Three down, five to go.
That’s the nuts and bolts of Walter Dix’s first day at the NCAA Division I Men’s and Women’s Outdoor Track and Field Championships. The Florida State junior took care of business Wednesday at Hornet Stadium, winning a pair of 100-meter dashes and helping the top-ranked Seminoles advance to the final in the 4 x 100 relay.
Dix has five more races ahead of him as he attempts to become the first male sprinter since San Jose State’s John Carlos in 1969 to win the 100, 200 and sprint relay at the same NCAA Championships. This afternoon, Dix runs the heats and semifinals of the 200 meters, the event in which he’s the defending NCAA champion and collegiate record-holder at 19.69 seconds.
Friday, Dix has finals in the 100 and relay. Saturday, assuming nothing goes wrong beforehand, the climactic 200 final.
“Everything’s clicking,” Dix said. “My confidence is there. We’ll just have to wait and see.”
Five down, five to go.
That describes the situation for Jake Arnold of Arizona and Jangy Addy of Tennessee. The first five events of the decathlon were held Wednesday, and the upstart (Addy) took a surprising lead over the defending champion (Arnold) entering today’s final five events.
Addy has 4,211 points through five events, his best first-day score by 236 points. Arnold also had his best-ever first day, scoring 4,038 points. With his experience and second-day strength, the Santa Rosa native is well-positioned to become the first repeat champion since Rob Muzzio of George Mason won back-to-back NCAA decathlons in 1984-85.
Arnold won last year’s NCAA decathlon when the defending champion and collegiate record holder, Trey Hardee of Texas, no-heighted in the pole vault. Hardee was sailing to an easy victory, but his goose egg in the eighth event allowed Arnold to win with 7,870 points.
This year, Arnold returned to Sacramento as the heavy favorite. Heavy is the head that wears a crown, apparently. Arnold knew there was a
“This year it seemed I had to work twice as hard, because I knew guys would be coming after me,” Arnold said. “I knew I had a target my back.”
Three down, two to go.
That applies to Texas Tech distance ace Sally Kipyego. Kipyego eased to a second-place finish in Wednesday’s second semifinal of the 5,000 meters, and she’ll be favored in tonight’s 10,000 final.
If she wins Thursday’s 10,000 and Friday’s 5,000 final, Kipyego will complete her first year at Texas Tech with five NCAA titles – one in cross country, two in indoor track, and two in outdoor track.
Two down, and trouble ahead.
That describes the plight of Arizona State’s top-ranked women’s team. The NCAA indoor champions took a big hit Wednesday when two of its discus throwers, Sarah Stevens and Jessica Pressley, failed to qualify for the final. Stevens had the nation’s best mark entering the meet at 189-5, but she threw just 159-10 in Wednesday’s qualifying, Pressley also missed out on advancing to Friday’s final, throwing 164-6.
LSU now appears to be the women’s team favorite, but the Lady Tigers also had a setback Wednesday when Kelly Ann Bapiste failed to qualify for the 100-meter final. Baptiste finished third in the 100 at last year’s NCAA Championships.
The top two qualifiers in the women’s discus were D’Andra Carter of Texas Tech (177-11) and Michelle Carter of Texas (177-4). D’Andra and Michelle are daughters of Michael Carter, the former All-Pro defensive tackle for the San Francisco 49ers who set a high school record in the shot put on this same field at the 1979 Golden West Invitational. Michael threw the 12-pound shot a momentous 81-3½, four feet farther than anyone had thrown before – or since.
Today’s schedule includes the first four events of the women’s heptathlon, the final five events of the decathlon, men’s and women’s finals in the long jump, and men’s and women’s finals in the 10,000 meters. The men’s favorite is Oregon junior Galen Rupp, the fastest U.S.-born collegian ever at 27:33.48.
At the 2005 NCAA Championships in Sacramento, Dix won the 100. Last year, he won the 200 and finished second in the 100. He’s looking to win both this time around.
“It’s a big goal of mine,” Dix said. “I’ve been working on it for three years.”
In his first event Wednesday, Dix ran a strong leg on Florida State’s relay that clocked 39.53 to win the second heat. In the first round of the 100, Dix clocked 10.05. He returned two hours later to win the second semifinal in 10.13.
LSU sophomore Trindon Holliday won the first semifinal in a wind-legal 10.02 after clocking a wind-aided 10.04 in his first-round heat. Holliday also ran a terrific anchor leg in relay qualifying, looking like a serious challenger to Dix in the 100.
“LSU always produces good runners,” Dix said. “I’m not surprised.”
In Wednesday’s javelin qualifying, McNeese State freshman Chris Hill broke the junior record with a throw of 238-10. Hill broke the previous American junior mark of 238-8, set by Washington’s Troy Burkholder in 1996. Hill’s mark made him the leading qualifier for Friday night’s javelin final.
One down, three to go.
As in days of the NCAA Championships, which is the best news of all.
Story by Bob Burns
Photo by Kirby Lee