The Wichita State track and field program will play host to the American Athletic Conference outdoor championships this weekend starting Friday at Cessna Stadium.
In just its second year in the AAC, WSU figures to be a championship contender with both of its teams. The men are projected to finish a distant second, but could challenge national contender Houston, while the women’s title race figures to be a tight one with the Shockers and Cincinnati vying for the championship.
“We have two terrific teams and we’re ready to compete,” WSU coach Steve Rainbolt said. “We’re rounding into form beautifully and at the right time. Whatever ups and downs you go through during the year, it always seems to get exciting around conference championship time. I love team track and field and to me, this is the most exciting part of the season.”
Friday will feature the start of the decathlon and heptathlon, along with the finals for the hammer throw, javelin and 10,000-meter run. Saturday will conclude the multi-events, then feature several finals in field events and the steeplechase. Sunday features the majority of track finals, as well as a handful of field events.
All-session passes can be purchased for $14 for adults, $10 for senior citizens and children, while single-day tickets will be sold for $7 for adults and $5 for senior citizens and children. Here is the complete schedule for the meet.
Rainbolt said Wichita has played host to big-time track and field meets before, namely the Missouri Valley Conference championships and the Kansas high school state meet, but not one that will rival this experience.
“It’s been a long time since Wichita track fans have seen anything like this,” Rainbolt said. “It’s cool that local track fans will have the opportunity to see some nationally-prominent athletes and programs they’ve never seen before. The new video board we have adds a terrific dimension to the venue. With the replays and everything we’re doing with it, that’s going to make our championship meet way more interesting to watch and it’s going to engage the crowd way more. It’s going to be a really special competition.”
As a primer, here are five must-see athletes and individuals who will be in Wichita this weekend.
1. Wichita State senior Aaron True
Event: Men’s javelin
Why watch: After earning All-America status last summer at the national meet, True is looking to cap off an all-time career at WSU in his senior season. He threw his career-best of 254-3 at the AAC meet last May and will look to improve on his season-best mark of 247-2, which is the No. 3 mark in the country.
When: Trials at 6:30 p.m. Friday, finals immediately after.
2. Memphis senior Ashley Pryke
Event: Women’s javelin
Why watch: Pryke has been an All-America in the javelin the last two years, placing seventh in 2018 and third in 2017. Her season-best throw of 188-6 is No. 2 in the country.
When: Trials at 4:30 p.m. Friday, finals immediately after.
3. Houston senior Amere Lattin
Event: Men’s 110 hurdles
Why watch: Lattin ascended on the national scene last year with his times in both hurdles races but didn’t have the meet at nationals that he was looking for. He bounced back to finish fourth in the 60 hurdles in indoor season to claim All-America status. Lattin hopes to carry that over this summer, as his season-best time of 13.57 is No. 5 in the country.
When: Trials at 5:45 p.m. Saturday; finals at 5:20 p.m. Sunday.
4. Connecticut senior Susan Aneno
Event: Women’s 800
Why watch: Aneno has dominated the 800 in the conference the last two years, both indoor and outdoor, and earned All-America status in March at the NCAA Indoor championships with a sixth-place finish. She has since lowered her career-best time to 2:03.41, which ranks No. 6 in the country.
When: Trials at 6:30 p.m. Friday, finals at 6 p.m. Sunday.
5. Wichita State junior Zack Penrod
Event: Men’s 1,500
Why watch: Penrod has had a breakout junior campaign that has seen him lower his career-best time to 3:42.96 in the 1,500 two weeks ago to move up to No. 25 in the country. After finishing runner-up at the AAC meet last spring, Penrod will be eying gold this weekend.
When: Trials at 6:15 p.m. Saturday, finals at 5 p.m. Sunday.
1. Men’s 400 relay
Who to watch: Houston’s relay of Nicholas Alexander, Mario Burke, Brandon Taylor and Travis Collins.
Why watch: Houston routinely challenges for the national championship in the sprint relays and this year is no different. The Cougars took on most of the nation’s best at the Texas Relays back in March and ripped off a time of 38.45, still the No. 2 time in the country. Memphis (39.51, No. 21) also has a fast relay team, but the show here will be watching Houston break 39 seconds. Houston (3:05.05) also has the 12th-fastest time nationally in the 1600 relay.
When: Finals at 4:40 p.m. Sunday.
2. Men’s 400 hurdles
Who to watch: Houston senior Amere Lattin, Houston sophomore Quivell Jordan and Wichita State senior Austin Corley.
Why watch: The finals promise to be a must-see event as three of the fastest 400 hurdlers in the country are slated to battle it out for the championship. Corley is the defending champion in the race after upsetting Lattin last spring to claim the AAC title in a career-best 50.07. After finishing second and then false starting at nationals last spring, Lattin is surely motivated to redeem himself. Lattin (49.82, No. 5) and Jordan (50.25, No. 9) enter with top-10 national times, while Corley (50.90, No. 21) will again have to peak at the conference meet to challenge them.
When: Trials at 7:40 p.m. Friday; finals at 6:20 p.m. Sunday.
3. Men’s short sprints
Who to watch: Houston junior Terence Ware, Houston senior Kahmari Montgomery, Houston senior Obi Igbokwe, Houston sophomore Brandon Taylor, Houston senior Mario Burke and Houston sophomore Nicholas Alexander.
Why watch: Houston features some of the nation’s top sprinters and their depth and talent will be on full display in the open 100, 200 and 400 this weekend. Ware (10.17), Taylor (10.18), Burke (10.20) and Alexander (10.21) will likely decide the 100 title, as all five enter with top-25 national times in the 100. Montgomery (20.41, No. 11) is the standout in the 200, while Montgomery (45.96, No. 24) will also battle with Igboke (45.91, No. 17) for the conference title in the 400.
When: 200 trials at 7:15 p.m. Friday; 400 trials at 6:45 p.m. Saturday; 100 trials at 7:15 p.m. Saturday; 400 finals at 5:35 p.m. Sunday; 100 finals at 5:50 p.m. Sunday; 200 finals at 6:35 Sunday.
4. Women’s 10,000
Who to watch: SMU junior Hannah Miller, WSU sophomore Winny Koskei, Tulsa junior Caitlin Klopfer and SMU senior Svenja Ojstersek.
Why to watch: Four of the 40 fastest women in the country will battle for the AAC title in the 10,000, as it figures to be a tight race between Miller (33:23, No. 18) and Koskei (33:50, No. 34) with Klopfer (33:51, No. 38) and Ojstersek (33:51, No. 39) also in the mix. Koskei is the defending champion in the race, as she also won the 5,000 last year, the 5,000 indoor this year and the cross country title this year in tight battles with Miller.
When: Finals at 7:55 p.m. Friday.
5. Women’s 3,000 steeplechase
Who to watch: WSU junior Rebekah Topham and East Carolina senior Grace Sullivan
Why watch: After sitting out last spring’s AAC outdoor meet, Topham will look for the title in the steeplechase. She owns the school record in the event, ripping off a 10:00.59 last summer, and her season-best time of 10:09.94 is No. 22 nationally. If Topham can repeat her school-record time, she could move into the top-10 nationally but she’ll have to hold off Sullivan (10:12.62, No. 29).
When: Finals at 7:30 p.m. Saturday