Readers from around the country sent in their questions to TSR (a ton, actually) and have left us with the task of finding responses. We did some research and this is what we came up with. Due to the mass number of questions, we weren't able to get to all of them. No worries though! We'll be doing other Mailbag articles in the future...
Which college male & female distance runners do you think we should look out for this indoor & outdoor season?
On the men's side, there are a handful of names that I really like (aside from the obvious national favorites). Jonathan Davis is an easy pick and I think he's going to be very strong this winter. John and Ben both snubbed Davis a bit during our indoor previews, but between the mile and 3000 meters, he can do some serious damage. He just ran a 3:58 mile in Iowa to convincingly take the win over Carlos Villarreal and he's arguably even more dangerous in the 3000 meters.
Speaking of Carlos Villarreal, he's someone who a lot of TSR writers are big fans of (including myself). He has developed into an absolute stud who is capable of racing with the elites. With personal bests of 1:46 and 3:57, he should be able to mix it up on the national stage. He still needs to further develop his racing tactics, but I would not be surprised if he was an All-American both indoors and outdoors.
I'm also very high on Kyle Mau. The Indiana star can seemingly do it all. Much like Davis, he is a major threat in both the mile and 3000 meters. Heck, he could probably mix it up for an All-American spot in the 5000 meters if he wanted to. After a strong cross country season, I'm keeping an eye on him.
As for the women, I can't help but think that Florida's Jessica Pascoe has a lot of upside and potential. She had a massive breakout season during cross country and validated her fitness with a 15:34 personal best in the 5000 meters earlier in December. I'm not sure how she'll handle the mile or 3k distances, but she has proven that she can contend in the 5000.
For some reason, I can't shake the idea of Dominique Clairmont being in the All-American conversation this year. In which event, I'm not entirely sure. Still, her recent mile PR of 4:38 (which was a win over teammate Elly Henes) shows me that her fitness is trending in the right direction.
How about UCONN's Susan Aneno? Her personal best of 2:02 makes her a very interesting All-American candidate. She's had a strong start to the 2019 season with a close runner-up finish at Vanderbilt in the 800 and a win at Penn State in the mile. Early season wins and fast times are usually a good formula for postseason success.
Settle the debate in our track house: McDonald or Fisher?
That depends. Will your entire house stop reading if I choose one over the other? Or is it a pretty even split? These things matter...
In all seriousness, this is a tough question that doesn't have a correct answer. Right now, our rankings (constructed and published by Ben Weisel) have McDonald at the #1 spot, followed by Hoare at #2, and then Fisher at #3. While some may disagree (including myself), I think it's a fair argument.
When this debate comes up, I think we have to establish which season we're talking about. If it's cross country, it has to be McDonald and there is no argument around that one. If it's on the track, I think Fisher has the edge. Sure, McDonald may own the superior personal bests, but Fisher is tactically more sound and has been able to upset guys like Justyn Knight for NCAA gold. His finishing kick in tactical championship racing makes him a problem for his competitors.
If you're forcing me to choose based on every season, every personal best, and every championship performance, then I'll go with McDonald. He has dominated in Australia, owns some of the fastest PR's in recent NCAA history, and just won the cross country national title.
Hopefully we don't lose readers from that answer...
Who will win the national team title in cross country next year? (Men and women)
For the first time in what seems like forever, there doesn't seem to be an obvious choice right off the bat. Northern Arizona loses Day, Baxter, and Lomong, but they will likely end up as the favorites with a stacked lineup that includes Grijalva, Hasty, Ferro, Beamish, Raff, and incoming freshman Drew Bosley.
Outside of them, I think Iowa State has the right pieces to do something special. Kurgat will be the favorite for the individual national title while Andrew Joran will be gunning for another All-American finish. They just added Finn Gessner and David Too to their squad and picked up a few top-tier recruits. With Milo Greder and Chad Johnson continuing to develop, and the potential for Festus Lagat to return with extended eligibility, Iowa State could easily be in the title conversation.
I'm sure BYU will find a way to stay competitive, but losing Linkletter, McMillan, and Young will be incredibly difficult to overcome.
There is no obvious favorite for the women right now. On paper, New Mexico and Boise State look like the front-runners. The Lobos lose Charlotte Prouse, but return the rest of their 2018 lineup. The Broncos lose their bottom two scorers from Nationals, but Clare O'Brien showed us during the regular season that she can be an impact scorer for Boise State if she's at her best.
At the end of the day, it's all about what you value more. Choose Boise State, and you get a young(er) squad with great potential. Choose New Mexico, and you get veteran low-sticks. There's no easy answer.
I also think the Stanford women could be a major problem for the top teams in the NCAA next year. The younger women in their program are maturing into top scorers and they only lose one senior from last year's top five (Elise Cranny). If they can stay healthy, I would not at all be surprised to see them at the top of the podium in 2019.
Is [Dustin] Nading the obvious favorite to win the national title in the mile this year?
Great question, but we need to make an important distinction. Nading is the obvious favorite this year, but he's not the overwhelming favorite. Nading will be tough to beat, no doubt. He's got some great range and is tactically one of the better runners in Division II. However, there are plenty of men who could give him some trouble.
Adams State always seems to have someone in the conversation for NCAA gold. This year, that will likely be Elias Gedyon. The Grizzly ace is a consistent top-tier performer who has a plethora of experience in championship racing. He has fast PR's and beautiful race execution. What's not to like?
Felix Wammetsberger is a great sleeper pick to keep an eye on. He's a well-rounded competitor who has consistently put himself in championship races. Wammetsberger will need to elevate his fitness to the next level if he wants to contend for a national title, but the potential is there.
Our man John Cusick has been on the Brett Meyer bandwagon for a while now and with his speed it's easy to see why. With personal bests of 1:50, 2:26, and 3:43, Meyer can keep up with nearly any pace you throw at him. With Thomas Staines expected to dominate the 800, Meyer may opt to focus on the mile this season. If he does, that lethal speed he has developed could come into play during a national championship race.
Biggest impact transfer of 2019?
Let's just make things simpler and put all of the names from our TRANSFERS page into the conversation. The obvious choice is Tara Davis who will be leaving Georgia and joining Texas. However, she is not in the distance realm and will also be sitting out for a year, per NCAA rules.
Some may want me to say Finn Gessner and others may want me to say Soren Knudsen. However, the most important and vital transfer will be David Too who left Florida A&M to join Iowa State. We've seen what can happen when runners leave smaller programs and relocate to Ames. They become top-scorers with the potential to earn All-American status or more (i.e. Edwin Kurgat, Festus Lagat, Stanley Langat). If they don't, they'll at least be key contributors in the cross country scoring lineup.
Iowa State no longer has Dan Curts and they might not have Festus Lagat in 2019 (depending on the questionable status of his eligibility). Luckily, David Too will fill that void. He may not end up as an All-American, but he can at least provide some stability to a lineup that is still trying to fully establish it's identity.