Arizona freshman Jordan Geist, one of the most decorated high school throwers in history, makes his bid for a collegiate championship in the shot put Wednesday at the NCAA outdoor track and field finals in Eugene, Oregon.
Five other UA men and eight female teammates will compete in the four-day championships at the University of Oregon’s historic Hayward Field.
At Knock High School in western Pennsylvania, Geist captured the 2017 national outdoor title in the 12-pound shot with a formidable toss of 76 feet. He also won the hammer throw and finished second to now-teammate Turner Washington in the discus.
Last summer, he won the shot put gold medal at the Junior Pan Am Games.
Geist launched his UA career with a record-breaking throw of 70 feet 4½ inches on Jan. 26, then the world’s fourth-best throw of the indoor season. That toss with the 16-pound shot set a UA indoor record and an NCAA freshman mark.
He went into the NCAA indoor championships in March as the favorite but ended up in fifth place behind throwers with two or three more years of college experience.
UA coach Fred Harvey says the high expectations put considerable pressure on Geist.
With all of Geist’s accomplishments, Harvey said, “You sometimes forget that he’s a true freshman.”
Geist put together an outstanding record in the outdoor track season, winning both the Pac-12 shot put and discus championships. But nationally, he goes into Wednesday’s shot put competition with the fourth best throw, 66-11½, during the collegiate outdoor season.
Despite that, Harvey says “Jordan is going to be tough to beat.”
It’s not who has the best throw over the entire season, he added, but who can deliver at the championships.
Also competing Wednesday are three other Wildcats: Bailey Roth in the steeplechase, Collins Kibet in the 800 meters and Maksims Sincukovs in the 400-meter hurdles. They will run in semifinal heats Wednesday, seeking to make it to the elite eight of Friday’s finals.
The UA women’s relay teams in the 400 meters and 1,600 meters will run in semifinal heats Thursday.
On Friday, discus throwers Turner Washington and Geist and high jumper Bryant O’Georgia will give it their best shot in the finals of their respective events. Alyssa Thompson will begin two days of competition in the heptathlon.
Here’s a look at the UA athletes and their events at the NCAA outdoor championships this week:
- Thompson is seeded 13th in the heptathlon, based on her personal-best score of 5761 at the Pac-12 championships. Harvey looks for her to improve her marks in the heptathlon’s seven events, especially in the high jump. Before redshirting last year, Thompson finished 14th in the 2016 NCAA championships.
- The four members of Arizona’s 400-meter relay team — Savaughn Christman, Tatum Waggoner, Pamela White and Brena Andrews — ran 44.84 at the NCAA preliminary in Sacramento, and are seeded 23rd out of the 24 competing teams. They are in a heat with Kentucky and USC.
- The 1,600-meter relay team of Diana Gajda, Karolina Pahlitzsch, Katelin Warren and Waggoner set their season-best time, 3:35.60, in Sacramento. They are seeded 21st, but Harvey believes they are capable of making it to the finals if all four runners can post their best times.
- Geist will compete in the discus Friday in addition to his shot put duties. He threw 181-5 at Sacramento and carries a personal best of 188-10, set while winning the Pac-12 discus.
- Kibet has been recovering from health issues but “he’s now in quality shape,” Harvey says. The Kenya-born Kibet ran 1:48.15 in Sacramento but likely will need to equal or improve on his personal best of 1:46.87 to qualify for the finals as he ends his UA career.
- O’Georgia, who has a personal record of 7-3¼ in the high jump, faces off Friday with 23 athletes. The senior from Phoenix finished fourth in the Pac-12 championships at 6-11.
- Roth’s 8:45.70 is the 17th best time among runners in the 3,000-meter steeplechase, but Harvey called him his “dark-horse candidate” to qualify for Friday’s final. Roth, also closing out his UA career, set the high school steeplechase record and his personal best is 8:37.38.
- Sincukovs ran a season-best time of 50.62 at Sacramento in the 400-meter hurdles. Harvey believes the Latvian-born runner has a chance to make it to the finals if he can run a personal best near 50.0.
- Washington, the Pan American Junior Championships silver medalist, recorded his season-best throw with 185-4 in the discus on April 28. The Tucsonan came up short at 178-5 at the Pac-12 finals, but recovered with a throw of 181-5 at Sacramento.