NORMAN, Okla. -- Led by defending national shot put champion Tia Brooks, seven individuals and one relay have left Norman and are headed to Eugene, Ore., for the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships. Hosted by the University of Oregon at Hayward Field, competition begins Wednesday and runs through Saturday. The top 24 student-athletes in each event will compete in semifinals and finals over the four-day event.
This marks the 11th time for the meet to be held at Hayward Field, the second most times for a venue to host the championship. In addition to the annual Prefontaine Classic, Hayward Field has recently served as host to the 2008 and 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials and the 2009 and 2011 USA Track & Field Championships.
Brooks, who won the 2012 outdoor title with a throw of 60-6, will be going for the fourth NCAA title in her career with two indoor titles and last year's outdoor championship to her credit. She was the first Sooner woman to win the NCAA title in the outdoor shot put and was just the 12th student-athlete to win the indoor and outdoor titles in the same year. If she repeats in 2013, it will be the fifth consecutive season for the same person to win the indoor and outdoor shot put titles. She will defend her title on Saturday, June 8, at 3 p.m. CDT.
Her continued improvement throughout the spring makes her a heavy favorite to take the title. She set a school record with a throw of 62-2.50 to win the NCAA West Regional title two weeks ago and missed out on the all-time collegiate record in the outdoor shot by just over an inch in her win in Austin. The current collegiate record is 62-3.75 set in 1983 by Meg Ritchie of Arizona.
Brooks has yet to record a throw less than 60 feet in the outdoor season and four of her six throws indoor measured more than 60 feet. She has exceeded 60 feet in eight consecutive competitions, going back to the indoor season, and she has not lost a competition, indoor or outdoor, in her senior season. She leads the field by nearly three feet heading into the national meet.
Brooks will be going for her seventh All-America award after earning four at the NCAA Indoor meet and two at the NCAA Outdoor meet. In addition to winning the 2012 outdoor title, Brooks was the runner-up in the shot put at the 2011 NCAA Outdoor meet.
Another event that could see Sooners challenging for the national title is the men's 1,500-meter run. In that event, redshirt seniors Riley Masters and Patrick Casey have been ranked first and fourth for most of the outdoor season. Casey won the Big 12 title with a 3:40.04, and then added the NCAA West Regional title with a 3:44.48. His time in the Big 12 meet is his season best and ranks as the fourth best time in the nation heading to Eugene. Casey will be looking for his first All-America award in his final collegiate race.
Masters ran the nation's collegiate best time, 3:38.79, to finish second in the invitational 1,500 at the prestigious Mt. Sac Relays at the end of April. That time still stands as the best collegiate mark heading to Eugene. His best competition, it seems, has come from his own teammate, as Casey has taken first in the races at the Big 12 and the NCAA West Regional over the last four weeks. Masters will be looking for his first outdoor All-America award in his final collegiate meet.
The Sooner duo will open competition on Thursday at 6:45 p.m. CDT with the finals scheduled for 4:31 p.m. CDT on Saturday.
The other NCAA veteran, senior Kevin Williams, will compete in the 10,000-meter run on Thursday at 9:15 p.m. CDT. Williams earned second team All-America honors during the 2013 indoor season after finishing 16th in the 5,000-meter run. He ran a 30:23.88 to finish 11th in the 10,000 at the NCAA West Regional to earn his trip to Eugene. Williams finished second in the 10,000 at the 2013 Big 12 Championships, posting a career-best 29:16.62, a time that ranks 13th in the country heading into the meet.
The remainder of the Sooners who have qualified are literally on the other end of the spectrum in terms of NCAA experience as this will be the first experience at an NCAA meet for freshmen Avione Allgood (javelin) and Austin Perry (shot put), senior Kristen Rice (high jump) and half of the men's 4x400-meter relay team of Ethan Baker, Waymon Storey, Jamel Wood and Nathaniel Winfrey. Storey, who transferred to OU from Georgia after the 2012 season, earned second team indoor All-America honors as a member of the Bulldogs' 4x400-meter relay. Wood has earned three All-America certificates since coming to OU, all as part of relays, two from the indoor distance medley relay and one from last year's 4x100-meter relay that picked up second team honors.
The relay team will open its competition in the semifinal round on Thursday at 8:40 p.m. CDT. If they advance to the final round, OU's entry will run again at 5:50 p.m. CDT on Saturday. The quartet finished sixth at the Big 12 in early May, then earned a 10th-place finish at the regional with time of 3:06.15 to earn a trip to the NCAA. That time ranks 17th heading into the NCAA meet.
Allgood and Perry will open the competition for the Sooners as their events are set for 7:15 p.m. CDT and 7:30 p.m. CDT, respectively, on Wednesday. Allgood set a career best with her 171-7 in the javelin to finish second at the regional. She is ranked seventh going into the meet with that mark and has been among the top throwers in the country this spring. Allgood won the Big 12 title in the javelin with her previous career best, 171-3.
Perry also improved his career best at the regional to earn a trip to the NCAA. His throw of 60-0.50 gave him 10th place in Austin two weeks ago. He finished fifth in the Big 12 early in May. He is ranked 23rd heading to Eugene.
For Rice, the trip to the NCAA Championships is a great way to end a collegiate career. She finished sixth at the regional meet with her 5-8.75 jump. She cleared that height on her second try and fourth jump in the meet. She was coming off a second place finish at the Big 12 Championships with the same mark. That finish was a career best for her in the outdoor conference meet and equaled her career best in the indoor meet as well, also recorded earlier this year. A consistent performer, Rice scored in seven of the eight Big 12 meets she competed in during her four-year OU career. She will open her NCAA Championships competition on the final day of the meet with the high jump scheduled for 2:45 p.m. CDT on Saturday.
The Sooner men finished second in the 2013 Big 12 Outdoor Meet while the women were fifth. The OU women finished seventh in the 2012 NCAA Outdoor meet, the third consecutive year for the Sooner women to finish in the top nine of the outdoor championship.
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