NCAA T&F Regional Champs Event Preview: 800m

By Chris Lotsbom
(c) 2010 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved

The NCAA Division I Regional meets will be held this weekend.  For the first time, there will be just two regions (instead of four): East and West.  Here is a preview of the men’s and women’s 800m events:

MEN

800m EASTERN REGIONAL

In the 800m, it is the year of the freshmen.  More than any other year, freshmen have seemed to dominate the half mile distance this season, and it all starts with Virginia’s Robby Andrews.  Andrews, originally from New Jersey, has proven he has the racing skills needed to take home an outdoor national title.  At the NCAA Indoor Championship, Andrews outkicked Oregon star Andrew Wheating to win by .01 of a second, earning his first national title.  Then, at the Penn Relays, Andrews proved that his kick was indeed not a fluke, running a 1:47.78 split to help his team win the 4 x 800m Championship of America race and, again, just getting Wheating at the line.  Coached by Jason Vigilante, Andrews has run 1:47.73 outdoors, placing him sixth on the all-time list at Virginia. Although he does not have the fastest time coming into the meet (he is seventh-fastest), he will certainly be the one to watch.

Penn State’s Cas Loxsom, also a freshman, owns the fastest time of the field and is one of only two runners in the East to go under 1:47.  Running 1:46.74, Loxsom’s season has included wins at the Big Ten Championship and at Stanford’s Payton Jordan Cardinal Invitational.  Joining him from Penn State will be juniors Ryan Foster (1:47.78), Owen Dawson (1:48.85), and Lionel Williams (1:49.07).  Foster, an Australian, has focused mainly on the 1500m this spring, but did place third in the 800m at the NCAA Indoor Championship.  Other athletes in the field to watch out for are LSU’s Richard Jones (1:46.81) and Notre Dame’s Jack Howard (1:49.52), both of whom placed in the top-seven at NCAA Indoor Nationals this year.

800m WESTERN REGIONAL

The West’s 800m field is highlighted by Olympian and defending NCAA Outdoor Champion Andrew Wheating of Oregon.  Wheating is coming off impressive performances at the Penn Relays and PAC-10 Championships.  At Penn, he anchored Oregon’s winning distance medley relay team running 3:59.84, and got edged at the line in the 4 x 800 by Virginia’s Robby Andrews, despite running a 1:47.78 split.  Wheating is the fourth-fastest in the field, with a time of 1:47.71, though his personal best outdoors is 1:45.03.  Wheating should easily advance to the NCAA Championships, barring a disaster.  Two men in the West have ran sub 1:47- UCLA’s Cory Primm (1:46.93) and Irvine’s Charles Jock (1:46.93).  The top returner from last year’s National Championship aside from Wheating is Chris Gowell, a Senior at Baylor who placed fourth in 2009.

WOMEN

800m EASTERN REGIONAL

A group of three seniors headline the 800m in the Eastern Regional. LaTavia Thomas of LSU is the fastest in the field, and the top returner from last year’s NCAA Championship.  Thomas’s time of 2:01.41 was achieved early in the season at LSU’s Alumni Gold meet; recently she placed second at the SEC Championships.  Thomas will aim to fend off Tennessee’s Phoebe Wright, who was the NCAA Champion indoors.  Recently named the SEC Scholar-Athlete of the Year, Wright has succeeded both on and off the track.  On the oval, she has helped the Lady Vols earn wins in the 4 x 800m, 4 x 1500m, and DMR at Penn Relays.  The conference champion in the 800m, Wright is looking to make it two-for-two at National Championships this year.  Third fastest in the field is Indiana’s Molly Beckwith.  The Big Ten Conference champion, Beckwith is looking to improve upon her Nationals appearance of one year ago, where she was disqualified.  Also returning from last year’s top ten at the NCAA Championships are juniors Brittany Hall (LSU, 2:03.76) and Dominique Jackson (UNC, 2:06.16).     

800m WESTERN REGIONAL

Although on paper it seems like the Eastern Region has all of the 800m leaders, the West has some big names looking to take the top spots at Nationals.  Leading the group is BYU sophomore Lacey Cramer.  Boasting a season best of 2:03.89, Cramer has won the Mountain West Conference title, and placed second at the Stanford Invitational.  Alongside Cramer all season has been BYU teammate Angela Wagner.  Wagner, a senior from South Africa, placed second to Cramer at the Conference Championships, and is seeded with a time of 2:04.16.  Returning from a sixth place finish at the NCAA Indoor Championship will be Stephanie Brown of Arkansas. Often overshadowed in the SEC by bigger names like Thomas and Wright, this freshman has the ability to get on the podium.  Also in contention will be a slew of Oregon Ducks, led by freshman Anne Kesselring.  Kesselring, from Germany, has won the Pac-10 Championship and Pepsi Team Challenge this year already, and is looking to add a national championship to her accomplishments.  Joining her will be freshman Becca Friday and Chloe Steinbeck.

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