NCAA Indoor Preview 2011 - USA Athletics Scholarships

NCAA Indoor Preview 2011

Harvard's 200m flat track

With the NCAA Cross Country season now in the history books, the focus now shifts to indoors. The NCAA indoor season is short and sharp, but one thing for sure is that the level of competition will be extremely high.  Likewise with the UK, the level of emphasis given to indoor competitions will be varied depending on who you ask. Some schools and athletes take it very seriously, going all out to chase qualifying marks and subsequently perform well at the NCAA Indoor Championships. Others view it more as a stepping stone towards the future months. It is an ideal way to break up winter training, but still very much used as a means of preparing for outdoors.  Performing well through all three seasons is notoriously difficult, and if there was ever a time to lay low as a distance athlete then indoors would be the obvious choice.

Season Structure

Regardless of the level of importance placed on indoors, most schools will follow the same basic structure through the 2012 season:

January: Local, low key open meets to start the season

February: Big invitational open meets

25/26 February: Conference Championships

2/3 March: ‘Last Chance’ weekend

9/10 March: NCAA Indoor Championships

There is less team emphasis during indoors and outdoors compared to cross country, with the individual differences in athletes and events being considered. However the Conference and NCAA Championships are both team scored meets.

Qualifying Process

Love it or hate it, the NCAA Indoor season is extremely competitive and is numerically harder to qualify for than the outdoor championships. Qualifying is the most cut throat of the three seasons, calculated purely on a descending order list. There is no regional meet or team spots (excluding relays). Also note that unlike cross-country and outdoors, there is a ‘last chance’ weekend that takes place after the conference weekend. The only way to guarantee qualification is to hit an NCAA automatic qualifying mark. These are understandably very tough and will typically only be reached by several athletes in each event. What makes qualifying even tougher is that there is no set number of athletes per event. The only stipulation is that a total of 284 men and 284 women are allowed into the meet. This usually works out at roughly the top 16 per event though it will be affected by the number of athletes competing in more than one event. For example 21st on the list may be good enough to qualify for the 3000m if other athletes have already qualified through the mile or 5000m. On the other hand it is possible to be as high as 15th on the list and not qualify.

Rightly or wrongly, the qualifying marks do allow for variations depending on certain circumstances. For example altitude adjusted performances do count for qualifying, meaning that a 14.20 5000m run in Flagstaff would equate to something in the low 13.50 range. Pat Casey topped the Men’s Mile rankings last year courtesy of an altitude adjusted time of 3:54, having only ran 3:59 albeit at 7000ft and a solo effort.

The huge variation in tracks is also worth considering. Vast oversize tracks like Washington, Notre Dame, Iowa State (all 300m+) are hugely different from flat 200m tracks found at other schools like Houston, Oklahoma and Kansas State. Take a trip to Texas Tech and you can compete on their oval track with its perpetuating bends. The NCAA Championships will however always take place on a traditional 200m banked track. Hosting the Championship for the first time this year will be Boise State University, Idaho.  The qualifying marks can be found by clicking on the links below:



As the season develops we will preview all the big meets as well keeping a keen eye on how the British and Irish athletes perform.

Men’s and women’s ranking lists to date can be found here. Notable qualifiers already are Diego Estrada in the 5000m (13:39) and Erik Kynard with a 2.31m High jump. On the women’s side,  Stony Brook’s Lucy Van Dalen has already booked her place with automatic qualifiers in the mile and 3000m.

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