WEEKEND PREVIEW: Distance Action Heats Up

By Kyle Terwillegar, USTFCCCA

January 28, 2016   

NEW ORLEANS – There’s so much going on at the Arkansas Razorback Team Invitational this weekend that we dedicated an entire article to what is sure to be a dynamic meet.

But by no means is that the only game in the indoor track & field town this weekend. Especially for those of you who are distance running fans.

While the 2016 debut of two-time Bowerman Trophy finalist Edward Cheserek at Arkansas may get a fair share of the headlines, we’ve picked out a few more distaince races from the Penn State National, the JDL Fast Track Camel City Invitational, the Boston U John Thomas Terrier Classic and the Washington Invitational you’ll want to follow.

PENN STATE NATIONAL

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Men’s 800 Invitational

Saturday | 4:20pm ET

There won’t be a more stacked distance race anywhere in the country than the men’s half-mile in Happy Valley. Newly minted 1000-meter collegiate record holder and 2015 outdoor NCAA runner-up Brannon Kidder of the host Nittany Lions will make his 800-meter debut against a loaded field that includes three of the top-five finishers from last year’s NCAA indoor final.

Monmouth’s Dylan Capwell finished runner-up in last year’s final, followed narrowly by third-place Clayton Murphy of Akron and fifth-place Ryan Manahan – then of Georgetown and now with Ole Miss.

Outdoors, Kidder and Murphy were separated by just .16 of a second as the runner-up and third-place finisher, respectively. Capwell and Ole Miss’ Craig Engels, also scheduled to compete, just missed making the outdoor final a year ago with third-place finishes in their respective heats.

Kidder will be hoping to carry the momentum from his 1:18.36 run over 1000  meters two weekends ago, while Murphy will look to rekindle the form that carried him all the way to the IAAF World Championships a year ago. He entered 2015 as a 1:50 man in the 800, and finished it as a consistent 1:45 guy.

Women’s 3000 Invitational

Saturday | 4:55pm ET

Cross country fans will find a number of familiar names in this field. Four All-Americans from the past two seasons are slated to square off, including William & Mary’s Regan Rome (25th), Penn State’s Tessa Barrett (38th), Stanford’s Vanessa Fraser (40th) and Georgetown’s Samantha Nadel (37th in 2014).

Mile specialist Angel Piccirillo of Villanova (7th indoor mile in 2015) will inject some speed into the proceedings, while steepler Tori Gerlach of Penn State will also push toward the front.

Men’s Distance Medley Relay Invitational

Friday | 7:10pm ET

We don’t know exactly who’s running the relay for each team, but we also know that doesn’t matter: each of the teams in this field has some serious firepower on their rosters.

You’ve got 2015 national runner-up Penn State with Kidder and Robby Creese; you’ve got fourth-place Georgetown with Jonathan Green and a stable of quick milers; you’ve got fifth-place Villanova with Jordy Williamsz and Patrick Tiernan; you’ve got 2014 national champion Stanford with potentially Grant Fisher and Sean McGorty. Plus, an up-and-coming program in Mississippi with Manahan and Engels.

Whoever these teams run, we know it’ll be fast.

BONUS: Women’s 800 Invitational (Saturday | 4:05pm ET) Claudia Saunders and Olivia Baker of Stanford against 1000-meter national leader Andrea Keklak of Georgetown.

 

CAMEL CITY INVITATIONAL

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Elite Men’s 3000 presented by Salem Sports

Saturday | 2:35pm ET

Thomas Curtin of Virginia Tech made headlines last fall when he won the Pre-National Invitational over eventual three-time national XC champion Edward Cheserek of Oregon – joining a select club of runners who can make that claim. His competitive indoor season truly gets underway this weekend against the charter member of that club, professional Lawi Lalang (formerly of Arizona).

Curtin may be the biggest collegiate name in the field as a three-time All-American on the track in 2015, but he’ll have to square off against such standouts as Jacob Thomson of Kentucky, Willy Fink of Eastern Michigan, and last year’s breakthrough cross country star Luis Vargas of NC State (formerly of Elon).

In addition to Lalang, the professional side of the field will feature recent Great Edinburgh Cross Country champion Garrett Heath – who topped the multiple-time Olympic/World Champion Mo Farah – and Michael Atchoo, as well as high school star Drew Hunter.

Elite Women’s 3000

Saturday | 2:15pm ET

After breakthrough cross country campaigns, it’s time for Furman’s Anna Buchalski and Wake Forest’s Samantha Jones to take that momentum to the track. After finishing 156th at the 2014 NCAA XC Championships, Buchalski stormed onto the national scene in 2015 with a seventh-place overall finish at this year’s nationals. Jones, meanwhile, went from 34th at the Southeast Region in 2014 to 34th in the country in 2015.

Neither woman has broken 9:30 on the track in this event for their careers, but this will be the field in which they should do it. Current collegiate 5000-meter leader Erika Kemp of NC State headlines their NCAA competitors, along with teammate Wesley Frazier in her NC State debut.

All the collegians will have their hands full with such pros as Kerri Gallagher, Jessica Tonn, Katie Mackey and Alexi Pappas.

Elite Women’s 800

Saturday | 3pm ET

Hanna Green of Virginia Tech went from relative anonymity to front-page college track & field news last winter when she upset eventual NCAA Champion Natoya Goule of Clemson to win the ACC 800-meter crown. She proved her staying power with a fifth-place indoor NCAA finish and a third-place outdoor showing.

She finished fourth in this race a year ago to kick off a breakthrough campaign that saw her improve her indoor PR by nearly five seconds to 2:03.18, and it looks to be an equally tough field this year. Elizabeth Whelan of North Carolina – who finished steps behind Green at the 2015 NCAA Indoor Championships for sixth overall – will lead the collegiate opposition, with professionals Phoebe Wright and Melissa Bishop sure to challenge for the win.

 

BOSTON U JOHN THOMAS TERRIER CLASSIC

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Men’s Mile

Saturday | 3:25pm ET

After a all-star cross country season in which he finished no lower than third at any meet – that’s where he finished at the NCAA Championships to lead his Orange to the team title – Syracuse’s Justyn Knight now turns his attention to the track. Saturday afternoon will be Knight’s first indoor T&F competition in the Orange and Blue, but he’s already something of a legend following his one-shoed win in the ACC outdoor 1500 a year ago.

He ran his career-best on this weekend a year ago with an unattached 3:59.51 at Penn State, and he’ll have a shot to top that this weekend in a head-to-head match-up against former collegiate record holder Chris O’Hare (3:52.98, formerly of Tulsa), as well as Julian Oakley of Providence (3:57.22 last year), and former mile All-American Daniel Winn (3:57.62 last year, formerly of Oregon).

Women’s 5000

Friday | 8pm ET

A pair of Providence XC All-Americans from last fall in Sarah Collins and Catarina Rocha will take on some of the region’s – and the nation’s – best collegians in Syracuse’s Margo Malone, Dartmouth’s Dana Giordano and Virginia’s Cleo Boyd.

They’ll be chasing several top-flight professionals including Morgan Uceny, Abbey D’Agostino and Emily LIpari.

WASHINGTON INVITATIONAL

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Women’s 5000

Friday | 10:10pm ET/7:10pm PT

Headlining the offerings in Seattle this weekend is the collegiate track debut of Boise State’s frosh phenom Allie Ostrander. The Alaska native, who took the distance running world by storm with a dominant regular season and a runner-up finish at the NCAA Cross Country Championships, has never run a 5K on the track before.

However, given that she ran 19:19 over 6K to win the Wisconsin adidas Invitational this past XC season, it stands to reason that she’s very capable of running faster than 16 minutes in her debut and challenging Kemp’s current NCAA-leading 15:45. That could be especially likely given she’ll have her teammates Brenna Peloquin – another frosh who finished ninth at XC Nationals – and Minttu Hukka in the field as well as numerous top-flight pros including Kim Conley and Kate Grace.