The DMR is one of the most exciting events to watch every season, as it is one of the few relay opportunities teams get indoors. With the small field size of only 12 teams at the Indoor National Championships, this race is always ultra competitive.
Teams frequently race at altitude or on flat-tracks such as JDL in North Carolina to chase converted times. Many of the conversions are rather generous, and running a fast time under one of these conditions can greatly increase a team’s chance of getting a spot at NCAA's.
The DMR can be difficult to predict at NCAA's as the relay members have often qualified in other events. This just makes the races that much more exciting and generally puts all 12 teams in the mix.
Virginia Tech won the national title last year in 9:30.76, but all four members of their squad have graduated. We can still expect them to be competitive with guys like Peter Seufer, Fitsum Seyoum, and Diego Zarate, but those guys (with the exception of Zarate) are more long-distance oriented athletes. It's fair to say that they may lack the true speed necessary to keep up with the top teams this year.
Notre Dame was runner-up at last year’s championship thanks to a massive anchor leg from Yared Nuguse, a true freshman at the time. Nuguse got a lot of attention for kicking down Grant Fisher at the end of the race. The Fighting Irish could be carried by freshmen again this year, with Danny Kilrea coming off an All-American finish in cross country and Dylan Jacobs fresh off an 8:11 3k season debut (after redshirting cross country)
Sophomore Samuel Voelz (a transfer from DePauw) has a PR of 1:50, so he may be a relay option for Notre Dame down the road. He'll need to improve by another second or two, but he's a nice replacement for last year's graduate Elijah Silva. Edward Cheatham ran the 400 leg for this team last year and he seems to be the best candidate to fill that spot once again.
Look out for this young group to make a statement this indoor season. It’s not often that you see a DMR carried by so much young talent, but Notre Dame could be a force in this event for years to come.
After being out-kicked and fading to 4th last year, Grant Fisher and the Stanford men will be hungry for revenge. Julian Body, Brandon McGorty, and Grant Fisher will all be returning, although Sean McGorty (one of the best leadoffs in the country) has graduated. The Cardinal have plenty of candidates to replace the elder McGorty, including DJ Principe, Alex Ostberg, Connor Lane, and Isaac Cortes, just to name a few. It comes as no secret that Stanford’s team is absolutely stacked and will be a serious contender for a DMR title. Can the young guys step up and play a major role on their relay?
An interesting matchup that could grow into a great rivalry is Oregon vs Washington. Washington has gone from a solid team to a powerhouse program in almost no time with the addition of Andy Powell as head coach and the athletes he brought with him from Oregon. The Ducks were 3rd last year while Washington did not qualify a team to NCAA's.
Mick Stanovsek ran the 800 leg for Oregon, but is now competing for Washington. Washington may be able to piece together a solid squad with some combination of Tibebu Proctor and Talon Hull on the distance legs. These guys are all a bit more oriented towards the longer distances, but they may be able to step down and put together a solid relay. Don't forget about Devan Kirk who ran 1:48 last year (outdoors) as a true freshman. Him and/or Connor Morello (1:49) could find themselves as key parts of the relay. Sophomore Evan Mafilas ran 47.22 in the 400 last year and would be a good fit on their squad in 2019.
Oregon comes in with Blake Haney, Reed Brown, Cooper Teare, and James West as very strong options for this relay (all sub-four minute milers). They are also only the beginning of the list of Ducks capable of competing at the national level, so Oregon has plenty of options. Cameron Stone ran the 400 meter leg for Oregon last year and his 46.37 personal best should hold up against any field the Ducks find themselves in.
At this point, I would give the nod to Oregon as the better of the two teams, but we said the same thing during the cross country season and Washington came out on top so I’m not ruling anything out. This matchup could be really exciting.
Another team I’m looking forward to watching in the DMR is Wisconsin. Last year the Badgers were 6th at NCAA's, and while they only lost one member of their relay from last year (Joe Hardy, 1200) they have a lot of other options. Most notably, Morgan McDonald is back. The reigning NCAA cross country champion has a 3:55 mile to his name and could do some serious damage on the anchor (or even the leadoff depending on what they choose to do).
Some other teams I think will be strong contenders are Indiana, Georgetown, Villanova, and maybe even NAU.
Indiana is returning their entire team of Joseph Murphy, Zubin Muncherji, Teddy Browning, and Kyle Mau. They have some other options in Cooper Williams and Dustin Horter as well. Indiana always seems to stack a DMR, whether it is at indoor NCAAs or meets like the Penn Relays outdoors. The Hoosiers were 7th last year and I have no doubt they can improve on that a few months from now (especially with Cooper Williams in the equation).
Georgetown is another team that comes to mind when thinking of perennially strong relay squads. Amos Bartelsmeyer, Kenneth Rowe, Rey Rivera, and Spencer Brown made up Georgetown’s DMR last year, finishing in a disappointing 11th place. Bartelsmeyer has graduated, but adding 800 stud Joe White back into this mix will make this team especially scary to face. The Hoyas could run into a potential problem with White and Rivera being predominantly 800 runners, but I think the right move would be to put Rivera on the 1200 leg. These races sometimes start a little slow anyway, and White could make up some serious ground on the 800 leg if he needs to (just like Patrick Joseph did last year). Freshman Ian Delgado (1:49) could also be a potential leadoff leg for the Hoyas.
Villanova had a successful 2018 with their DMR squads, finishing 8th at NCAA's during indoors and then winning the Penn Relays title. Ben Malone, Brian Faust, Harry Purcell, and Casey Comber made up the squad indoors last year, but Malone has since graduated. Ville Lampinen took Harry Purcell’s spot outdoors, so between those two, one may be able to run the 1200 meter leg, although both seem to peak at 800. Regardless, Casey Comber is a solid anchor who has split 3:59 at Penn Relays. He could be a key name that keeps them in contention for a podium spot this year.
I’m throwing NAU into the mix because I feel like with the success they’ve had in cross country, they should have the ability to mix it up with some of these teams. Any combination of Tyler Day, Luis Grijalva, Blaise Ferro, Peter Lomong, Geordie Beamish, Brodey Hasty and possibly some others could be competitive at the top level. The Lumberjacks are much more oriented towards the 5k and 10k, but I could see them stepping down to mix it up with the middle distance guys. They might struggle to come up with a 400 meter runner who can keep up with a national caliber field, but if the rest of the guys run fast enough that shouldn’t be a major problem. I think it’s unlikely we see NAU lining up at NCAA's, but they’ve been able to pull off some pretty crazy feats these last few years so I’m not ruling it out.
Some other teams to keep an eye on are: Ole Miss, Virginia, Arkansas, and Texas. These teams have all been strong in recent years, but either haven’t quite made a breakthrough (in the DMR) or have lost some of their firepower. Texas has the potential to do some serious damage however thanks to the duo of Sam Worley and Alex Rogers. Don't be surprised if they end up on the podium this year.
The DMR should shape up to be exciting as always, and only 12 teams will earn a trip to Nationals. It’s way too early to know who those teams will be, but they’ll all be fighting for every second come March when the final qualifying meets occur.