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Orange ready for ACC Indoor Championships

The Syracuse men look to defend their team title in South Bend this week

Freddie Crittenden III looks to defend his ACC title
Mark Wallheiser-TheACC.com

The Syracuse Orange track and field teams have turned in a number of strong performances this season. Now they turn their attention towards championship season where it’s more about finishing place and points for the team. First up is this week’s ACC Indoor Track and Field Championships where the Orange men look to defend their team title and the women look to improve upon last year’s 11th place finish.

Leading the way for the Syracuse women on the track will be the trio of Khadejia Sellers, Tia Thevenin, and Paige Stoner. Sellers is in the midst of an outstanding season, having set school records already in the 200m and 400m. She’s ranked among the ACC leaders in three events: the 60m (5th), 200m (4th), and 400m (3rd). Her best chance will be in the longer sprints, but she’ll have to face one of the nation’s best sprinters, Miami Hurricanes Shakima Wimbley in order to earn a win.

Thevenin is the 3rd seed in the 60m hurdles with a time just .08 off the top seed (Ebony Morrison of Miami). She might be Syracuse’s best chance for an individual title this week. Stoner is in the midst of a breakthrough season and enters the meet with the 3rd fastest 3k time and 5th fastest 5k time. Like Sellers, she’ll face some of the country’s best runners in her event, which makes it tougher to project a win. Notre Dame’s over-sized track does lend to faster times, which can help Stoner improve upon her 29th ranked time in the 3k.

Ebhani Blackwood enters the meet as the #2 seed in the triple jump trailing only Ian Amsterdam of the Clemson Tigers. A win for Blackwood as a freshman would be impressive, especially considering the practice facilities for the jumpers at Syracuse. If this group can deliver on their expectations, the Orange can end up in the top 10 of the team competition.

Led by defending ACC Champions Freddie Crittenden III and Justyn Knight, the Syracuse men are back to defend their crown. Like last season, the Orange will need to pile on the points in the 60m hurdles and the distance events to win, and they might be able to do so. Crittenden enters with the fastest seed time in the 60m hurdles and he’s joined in the top 10 by David Gilstrap (4th), Chevis Armstead II (8th), and Richard Floyd (10th). If all four can advance to the finals in the event, that will mean a lot of points for the Orange. The other Syracuse athlete in the top 10 in their event is Winston Lee (4th in the 60m dash). Lee was 5th in the event last year and with limited athletes in field events, it’s important for the Orange to get as many points as possible from the sprint group.

Cross Country: NCAA Championships
Justyn Knight won two ACC titles last year, will he repeat in 2017?
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

As I mentioned above, the Notre Dame facility lends itself to faster times, especially in the distance events, which plays into the Syracuse strength. This year’s distance group is deeper and in Knight, the Orange have the best runner in the conference. While it’s unclear right now if he’ll be asked to run three races as he did last year, he’s got the ability to match that performance. To give you an idea of the depth of the Syracuse distance group, here are the ACC rankings heading into this meet:

Mile: Adam Palamar (1st), Joel Hubbard (3rd), Knight (4th), Aidan Tooker (6th)

3k: Knight (1st), Iliass Aouani (2nd), Colin Bennie (3rd), Palamar (5th)

5k: Bennie (2nd), Aouani (7th), and Joe Dragon (10th)

This list doesn’t include Knight in the 5k where he is the defending ACC champ, or Adam Visokay who finished 3rd in the 3k last year when he was running for Virginia. Speaking of the Cavaliers, they will be the other team to watch in the distance events, so expect a lot of orange and blue at the front of these races.

However Chris Fox deploys this group, he’s got plenty of options. My best guess is that Knight will prepare to double in the 3k and 5k like last year. By doing so, Knight can help Bennie and Aouani try to get themselves into better position to make the NCAA Championships in the 5k on Friday (16 athletes are selected for each event). Since this is a fast track, I’d expect this group to come back in the 3k even if the team competition isn’t close as this presents an opportunity for those NCAA qualifiers.

The meet begins with the Distance Medley Relays and Multi-Events on Thursday and will continue on Friday and Saturday with coverage on the ACC Network on WatchESPN. We’ll recap all the action at the end of the meet.