DES MOINES, Iowa — The Oregon women’s and Florida men’s track and field team have both won three straight NCAA indoor team titles.
But neither the Ducks or Gators have won the coveted outdoor title lately as both enter this year’s meet at Drake Stadium as team favorites once again.
The meet begins today and concludes Saturday.
Texas A&M’s men and women have won the past three national outdoor titles, but most expect that streak of pulling off double titles to end in 2012. The Aggie men appear to stack up equally with Florida State and Florida, which can’t afford to focus on their past inability to break through at the outdoor meet like they have indoors.
The Oregon women, led by Mission Prep graduate Jordan Hasay, are loaded and a strong favorite to win the women’s team title over the LSU, Texas A&M and Kansas.
While the Ducks have won three straight national indoors titles, they haven’t taken the outdoor trophy back to Eugene since 1985. Oregon faltered last year in Des Moines as a favorite, but the Ducks are stacked in 2012.
They’re led by distance star Hasay, sophomore sprinter English Gardner, defending 800 champion Anne Kesselring and heptathlon star Brianne Theisen, a three-time indoor champion in the pentathlon.
In many ways, Hasay’s outdoor frustrations have mirrored those of her team.
As a a freshman in 2010, Hasay led on the final lap of the 1,500 final only to finish third. Oregon finished second in the team race.
Last year, Hasay attempted a tough 1,500-5,000 double, hoping she could win both and give the Ducks more team points.
Instead, Villanova’s Sheila Reid, who beat Hasay for the individual NCAA cross country title in November, swept both distance races. Hasay faltered late in both races, finishing fourth in the 5,000 and seventh in the 1,500.
Hasay struggled early in 2012, failing to repeat as the indoor champ in the mile and the 3,000. But she seems to be be rounding into form over the past month, just missing the meet record in successfully defending her Pac-12 1,500 title and then easily winning the event at the NCAA West Regional meet.
The Ducks will likely be pushed mainly by 14-time national champions LSU and their star sprinter, Kimberlyn Duncan.
Duncan is the current collegiate leader in the 100 and the 200 and will highlight the Tigers relay teams as well. Oregon’s Gardner figures to be Duncan’s top challenger in the 100, and the Ducks also have two strong relays.
The Kansas women’s team is also expected to contend for the team title, which would be the first in school history. The resurgent Jayhawks have 11 athletes competing in 13 events under coach Stanley Redwine.
“It’s just been a long process. The athletes have worked really, really hard,” Redwine said. “We definitely don’t like losing.”
Neither do the Aggies.
But this might finally be the year Texas A&M’s streak of six consecutive titles, three for the men, three for the women, comes to an end.
On the men’s side, Florida has seemingly accomplished everything except for a national outdoor title.
The star-crossed Gators have finished in second place four times since 2004, and last season they wound up third after losing in the final race of the meet.
“It’s not something that we talk about a lot, to be honest with you,” Florida coach Mike Holloway said. “Am I losing sleep over it at night? No.”Holloway would be sleeping a bit easier if star sprinter Jeff Demps was making the trip to Des Moines with him.
Demps ran for nearly 2,500 yards as a running back for the Gators, but he decided to focus on track rather than football in hopes of making the U.S. Team headed to the London Games. But Demps, who won three straight national indoor titles at 60 meters and was the national outdoor champion at 100 meters in 2010, injured his hamstring during the SEC meet last month and won’t run this week.
Demps’ absence could leave the door open for Florida State, which won national title in 2006 and 2008 and was second to the Aggies a year ago. The Seminoles are led by Maurice Mitchell, who won the 200 last year and headlines an impressive group of sprinters on the 400 relay squad.
LOCAL NCAA COMPETITORS
Jordan Hasay, Oregon, 1,500 (Mission Prep graduate)
Whitney Sisler, Cal Poly, high jump
Kayleigh Tyerman, Florida State, 5,000 (former Cal Poly runner)
John Prader, Cal Poly, pole vault
Derick Hinch, Arizona State, pole vault (former Cuesta College athlete)