NCAA Track Championships: Final 4x400 Relay Could Decide Men's, Women's Titles
In baseball, it's a ninth-inning walk-off homer.
In basketball, it's a double-overtime buzzer-beater for the win.
In track and field, it's the dramatic duel down the final straight of the final leg of the final event—the 4x400-meter relay—to determine the overall champion.
In each case, the respective fans are held in suspense until the very last competitive moment.
And in each case, the moment is so special it finds its way into the deepest recesses of our memory banks, embeds itself there and keeps us coming back for more.
Rare as those moments are, this week's NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships in Eugene, Ore. present a fair probability of just such a memorable finish...or two.
It just so happens that the consensus title contenders in both the women's and men's team competition are also among the nation's top 10 in 4x400 times for 2013.
Women's Top 4 Contenders (with 2013 best time ranking)
1. Kansas: 3:30.73 (6)
2. Oregon: 3:26.73 (1)
3. Arkansas: 3:28.42 (5)
4. LSU: 3:31.94 (8)
Men's Top 4 Contenders
1. Arkansas: 3:04.68 (8)
2. Texas A&M: 3:02.52 (1)
3. Oregon: 3:04.16 (5)
4. Florida: 3:02.65 (2)
(Team rankings per Track and Field News' most recent form chart.)
Most pundits have seen the women's title race as being whisker-close all season while the men's race has tightened up considerably in recent weeks. A runaway victory on either side seems less and less likely.
With Oregon being recognized as a valid player in both the men's and women's competition, whispers around Eugene have increasingly suggested the possibility of a title sweep.
And there are more concrete reasons for such optimism than just wishful thinking. The women are motivated by the possibility of completing an unprecedented triple crown. This academic year they have already captured the first two jewels—a cross country title and an indoor track title.
Add to that the frustration of finishing as outdoor runners-up the last four years.
The Oregon men are also eager to demonstrate their wide range of talent. And Hayward Field, with its history of magic moments, would certainly be the place for such an occurrence to unfold.
Alas, prophets and pundits have little to do with the way things finally shake out.
Wouldn't it be nice to have both team titles come down to that final event, final lap and final straight to find out?
Here is a link to Jesse Squire's excellent championships fan guide.
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