We are entering winter break for collegiate athletes which gives us ample time to talk, compare, and contrast all things running related. That’s what we're here for after all.
This time around, it’s the women’s mile. We have six total returners coming back from last year’s National Championships with half of that field qualifying for the final last year.
Last year’s champion, Elinor Purrier, has graduated and that leaves the field open for a new champion. I’ve compiled a list of athletes who should find themselves in the mix of things when March rolls around in 2019.
Shall we begin?
This should be easy, right? Dani Jones (Colorado) is the runner-up from last year after finishing just .06 behind Purrier in the finals. She just finished off a spectacular cross country season where she won the individual title and helped lead the Buffaloes to gold in the team race. She holds PR's of 4:31 in the mile (4:07 for 1500 unattached) and 9:02 in the 3000. If her final kick in Madison wasn't enough proof that she has lethal speed, her 2:04 800 PR should put her over the top.
Millie Paladino (Providence) is the next fastest returner and should be considered for the top spot as well. She also holds a PR of 4:31 over the mile distance and 9:05 over 3000 meters. She didn’t run cross country this season for the Friars which should indicate that she is fresh and ready for fast times.
Jessica Hull (Oregon) is the current 1500 meter champion from outdoors and she elected to run the 3000 over the mile at last years indoor national meet. After winning the 1500, I think she’ll take a stab at the mile this indoor season. She finished 3rd in the 3000 meters last year and she just finished 3rd at the Cross Country National Championships. Hull's PR's of 4:31 and 8:58, combined with her experience, gives her a legitimate shot at taking home the title in March.
Whittni Orton (BYU) headlines this list of athletes as she’s the only other returner who made the final last year. She carries PR's of 4:34 and 2:07 coming into the year and will look to build upon her strong sophomore season. Orton went on to qualify for the Outdoor National Championships in the 1500 before failing to qualify for the final. While doing so, she lowered her 1500 PR to 4:14, a three second improvement from her previous best.
Christina Aragon is another name that I think we could see move down in distance from her previous championship experience. She finished 7th in the 3000 meters a year ago and then followed that up with a 4th place finish in the 1500 at the outdoor national meet. She has run 4:34 in the mile, albeit she has only been given one opportunity to showcase that talent. She has run 9:01 as well, showcasing that she clearly has the strength for the shorter distance.
Oregon's Susan Ejore, another PAC-12 athlete, also makes the contender list. She failed to make the final a year ago, but has a PR of 4:38 in the mile. She has also run 2:04 for 800 meters and was the 800 meter leg that helped Oregon take home the team title in the DMR. There’s a good chance trying to double back from the DMR hurt Ejore during her mile preliminary last year. Ejore has another year under her belt and with more championship experience, she’ll likely find herself in a good position come March.
Molly Sughroue (Oklahoma State) also saw success in 2018. Despite not making the final in the mile during indoors, she came back and qualified for the National Championships in the 1500. She ran 4:12 and lowered her PR by six seconds at the West Prelims and then another two seconds at the national meet. She has run 4:37 for the mile and just recently ran 9:18 for 3000 meters. All signs point to a breakout season in 2019.
Rachel Pocratsky (Virginia Tech) was mentioned in our 800 meter preview, and is an elite 800 runner. She’s under the "What if" portion of this preview because if for some reason she decided to move up to the mile, I think she’d be a legit contender at the distance. She has run 4:34 before and has run 2:02 for the 800. She finished 6th in the 800 during last indoor season and then 5th place in the 1500 meters during the outdoor season. She ran 4:10 three different times, including twice at the national meet. With such strong consistency, she's someone you'll want to keep on your radar.
Another strong "what if" candidate is Danae Rivers (Penn State). Like Pocratsky, she was mentioned in our 800 meter preview and is considered one of the best in the country over that distance. She finished right behind Pocratsky in the 800 in 7th place at Indoor Nationals. She followed that up with an 8th place finish in the 1500 just a few months later.
Both Rivers and Pocratsky posted top five times during the outdoor season as they both ran 4:10 (Pocratsky’s was the fastest and Rivers was the fifth fastest). If they decide to move up in distance, they’ll be legitimate candidates for the mile title.
Others to Watch
Lilli Burdon, now with Washington, was apart of the Ducks’ winning DMR squad and has run 4:32. She elected to run the 3000 meters at last year’s meet instead of the mile. Her experience in big meets makes her a tough challenge for most of her competitors.
Paige Duca (Boston College) was a qualifier at last year’s indoor national meet in the mile. She ran 4:37 last year and will once again be in the qualifying conversation in 2019. If Duca can build upon last year's fitness, she could potentially battle for a podium spot.
Taryn Rawlings (Portland) was the 6th place finisher in the 1500 meters last year. While her mile time is only 4:40, she had a breakout season last year and should continue to improve this year.
Sinclaire Johnson (Oklahoma State) ran 4:11 last year, but was overlooked after a sub-par performance at Nationals. She’s run 2:04 before and had a strong cross country season. Great range usually means great tactical running and I'm sure we will see that from her this winter.