By Gary Smith, Track and Field Contributor
EUGENE, Ore. — Texas A&M women and Oregon men begin the defense of their respective NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships title on Wednesday in Eugene, Ore.
The four-day championships will run through June 10-13, under a new format.
What you need to know:
With the exception of 10,000m finals and the multi-events, the new format will see men’s preliminaries getting underway on Wednesday and finals on Friday, while the women’s qualifying rounds start on Thursday and the finals taking place on Saturday.
The modified schedule, which is “television driven,” could pose a problem for some programs, but Texas A&M head coach Pat Henry believes it’s probably good for the sport.
“It’s going to be a different experience,” said Henry on the Aggies website. “The new format is a little bit television driven and I think that’s a good thing.
“We have a lot more hours live on TV now and it’s spread over four days. I think that’s very important for our sport.
“So, there has to be a little bit more give on our side than take. I think the sport needs to give a little bit to put ourselves in position for people to better understand our sport.”
Henry’s Texas A&M women tallied 75 points to capture the team title last season – its fourth NCAA outdoor track and field crown since 2009 – and the No. 4 nationally ranked lady Aggies will be hoping to defend that title when the sessions start at historic Hayward Field.
At the same time, A&M men squad, ranked No. 3 nationally, finished third in 2014, but is confident about winning their first title since 2013. The Aggies, who slipped from second in the last USTFCCCA release, are sitting second in the NCAA rankings behind Florida and defending champions Oregon.
The expectations heading into the championships are high, but Henry, whose teams swept the national championship in 2009, 2010 and 2011, and now in his 11th season in charge, remains very cautious.
“We have a group of athletes who have been in this battle before, but it’s a different battle than it was last time,” Texas A&M head coach Pat Henry, in his 11th season in charge, said.
“It doesn’t make any difference if you won last year or not, it’s about what you do now. There are some things those athletes have learned.
“Now we’ll see if they can apply them again this year. With the newcomers we have here, we’ll see who stands out this week.”
The No. 1 Florida Gators, which landed back-to-back outdoor titles in 2012 and 2013 (shared) and finished second to Oregon last term, have been picked as the team to beat on the men’s side in this campaign, and head coach Mike Holloway believes if everything goes according to plan, his side should come out on top at the end of the week.
The Ducks won its first men’s outdoor championship since 1984, when the legendary Bill Dellinger was at the helm.
Oregon women enter the championships as the No. 1 team in the country after replacing Southern California, who slipped to fifth in the last ranking release, and they will be desperate to hold off the likes of Arkansas, Kentucky and A&M this weekend, in an attempt to land their first crown since 1985.
TV and online Streaming Coverage:
ESPN and it’s family of networks, including ESPN3.com and the WatchESPN App, will provide all of the live streaming coverage of the four-day championships – both online and on broadcast.
NOTE: All times listed are Pacific
Schedule is subject to change
Wednesday-Saturday – ESPN3 (Field Events/Combined Events)
Wednesday – ESPNU (4-7:30 p.m.)
Thursday – ESPNU (4-5:30 p.m.); ESPN (5:30-8:30 p.m.)
Friday – ESPN (4:30-7 p.m.)
Saturday – ESPN2 (2-4:30 p.m.)