With the preseason now long gone, the USC track and field team competes this weekend at three different meets across the country. Coming into the second week of the official NCAA outdoor season, the men’s and women’s teams are ranked among the top 10 nationwide alongside traditional track powers such as Arkansas and LSU.
The Trojans leaped five spots upward and are now ranked eighth nationally. The Women of Troy fell from third and are currently ranked fourth nationally, trading positions with Clemson in the process. Despite being ranked among the best teams in the nation, the future remains uncertain for the USC outdoor team as the competition picks up.
Additionally, injuries — both old and new — are another hurdle for the team as they push through a long and difficult weekend at the beginning of the season. Select athletes will first compete at the Stanford Invitational, and then the majority of the team travels to Provo, Utah, to compete at the BYU-USC-Boise State Triple Meet. The majority of the USC track and field team will then finish the weekend at the Tiny Lister Classic, held at Cal State Los Angeles.
Last weekend at the Texas Relays, sophomore Josh Mance suffered injuries while running the men’s 4×400 meter, compounding the issues facing the nationally recognized relay squad.
The men’s 4×400-meter team — alternately consisting of senior Bryshon Nellum, seniors Joey Hughes and Duane Walker, junior Reggie Wyatt and Mance — previously achieved the nation’s leading time in the men’s 4×400-meter relay at USC’s own Trojan Invitational with a time of 3:02.24. A sore hip-flexor muscle sidelined Wyatt at the Texas Relays, although Nellum fought through the pain of a past gunshot wound to complete the first portion of the relay. Following Mance’s injury, the team was disqualified from the 4×400-meter competition at the Texas Relays.
With three of their five athletes injured to some degree, the men’s 4×400-meter team enters this weekend’s events at partial-strength.
This is not to suggest that the entire department’s achievements are contingent on the performance of a single group. The USC track and field team has exhibited depth, going so far as to employ the skills of USC football players this season to gain the advantage. Sophomore Marqise Lee, a wide-out for the Trojan football team, has the nation’s leading mark in long jump among collegiate football players that also participate in track. Senior Tony Burnett, usually seen playing defensive back for USC, also carries this distinction in triple jump.
Additional football players that compete in track include junior Nickell Robey — also competing in long jump — and redshirt sophomore D.J. Morgan, competing in sprints.