While most of the Syracuse Orange fans focus on Selection Sunday, three members of the Syracuse Orange track and field team are already through to the “Sweet 16” of Indoor Track. The trio have qualified for the NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships in College Station, Texas. We can call it the “Sweet 16” because only 16 athletes (16 men and 16 women) in each event get to compete.
The competition gets underway on Friday evening and the first Orange athlete to take to the track is Adam Palamar in the Mile. Palamar enters the meet ranked 8th after having run 3:57.39 this season. He’ll be in the second of two heats on Friday (start time of 6:45 PM Eastern), which means he’ll avoid Oregon Ducks star Edward Cheserek who set the NCAA record with a time of 3:52 a couple of weeks ago and will be in the first heat Friday.
Palamar will need to focus on advancing to the final from his heat. These races are usually tactical so it will be important for Palamar to avoid getting stuck inside in the final lap. He’s competed in the last two NCAA meets, so he has the experience to advance to Saturday’s final (5:10 pm). I don’t see anyone beating Cheserek in this event, but there is a good opportunity for Palamar to grab a top 5 finish if he runs a smart race.
Syracuse hurdler Freddie Crittenden III is up next. He’ll be in the first heat of the 60m hurdles starting at 8:00 on Friday evening. Crittenden is ranked 5th in the event and will be facing the top-ranked Grant Holloway of the Florida Gators in his heat. The Syracuse standout is only .07 seconds behind Holloway’s best time this season. If Crittenden can continue to run as he has all season, he should advance to Saturday’s final (6:10 pm).
It would not be a big upset if Crittenden is able to win the title in the 60m hurdles. He’s experienced at NCAA meets and has a very consistent season, including an easy victory at the ACC Championships. USTFCCA Regional Assistant Coach of the Year, Dave Hegland, has Crittenden in position to become Syracuse’s 2nd hurdler to win a NCAA title. When you look at all the factors, it’s possible that Freddie has Syracuse’s best chance of bringing home a title.
That being said, most of the track media believe that the Orange’s best title hopes lie with Justyn Knight in the 3k (Saturday at 7:15 pm). While Knight comes into the event ranked 4th, he’s the only one of the top seeds to be entered only in the 3k. Running fresh certainly gives Knight a slight advantage over the field, an advantage that will grow if Oregon is out of the team title contention and Cheserek decides not to run. Even if King Ches does compete, he’ll be competing in his 4th (or 5th if he runs the DMR) race of the weekend. As good as Cheserek is, at some point fatigue can be a factor that can be exploited.
Justyn’s lost two races in this year and his growth as a tactical runner has been on display since cross-country. He has excelled at staying in contact with the leaders and then making decisive moves to win and it’s the biggest reason why he’s viewed as a threat this weekend. At this point in his career, he’s not afraid to run against anyone and he has a strong chance to win Syracuse’s first-ever NCAA title in a distance event. I don’t expect Justyn to take the lead from the gun, but I would suspect that he keeps the pace honest and looks to make a strong move in the final 600m.
The NCAA meet will be broadcast online through Watch ESPN and it’s a welcome distraction for Orange fans from the torture of watching other bubble teams playing this weekend.