PREVIEW BY: DAVID PICKETT, MILESPLIT U EDITOR
The University of Florida is set to host the 68th annual Florida Relays this Friday and Saturday, April 6-7, at Percy Beard Track in Gainesville. Here is a look what to watch for in this weekend's event.
This year's event will bring together some of the nation's best talent in the sprints. Florida senior Jeff Demps, who opened his season campaign with a wind-aided 10.01 in last weekend's Texas Relays, is among the nation's best competing in Friday's 100-meter race. He will be a strong favorite against a field that will include Michael Granger, Dentarius Locke and Travis Padgett. Granger of Mississippi, has run the second-fastest (wind-legal) time in the nation this season of 10.19. The 200 will feature last year's NCAA champion, Florida State's Maurice Mitchell. Friday's race will be the first outdoor appearance for Mitchell in this event, who owns a personal best of 19.99 (2011). Also in the field is a trio of indoor All-Americans in Kind Butler (Indiana), Horatio Williams (Florida State) and Javon Young (Charleston Southern). Pittsburgh's Brycen Spratling headlines the list of collegiate competitors in the 400. Spratling placed second at the NCAA indoor meet with a time of 45.82. His competition could come from Bethune-Cookman's Stephon Pamilton. Pamilton's season's best of 46.52, which he recorded at the Miami Hurricane Invitational, is the ninth-best time in the nation.
Octavious Freeman has put up some impressive times in her first season and look for that to continue this weekend. The Central Florida freshman is entered in the 100 and 200 and has bests of 11.11 (2011) and 22.92 (2012). Joining her in the 100 is Florida's Darshay Davis, who currently holds the seventh-fastest time in the nation at 11.32. Jamaica's Simone Facey is also expected to compete in the straight dash. Facey has a personal-best time of 10.95 (2008). Freeman's competition in the 200 could come from the nation's fifth-ranked sprinter, Texas junior Chalonda Goodman. Goodman recorded a season's best 23.26 at the TCU Invitational. The 400 will feature American indoor record holder Francena McCorory. McCorory, who will be making her outdoor debut, has a lifetime best of 50.24. McCorory will be joined by collegiate stars Briana Nelson (Texas), Ebony Eutsey (Florida) and Taylor Ellis-Watson (Pittsburgh). All three women earned All-American honors during indoor.
The men's and women's hurdle races are stacked with several indoor All-Americans. Miami senior Devon Hill enters Friday's competition with the fourth-fastest time recorded in the nation this spring at 13.51. Hill was the NCAA indoor runner-up in the 60 hurdles. He will be joined by Clemson's Spencer Adams and Florida's Eddie Lovett. Adams and Lovett, who both earned All-American accolades during indoor, have run the seventh- and ninth-fastest times in the nation at 13.73 and 13.76, respectively. The 400 hurdles will feature Olympian Bershawn "Batman" Jackson. Jackson holds a career-best time of 47.30 for the event. He will be joined by former South Carolina standout Johnny Dutch. Dutch was the 2010 NCAA outdoor champion and owns a personal best of 47.63.
On the women's side, a pair of Clemson Tigers in Brianna Rollins and Bridgette Owens headline the field of 100 meter hurdle participants. Rollins was the NCAA indoor runner-up in the short hurdles while Owens took third. Rollins and Owens hold the second and third best times in the nation (12.78 and 12.88). Central Florida's Jackie Coward is also entered in at 13.05. She earned All-American honors in the 60 hurdles. Clemson junior Marlena Wesh leads the list of collegiate competitors entered in Friday's 400 hurdles. Wesh has run the 10th best time in the NCAA this season at 58.62. She will be joined by former collegiate standouts Tierra Brown (adidas) and Takecia Jameson (unattached), who are both formerly of Miami.
While most of the nation's best will be in action at the Stanford Invitational, the distance fields should still be a dandy to watch. Georgia senior Aaron Evans is the top entry in the men's 800. Evans earned All-American honors in this event during indoor with a fourth-place finish in 1:48.95. Fellow conference foe Florida's Sean Obinwa is also entered. Obinwa was seventh at the NCAA indoor meet with a time of 1:49.52. In the men's steeplechase, Georiga's Matt Cleaver has the top entry at 8:55.74, which he posted at the Georgia Relays. His time is the fourth-fastest performance in the nation this season.
The women's 5000 will feature the nation's best athlete, East Carolina's Brittany Copeland. Copeland has recorded the fastest time in the NCAA this season at 16:09.67. This race also features the fourth and fifth ranked runners in the nation, Clemson teammates Anthony Natalie and Kimberly Ruck. Natalie and Ruck were second and third behind Copeland at the Raleigh Relays last weekend, in times of 16:16.27 and 16:16.67, respectively. Clemson senior Alyssa Kulik tops the list of competitors in the 3000 steeplechase. Kulik won the Raleigh Relays in 10:12.25 and is ranked second nationally. Indiana's Samantha Ginther, who is ranked seventh nationally, has the second-fastest time entered at 10:30.69.
Several indoor All-Americans will be in attendance Friday and Saturday for the field events. The men's triple jump features Florida junior Omar Craddock. Craddock won the NCAA indoor title with a mark of 54-11.5. He will be a strong favorite in this event along with Virginia Tech's Hasheem Halim. Halim placed third at the indoor championships with a leap of 53-6.5. Indiana's Darius King and Florida's Dwight Barbiasz will battle it out in the high jump. The pair tied for second in this event at the NCAA indoor meet with a clearance of 7-3.75. South Carolina senior Marvin Reitze headlines the pole vault competition. Reitze was the NCAA indoor runner-up with an 18-0.5 vault. His competition could come from the nation's fifth ranked vaulter, Georgia Tech's Nikita Kirillov. Kirillov, just a freshman, has a best of 17'10.5.
Florida Relays will welcome the nation's top ranked pole vaulter on the women's side, Georgia sophomore Morgann Leleux. Leleux was the indoor national runner-up in this event and has a season's best of 14-5.5. This field also features the nation's eighth ranked vaulter, Clemson's Christy Gasparino. Gasparino has a season's best of 13-5.25. The third and fourth ranked long jumpers in the nation will be in attendance this weekend, Clemson's April Sinkler and Florida State's Amy Harris. Harris enters this weekend's competition with a best of 21 feet even, while Sinkler has turned in a best of 20-5.25. Sinkler will also be in the triple jump where she is ranked No.1 in the nation with a mark of 43-8.5. She will be joined by the nation's second and third best jumpers in Georgia's Collen Felix and fellow teammate Jasmine Brunson.