USC travels to Iowa, prepares for NCAAs

1976 and 2001.

These are two very important years to the USC track and field team. They mark the years when the men’s and women’s teams, respectively, last won an NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championship.

Cremé of the crop · Junior captain Joey Hughes (far right) has developed into one of the top 400m runners in the country, and his time of 45.15 sec ranks seventh all-time in USC history. This week, he will be competing in the 400m race and the 4x400m race. - Summer Trojan file photo

Entering this year’s competition, the men’s team ranks No. 6 in the nation and the women’s team comes in at No. 7.

Both teams are primed to make some noise at the NCAAs as USC will look to use its 19 qualifying athletes to conquer 15 different events throughout the course of the competition.

With the events taking place at historic Drake Stadium in Des Moines, Iowa, the team hopes for the best in continuing its legacy.

Yes, a legacy.

Even though it has been quite some time since the USC men’s and women’s teams, took home the national title, that doesn’t mean the Trojans haven’t seen overall success.

The men’s team has won the most NCAA outdoor titles — 26 in total — which is more than double the next-best program in Arkansas.

As for the women’s team, its only title was in 2001. Regardless, USC as a whole has constantly appeared in the top-10 at the NCAA championships.

Junior captain Joey Hughes expressed his optimism, especially in terms of the men’s team, for this year’s competition.

“I have confidence in our team,” Hughes said. “I feel like we will do excellent. We have a strong group of guys and we will do good overall for the men’s side.”

One of the fastest 400-meter runners in the country, Hughes will be a big asset to the team at the NCAA championships. He will also participate in the 4×400-meter relay with junior Duane Walker, sophomore Reggie Wyatt and freshman Josh Mance — one of the fastest relay teams in the country.

The young USC team, which heads to Des Moines with only four seniors, has done a few things to prepare for competition.

“One thing that we did versus the other teams is that we got here a few days earlier,” Hughes said. “We will be used to the time zone, we won’t feel like we just flew in and feel uncomfortable. And we had lighter practices before this so we wouldn’t be tired.”

Even though they are scarce in number, two of four USC’s seniors will be a force to reckon with.

Seniors Oscar Spurlock and Brendan Ames are ranked third and fourth in the nation, respectively, in the 110-meter hurdles.

As for the team’s biggest strength, the junior captain named three key areas, in addition to hurdles, where the Trojans excel.

“Our strength is in the hurdles, 400 and the throws,” Hughes said. “We have two strong hurdlers, runners and throwers who qualified.”

The competition begins today with the women’s 4×100-meter relay at 5:30 p.m. and runs through Saturday.