Sam Chelanga and Lisa Koll stand above the rest.
By Chris Lotsbom
(c) 2010 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved
As we continue to our previews of this weekend’s NCAA regional championships, we turn to the longest events today, starting with the 5000m.
The big favorite is Sam Chelanga of Liberty University. The junior from Kenya looks to be in top form, judging from his 27:08.39 collegiate record 10,000m at the Payton Jordan Cardinal Invitational earlier this month. Chelanga only ran one 5000m this spring, a 13:54.82 win at the IC4A Championships. The 25 year-old will look to improve upon his second place finish at NCAA Indoors earlier this year, where he narrowly lost in the 5000m to Northern Arizona’s David McNeill. Chelanga will also run the 10,000m. Joining him in the field will be a large contingent of contenders from the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC). Florida State sophomore Matthew Leeder has run 14:04.18 this year. The young Canadian has plenty of national experience behind him, as he finished sixteenth at NCAA Outdoors last year in the 5000m, and tenth in the 3000m at NCAA Indoors this year. From Virginia Tech is sophomore William Mulherin, who won the ACC 5000m title this year. Also on the line will be Virginia junior Ryan Collins. Placing second in the 10,000m at the ACC Championships, Collins is aiming to improve upon his 11th place finish in the 5000m at NCAA Indoors this year. Freshman Ryan Hill out of NC State is also from the ACC, and has the second fastest time of the field (13:44.36). Others to keep an eye out for are Ben Cheruiyot of Auburn, Andrew Bumbalough of Georgetown, and Andrew Poore of Indiana, all of whom have top-5 seasonal times coming in. Finally, Jean-Pierre Weerts, the top returner in the East from last year’s NCAA Outdoor Championship 5000m, will also be in the meet.
Topping the West Regional list is Northern Arizona junior David McNeill, the NCAA Indoor 5000m Champion and runner-up at NCAA Outdoors last year. McNeill has the best collegiate time in the nation this year, 13:25.63, and will likely need to run a time close to that to defeat the rest of the field. From Stanford will be Elliott Heath, Chris Derrick, and Jake Riley. Derrick and Heath finished one-two at the PAC-10 Championships, while Riley placed fifth. Derrick, who was plagued by injuries during the indoor season, seems to be healthy and firing on all cylinders. Also from the PAC-10 is Arizona State’s Brandon Bethke, who has a personal best of 13:27.79. When talking about the Pac-10, how could anyone not mention the Oregon Ducks? In the 5000m, they have four athletes competing: Jordan McNamara, A.J. Acosta, Michael Maag, and Luke Puskedra. McNamara and Acosta have had the greater success this year out of the bunch, but Maag and Puskedra have shown flashes of greatness, too. Maag placed tenth in the 5000m last year at NCAA Outdoors while at Princeton, and Puskedra had an above average freshman year one year ago. Other athletes who could make an impact in the 5000m include Oklahoma State’s Colby Lowe, Cal’s Michael Coe, and TCU’s Festus Kigen.
West Virginia’s Marie Louise Asselin is the top 5000m competitor in the East, based on her second place finish at the 2010 NCAA Indoor Championships where she was only beaten by Iowa star Lisa Koll. Asselin is coming off of a win at the Big East Championships, but if she wants to make a splash at the national level, she will likely have to run faster than her season best of 16:31.04 (she is 29th on the start list, but has only run one 5000m race this season). Tennessee’s Jackie Areson has the best time in the field, a 15:51.56 run at the Stanford Invitational. Areson was the SEC Champion in the 5000m. Making her return after a brief hiatus is North Carolina’s Brie Felnagle. The 2007 NCAA Outdoor 1500m champion is now a national contender in the 5000m, as she has run 15:55.29 this year, good for second on the start list. Also in the field is Western Kentucky’s Janet Jesang, who will be aiming to improve upon her fifth place finish from NCAA Outdoors a year ago. Stony Brook’s Holly Van Dalen and Wake Forest’s Anna Nosenko have both finished in the top fifteen at NCAA Championships before, and will be toeing the line for the 5000m in Greensboro this weekend.
With six women in the West having run under sixteen minutes this year, competition will be strong. Leading the charge is senior Lisa Koll of Iowa. This year’s NCAA Indoor champ has had an outdoor season for the record books, winning both the 5000m and 10,000m Big 12 Conference titles, as well as placing fourth at the Payton Jordan Cardinal Invitational. In the 10,000m, Koll won the Stanford Invitational in a collegiate record time of 31:18.07. Koll’s season best in the 5000m, 15:17.76, is nearly twenty seconds ahead of the next fastest competitor, NCAA Cross Country champion Angela Bizzarri of Illinois. Bizzarri is the defending NCAA Outdoor champion in the 5000m, as she ran 16:17.94 to capture the title last year. This year, she has a season best of 15:37.21, while taking home the Big Ten Conference titles in both the 1500m and 5000m. It likely will be a two person duel between Koll and Bizzarri for the top spot at regionals, as well as at nationals. But of course, there are twelve spots to be filled out in the region for each event. Contending will be Oregon’s tandem of Alex Kosinski and Nicole Blood. Blood was the PAC-10 champion, while Kosinski was runner up by only .10 of a second. Others that will likely earn spots for nationals include Kansas State’s Beverly Ramos, New Mexico’s Ruth Senior, Texas Tech’s Caroline Karunde, and Texas’s Mia Behm. All of these women have run 16:00.00 or better (Behm hit the mark on the nose at the Payton Jordan Cardinal Invitational earlier this month).