After the cross country season, some athletes opted to open their track seasons in December, hoping to run some national qualifying marks. While there were some really fast times, none were more impressive than Aidan Ryan’s 8:08 in the 3k at the Boston University Season Opener, one of the fastest 3k’s in Division Three history. Does this give him the odds on favorite to win the 3k at Nationals?
Hannah: Ryan is the fastest returner after finishing 3rd in last year’s race with a time of 8:16. He is obviously in better shape right now to run faster, but will that translate in March? I think so. He showed this year in cross country that he has taken a clear step forward in regards to fitness, so I think that if he can perform well on the day (which he struggled with in cross this year), theen he should walk away a national champion.
Brett: Last year, Ryan showed that he has major range. The Williams ace ran 3:49 for 1500 meters and 14:23 in the 5k, so who knows what events he’ll do at NCAA's! I think that he has a legitimate shot to win either the mile, 3000, or 5000...it just depends on what he enters.
From those who had a bad day at Nationals, who will have a bounce back season this year on the indoor oval?
Hannah: For the women, I think Kaitlyn Mooney from Coast Guard and Therese Olshanski from Johns Hopkins will be a lot better in the postseason this winter. Mooney was presumed to be coming back from injury and finished 34th the other month. For a woman who was battling for a national title last year, 34th was not ideal. I think if she can rehab from whatever ailed her in November, then she should return to dominant form. Watch out for her in the 3k as she has the D3 national record.
Therese Olshanski from Johns Hopkins was one of multiple women who led the Blue Jays at some point during the fall. To see her finish 123rd at Nationals was shocking. She might have just had an off day at the wrong time. I expect her to focus on the mile and DMR for indoors and make it back to the national meet. She has a mile PR of 4:52 from 2018 that I can see dropping this year.
For the men, I think Alec Beutel from North Central is one man who should have a better indoor season than his national results portray. After taking the cross country conference meet off, he just did not seem like the same runner. He placed 16th at the Midwest region and 103rd at Nationals. If he is battling an injury, hopefully he can come back strong for indoors. He has never made a national meet outside of cross country, but if we know anything about North Central’s coach Al Carius, it’s that he can consistently produce national qualifiers.
Another runner who should bounce back in a major way in Sean McAneny from SUNY Geneseo. He had a great season, never finishing outside of the top three in a race. And then came Nationals where rumor has it that he lost his shoe within the first mile. That took him out of contention for the national title and he finished 198th.
McAneny was way fitter and should have finished in the top 10. He finished 5th in last years 3k in 8:17. He could look to challenge Ryan for the national title or drop down to the mile as he finished 13th in the 1500 outdoors. Either way, he should easily qualify for the meet and redeem himself with a performance that many people may not currently expect from him.
Brett: One name that has snuck under the radar is Marcos Garcia. The sophomore from Benedictine (Ill.) qualified for the national meet in the 3k last year as a freshman, taking 9th and running a staggering 8:17 in the process. This year, he didn’t have his best day at NCAA XC Championships, dropping all the way to 206th. However, at the GVSU Holiday Open, he ran an impressive 14:24 5k, which is currently the fastest 5k in Division Three (non-converted). If he can match or better his 3k from last year and hold onto his fitness in March, Garcia will establish himself as one of the best up-and-coming names in D3.
Another name who we we should see rise back up is Lucas Mueller. While he didn’t necessarily have a bad day at Nationals (taking 29th), Mueller is much stronger than what he showed this cross country season: he led a large part of last year’s 3000 meter race at Nationals and nearly won the 10k during outdoors. With a healthy winter, we could see him back near the top of Division Three once again.
Although she did not compete at Nationals, I think Laurel Felt from Coast Guard should be primed for a bounce back season. She was having a great first half of the season, competing with numerous All-Americans from the National meet. While whatever ailment that sidelined her from the rest of the season was unfortunate, it will be great to see her back on track soon.
Where do you see cross country nationals champs, Patrick Watson from Stevenson and Parley Hannan from Ithaca, specializing and finishing at the national meet?
Brett: Patrick Watson was another guy that we saw make his track debut after the long cross country season. He capitalized on his fitness with an impressive 14:25 5k win, which should easily qualify him for Indoor Nationals. He only has an 8:37 3k PR, but with his monstrous improvement since last year, he should be destroying that pretty soon. It wouldn’t surprise me to see him attempt the 3k/5k double at this year's national meet, but I think he’s got a great shot at taking the 5k title.
Hannah: Parley Hannan is sure to make massive improvements on the track this year. I mean, heck, she has already started. She had a listed 5k PR of 18:59 and then she smashed that by running 16:56 at the Greg Page Relays at the start of December. That is the fastest time in D3 this year and will surely hold up and qualify her for Indoor Nationals. Like Watson, I think Hannan could qualify for NCAA's in both the 3k and 5k, but I think she should stick with running just the 5k. She will be competing against a tough field with returners like Kaitlyn Mooney, Carina Collet, and Genny Corcoran.
What schools will bring title-contending DMR’s to the national meet this year?
Hannah: There are multiple teams that could bring DMR's that will contend this year. I think Coast Guard, with the combination of Mooney and Laurel Felt, will be very good. Wash U. with the combo of Paige Lawler and Sophie Watterson should also contend well. And last but not least, Johns Hopkins has five or six women that they can utilize in the three distance spots.
Brett: On the men’s side, it seems like North Central and Wash U. are always perennial contenders in the DMR as their squads seem to usually put together strong All-American performances. Otherwise, looking at the last few years, the lineup of teams is usually very different from year to year. Last year, Middlebury had a nice win over the field. The year before that, it was SUNY Geneseo. The year before that? RPI...you get the gist. There are a lot of different teams that we could see bringing a punch, but the ones with top-tier milers will naturally be the main challengers.
Any last thoughts?
Hannah: I’m excited to see new names break out this season. Last year, every distance race except the women's 5k and the men's 800 were won by seniors. This year, we saw some strong underclassmen emerge during the cross country season. Women like Danielle Page and Izzi Gengaro will be looking to make their first trip to a track national meet. Whereas men such as Ethan Widlansky and Alex Phillip will also be looking to make their first trip to Indoor Nationals. It will be interesting to see if their cross country success will be able to translate on the oval.
Brett: With all of the fast times that have been run already in December, it seems like it’s going to be a fast year in Division Three. This may end up being one of the deeper years that D3 has seen in a very long time (but hey, no guarantee). There’s a lot more on the horizon as 2020 approaches, I’m excited to see where the season goes!