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LRC: A Fan's Guide To The 2009 NCAA Championships - Women's Preview

June 5, 2009 - Below you will find a preview of all of the events included in our 2009 NCAA Track & Field prediction contest which are all mid-d and distance events plus both relays, the 100 and the team competiton. Our men's preview can be found here. For a preview of all events, we recommend the T&FN Men's Form Chart as well as Women's Form Chart.

Women's 100m
Miami's Murielle Ahoure is the Ivory Coast's national record holder in the indoor 200m and also posted the top time in the world indoors in winning the NCAA 200m title in 22.80. Her best time in the 100m was set at the NCAA East Regional at 11.07, also an Ivory Coast national record as well as an East Regional record.

Ahoure will face tough competition as she wasn't even the fastest 100m runner on Regionals weekend. That title belongs to Texas' Alexandria Anderson, who ran 11.05. Anderson, an American, must be called the favorite in this race because she has run 11.10 or better 5 times. Her 200m indoor PR, by the way, is 0.01 slower than Ahoure's (22.81). It would be great to see Anderson win as in HS she won virtually everything (beating a ton of  Jackie Joyner-Kersee's records) and she's had a great college career (Texas' web site says she's been All-American 17 times; we're not sure if that's counting this year's indoors or not) but she's never won an NCAA individual title.

Women's 800m
Reigning NCAA champion Geena Gall of Michigan will vie for another win against a talented 2009 filed that includes BYU's Stacey Cramer, who won indoors as a true frosh. Tennessee mid-distance stars Phoebe Wright and Chanelle Price have been on the big stage many times before and cannot be counted out. Both have run well at the USA championships, Penn Relays and NCAA Indoor Championships in the past year. LSU's LaTavia Thomas was the runner-up last year. Minnesota's Heather Dorniden was 3rd indoors this year (indoor champ as a frosh in 2006).

2008 Final Results
1 Geena Gall JR Michigan 2:03.91 10
2 LaTavia Thomas SO LSU 2:04.38 8
3 Becky Horn SR Western Michigan 2:04.67 6
4 Zoe Buckman SO Oregon 2:04.69 5
5 Heather Dorniden JR Minnesota 2:05.86 4
6 Phoebe Wright SO Tennessee 2:06.56 3
7 Carlee Clark-Platt SR Brigham Young 2:06.61 2
8 Anna Layman FR Washington State 2:06.93 1

Women's 1,500m
Three names stand out in the women's 1,500m field: Florida State's Susan Kuijken, Stanford's Lauren Centrowitz and Tennessee's Sarah Bowman.

Kuijken was the second-best runner in the NCAA at the cross-country championships behind only Sally Kipyego and has the best seed time in the country coming in at 4:08.90 (and she has run 2:02 in the 800 this year). The indoor champ at 3k in 2008, Kuijken was the only athlete not to be lapped in the 3k at the 2009 NCAA where she was 2nd.  She was only 8th last year outdoors in the 1,500m.

Bowman, the indoor mile champ over Kipyego, has been there when it matters most for the Vols this season, most notably when she ran a superb 4:10 1,500m split at the Penn Relays to run away from Georgetown's Maggie Infeld on the final leg of the collegiate- and world-record setting Tennessee squad. After coming in 2nd three times at the 2008 Penn Relays, Bowman led the Vols to the sweep in 2009 of the DMR, 4 x 800 and 4 x 1,500m relays over three days. Another part of Bowman's frustrating junior season included her 3rd-place finish at the 2008 Outdoor NCAAs (photo, left) where she was beaten by NCAA record-setter Hannah England (FSU via Great Britain) and Kipyego (Texas Tech via Kenya).

We're a bit surprised to see Stanford's Lauren Centrowitz, the sister of Oregon redshirt freshman NCAA leader Matt Centrowitz Jr, in the 1,500. She ran a stellar 4:10 performance in early May, but she was only fifth in the PAC-10s in the 1,500 and she was defeated at the West Regional by UC Riverside's JR Brenda Martinez. She did win the 5k at PAC-10s and thought she might run that event, but she's in the 1,500 (ironically, the PAC-10 1,500 champ, Katie Follett, is in the 5k at NCAAs). As mentioned earlier, Georgetown's Maggie Infeld could be a force as she leads 3 Hoyas in the 1,500m field. Both Martinez and Infeld made the 1,500m NCAA final last year though they finished last and next-to-last.

Women's 3,000m Steeplechase

This event will be one of the highlights of the meet for sure, as Colorado's Jenny Barringer will run her final NCAA Outdoor meet in her best event. Barringer has been on an absolute tear in 2009. To give you a good idea of how amazingly she has performed, we'd like to tell you where her seasonal bests are ranked in the world this year. Indoors she ran 4:25.91 for the mile which was #1 in the world, 8:42.03 for 3k (#4 in world) and 15:01.70 for 5k (#5 in world). 

Outdoors, she has done just as well, currently in front in the world steeplechase standings courtesy of a 9:26 solo effort in the Midwest Regional run in Norman, Oklahoma on a day where temperatures were over 90 degrees at times.

Barringer is running the Pre Classic this weekend in the 1,500m, and may break Sonia O'Sullivan's collegiate record of 4:05.81. To get an idea of what the end of Friday's steeplechase may look like, one needs only to look at the end of 2008's steeplechase to the left (replace the blue track with a red track).

Barringer will likely be trailed by a trio of excellent runners in their own right - Penn State's Bridget Franek (3rd last year), Michigan State's Nicole Bush, and Washington's Mel Lawrence. All three of these women won their region and they line up with the 2nd - 4th fastest seed times coming in. In our minds, Bush will be second. She redshirted last year and just missed the Olympics by .1 of a second for the USA. She's 5 seconds faster than 3rd, plus she beat Franek at Big 10s, so the question in our mind is who gets third, Lawrence or Franek?

Of note, Norway's and SMU's Silje Fjortoft, the 2008 NCAA steeplechase runner-up (nearly 30 seconds behind Barringer) as a freshman, ran a sub-10:00 back in late March but has only run one other steeple, a 5th place showing at the Midwest Regional meet in 10:16. She could factor in for second place if she is running well but her recent results haven't been that good.

Back to Barringer. She and Anna Willard both have run 9:22 and were America's Olympic steeplechase reps last year. Barringer holds the American record at 9:22.26, and Willard is enjoying a very strong season. If good conditions prevail in Fayetteville on Friday evening, we may see a new American record and world leading time, and a message to Willard that the American title is not going to come easily.

From a world's perspective, Barringer is the 14th-fastest steeplechaser in the history of women's running. Granted, it's a relatively new event, but we could see Barringer move into the top 10 of all time this year. To contend for a medal (depending heavily upon how many Russian women make it to the event without getting busted for a large-scale doping conspiracy), she will likely have to be fit enough to run about 9:10 in a championship final. Take the Russians out (which, no offense Russian fans, WADA is hopefully trying to do), and 9:15-9:20 may get it done.

Women's 5,000m
Illinois' Angela Bizzari finished second last year to Sally Kipyego and returns this year with the best time in the country. But unlike Kipyego, Barringer and Kuijken, Bizzari is not an NCAA superstar who can run away and win by 30 seconds as Kipyego did last year. This is going to be a close race that will be tough to call. Stanford freshman Laurynne Chetelat has had a tremendous first season, and 2008 3rd-placer Nicole Blood will have the pressure of a title hunt by the Oregon Ducks propelling her to win (a big factor, in our minds). PAC-10 1,500 champ Katie Follett of Washington comes in as the 4th seed and is someone who clearly has the speed to win a tactical race.

High school superstar Nicole Blood has the 2nd-best NCAA time on the year among those who have declared for the 5k. A win by Blood would surely boost the title hopes of the Ducks, who will be battling with the sprint-heavy Texas A&M Aggies for NCAA supremacy.

Other candidates for top spots come from the East (Villanova's Frances Koons, who was 2nd indoors, and West Virginia's Mary Louise Asselin), the Mideast (Wisconsin's Gwen Jorgensen) and the West (Washington's Follett). Asselin, running in a rain storm in Greensboro, NC last weekend, took off from the gun in the women's regional 5,000m and put Koons in a world of her own. Koons eventually caught up but Asselin was able to pull away at the end. Despite times that are outside of the top 5, these two girls run really tough and could be factors. An NCAA title for Koons would be the perfect story-book ending for the cancer survivor.

It's good to see Washington's cross-country stars like Mel Lawrence, Follett, Christine Babcock and Anita Campbell running at the NCAA outdoor meet.

Women's 10,000m
This race will likely not be close. Reigning 10,000m NCAA champion Lisa Koll is back and healthy and nobody else will likely be within 20 seconds of her. Koll set the NCAA 10,000m record last year, running 32:11 to break Alicia Craig's time from 2004. Despite sitting out cross-country in the fall, the Iowa State Cyclone runner has stormed back this outdoor season, running 32:44 in April, coincidentally the same time it took to win the NCAAs last year. The runner up from last year, Danette Doetzel of Providence, who was 59+ seconds behind Koll, is seeded 4th.

A subplot that interests us is Mattie Bridgmon running for Oregon. In an event like the 10k, a runner like Bridgmon, who sits as the 5th-fastest seed time, could score significant points for the team or perhaps get shut out. Her performance early in the meet on Thursday could help set the tone toward pushing the Ducks to the title or leaving them too far behind A&M.

Women's 4 x 400
The top 10 teams all have seed times between 3:32 and 3:34. The team that most interests us are the defending champs - Penn State, with their anchor Fawn Dorr. Dorr, a former SUNY Cortland (DIII) athlete, and teammate Gayle Hunter brought their squad from way back to win the East Regional in a race that had the crowd not only standing but roaring for the Nittany Lions. Dorr especially impressed as she rolled up on the South Carolina anchor from way back and just went right by. Appearing to be on a suicidal pace and seemingly destined to get blown away in the final straight, Dorr instead held her ground in an indescribable display of determination and athletic prowess. We wish there was video of the race but so far haven't been able to find it.

Indoor champ Texas A&M is only seeded #11. Last year's runner-up LSU is the top seed.

Women's 4 x 100
We have no idea how to preview this event except to point out that the defending champs, Texas A&M, come in as the top seed (and coached by Pat Henry, who made a career out of dominating the sprints at LSU) and last year's runner-up, LSU, is seeded 2nd.

Women's Team Standings
All signs point to a 2-team horse race for the team title between Texas A&M and Oregon. Looking at the event declarations and scoring the meet based off of the pre-meet form charts, we have it Aggies 51, Ducks 46.

Florida State has several stars that could score major points, but they don't seem to have the firepower of the top two teams.

T&FN's Women's Form Chart will have it broken down with way more depth than we have here.

Texas A&M Women Team Points: 51

100m Lucas & Mayo 3rd and 5th 10 pts
200m Lucas 2nd 8 pts
400m Beard 1st 10 pts
100h Mayo & Thomas 4th and 7th 7 pts
4x100m 1st 10 pts
Triple Jump Regis 3rd 6 pts

Oregon Women Team Points: 46

400m Baker 3rd 6 pts
5,000m Blood 2nd 8 pts
10,000m Bridgmon 4th 5 pts
Pole Vault Gergel 4th 5 pts
Javelin Yurkovich 2nd 8 pts
Heptathlon Thiesen & McFadden 1st and 5th 14 pts


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