The NCAA Indoor Championships begin this evening, and I've written up a preview of the distance events for Runner's Tribe. It includes a high level look at the quality of marks being put up across all events (distance/sprints/field), a few high level questions I'll have in mind as I watch, and then a quick breakdown of the key players in each race with my inevitably wrong predictions.
Here are the five questions I'll be asking. Click here to read the full article!
Can anyone top Wheating? Despite missing the fall due to injury, he opened with a smokin' 1:46.36 800m and followed it up with a dominant 3:58 mile. The 2008 Olympic qualifier and reigning NCAA Outdoor 800m champ, it's hard to imagine anyone beating him. With that said, he does tend to save it until the last possible moment to go for the win, and that could set him up for disappointment. Similarly, it'll be interesting to see what he can do if he's anchoring the DMR for Oregon. A big performance this weekend will solidify his status as the premiere talent in the NCAAs.Again, the event-by-event breakdown is in the full article, here!
Can an Aussie win a title? There are two very good possibilities in David McNeill and Ryan Foster. Neither can be considered the favorite, despite McNeill's having the top times in both the 3000m and 5000m this season. That's because he'll be facing Sam Chelanga (13:18i/27:28/NCAA XC champ last year) in the 5000m and a loaded field in the 3000m. Foster has the unenviable task of trying to beat Andrew Wheating and a bunch of young upstarts (Greer, Mellon, Andrews) who didn't get the memo that running 1:47 isn't an easy thing to do. I'd say the chances are about 33% that Australia takes home a title this weekend.
Can a freshman win a distance title? I thought last year's freshman crop was amazing, but this year's might actually be stronger, at least in the middle distances. With Rupp, Barringer and Kipyego running last year, there was little hope for a freshman to sneak a title, but Lacey Cramer managed to do it in the 800m. This year, there are some stud middle distance freshman who just might have a chance. Mac Fleet and Elijah Greer are ranked top-3 in the mile and 800m, respectively, for Oregon, as is Jordan Hasay in the mile (she's also entered in the 3000m). In the 800m, we also have Robby Andrews of Virginia and Zach Mellon of Wisconsin. It's unlikely any of them will end up atop the podium, but maybe they can surpass the total distance points earned by last year's freshmen (35, DMRs not included).
Bizzarri or Koll? Bizzarri is the darling of the NCAA, having won the NCAA Outdoor 5000m, finished 3rd at the USATF Championships in the 5000m, and then somehow snuck a victory at the NCAA Cross Country Championships when Barringer and Kuijken faltered. Her times aren't that impressive, but she always finds a way to win. Koll had a down year last year due to injury, but is the American Collegiate 10000m record holder (32:11) and has run some smokin' fast times this season (8:56/15:29), both of which are much faster than Bizzarri's (or anyone else in the field's) personal bests.
Can UCLA win a DMR title? Back in 1999, UCLA entered the NCAA Indoors with an unheralded team. Jess Strutzel and Michael Granville were top 800 meter runners, and Mark Hauser was a 4-minute miler, so they were quite good. But everybody was talking about Stanford and Arkansas. Nobody gave Hauser much of a chance to hang on against the likes of Seneca Lassiter (Arkansas) or Michael Stember (Stanford) on the anchor. They went on to set a then American Record 9:33.17 in the event. This year's squad features a couple solid 800m guys (Cory Primm, Scott Crawford) and an unheralded 4-minute miler (Marlon Patterson) and they've already run faster than that 1999 squad ever did. Could this be the year they rewrite history?