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

Regional Forecast – HOT

May 22nd, 2022
8:12 pm PDT

This has been a very interesting weekend of track and field. Here in the State of California, the various high school “sectional” Championships were held. The qualifiers for next week’s State Championship meet. So there was excitement up and down the state, as those cut throat meets whittled the playing field down to about 27 competitors per event. As a matter of fact, we ended up with a new state record of 10.14 in the 100 – by a junior no less. As we head to Clovis and what will certainly be one firecracker of a competition.

At the elite level, the two primary meets were in Birmingham England and Jacksonville Florida. England being it’s traditionally cold self. Jacksonville being unseasonably stormy. Giving us perhaps our first really quiet set of results so far this year. Though Jacksonville served as the debut is Sha’Carri Richardson, who ran a modest 11.27 in rainy conditions.

The collegians were resting, because their journey to the NCAA Championships begins in earnest this week, as the Western and Eastern Regionals take place. So, consider this weekend a deep breath as more fireworks will begin on Wednesday! Because all roads to Eugene must go through the Regional meets. As they basically serve as the first two rounds of the NCAA Championships. As a matter of fact, the NCAA calls them, Preliminary meets. Here’s how this works.

The Regionals have two rounds of competition. Each round is considered a round of the championship meet itself. So the events in Bloomington (west) and Fayetteville (east) are the equivalent of the opening and quarterfinal rounds of the NCAA Championships. The 12 athletes (and relay teams) that emerge from these events, will go to Eugene and compete in two more rounds – the semi finals and finals of their events. Making for another very exciting week of track and field. As with the prelims of any meet, the focus will be on individuals and how they progress. The hope being that everyone that matters makes it to the final. Following are a dozen individuals and relays that I’ll be watching as they attempt to advance to Eugene.

Favour Ashe – There are a lot of fast guys in college today. What I like about this young man, is how smooth he is. The sprints are a contradiction. Explosive and violent. Yet they require relaxation to perform at ones best. Mr Ashe does that well. I’m curious to see if he can parlay that into a national title.

Britton Wilson – This young lady had one of the most remarkable conference meets that anyone has ever had. Winning both the 400 (50.02) and 400H (53.75) and contributing a 48.5 split on Arkansas’ 4×4. She’s dropped the open four to focus on the hurdles and relay for Nationals. And to be honest, I’m just waiting to see what she has in store for an encore!

Joseph Faunbulleh – Faunbulleh is the defending national champion in the 200 meters – one of my favorite events. He’s known for two things. A very poor start, and extreme top end speed! Frankly, his start technique is not that bad. He just doesn’t react as quickly as most. His top end is vicious though. And watching him come back to ┬áthe field once he exits the turn, is one of the most exciting sights in the sport! This is going to be fun.

Favor Ofili – There must be something about the name FAVOR. Because, like the male sprinter of the same name, Ms Ofili has developed a rather relaxed running style. Good enough to set a CR in the 200 (21.96) and to win both sprints in the SEC. Both tremendous feats. She will be attempting to win both in Eugene. And the path only gets more difficult along the way. It will be interesting to see how she performs over the next couple of weeks.

Micah Williams – This young man is the poster child for rapid action, as he is easily the most explosive sprinter in the NCAA. Favored to win the 60 indoors, he false started and was eliminated. Once again he is among the favorites for the 100 title. He will have to shake off his indoor faux paux, and focus on the task at hand in order to do so. He looked exceptional at the Pac12 meet where he won BOTH sprints. He’ll be the one the others have to run down, should he get to his home track in Eugene.

Julien Alfred – The Big12 Championships were held in Lubbock, Texas – 3200 feet above sea level. Enough altitude to affect the sprints, and turn the Big12 meet into a ┬áspeed festival! Leading the charge was Ms Alfred, who registered times of 10.81 in the heats and 10.80 in the final! Putting her at the top of the list, and in the sights of the other sprinters! The question, was it Lubbock or is she ready? We’re about to find out.

Florida Men’s 4×1 – Florida has been leading this event all season. Their 38.47 is the leading time in the country. They pass well and make few mistakes. Which is why they just defeated LSU, another relay power, for the SEC title. It’s real simple. I want to watch their path to potentially another title – they’ve won several.

Texas A&M Women’s 4×4 – Ok. A&M and Kentucky are both in the SEC. And they went 1-2 in the fastest 4×4 in collegiate history with A&M coming second in 2:22.01. A&M is in the West Region. Kentucky is in the East Region. Gonna watch A&M make their way towards the rematch. With one thing on their mind – defeat of Kentucky.

Champion Alison – With a name like his, you’ve got to be good – and he has been. Good like a 43.6 anchor on the 4×4. Good like an SEC title in the 400 at 44.74. He’s a tough competitor, who just seems to do well under pressure. His anchor at the Texas relays against Grant Holloway was just heart. His stretch run at the SEC meet in the 400, the same. It’s hard to say that any athlete deserves a title more than any other. Let’s just say I’d like to see this young man win.

Abby Steiner – Abby has become one of my favorite collegiate sprinters. Her start needs work. Her arms are terrible. But she runs SO hard. She’s just a tough competitor that gives everything she has when she steps on the track. Her SEC battles with Favor Ofili were epic, though she narrowly lost both. Somehow I can’t see her losing twice more. And her 48.8 third leg on the Kentucky CR setting 4×4 showed just what type of athlete/competitor she is. Dying to see her get to Eugene, line up with the best, and see what transpires! Should be Epic Part Two.

Florida Men’s 4×4 – 2:58.53! Marinate on that for a minute. Only nine countries have ever run faster. NINE. In history. No fluke, because they ran 2:59.44 to win the SEC title. Regionals shouldn’t be difficult. But it will be fun watching them get to Eugene and race for a national title.

Kentucky Women’s 4×4 – It took 3:21.93 to turn back Texas A&M. Now both are in separate Regionals. Like two trains starting on two ends of the country headed for the same destination. Frankly, I just want to see again! It’s what this sport is about. The best going at it. That’s real excitement.

Ok, I lied. I said a dozen athletes and relays. But as I started writing, I had to mention four more.

Melissa Jefferson – Coastal Carolina. It’s not the Pac12, Big12, Big10 or SEC. It’s in the Sun Belt Conference. It’s where Ms Jefferson goes to school, and where she ran 10.88 in her conference final. And that was NOT at altitude. So, while she doesn’t have the fastest time entering Regionals, she’s certainly become a threat. And with a 22.46 in the 200 as well. She’s definitely a legitimate sprinter. Can you say, underdog? Because I think she is just that this year.

Jonathan Jones – This young man is that rare individual that runs well in both the 400 and 800! Entering the Big12 meet he chose the 400. A pretty good decision, given he blitzed a 44.43 and put himself smack dab in the middle of the 400 conversation. We’ll see how much Lubbock helped, but his race was solid and smooth. This is going to be a very tough event in Eugene. I think his 800 background is going to prove advantageous.

Kemba Nelson – I’m mentioning Kemba for two reasons. She, like Micah Williams, goes to Oregon. And it’s rare to have a guy and a girl from the same host school be co-favorites in the same event. Although, I’m not sure I’d consider her a co-favorite, given the depth in the women’s 100. That brings up the second reason I’m mentioning her however. Because she has this knack for running well in big meets. So if nothing else, I think she has a shot to make the final. After that, who knows.

Randolph Ross – Ross is the defending 400 champion. A title he won last year with a fast 43.85. He made the Olympic team after that, and many expected him to go Pro. Instead, he went back to NC A&T to give it one more to round. So, the question is. Will returning pay off? We’ll see in about two week’s time.

The NCAA is loaded this year. Regionals will be fun to watch, as these are just a few of the quality athletes that will be competing. Must see TV!

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