2020 D2 Indoor Preview (Part Two)



Give us your top contenders in each event heading into the indoor track season...


Grace:


Women:

Addy Townsend (800)

Stephanie Cotter (Mile)

Allie Ludge (3000)

Ida Narbuvoll (5000)


Men:

Dennis Mbuta (800)

Leakey Kipkosgei (Mile)

Charlie Sweeney (3000)

Gidieon Kimutai (5000)


Quenten:


Women:

Bailey Sharon (800)

Stephanie Cotter (Mile)

Allie Ludge (3000)

Ida Narbuvoll (5000)


Men:

Ayman Zahafi (800)

Benoit Campion (Mile)

Luke Julian (3000)

Gidieon Kimutai (5000)


John:


Women:

N/A (800)

Stephanie Cotter (Mile)

Allie Ludge (3000)

Ida Narbuvoll (5000)


Men:

Dennis Mbuta (800)

Felix Wammetsberger (Mile)

Leakey Kipkosgei (3000)

Ezra Mutai (5000)


Sam:


Women:

Addy Townsend (800)

Stephanie Cotter (Mile)

Stephanie Cotter (3000)

Ida Narbuvoll (5000)


Men:

Dennis Mbuta (800)

Luke Julian (Mile)

Charlie Sweeney (3000)

Gideon Kimutai (5000)


Caroline Kurgat has graduated, the Flanagan sisters are both out of eligibility for the indoor season, and Leah Hanle has transferred to Alabama to finish her eligibility. It seems like the door is wide open for the 3000 and 5000 meter national titles. Who's got the edge in both of these races on the women’s side?


Grace: I think Allie Ludge will win the 3000 based on the fact that she already ran a 9:18 and is a championship veteran at this point. Ida Narbuvoll’s fearless race strategy and overall talent should earn her the win in the 5000 meters, and she could take home the 3000 meter tile if she decides to double as well. If not Narbuvoll in the 5000, I would bet on Lauren Bailey of Indianapolis based on her improvement over the past year, cross country performances, and her season opener.


Quenten: For the 3000, I agree with Allie Ludge of Grand Valley State. She is coming off of a great 12th place finish as the cross country national meet, along with already running 9:18 thus far in the 3000 meters which is the #1 time in the nation (so far). She has key experience and is a tough strong runner, so this could truly be her year.


The 5000 has Ida Narbuvoll’s name written all over it. Narbuvoll recently opened up her indoor track season at the GVSU Holiday Open running 16:14, which is a new PR for her. She has already proven to be fit, but we will have to see if she can finally put it all together for her to win her first-ever individual national title.


John: It is hard to argue against Ludge in the 3000. She’s strong enough to run hard from the gun and has the leg speed to hold off anyone that challenges her in the final 100 meters. The only way I change my answer here is if she doesn’t run this race and/or Cotter decides to test her 3000 ability this winter.


As for the 5000, again, it’s hard to argue against Ida Narbuvoll. Especially given her racing strategies. But for fun, I think Lauren Bailey has a strong chance of taking this title home as well. She could sit behind Narbuvoll and then pass her with a lap to go and likely hold her off given she’s run 11 seconds faster in the 3000 and has run 4:35 for 1500 meters.


Sam: Since everyone else went Ludge, I’ll take Cotter. Yes, Ludge is the fastest returner in the 3000 meters. However, she and Cotter are essentially matched on raw leg speed and Cotter could potentially be just as fast at 3000 meters, except she did not run it in 2019.


The one spot where I see the biggest difference is Cotter’s ability to win at any distance. She won the 1500 meters, won the mile, and won cross country. Ludge has run phenomenal times, but when it comes to being able to get the win when it matters most, Cotter has the edge.


As for the 5000 meters, Ida Narbuvoll looked like the favorite in cross country and despite a disappointing end to the year, I believe she will rebound well for indoors. She thrived during cross country by running hard from the gun and breaking others and on the indoor track, nothing can stop her from doing this. Conditions are not a factor and she can simply take off and see if others are able to hang on.


Predicting DMR rosters can be tough, especially given the success of athletes individually, but as of right now, which team would you say has the best shot at taking home that title in March?


Grace: Adams State women because they return three of the four runners of their championship team from last year and have several women who could take over that other spot. My guess for their lineup is HaLeigh Hunter-Galvan for the 1200, Malakah Martinez for the 400, either Piper Meuwissen or Kaylee Bogina for the 800, and Stephanie Cotter as the anchor.


Colorado Mines is my pick in the men’s race. They finished 3rd in a close race last year and had a phenomenal cross country season. I have no doubt that they can put together a gold medal DMR team.


Quenten: I really like Grand Valley State’s chances this year. They are returning Jonathon Groendyk, Andrew McFarland, and Dennis Mbuta from last year's 5th place team. Mbuta will be the x-factor for this team and if he has a lead going into his handoff, it will be hard for them to be beaten, especially with Thomas Staines of CSU-Pueblo redshirting this season.


With Stephaine Cotter’s dominance continuing, and with her most likely option being the anchor like Grace already mentioned, and HaLeigh Hunter-Galvan’s year-by-year improvement across the board, I think the Adams State women will repeat as national champions.


John: Talking about DMR's is always fun because of the uncertainty that goes into making a team once we reach March. Some athletes have the chance to race individually and coaches look for another solution for that leg. With that being said, I think Adams State is the pick for another win in 2020 given what Grace has already mentioned. They have three of four runners returning and will have the best D2 star on their anchor. Even if a team finds themselves leading the Grizzlies heading into the mile, it’s going to be extremely hard to hold her off over the course of a mile.


As for the men, I think this is going to be a race between Colorado Mines, American International, and Simon Fraser.


Here are the facts: Colorado Mines finished 3rd at last year’s NCAA Championships and are returning all of their athletes except their 400 meter runner. The Clan are bringing back all of their runners from 2019 and they finished runner-up at last year’s NCAA meet. Lastly, American International should be back in the fold this year with Leakey Kipkosgei back. They won it in 2016 when he anchored that team to the title and with Benoit Campion likely taking a step forward this season, they’ll only be in need of an 800 meter leg that will keep the team close for Kipkosegei.


Sam: I don’t see a world where the Adams State women do not win. You bring back three of four from a National Championship-winning relay last year and Cotter has only gotten better. With her on the anchor leg, she is likely to have the biggest impact on the group and with the way she has looked, I don’t see anyone being able to dethrone Adams State this season.


On the men’s side, I am torn between GVSU and Colorado Mines. Both had solid cross country seasons and both have one runner who could be the difference maker indoors. For GVSU, Dennis Mbuta could be the guy to give them the edge depending on if he runs the mile or 800 meter leg and how tired he is from other events.


Similarly, Luke Julian is a guy who could be huge on the anchor leg for Mines if he is not already gassed from his other races. I think the team title will be between GVSU and Mines with the race essentially coming down to who has the better day between Mbuta and Julian.


Who are the sleeper picks and potential breakout stars that you are looking for this season?


Grace: I have to say HaLeigh Hunter-Galvin after her 6th place finish at NCAA XC Nationals this past fall. She improved quite a bit from last year and I am excited to see how she does.


Lauren Bailey has made her name known, but Indianapolis teammate Berenice Cleyet-Merle opened her season with a 4:47 mile and is a name to watch. Elysia Burgos had an impressive cross country season and got a taste of the championship level. She has the speed and endurance to be a successful miler and I think she will surprise some people this season.


On the men’s side, I think Christian Noble of Lee has already shocked some with his 8:10 3000 meter time. Benoit Campion and Ezra Mutai of American International deserve a mention. Campion has improved from last year to put him up there, while Mutai is continuing a fantastic freshman year.


My top choice for a breakout star is Jake Mitchem of Colorado Mines. He is a steeplechaser with an impressive PR of 8:56, but he has never made Indoor Nationals. I expect that to change this year after his 20th place finish at NCAA's this past fall and 14:45 5k season opener (converted to 14:04 based on NCAA altitude and track conversions).


Quenten: I agree with Grace on Lee’s Christian Noble. He redshirted this past cross country season which allowed him to get solid consistent training over the past few months and this has already shown to be a beneficial decision. Noble opened his indoor track season with an 8:10 in the 3000 and 14:23 in the 5000. This is his best season to record (and it's only December) and I think he is on the brink of potentially grabbing a lot of medals this March.


Along with the mention of Southwest Baptist’s Elysia Burgos, I believe she will surprise tons of people in the mile. At the Crimson & Gold Invitational just a few weeks ago, Burgos opened up with a 4:47, which is just two seconds off of the automatic qualifying time. Her development as a miler is fantastic and she will be a legitimate contender in this event.


I'm also a fan of Jennifer Comastri. She's been extremely consistent, very underrated, and has already opened up her season with a 16:31. I think she'll be primed to do some big things this winter en route to a surprising top finish at Nationals.


John: On the women’s side, Jennifer Comastri looks primed for a very strong season in 2020. She’s already run 16:31 this season and is coming off of the strongest cross country season of her career. The Southern Indiana runner will qualify in the 5000 and has a chance to also do so in the 3000 meters.


As for the men, the Jake Mitchem pick is a very good one. Everything points to him having the best track season(s) of his career and we should see that in 2020. However, I am going to go with Aaron Runge of Augustana (S.D.). He’s already run 14:18 this season and that was a 21 second improvement over his personal best that came during the 2019 outdoor season. He’s also coming off of the strongest cross country season of his career as well. Expect to see him at the NCAA meet in March.


Open Mic: Tell us anything you want about the upcoming D2 indoor track season


Grace: No distance record is safe on the women’s side.


Quenten: Stephanie Cotter will not lose a race all season, along with running the D2 collegiate record in the mile. You heard it here first.


John: Leakey Kipkosgei runs the DMR, mile, and 3000 and wins three national titles.


Sam: Cotter wins the 5000 meters at NCAA's.