Track & Field's 'Battle on the Bayou' Preview: Teams
BATON ROUGE – The LSU Track & Field teams will continue the 2014 outdoor season this weekend as they play host to the fourth-annual “Battle on the Bayou” meet on Saturday afternoon while welcoming four schools to Baton Rouge for an exciting scored competition being held at LSU’s Bernie Moore Track Stadium.
The event features a quartet of nationally-ranked programs as Kansas, Mississippi State, Ohio State and UCLA comprise one of the nation’s strongest scored meets of the 2014 outdoor season.
The Tigers and Lady Tigers are both the No. 8-ranked team nationally in the men’s and women’s preseason Top 25 power rankings released on March 25 by the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association ahead of the 2014 outdoor season. The Lady Tigers are also ranked No. 3 nationally and the Tigers are ranked No. 18 nationally in the first Track & Field News Collegiate Dual Meet Top 25 Rankings of the outdoor season that was announced Tuesday morning.
Saturday’s action heats up at 1:45 p.m. CT following a brief opening ceremony, while the morning session is set to begin at 10 a.m. with the first field events of the meet. Below is a breakdown of the programs slated to join the Tigers and Lady Tigers during the competition. Teams are listed in alphabetical order.
The 2013 outdoor season was certainly one for the record books in the history of the Kansas program as the Jayhawk women won the school’s first national championship in track and field with their stunning victory at the 2013 NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships held at Oregon’s Hayward Field on Eugene, Ore.
And they did so in dominating fashion by piling up 60 points during the meet to finish 16 points clear of their nearest competitor. The Kansas women won the 2013 NCAA Outdoor crown over a host of collegiate powers that includes Texas A&M in second place with 44 points, Oregon in third place with 43 points and LSU in fourth place with 40 points in the final women’s team standings.
The Jayhawk women will open defense of their national championship as the No. 10-ranked team in the country in the USTFCCCA Top 25 preseason power rankings released last week.
Lindsay Vollmer returns for her junior season as the reigning NCAA Outdoor champion in the women’s heptathlon event as she has proven herself as one of the nation’s premier all-around athletes in the wake of such an outstanding sophomore season in 2013. She scored 6,086 points to win the NCAA Outdoor heptathlon crown last year, and is already the No. 1-ranked heptathlete in the collegiate ranks again in 2014 with a season-opening 5,640 points scored over seven events to win the heptathlon at the Texas Relays last weekend.
Kansas also features former NCAA Indoor 400-meter champion and 12-time All-American as one of the top quartermilers returning to NCAA Division I track and field for the 2014 season. Dixon, who owns a career-best time of 50.88 in the event, is also a two-time Big 12 Indoor champion and three-time Big 12 Outdoor champion in the 400 meters during her collegiate career.
Dixon is still chasing that elusive NCAA Outdoor title in the 400-meter dash after finishing third as both a freshman in 2011 and sophomore in 2012 and 10th place as a junior a year ago at the NCAA Championships.
Russian international Natalia Bartnovskaya returns for her senior season as the NCAA Outdoor silver medalist in the pole vault a season ago when she cleared 14 feet, 5 ¼ inches for a second-place finish nationally with her performance at the NCAA Outdoor Championships. Her PR of 14-7 ¼ also set last year ranks among the top returning performers to the collegiate ranks for the 2014 season.
Sophomore Sydney Conley has also emerged as one of the NCAA’s top jumpers with her performance in 2014 as she is coming off her indoor season in which she earned All-America honors as the fourth-place finisher nationally in the women’s long jump final at the NCAA Indoor Championships held in Albuquerque, N.M. Conley owns a lifetime best of 20-10 in the long jump.
The Jayhawk men were on the cusp of a Top 25 team finish at the NCAA Outdoor Championships a year ago when they tied for 28th place with eight points in the final men’s team standings.
Junior hurdler Michael Stigler returns to lead the squad into the 2014 outdoor season as the two-time Big 12 Conference champion and reigning NCAA Outdoor silver medalist in the men’s 400-meter hurdles. Stigler is a national championship contender again this season as he already tops the NCAA rankings in 2014 with a winning time of 50.08 seconds at the Texas Relays last weekend. He owns a personal best of 49.19 in his career.
The Jayhawks have always been renowned for their performance in the pole vault at the national level over the years, highlighted recently by an NCAA Outdoor title by former Jayhawk Jordan Scott in 2010.
Junior Casey Bowen is one of the NCAA’s rising stars in the event as he has already cleared the 18-foot mark during the 2014 outdoor season with a best of 18-0 ½ at the Texas Relays last weekend. His career best mark is the No. 3-ranked performance by a collegiate pole vaulter during the 2014 outdoor season heading into the weekend.
Mississippi State has again proven itself as one of the nation’s premier combined programs during the 2014 season, which includes a 10th-place finish by the Bulldog women and a 12th-place finish by the Bulldog men for their performance at the 2014 NCAA Division I Indoor Track & Field Championships held just a few weeks ago in Albuquerque, N.M.
The Bulldogs count two NCAA Champions among their ranks as junior mutli-event standout Erica Bougard and sophomore 800-meter runner Brandon McBride lead the way for their respective teams.
Bougard, the 2013 NCAA Indoor pentathlon champion, came up just short in her title defense this season while finishing as the national runner-up in the women’s pentathlon competition ahead of the start of the 2014 outdoor season. Bougard embarks on her outdoor campaign as a national title contender in the seven-event heptathlon after scoring the NCAA Outdoor bronze medal as a sophomore a season ago while scoring her career-best of 5,990 points at the NCAA Outdoor Championships held in Eugene, Ore.
Bougard has even reached All-America status in the long jump for the first time in 2014 in the wake of her fifth-place finish nationally in the event at the NCAA Indoor Championships just a few weeks ago.
Bougard joined senior teammate Rochelle Farquharson in achieving All-America status in the long jump during the 2014 indoor season after Farquharson captured the NCAA Indoor bronze medal with third place during her indoor finale this year. Farquharson is a 21-footer with a lifetime best of 21-3 ¼ that she set when she was crowned the SEC Outdoor champion as a freshman in 2011.
McBride has surged to the forefront of 800-meter running in the collegiate ranks in his brief time at Mississippi State following his national championship victory in the men’s final at the 2014 NCAA Indoor meet with his title-clinching time of 1 minute, 48.17 seconds. A Canadian international, McBride owns the Canadian national junior record of 1:46.07 he set while representing his country at the 2012 IAAF World Junior Championships in Barcelona, Spain, before joining the Bulldogs.
While McBride won the NCAA Indoor crown in the 800 meters, senior Marcus Jackson brought home the bronze medal in the high jump with his performance at the NCAA Indoor Championships this season.
Jackson, who also claimed the NCAA Indoor silver medal as the national runner-up in the high jump a year ago, matched his lifetime best with a clearance of 7-6 in the national final to finish just over one inch shy of the title himself. He is also a former All-American outdoors with a fifth-place finish to his credit at the NCAA Outdoor Championships to highlight his sophomore season in 2012.
Gone is 2013 NCAA Outdoor bronze medalist Mike Hartfield as one of the nation’s top long jumpers during his senior season a year ago, but Bill Stanley returns for his sophomore season to lead the Buckeyes as he is a true NCAA title contender in the men’s javelin following an All-American freshman season in 2013.
The reigning Big 10 Champion in the javelin throw, Stanley capped his rookie season with a fourth-place finish nationally in the event in his NCAA Championships debut in Eugene, Ore., last summer. Stanley, who owns a personal best of 246-10 in the javelin, is the second-highest finisher at the 2013 NCAA Outdoor Championships returning to the collegiate ranks this spring.
Stanley is already off to a fast start in 2014 as he NCAA’s No. 5-ranked javelin thrower with his season-opening mark of 244-0 thrown at Vanderbilt’s Black & Gold Invitational last weekend.
The 2014 indoor season also produced All-American hurdler Donovan Robertson as the Buckeye freshman made a splash himself in his NCAA Championships debut in the 60-meter hurdles. He qualified for the national meet as the No. 4-ranked hurdler in the NCAA Division I ranks for 2014 with his seasonal best of 7.65 set during the regular season.
Robertson clocked back-to-back times of 7.69 in the preliminary and final rounds at the NCAA Championships to earn a seventh-place finish nationally in his debut. He has yet to run the 110 hurdles outdoors in 2014.
Other Buckeyes to crack the Top 10 of the national rankings during the 2014 indoor season include senior hurdler Demoye Bogle and junior sprinter Timothy Faust as Bogle tied Robertson for the No. 4 spot heading into the NCAA Indoor Championships with a seasonal best of 7.65 in the 60 hurdles and Faust posted the NCAA’s No. 10-ranked time of 20.77 in the 200 meters in the regular season.
The Ohio State women are led by a pair of standout 400-meter runners this outdoor season as sophomore Sonikqua Walker and freshman Aaliyah Barnes will line up at the “Battle on the Bayou” ranked among the Top 10 400-meter runners nationally in 2014. Barnes has cracked the nation’s Top 5 at No. 5 with her seasonal-best time of 53.34, while Walker follows closely behind in the No. 6 spot with a top time of 53.40 this year.
The Bruins boast one of the proudest traditions in collegiate track and field with nine national championships to their credit between the men’s and women’s programs. And they return two of the nation’s elite squads again in 2014 as the Bruin men are ranked No. 9 and the Bruin women are ranked No. 13 in the USTFCCCA Top 25 preseason power rankings released last week.
UCLA’s men return all 18 points they scored in tying for 12th place at the 2013 NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships in Eugene, Ore., as the senior trio of discus thrower Julian Wruck, pole vaulter Michael Woepse and decathlete Marcus Nilsson compete with national championship aspirations in their events this season.
There has not been a more dominant performer in NCAA track and field over the last two seasons than Wruck, who was crowned the 2013 NCAA Outdoor champion in the men’s discus throw.
Wruck, also the 2011 NCAA Outdoor discus champion during his sophomore season at Texas Tech, smashed the collegiate record in the men’s discus with a seasonal best of 223-7 during the regular season before a win at the NCAA Outdoor Championships for the second time in his collegiate career. A three-time All-American in the event, Wruck actually posted the top 27 throws by collegians in the discus last season in what is always going to be seen as one of the dominant season by a thrower in the history of collegiate track and field.
Wruck is already off to a fast start in his NCAA championship defense as he is the nation’s No. 1-ranked performer again in 2014 with a season-opening throw of 213-3 at the Texas Relays last weekend.
After capturing the NCAA Outdoor silver medal in the pole vault as the national runner-up during his sophomore season in 2012, Woepse raised the bar with a personal best of 18-4 ½ during the regular season before a second-straight All-America honor last season when he placed seventh nationally at the NCAA Outdoor Championships. Woepse is currently the No. 10-ranked vaulter in 2014 with a seasonal best of 17-6 ½.
Nilsson rounds out a stellar senior trio for the Bruins as a two-time All-American in the men’s decathlon, including a bronze-medal-winning finish at the NCAA Outdoor Championships last June where he scored his best of 8,104 points in the 10-event competition. The Swedish international also placed fifth nationally in the decathlon at the NCAA Outdoor meet in 2012.
Four other Bruin men head into the “Battle on the Bayou” meet ranked among the NCAA’s Top 10 in their respective events, including the nation’s No. 1-ranked 800-meter runner in sophomore Nick Hartle with his top time this season of 1:47.51. Freshman Cody Crampton ranks No. 3 nationally in the high jump with a seasonal-best clearance of 7-2 ½, while junior Pete Lauderdale ranks No. 4 nationally in the 400 meters with a time of 47.08 and sophomore Nicholas Scarvelis ranks No. 8 nationally in the shot put with a throw of 62-5 ¾.
The top returning athletes for the Bruin women this season are senior hammer thrower Ida Storm and junior long jumper Kylie Price as they look to lead the way as two of the nation’s top performers in 2014.
Storm is fresh off a 2014 indoor season in which she captured the NCAA Indoor silver medal as the national runner-up in the women’s weight throw, and is sure to contend for the national championship in the hammer throw outdoors as one of the NCAA’s top returning performers. Storm set UCLA’s school record with a career-best mark of 223-3 at the Mt. Sac Relays last year before earning her second-straight fifth-place finish for a second-straight First-Team All-America selection at the NCAA Championships.
Price has earned All-America honors in the long jump in each of her first two seasons with the Bruins as she followed a seventh-place finish as a freshman in 2012 with a sixth-place finish as a sophomore in 2013 with an outstanding performance at the NCAA Outdoor Championships. She has jumped a career-best wind-aided mark of 21-6, while also owning a wind-legal PR of 21-1 ½ in the event.