The conditions on the campus of the University of Oregon are contentious and the new NCAA system of qualifications is questionable, but USC director of track and field Ron Allice's team is still very much in contention for the annual NCAA Championship, to be determined Saturday after a four-day melee between all of the nation's top teams.
At the time of this writing, the USC men stood in 11th place, with the women scoreless and in a tie for 34th, but the majority of finals — and big-ticket races like the 4x400-meter relay finals and the 100-meter final, surprisingly not featuring star Trojan sprinter Ahmad Rashad — are set for Saturday (10 a.m. PT, CBS), when the national winner will be determined.
Allice, in his 16th season with the Trojans, isn't exactly nervous. But confident wouldn't be the right word to describe his state of mind either.
"I believe we're ready," he said earlier this week. "But so is the rest of the country. We've just gotta get settled, get everything lined up and then see what happens."
The controversial qualification system, implemented earlier this year by the NCAA, put multiple regionals across the nation and allowed fewer runners to qualify from each, changing the dynamics of what had been a long-standing system. Allice isn't happy with its preliminary results.
"Are we a good team?" Allice asked himself Wednesday. "We're a good team, but the idea is to know how we are going to be in this regional format and the NCAA's — I don't know. I can't predict it.
Top finishers for USC so far have been the relay team — featuring Joey Hughes, Jason Price, Nate Anderson and anchor Reggie Wyatt — that ran the second-best qualifying time among all heats and junior hurdler Oscar Spurlock, who ran a 12.65 time in the 110-meter hurdles Thursday to qualify for Saturday's finals.
Rashad, who finished second at the championships last June, did not qualify for the 100-meter finals after he was disqualified for a false start.
Allice is not happy with Oregon's weather either. It had been raining off and on in Eugene earlier in the week, and, despite the toning down as the meets have gone on — Weather.com shows just a 20 percent chance of precipitation today — he contends it has already hurt some of his competitors.
Senior Brandon Estrada finished in a tie for fifth in the pole-vaulting competition Thursday after his attempts were delayed for more than an hour by rain. He told USC's official site it was "the most difficult competition" he'd ever been in because of that aspect.
"You ever try to pole vault in the rain?" Allice asked earlier this week. "Not so fun."