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The Weekend’s Best Matchups

The Weekend’s Best Matchups
Jesse Squire

Mike A. Myers Stadium will be full to the top for the Texas Relays.

Relay season has begun with the massively popular Texas Relays, but that’s far from the only top action on tap this weekend. Here are your top ten matchups for the weekend.

1. Zersenay Tadese vs Wilson Kiprop

Men’s race, IAAF World Half Marathon Championships
Copenhagen, Denmark
Saturday, 12:55pm local time (7:55am ET)

Live webcast at Trackie.ca
Race website

Tadese is a five-time champion of the IAAF World Half Marathon Championships and holds the world record for the distance. He is basically the greatest half-marathoner ever, and the only time he’s failed to win this race in his last six tries was in 2010, when Kiprop beat him.

Kiprop’s record at the half marathon is not as dominant as Tadese’s–no one’s is–but he is a very good cross country runner and won the Discovery Kenya Cross earlier this year, showing that he’s in top shape and is ready to challenge Tadese.

2. Bernard Lagat vs Dejen Gebremeskel

Elite men’s race, Carlsbad 5000
Carlsbad, California
Sunday, 11:15am local time (2:15pm ET)

Live webcast at RunnerSpace.com from 1:15pm ET
Race website

Lagat and Gebremeskel are two of the world’s most consistent runners at 3000 and 5000 meters, so you figure this will be a great battle. They were second and third at last month’s World Indoor Championships, and finished in the same positions at the 2011 World Championships. Lagat has won eight of their ten meetings, and his most notable loss was at the 2012 Olympics, where Gebremeskel took silver behind Britain’s Mo Farah and Lagat was fourth and out of the medals.

This is Lagat’s first 5k road race and he’s explicitly taking aim at the American record, 13:24, set in 1996 by Marc Davis at this same race. Coming relatively soon after a World Indoor Championships silver medal and a 7:38.51 for 3000 meters, he’s obviously in shape to do it. Gebremeskel is no rookie; he’s the three-time defending champion at this race.

3. Texas A&M vs Florida

Cleburne Price, Jr. men’s 4 x 400 meter relay, Texas Relays
Mike A. Myers Stadium, Austin TX
Saturday, approximately 5:45pm local time (6:45pm ET)

Live TV coverage on the Longhorn Network and at WatchESPN
Meet home page | Schedule | Live results

Texas A&M and Florida both broke the collegiate indoor record at the SEC Championships and another showdown loomed at the NCAA indoor championships. But the two tangled, the Texas A&M dropped the baton, and both were disqualified. The Aggies and Gators have been in a few big races against each other recently–none bigger than last year’s NCAA outdoor championships, when another baton drop by Texas A&M combined with a win by Florida led to the two teams tieing for the overall team championship.

NCAA indoor champions LSU is here to add some depth, as is Pittsburgh. Most of these same four teams will go head-to-head in the men’s 4×200 relay at noon (1:00 ET) on Saturday.

4. Gabe Grunewald vs Jordan Hasay

Elite women’s race, Carlsbad 5000
Sunday, 10:45am local time (1:45pm ET)

If you have been paying any attention at all to professional American distance running this winter, you know that these two runners were involved in a highly controversial disqualification at the USATF Indoor Championships last month. There does not appear to be any personal animus between them, but this still looks like a very interesting race. Lurking in the background is Brenda Martinez, the 800 meter silver medalist at last year’s World Championships. It seems like a stretch for a half-miler until you remember that “B-Mart” was one of the world’s best milers last summer too.

5. Kendra Harrison vs Jasmin Stowers

University/College Women’s 100 meter hurdles, Texas Relays
Saturday, approximately 2:25pm local time (3:25pm ET)

The Texas Relays are, as the name implies, all about the relays, especially the 4×100 and 4×200. Some of the individual events are loaded, though, and maybe none more than the women’s 100 hurdles. Eight of the top ten in the first Track and Field News formcharts are entered, led by Harrison and Stowers. They were expected to battle it out for the win at the NCAA indoor championships but were upset by Arkansas State’s Sharika Nelvis (who is not entered). It’s their fourth meeting of the year, and Stowers won two of the first three.

6. Cameron Burrell vs Trayvon Bromell

University Men’s 100 meters, Texas Relays
Saturday, approximately 3:40pm local time (4:40pm ET)

Burrell and Bromell may or may not rate as the favorites in this event–Texas A&M’s Shavez Hart probably does–but these two present an interesting matchup because they are both freshmen, and maybe the future of US sprinting.

Bromell ran a 9.99 last year as a high schooler, a time that was an altitude- and wind-aided…but still 9.99. He bested Burrell at the New Balance Nationals and US Junior Championships, while Burrell won the Adidas Dream 100 (at the New York Diamond League meet) and the Brooks PR Invitational. Burrell had the upper hand over Bromell through the indoor season, but it should be noted that 60 meters is not 100 meters. Another freshman lurks in the background, Ole Miss’ Jalen Miller, who was 8th in the 60 at the NCAA indoor championships.

7. Shawn Barber vs Sam Kendricks

Invitational men’s pole vault, Texas Relays
Friday, 5:30pm local time (6:30pm ET)

These two are not just the best pole vaulters among the collegiate ranks; they might be the two best in North America. Barber beat Kendricks for the first time ever at the NCAA indoor championships two weeks ago, and Kendricks won last year’s NCAA outdoor championships. Among North American pole vaulters, only Brad Walker has gone higher in the last twelve months. Last year’s Texas Relays brought fantastic weather and big marks, and Kendricks and Barber took the top two spots. Seven of the top ten in Track and Field News’ first NCAA formcharts are here.

8. Florida vs Texas vs Texas A&M

Women’s 4×100, 4×200 and 4×400, Texas Relays

Oregon is the only major women’s sprint power not competing at the Texas Relays, and these three are expected to battle it out for the relay titles. Texas A&M has tremendous depth in the 100 and 200, Texas has tremendous depth in the 400, and Florida has talent spread out among all those distances.

9. Julian Wruck vs Chad Wright

University/College men’s discus, Texas Relays
Saturday, 3:30pm local time (4:30pm ET)

Wruck dominated college discus throwing last year after missing the 2012 season, when Wright won the NCAA championship. Not only are the last two NCAA champions in this competition, but seven of the eight scorers at last year’s NCAA championships. This is arguably the deepest event in the entire meet.

10. Kaitlin Pettrilose vs Annika Roloff

University/College women’s pole vault, Texas Relays
Friday, 8:15pm local time (9:15pm ET)

Petrillose was the biggest surprise of the NCAA indoor championships. She broke her PR three times, the last of which also broke the collegiate indoor record. Among collegians, only Tina Sutej has ever gone higher outdoors (and by only a single centimeter). But can she do it again? She competes for the home team, the Texas Longhorns, which will help get this event get the attention it deserves.

Her biggest competition here appears to be Roloff, a German who competes for Akron. Roloff finally broke her two-year-old PR while finishing third at the NCAA indoor championships. As with the men’s competition, the women’s pole vault is a deep affair, with seven of the top ten in TFN’s first women’s NCAA formchart.

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