The 100 was a big surprise however. Especially given her slower than average start. Yet, in spite of starting a good meter down at the 30 in her PR race. She ran by the field like they were standing still – including World indoor 60 champion Miciah Brisco. So now, as we head into the “post season” she’s a strong favorite in both the 100 and 200. Well, I’ll say co-favorite. Keep your eyes on this young lady.

Favor Ofili – Ms Steiner has gotten the headlines, but Ms Ofili has snagged the 200 collegiate record – 21.96! Add a 10.93 short dash and she’s got to be considered Co favorite in both sprints with Abby. Yet she gets little press and many non track geeks know little about her. So, in spite of being the CR record holder, Favor will be the underdog to many – which could be in Favors’ favor with the pressure off of her. The impending matchups with Steiner & Ofili should be instant classics. Played right, this could be one of the most exciting matchups of the meet. Stay tuned.

Matt Boling – Boling has finally done what many have been expecting since he was a senior in high school – run sub10 and sub20! He went 9.98 at Tom Jones then 19.92 at Clemson. For many fans, that makes him a threat at both distances in Eugene. Of course he competes in the same conference as defending NCAA 200 champion Joseph Faunbulleh (FL). So he’s not a lock to win conference gold, let alone become NCAA winner. Similarly the path to 100 gold has Micah Williams (OR), Favour Ashe (TN) and Devonte Burnett (USC) standing in his way. One of the deepest sprint fields in recent NCAA history. So Mr Boling will have his work cut out for him. However, he has proven to be a very strong competitor and a media darling. So we’ll get lots of stories and air time as he attempts to navigate his way thru both the SEC and Eastern Regionals on his way to Oregon.

Micah Williams – Micah is the most explosive sprinter in college today. Just go to YouTube and check out his victory at MtSAC, then tell me different. He enters this journey as the man to beat in this event. Of course, he failed to medal indoors as he false started out of the 60. So anything can happen on any given day. That’s part of the excitement of the sprints. He’ll face the likes of media darling Boling. And eventual indoor champion Burnett. Not to mention the pressure of being at home among a rabid Eugene crowd, as Williams will certainly be the biggest favorite in the stadium. Should he win, expect the locals to go crazy.

Florida’s Relay Squads – When it comes to relays, Florida is as good as it gets. They hold the collegiate records in both the men’s 4×1 and 4×4. Having just set the long relay record earlier this season. They’ve got two of the best anchors out there in Joseph Faunbulleh (4×1) and Champion Allison (4×4). And of course enter the post season leading both events on the clock. Did I mention that in addition to Allison, Florida had three finalists in the indoor 400 (Ryan Willie & Jacory Patterson). Or that Patterson is the CR holder indoors in the 300. Oh, I almost forgot. Faunbulleh is the defending collegiate champion in the 200. So, when the relays line up, look for the blue and orange of Florida.

Men’s Relays – I know that I already talked about Florida. However. I have to say that as good as Florida is, the relays are EXTREMELY DEEP. And the rules of competition say, “on any given day”. After all, that’s why they run the races. That said, there are 13 squads that have run 38.xx. That’s amazing depth. That includes squads from Florida, TCU, LSU and USC. All programs with a strong history in relays. The 4×4 is equally deep. With 15 squads running under 3:03 this year! Among them Florida, Texas A&M, Baylor, Iowa and Georgia. Getting to the finals in these events will be a task. Watching the attempt, a treat. So get your popcorn ready!

Alia Armstrong vs Grace Stark – The women’s hurdles have been deep and fast this year. And two of the biggest protagonists have ten Armstrong and Stark. Indoors Stark emerged victorious, but had to set a collegiate record to do so. Outdoors they’re back at it. Armstrong blazing a windy 12.33. While Stark is leading with a legal 12.58. In a meet that will have a lot of matchups, this will undoubtedly be one of the hottest. Because these two ladies are must see TV.

Tre Cunningham – Last year Cunningham was a good hurdler. This year he’s become one of America’s best as evidenced by his 13.10 world leader. Making him #4 collegian all time! Ahead of him? Grant Holloway, Renaldo Nehemiah and Daniel Roberts. That’s pretty good company. He’ll get a chance to test himself against Holloway soon enough. Before that happens however, he can hone his craft against a fairly deep group of college hurdlers – 15 under 13.60. This should be another enjoyable event to watch.

As I said, this is going to be a very fast year. The collegians are going to get this started with a bang!

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