8 Questions For The Weekend

Look for lots of long-dash heroics for Michael Norman at the Pac-12. (JEFF COHEN)

1. Will Michael Norman Get Some Pac-12 Meet Records?

This weekend’s conference tilt at Stanford will mark Michael Norman’s tenth outdoor meet for USC. Each time, it seems, the Trojan soph has surprised us, and his ’18 outdoor campaign has already been superlative: a 20.37 opener, followed by a 20.06 PR. Then a 44.53 PR, a tick short of his World Indoor Record. And in the UCLA dual meet, a 44.74.

What’s next? If Norman and coach Caryl Smith Gilbert are any good at peaking (and they are), the question is not whether he will dominate the 200 and the 400, but by how much. Might we see sub-20 & sub 44? Surely the Trojans would want to erase a couple of meet records held by UCLA stars: 20.00 (Ato Boldon ’96) and 44.34 (Danny Everett ’88). And what will the loaded USC 4×4 do?

2. What Next For Sydney McLaughlin?

Kentucky’s yearling could do major point-scoring in a meet as hyper-competitive as the SEC. But in which events? Coach Edrick Floréal could put her just about anywhere that involves speed, but for now has entered her in the 400H, with the plan that she also run one or both of the relays. Logically, it would make sense to stretch her out a bit, with the emphasis on scoring wins rather than records. Yet as McLaughlin has shown, both are likely to happen once she gets out of the blocks.

3. Can Oregon Sweep The Pac-12 Again?

For the past 9 years, the Ducks have won both men’s and women’s conference titles. According to correspondent Howard Willman, that’s the longest set of sweeps in the history of the Power 5 conferences. Here’s Willman’s list of the longest combined men’s and women’s streaks in history:

9—Oregon (Pac-10 Outdoor, 2009-11; Pac-12 Outdoor 2012-17)
5—Texas (SWC Outdoor, 1992-96);
4—Tennessee (SEC Outdoor, 1981-84);
4—Nebraska (Big 8 Indoor, 1994-96; Big 12 Indoor, 1997);
3—Villanova (Big East Outdoor, 1983-85);
3—Nebraska (Big 8 Indoor, 1987-89);
3—UCLA (Pac-10, 1987-89);
3—LSU (SEC Outdoor, 1988-90);
3—Texas (SWC Indoor, 1992-94);
3—UCLA (Pac-10, 1993-95).

4. Can Erin Finn Start To Sneak Up On The NCAA 10,000 Crown?

Michigan’s oft-injured distance star hasn’t even run the 25-lapper this season, but her 15:33.15 at Stanford last month shows she’s certainly fit. However, she’s missing from some of the 10K formcharts because she didn’t opt to travel west to put down a fast 10K in perfect conditions. The weekend plan is that she, along with teammate Gina Sereno and others, will qualify for Regionals via the Big 10 meet. The time is not likely to grab headlines the way a superfast performance at Stanford might have, but Finn’s goal is clear: Nationals. After 4 runner-up performances indoors and in cross country, the Wolverine senior would like to go out with a win.

5. Might Sam Kendricks Repeat As DL Champ?

Last year the top American took the Diamond League vault crown away from Renaud Lavillenie. He set the tone with a win over his friend and rival in Shanghai. Saturday they meet again in Shanghai Stadium. This year Kendricks travels to China with a higher seasonal best than he did last year. However, the Frenchman has had far better results this season than he did last year going into Shanghai. Kendricks knows he faces an uphill battle.

6. What Does Wil London Have Under The Hood?

The Baylor junior, remember, won a silver medal last summer on the 4×4 in London. That was after a collegiate season where he won the Big 12 in 45.72, finished 8th at NCAAs with another 45.72, then shocked everyone by taking 3rd at USATF in a PR 44.47. This season, it looks like London is poised to be a contender on the collegiate scene as well. His 44.73 in Waco 3 weeks ago puts him way ahead of his pace last year. The Big 12 will give us an idea how ready he will be to challenge Michael Norman & Co. in Eugene in June.

7. Can Anybody Put Out Maggie Ewen’s Fire?

The Arizona State triple throws threat has been sizzling this year, becoming the first collegian since Jenny Simpson in ’09 to hold Collegiate Records in two events simultaneously, with her 63-10¼ (19.46) shot and 244-6 (74.53) hammer. So far Ewen has been nearly untouchable by collegians, going undefeated in the shot and losing only once each at discus (to Stanford’s Valarie Allman) and hammer (to Northern Arizona’s Brooke Anderson).

The Sun Devil senior says, “The one main goal I always have going into any meet or any practice is I want to throw farther than I did before because that kind of covers everything. If you happen to throw farther and you break a record, you break a record. If you throw farther and you happen to become a national champion, that’s what you do. I try to do my best each time out and wherever that puts me it puts me.”

8. What If You Find Yourself In Austin?

Any track & field lover can’t go wrong by visiting Mike Meyers Stadium to catch some of the Texas State HS meet. The University Interscholastic League Tournament, as it is officially called, annually showcases mind-boggling speed worthy of any college championship. The six different size classifications can make things confusing for a newbie, but great marks can pop up anywhere. For instance, 6A is for the biggest schools, but look at some of the meet records in the smaller divisions: Boys: 10.15, 20.32, 45.64, 13.40, 7-4¾, 18-2¼, 25-6, 68-7¼; Girls: 11.16, 22.84, 52.40, 13.30, 6-2, 21-3½, 44-2¼, 54-10¾. Mind-boggling. And you’ll notice we didn’t even mention the relays. They can be even more stunning.