WEEKEND PREVIEW: Distance Action From Coast To Coast
EDITOR’S NOTE: This preview is centered on distance events. If you want to read more about this weekend’s sprints/hurdles/relays as well as jumps and throws happenings, CLICK HERE.
Welcome to the last major weekend of the regular season in collegiate indoor track & field!
After today, collegians will turn their attention to the postseason as conference bragging rights will be on the line less than two weeks from now.
Chances of seeing some big marks this weekend is pretty high, so let us take a look at some of the biggest meets.
This meet is a haven for distance runners looking for fast times, as the Dempsey Indoor’s (“The Dempsey”, to the locals) 307-meter oval attracts many fast times every year, even among the post-collegiate athletes.
This year’s invitational portion on Friday night starts with an easy fan-wise winner, collegiate-wise, with two Bowerman Watch List members competing head-to-head, as the Women’s 3000 Meters is led by the nation’s best collegiate talent.
Katie Izzo nearly broke the collegiate record in the Women’s 5000 Meters back in December at 15:13.09. She was third overall in leading Arkansas’ winning cross country team in November. BYU’s Whittni Orton, seventh in the NCAA cross country championships, has PRed this winter in the mile at 4:29.76 in an event she already placed at NCAAs (seventh in 2018).
The Women’s 3000 Meters is also set to include Stanford’s Ella Donaghu and Washington’s Katie Rainsberger. Dongahu, eighth in the fall’s NCAA cross country race, won the Razorback Invitational mile over Izzo. She leads the nation in the 3000 at 8:58.31. Rainsberger is not far back on this year’s bests at 9:01.88 and her 1500 PR is an impressive 4:09.08.
Also on Friday is the Men’s 3000 Meters, featuring Cooper Teare, the anchor for Oregon’s incredible distance medley CR in which he ran alone 3:55.5 for 1600m. He will be joined by DMR teammate James West (2:53.5 opening leg, mostly alone). They’ll be challenged by the likes of Waleed Suliman of Ole Miss, among others.
There will be also a strong contingent of athletes from the NCAA DII ranks looking to turn in some fast times at the Husky Classic, like Carson Bix of Adams State and Derek Holdsworth of Western Oregon, who are both entered in the Men’s Mile, and Marcelo Laguera of CSU Pueblo in the Men’s 5000 Meters.
David Hemery Valentine Invitational
Already the site of two exciting 5000-meter races this season, the Track and Tennis Center in Boston could see the best one yet on Friday night. The headliner is Jenny Simpson, who will be attempting to get the Olympic standard of 15:10.00. The Colorado grad won The Bowerman in its inaugural year of 2009.
Leading the collegians is current Buffalo star Dani Jones, a member of this year’s Watch List for The Bowerman. Jones is the defending NCAA outdoor champ at this distance, but she has never been in a fast 5000. She set lifetime bests at two shorter races earlier this year, including a 4:27.88 mile in last week’s Millrose Games that moved her up to No. 6 collegian all-time. The collegiate record in the 5000 is 15:12.22, set in 2015 by Providence’s Emily Sisson.
Also looking to run fast is Makena Morley of Colorado and Parley Hannan of Ithaca. Morley, a top-10 finisher in the 2018 NCAA cross country championships (won by Jones), clocked a 9:15.77 3000 at high altitude two weeks ago that the NCAA converts to about 9-flat at sea level. Hannan won the NCAA Division III cross country title in the fall and has recorded a series of monster PRs this winter running virtually alone. The NCAA DIII indoor record is 16:23.12.
Tyler Day was part of the fireworks on this track’s last major 5000, when he became the third fastest collegian ever at 13:16.95 three weeks ago at the John Thomas Terrier Classic. He’s returning with two of his Northern Arizona teammates – Geordie Beamish and Luis Grijalva – as the group will step down to the 3000 on Saturday. Beamish is the defending NCAA indoor mile champ and Grijalva ran a big PR 13:29.74 at the Terrier Classic.
Day, a member of The Bowerman Watch List, has some more history within reach. Only two men are on the all-time top-10 in both the indoor 3000 and 5000 – Lawi Lalang and Galen Rupp. Day can join them with a time of 7:45.71 or faster. The pacer’s goal is to reach 1600 in 4:08, which is 7:45 pace. Day actually ran 7:54.59 on an oversized track while redshirting the 2018 indoor season.
Another interesting collegian to keep an eye on is Simon Fraser’s Kieran Lumb, defending NAIA outdoor champ in the 5000. In January he just missed joining the sub-4 mile club, running 4:00.03 in winning by over 4 seconds.
Iowa State Classic
The home team will have its stars in action on the Lied Recreation Athletic Center’s 300-meter oval, especially on Saturday by its distance squad. Tops in that group is Edwin Kurgat, who has followed up his undefeated cross country season with two lifetime bests in two attempts this winter, the latest a 7:49.19 3000 at the Millrose Games. This week Kurgat is looking for his first sub-4 mile – two weeks ago he split a 3:59.8 1600-meter anchor on ISU’s winning distance medley relay team at the Indiana Relays.
The Cyclones are prominent on the current 800-meter descending order list, courtesy of a fast race on this very track three weeks ago when Festus Lagat led an ISU 1-2-3 in 1:47.55. He is set to race again and also in the field is Michael Rhoads of Air Force – both Lagat (third) and Rhoads (sixth) were finalists in the NCAA outdoor last year. Lagat split an impressive 2:53.9 on the opening 1200 in the DMR that Kurgat anchored.
Peter Seufer of Virginia Tech was fourth in the NCAA cross country this fall and has lowered his mile and 3000 bests this winter, beating all other collegians he’s faced in the process. He’ll be attacking the 5000 on Friday.
The field events include a special matchup Friday afternoon in the men’s pole vault. South Dakota’s Chris Nilsen, a member of The Bowerman Watch List, will face off with the only other 19-footer this year, KC Lightfoot of Baylor. Both are undefeated against collegians in 2020. Nilsen has three career NCAA titles, the first indoors as a freshman in 2017 and the third last year outdoors to hand Mondo Duplantis his lone collegiate loss.