FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (AP) – Florida State coach Bob Braman expects his team to contend at this week’s NCAA Indoor track and field championships.
At the same time, he’s being realistic.
“You are here in Fayetteville,” Braman said. “And 18 of the last 22 went to the Razorbacks.”
Arkansas will try for its 19th men’s indoor title – and 42nd overall track and field championship – when it hosts the competition Friday and Saturday at the Randal Tyson Track Center. LSU’s women will try for their 12th national title, although Texas has emerged as the favorite heading into the event.
Arkansas outlasted Florida to win last year’s championship, but sprinting stars Wallace Spearmon, Tyson Gay and Omar Brown are gone. That’s left the Razorbacks with a difficult task in John McDonnell’s 34th season as men’s coach.
“It’s tough to bounce back,” McDonnell said. “But we won in the past with kids who weren’t top drawer.”
Rival coaches aren’t exactly feeling safe – McDonnell’s Razorbacks have traditionally been known for their distance prowess.
“John is going to show up,” Texas’ Bubba Thornton said. “I can remember when John couldn’t spell sprinter – so yes, we’re not taking anything for granted.”
Texas might have the best chance of dethroning Arkansas’ men. Trey Hardee, last year’s outdoor champion in the decathlon, has the third-highest heptathlon score in the world this year at 6,208 points. He finished third at last year’s indoor championships – teammate Donovan Kilmartin was second and also competes this week.
Longhorns high jumper Andra Manson has the field’s top jump so far in 2006 at 7 feet, 5 3/4 inches.
Florida State hopes to improve on last year’s eighth-place finish.
“This is by far the best group we’ve ever had,” Braman said.
Sophomore Walter Dix, last year’s 100-meter outdoor champion, has the field’s top time in the 200 this year at 20.50 seconds. Dix was second to Spearmon in last year’s indoor 200 – he could also contend in the 60 this week.
The Seminoles, however, won’t have much room for error.
“We’ve got a small team, only six athletes here. So we are going to have to do well with six athletes in seven events,” Braman said. “On the other side of the coin, on the performance list there are four No. 1 and a No. 2.”
LSU is the only team to sweep the men’s and women’s indoor titles in the same year. That was in 2004, when the Lady Tigers won for the third straight time. Tennessee snapped that streak last year.
The Lady Tigers could have a difficult time keeping up with Texas this week. Junior Marshevet Hooker, the 2005 outdoor champion in the 100, will compete in the 60, the 200 and the long jump for Texas. Her teammate and younger sister, Destinee, has the field’s top mark in the high jump in 2006.
LSU coach Dennis Shaver acknowledged his team is a bit of an underdog.
“We are healthy and have 11 chances to score,” Shaver said. “We are still kind of young.”
The LSU men might have a better chance to contend. Xavier Carter, who also played receiver for the Tigers’ football team, will try for a sweep of the 200 and 400 and also will race in the 1,600 relay. He has the third-fastest 400 time in the world this year at 45.89.
LSU will need its sprinters to perform as advertised, especially with Arkansas building its title defense around the distance races. Peter Kosgei is back for the Razorbacks after finishing second in the 3,000 and seventh in the 5,000 last year. Josphat Boit will also compete in both races – he was sixth in the 5,000 in 2005.
“We are a team with no stars,” McDonnell said. “We don’t have a No. 1 though I think when this meet is over, we might have one or two. That’s what we’ll have to have to compete.”