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Syracuse Track & Field: NCAA Indoor Championships Preview

Starting tonight, six Syracuse Orange athletes will compete in the NCAA Indoor Track & Field Championships, so let's take a look at their chances.

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The Syracuse Orange Track & Field program brought six athletes to Birmingham to compete in the 2016 NCAA Indoor Track & Field Championships. It's the largest group from Syracuse to qualify for an indoor championship and it's a group that only features one senior, so we might be hearing more from the group in the future. You can watch the meet online through WatchESPN, or follow live results here.

Starting things off tonight at 5:30pm will be Joel Hubbard and Adam Palamar in the mile. Hubbard will be in Heat 1 and Palamar will compete in the 2nd Heat. The top 4 in each heat, plus the next 2 fastest times will advance to Saturday's final. Hubbard enters the meet with the 21st fastest time in the country with a 3:58.43 seed time, and Palamar has the 24th fastest time with a 3:58.55 seed time.  As I talked about earlier in the week, the goal for both of these guys was to make it to this meet, but with a number of the top seeds choosing to run other events, the Mile has become wide-open. Blake Haney from the Oregon Ducks is the fastest entrant in the field(3:56.36), but he's likely to run the DMR as well, which suggests we'll see tactical heats. If either Hubbard or Palamar are able to make the final, it would be a success for them.

Next up for the Orange will be Freddie Crittenden in the 60m hurdles at 6:10pm. Crittenden who has coming off his win at the ACC Championships is in the 1st heat. In this event, the top 2 from each heat plus the next 4 fastest times will advance to the final. Crittenden enters with the 8th fastest time in the event (7.70 seconds), which is led by Oregon's Devon Allen (7.60). This is Crittenden's 1st NCAA Indoor appearance, but he has two outdoor All-American honors. Making 1st-team All-American would cap an outstanding season for him.

Shaina Harrison is the only Syracuse woman to qualify for the NCAA meet. She will take to the track at 6:38 pm in the 2nd heat of the 60m dash. Harrison has the 13th-fastest seed time (7.29) in the field, which is led by Florida Gators' sprinter Shayla Sanders(7.19). Like the hurdles, the top 2 from each heat plus the next 4 fastest times will advance to the final. Harrison is not expected to make the final, so doing so would be a nice finish to her strong indoor season.

The last Syracuse athlete to compete on Friday night will be Colin Bennie in the 5k at 8:05 PM. Bennie enters with the 4th-fastest time in the field (13:38.81), but everyone expects this to be the first of two titles for Oregon star Edward Cheserek (13:35.86). King Ches has been dominant and he'll be coming into this race fresh. I'd look for Thomas Curtin from Virginia Tech and Futsum Zienasellassie of Northern Arizona to try and push the pace early to force Cheserek to earn his title. Bennie's best hope might be to hang back and pick off tiring runners at the end. A top 5 finish here would be a great result.

Justyn Knight has to wait until Saturday night at 6:10pm to compete in the 3k. Knight comes into the race off of his 3k/5k double at the ACC Championships and he's got the 2nd fastest time in the field (7:48.71), which is behind Cheserek (7:40.51). On paper, it would appear that Cheserek should win easily, but returning after the 5k (and possible DMR appearance), anything can happen. The late scratch of Villanova's Patrick Tiernan might impact the race, as Tiernan showed he was willing to challenge King Ches at the NCAA Cross-Country Championships. As good as Knight's kick looked in Boston, it will tough for him to wait for the final 200. I think he'll need to take the race to Cheserek earlier and as he looks to take his 1st NCAA title. The decision not to have Knight double this weekend could pay huge dividends.

We'll recap all six Syracuse athletes over the weekend.