SYRACUSE, N.Y. — The Arkansas Razorbacks, with Olympic silver medalist Mike Conley seeking his sixth and seventh national titles, are favored to win their second consecutive team title in the NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships beginning Friday at the Carrier Dome.
Defending champion Nebraska, led by Olympian Angie Thacker, is expected to be involved in a wide-open battle for the women's team championship.
Arkansas, winning seven individual events and a relay in cruising to the Southwest Conference championship, qualified 19 athletes for the weekend competition.
"Arkansas should walk off with it," Villanova assistant coach Jack Pyrah said. "They have so many guns. They've got people in the field events, the sprints and the middle distances. I don't see any way they can lose."
Razorbacks coach John McDonnell, however, is taking nothing for granted.
"We definitely have a chance but so does Washington State and Tennessee," McDonnell said. "Numbers don't always win. You have to have quality. We've just got to do what we're capable of doing."
The main weapon in the Razorbacks' assault is Conley, who is looking for his third consecutive NCAA horizontal jump double. He captured the long jump and triple jump indoors and outdoors last year, and went on to win a silver medal in the Olympic triple jump.
During the current indoor season, the senior from Chicago placed first in the triple jump and second in the long jump in the Grand Prix standings.
Other Razorbacks expected to compete for individual titles are Paul Donovan in the 1,500 meters, Bill Jasinski in the high jump, Roddie Haley in the 400, Doug Consiglio in the 1,000 and Mark Klee in the pole vault.
A battle royal is expected for second place.
Washington State returns 3,000-meter champion Peter Koech and a strong field contingent headed by high jumpers Brent Harken and Brett Lowery.
Sprinter Sam Graddy, who won a gold and a silver at the Olympics, and distance man Doug Tolson will be counted on by Tennessee. Iowa State looks to Danny Harris, an Olympic silver medalist in the 400-meter hurdles.
Defending champions returning are Georgia Tech sophomore Antonio McKay, who won a gold and a bronze at the Olympics, in the 400 meters; William Wuyke of Alabama in the 1,000, and Nick Saunders of Boston University in the high jump.
On the women's side, Nebraska is looking for heavy scoring from Thacker in the 55 meters and the long jump, where she is defending champion, and hurdler Rhonda Blanford and 400-meter runner Marcia Tate.