A Preview Of The NCAA Championships

Jordan Hasay is running her last collegiate race on the Oregon track. Photo: www.photorun.net

Table of Contents

Men

800m: Final June 7
This event has been an exciting discipline to watch on the NCAA level in recent years. Guys like Andrew Wheating, Robby Andrews, Charles Jock, and Erik Sowinski have emerged from the collegiate ranks to establish themselves on the professional circuit. Next up on the list will likely be Elijah Greer and Cas Loxsom. From Oregon and Penn State, respectively, the duo have captivated the nation with their times and dramatic finishes over the last few years.

At the NCAA Indoor meet in Arkansas, it was Greer who took the win by .01 seconds ahead of Loxsom. In this year’s outdoor final, look for Loxsom to give every last ounce trying to earn the title and prevent Greer from winning on his home turf.

While Greer and Loxsom have been the big names atop the leaderboard all season, 19 others clocked times under 1:48.50. Among them was Declan Murray, a senior at Loyola of Illinois. Much to the chagrin of track fans across the nation, Murray has the same season best as Loxsom — 1:46.77; both ran the time at Mt. SAC in April.

While Greer, Loxsom, and Murray are the only ones to go under 1:47.00, a number of others could very well finish in the top three. Penn State’s Brannon Kidder, Western Kentucky’s David Mokone, and Georgia’s Charles Grethen are the next three fastest on the NCAA list. It will be very interesting to see who advances from Heat 3 of the preliminary round, as Greer, Kidder, Mokone, and Grethen are all in the section. Keep in mind the top two from each heat plus the next best two athletes from all three heats advance to the final.

1500m: Final June 8
The men’s 1500m really is a toss-up, with about three quarters of the field having a realistic shot of winning the national title. Among them are Oklahoma duo Riley Masters and Patrick Casey, defending champion Andrew Bayer, and Notre Dame’s Jeremy Rae, who has the fastest seed time.

In the metric mile, anything can happen. It’s near impossible to eliminate from contention any of the 24 entrants, but here’s our best shot at selecting the true contenders.

Aside from the four standouts mentioned above, North Carolina State’s Ryan Hill and Boston University’s Rich Peters should be in the mix at the front of the pack. Peters, from Great Britain, could carry on the recent NCAA success of Brits in the mile/metric mile: in 2012, Tulsa’s Chris O’Hare (Scotland) took the mile title (O’Hare is redshirting and concentrating on the World Championships, thus is not competing this week).

Wisconsin is typically thought of as a longer distance school. After all, the Badgers have produced 10,000m Olympian Mohammed Ahmed and were the NCAA Cross Country Champions in 2011. But the middle distance duo of Austin Mudd and Alex Hatz could make waves in the 1500m. Both are sophomores and were national title holders in high school.

The University of Oregon has three athletes in the discipline: Chad Noelle, Mac Fleet, and Patrick Todd. With a little boost from the home crowd, any one of them could be taking a victory lap around Hayward Field.

Stanford’s Tyler Stutzman and Penn State’s Robby Creese are also entered.

Right there, we mentioned 13 of the 24-man field. Only 12 advance to the final; someone’s bound to be left out.

5000m: Final June 8
Similar to the women’s 5000m, the men’s 5000m will certainly be the most anticipated race of the distance program. Here you have Lawi Lalang, the odds-on favorite, taking on Olympian Diego Estrada and rising star Eric Jenkins. Throw in Oklahoma State’s Girma Mecheso and Kirubel Erassa, Big East Conference champion Andrew Springer, and last year’s runner-up Paul Chelimo, and you have a star-studded field. Not to mention NCAA 3000m Indoor runner-up Kemoy Campbell and indoor 5000m fourth place finisher Maverick Darling.

What more can you say? This is going to be an epic battle.

Lalang is attempting the 5000m/10,000m double, but that shouldn’t be a problem for the 21-year-old. The 10,000m final is on Thursday, while the 5000m is on Saturday.

Surely there is extra motivation for Estrada, who finished second over 5000m indoors. He’s accustomed to the big stage — he ran for Mexico in the London Olympics — and won’t be intimidated by Lalang.

Jenkins also has motivation of his own after being disqualified from the NCAA Indoor 3000m for impeding another runner. The junior from Northeastern — not known as a distance running school — has a personal best of 13:18.57 set in April.

Lalang, Estrada, and Jenkins should round out the top three, but any of the aforementioned contenders could finish on the podium.

10,000m: Final June 6
Like in the 5000m, Arizona’s Lalang is the favorite, having run 28:14.63 this year. This will be Lalang’s first race of the weekend and could set the stage for how he does in the 5000m.

Ironically, Lalang does not have the fastest time in the NCAA this year. That belongs to Oklahoma State’s Girma Mecheso. Mecheso timed 27:52.38 at Stanford’s Payton Jordan Invitational, finishing as the top collegian in a field of professionals.

Others to look out for are UNC-Greensboro’s Paul Katam, Georgetown’s Andrew Springer, BYU’s Jared Ward, and hometown favorite Parker Stinson of Oregon. Ward is the top returner from last year’s 10,000m, while Katam finished ninth a year ago. Springer may be a darkhorse, though he has shown great improvement in the distance events over the last year, winning both the 5000m and 10,000m at the Big East Conference Championship.

3000m Steeplechase: Final June 7
A pair of Kenyans looks to be the favorites in this discipline. The top returner from last year is Texas A&M’s Henry Lelei, who holds the fastest time in the NCAA, while fellow Kenyan Anthony Rotich — who placed sixth in 2012 — will race as well. The only other top-10 finisher from last year is Colorado’s Aric Van Halen. He won the Pac-12 Championships with a time of 8:41.73.

Others to keep an eye on are Florida’s Zak Seddon, North Carolina State’s Brian Himelright, and Arkansas’ Stanley Kebenei. All have run under 8:41 this year.

Louisville’s Mattias Wolter, winner of the Big East Conference crown and top finisher at the Stanford Invitational, could also be a factor.

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