UK Track & Field to begin NCAA Championships on Wednesday

By Jacob Most
June 9, 2015 - 

NCAA Championships Central | LIVE Results | Premeet Photos

EUGENE, Ore. -- The Kentucky track and field teams will begin the NCAA Outdoor Championships on Wednesday at Oregon's Hayward Field. The Kentucky women's team enters the meet ranked No. 3 nationally.

Kentucky also sends four Wildcats (three women, one man) who have combined to have won eight NCAA medals, including two National Titles in the past two years.

The 2015 NCAA Championships will take on a new schedule with just men's teams competing on Wednesday and Friday, and just women's teams in action on Thursday and Saturday. The exception will be multi-events as the heptathlon and decathlon will be contested on Wednesday and Thursday.

For the first time ever the entire NCAA Outdoor Championships will be broadcast on the ESPN family of networks. ESPN's coverage will include primetime live broadcast windows on ESPN Thursday and Friday, and on ESPN2 on Saturday.

The Saturday coverage could include an exciting finish in the women's team race, which the Wildcats will be hoping to feature heavily in.

But Wednesday's action will come first, featuring UK men's team members Terence Boyd, Raymond Dykstra and Bradley Szypka.

The Wednesday action will start with multi-events at 1 p.m. ET, but UK will not have anyone compete until 8 p.m. (Boyd -- long jump, Szypka -- shot put, Dykstra -- javelin)

Dykstra will feature in one of the deepest javelin fields in recent memory. He enters the meet looking to improve on his NCAA Silver Medal from a year ago.

Last season, Dykstra led from the first round into the final round, but Oregon's Sam Crouser overtook him on the final throw to claim the title on home turf.

Dykstra exacted a measure of revenge earlier this season, at Hayward Field for the Oregon Team Invitational. Dykstra reversed roles then -- albeit on a smaller stage -- as Crouser led from round one through five, but Dykstra overtook him on his final throw to win.

This year, the field has deepened as it now features Texas A&M freshman Ioannis Kyriazis, who used his final throw at the Southeastern Conference Championships last month to overtake Dykstra for the league title. Also entered is this season's NCAA leader, John Ampomah (Middle Tennessee State).

Szypka returns to the NCAA Outdoor Championships after a one-year absence. Since his last NCAA Outdoor Championships appearance in 2013 -- where he finished 10th missing the final by three inches -- he has won the 2014 SEC Indoor Shot Put and claimed first team All-America honors twice indoors.

Boyd enters the NCAA Championships on a high having qualified for Nationals for the first time in his career. The senior used a personal-record jump of 24-feet-9-inches / 7.54 meters at the NCAA East Preliminary Championships to qualify.

On Thursday attention will shift to Kentucky's elite women's team with mostly preliminary heats on the track, but points will be on the line for UK in the long jump final, where Sha'Keela Saunders claimed Silver last year (and in March indoors) and Kenyattia Hackworth is also coming off a first team All-America performance indoors.

Points are earned at the NCAA Championships by individuals and relay teams earning top-eight finishes on a 10-8-6-5-4-3-2-1 basis.

Field events will be covered in more depth than ever before via the ESPN3 surround feed. The surround feed will emphasize field events that historically haven't been covered live. A large portion of the races will be covered by Tom Heinonen.

The Kentucky women's team stayed at No. 3 in the final national computer rankings, released by the United States Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association last week.

UK was ranked third for the second week in a row. The ranking is the team's highest-ever outdoors.

The Wildcats were also ranked a school-record third nationally in the final rankings of the 2015 indoor season, and they went on to finish fifth at the NCAA Indoor Championships, one point outside of a coveted top-4 place.

The USTFCCCA Computer Rankings use an algorithm to predict how many points each team will score at NCAAs. The algorithm is a projection of the teams' finishing order, accounting not just where athletes are on the national list, but the likelihood of each athlete finishing in scoring territory.

UK at NCAAs in numbers
The Wildcats' sole objective at last month's NCAA East Preliminary Championships was to qualify as many athletes to the NCAA Championships Finals site as possible.

UK's 13 NCAA Championship entries ranks sixth nationally.

But just qualifying athletes to the NCAA Championships doesn't necessarily equate to chances of scoring points. In terms of quality of entries, based solely on previous performances this season and probability of finishing top-8 in Oregon, the Wildcats are in strong position.

According to USTFCCCA Kentucky has the third best chance to claim the NCAA Title.

But then again -- and the group of Wildcats heading to Oregon has plenty of experience in this fact -- high NCAA finishes must be earned. Rankings released a week before the Championships have no impact on anything once the first gun goes off at Hayward Field.

NCAA experience in abundance
As detailed two weeks ago, the Kentucky track and field program has emerged as elite over the past three years under Edrick Floréal's direction.

Kentucky's ascent in the track and field world has been accelerated these past two years, and while UK has yet to finish better than fifth at NCAAs, plenty of Wildcats have earned individual glory.

The trick will be getting them all to earn those high places at the same time.

But of the 19 Wildcats who are headed to Eugene (includes athletes that only qualified in relays) just three have never competed at an NCAA Championships.

Of the 19 Wildcats who have competed at past NCAA Championships, nine have finished in the top-8 spots required to score points.

Of those nine, four have earned medals (top-three finishes).

And of those four medalists, two have won NCAA Championships -- Dezerea Bryant and Kendra Harrison.