Busy Weekend Ahead For Top NCAA DI Standouts

The weekend between the Mt. SAC Relays and the one with the Drake Relays and Penn Relays on it is usually slow. We don’t mean in terms of marks, but there is usually a hangover of sorts after the excitement of the California meets.

Notice we said usually.

QUICK LINKS: USTFCCCA InfoZone | Meets This Weekend

This year is different as we’re keeping our eye on three big invitationals this weekend: the Cardinal Classic hosted by Stanford, the Michael Johnson Classic hosted by Baylor and the Virginia Challenge hosted by none other than Virginia.

We’ll take a look at two events – one featuring each gender – at each of those meets that should excite even the most casual of collegiate track & field fans.

Cardinal Classic

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Men’s 5000

Friday, 11:35 pm ET

Whenever distance runners from the Pac-12 together, it can be special.

That’s the case in the 1st section of the 5000 as four Stanford Cardinals – led by sophomore Grant Fisher – toe the line against four Colorado Buffaloes – led by two-time indoor All-American John Dressel – and two California Bears – led by Garrett Cocoran.

This will be the 2017 debut for Fisher and Dressel at 5000 meters. Fisher placed 6th at the 2016 NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships in the event with a time of 13:30.13 and Dressel recently set a PR of 13:42.57 during the indoor season at the Husky Classic.

Fisher will be joined by teammates Jack Keelan, Garrett Sweatt and Patrick Gibson. Dressel will be flanked by Joe Klecker and Zach Perrin – both of whom ran altitude-converted sub-4 minute miles during the indoor season – as well as Ryan Forsyth.

Other standouts in the race include San Francisco’s Alex Short, Northern Arizona’s Matthew Baxter, Iowa State’s Thomas Pollard and the Oklahoma State duo of Sylvester Barus and Hassan Abdi.

Women’s 5000

Friday, 11:15 pm ET

Cross country All-Americans meet indoor All-Americans.

What about outdoor All-Americans? We’ll get to them soon enough.

That’s the story of the invitational section of the women’s 5000 meters.

We’ll start with the XC All-Americans entered in the race: Kansas’ Sharon Lokedi (5th), New Mexico’s Alice Wright (19th) and Stanford’s Fiona O’Keeffe (37th).

How about that indoor First-Team All-American? Erin Clark (3000, 8th) fits the bill.

This should be a good one and we expect the NCAA DI Descending Order List to be shaken up, just like it is every time a 5000 is run in Palo Alto, California. After all, 22 of the top-30 times this season were run at the Stanford Invitational on March 31.

Michael Johnson Classic

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Men’s 4×400

Saturday, 8:50 pm ET

There’s a reason they save the 4×400 relay for last, especially at a meet named after one of the best to ever run a quarter mile.

Only one sub-3:00 4×400 has been run in April in collegiate history. That came back in 2014 when Florida’s quartet accomplished the feat at the Florida Relays.

We think it’s time for that to change starting this weekend.

Texas A&M is sending its best against the best from Baylor and Texas Tech. The Aggies will be led by senior Fred Kerley, who will make his open 400 debut earlier in the meet. The Bears have George Caddick and Wil London (currently 3rd in the NCAA DI Descending Order List) while the Red Raiders are paced by Kyle Collins (t-9th, NCAA DI DOL).

Most of those aforementioned men will also be competing in the open 400 at 7:05 pm ET, namely Caddick, Collins and London.

Women’s 400

Saturday, 7:05 pm ET

It wasn’t too long ago when Miami (Fla.)’s Shakima Wimbley was in the running to be on The Bowerman Award Watch List. The Hurricane standout and 2017 NCAA 400-meter champ had received votes on the Post-NCAA Indoor Championships version of the Watch List but she was nowhere to be found this week and that’s because Southern California’s Kendell Ellis, who finished runner-up to Wimbley indoors, jumped into The Bowerman Award contention.

This is a chance for Wimbley to put the pressure back on Ellis and remind the voters she isn’t going anywhere. Ellis was the first collegiate woman to go sub-51 seconds in the open 400 this season, but we’re thinking there will be two after this weekend. Wimbley will be pushed in the race by the likes of Texas A&M’s Jaevin Reed (6th, NCAA DI DOL).

Virginia Challenge

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Men’s 1500

Saturday, 7:45 pm ET

Seven of the 13 men in the top section of the 1500 have gone sub-4 minutes in the mile at some point in their collegiate careers. Just this past indoor season, Virginia Tech’s Neil Gourley and the Syracuse duo of Justyn Knight and Adam Palamar did so with Palamar holding the season PR of the group at 3:57.39, which he ran at the John Thomas Terrier Invitational.

The four other men in the proceedings who have joined the sub-4 club include Georgetown’s Amos Bartelsmeyer, Columbia’s Rob Napolitano, Yale’s James Randon and Virginia’s Henry Wynne, who was the 2016 NCAA mile champ.

Other standouts in the race include Virginia Tech’s Vincent Ciattei and Florida’s Jack Guyton, both of whom knocked on the sub-4 door in the past.

Randon, Furman teammates Ryan Adams and Troy Reeder, as well as Michigan State’s Justine Kiprotich – all of whom are in the race – competed against each other back in March at the Raleigh Relays. It was Randon who got the win in 3:42.33. Adams was 2nd.

This should also serve as a great preview of the ACC Outdoor Track & Field Championships with Ciattei, Gourley, Knight, Palamar and Wynne all entered.

Women’s Long Jump Invitational

Saturday, 4 pm ET

Georgia’s Keturah Orji makes her outdoor debut in this event and will be flanked by two of her teammates – Kate Hall and Kendell Williams. All three were indoor All-Americans with Orji leading the way in 3rd place. Hall finished 4th, while Williams took 7th.

Williams is in top shape already having posted the 5th best heptathlon score in collegiate history earlier this month. The Bulldog senior totaled 6354 points at the Spec Towns Multi.

It will be interesting to see how Hall and Orji perform in their 2nd and 1st meets of the season, respectively. Hall debuted at the Spec Towns Invitational and finished 2nd in the long jump, putting up the 4th best mark of the season to date (6.55m/21-6).