The Men and Women Indoor Track Teams left this morning for their respective destinations of Champaign, IL and West Lafayette. The men look to have a great shot at taking the Big Ten Championship pretty handily as they are ranked 3rd nationally and the women have an outside chance at grabbing a championship as well. Follow me after the jump to see how both teams' seasons have stacked up and what to expect out of them for this weekend.
Let's start real quickly with a rundown on how the rankings system works in track and field. Unlike the traditional system you are used to in basketball or football, voting has zero impact on the "polls". In fact they aren't polls at all, merely an estimation on the number of points the team would score at nationals based on qualification times/distances/heights and top performances of the year.
Under this system the IU Men's team is expected to garner a 3rd place finish at Nationals with 92 points. That is quite a distance behind Florida and LSU with 167 and 158 respectively, but well ahead of the next Big Ten competitor, Penn State ranked 10th nationally with 71 expected points. This has to give you some confidence going into the two days of track and field in Champagne.
In the sprints the men look to have a possible one-two punch in the 60 m dash. Both Kind Butler and Devin Pipkin are in the top three best times for the season in the Big Ten. Butler with the number one time and Pipkin with the number 3 time that is just 1 hundredth of a second slower than second place.
Where the men appear to really be exceptional is in the distance events. IU's own Andrew Bayer is a rock star in the Big Ten distance events. His best time to date is 4 seconds quicker than the second place finisher, which in track terms is a lot of time. Even for distances of 3000m where the runs last 7 1/2 to 8 minutes, 4 seconds is quite a buffer. Bayer also possesses the quickest qualifying mile time at 3:57, although it is much closer than his 3000m difference.
The final event and athlete to look to bring home a Big Ten Individual Championship and help bring home the team title is in the high jump. Derek Drouin qualifies at 7' 5.25". He's the reigning national high jump champion from last year and with his jumps this year he's not only looking at a possible Big Ten title but another repeat as national champion.
The Women's expectations aren't quite as high as the men's. The men are expected to win. The women have a legitimate shot at winning but it is a crowded field. They go into this weekend with a ranking of 29th nationally. The Michigan women are the only one's currently ahead of them in the rankings but it is a crowded field all around. This meet is anyone's for the taking. Penn State, Iowa, Michigan, IU, Michigan State and Ohio State are all legitimate contenders.
The standouts to look for with the women come in the forms of the pentathletes, pole vaulters and shot putters. Each of these three events have pairs of competitors in the top three of their respective events and should make for a good showing.
Courtney Woodward and Laura Morris the sophomore/senior combination that qualify at 2 and 3 in the pentathlon look to finish that way in the Big Ten's. They're currently looking to finish in 2 and 3 as the number 1 qualifier is Dorcas Akinniyi from Wisconsin is killing the field in that respect, with over 400 more points than Woodward. No shame in taking 2nd and 3rd though because that will go a long way towards a team first.
Where victory should be expected is the couple of Faith Sherrill and Monique Riddick in the shot put. Both have done awesome this year. Sherrill is crushing the field and if it wasn't for her we'd be talking about how awesome Riddick has been in the shot. Both should come away with very respectable Big Ten finishes and look to make some noise at Nationals this year.
The final group of athletes are the pole vaulters. Two of the vaulters, Kelsie Ahbe and Vera Neuenswander, both qualify at the same height good enough for 3rd place. A third vaulter Stephanie Chin has a qualifying height good enough for sixth place. If these three can finish the same way they've qualified it looks to be a great team effort from the pole vaulters to help bolster the women's team as a whole.
As a whole look for a good showing from the IU women's team this weekend. We may not see them bring home a championship but don't be surprised if they do. This is a talented group of girls that are mostly comprising a team. The points will be coming from all over the place and just a few standout performances this weekend can vault them into the team champions circle. Let's hope that happens. Go Hoosiers!
Special thanks to Kyle Johnson, Assistant Media Relations Director at IU, for helping me find some stats and information. You can follow him on Twitter to get the latest information on IU Track and Field.