2020 Indoor Preview: DMR (Men)

Updated: Dec 21, 2019

Oregon Ducks

Why They Can Contend

The Oregon Ducks almost always have the best group of milers in the NCAA and despite Powell leaving for Washington back in 2018, Ben Thomas has been able to match that same level of success. Currently, the Ducks have five men who have run 3:59 or faster on their roster. That includes three 3:57 milers.

Having a great group of milers is one of the most important aspects of constructing a nationally competitive DMR. The anchor leg is clearly important, but most top-tier milers are also able to drop down in distance into the other middle distance events and hold their own. In other words, Oregon has a plethora of options and they can play around with varying lineups until they find which combination of 1200/800/mile legs works best for them.

If we said that Oregon could hold out three sub-four minute milers from their DMR lineup and still be in contention to win the national title, that wouldn't be a stretch.

Area of Emphasis

Despite having the deepest and best group of milers in the NCAA, Oregon lacks speed, specifically in the 800 meter distance. That has been a pain point for this program for years now and it's really their only weak spot.

The good news is that true freshman Luis Peralta owns a personal best of 1:49 for 800 meters, so he could be a solid contributor on this relay come March. Of course, that's assuming that he can even match his 1:49 PR in his first collegiate season, much less on an indoor track.

Not having a stud 800 leg isn't a death sentence by any means, but Virginia Tech's Patrick Joseph proved back in 2018 that the 800 meter spot can be the make-or-break leg that puts some relays in contention and other relays out of the top five.

Indiana Hoosiers

Why They Can Contend

The Indiana Hoosiers may actually be the most well-rounded distance group that the NCAA has to offer. Last spring, the men from Bloomington, Indiana sent at last one representative to Nationals in every single distance event (800, 1500, 5k, steeplechase). In 2019, most of those key names return, including 3:57 miler Kyle Mau and 1:46 800 meter runner Cooper Williams.

Not only do they have two stars capable of contending with other elite runners in their respective legs, but they have a plethora of options for the 1200 leg such as Dustin Horter, Ben Veatch, or Teddy Browning.

Browning is an interesting name to consider. He's tactically very underrated, has extensive experience in championship races, and was actually the lead-off leg for Indiana's DMR last year at the Indoor National Championships where they finished 7th.

Through all three distance legs, there may not be a team better than Indiana.

Area of Emphasis

There aren't necessarily any major issues or glaring weaknesses within this lineup. In all three distance legs, they have the ability to contend with anyone in the nation. The problem, however, is that both Mau and Williams may not be fresh for this relay as they will likely double in an open event (such as the mile and 800 meters).

That's not to say that Indiana can't win the national title with these two men doubling, but it makes it incredibly difficult. We saw Notre Dame scratch Nuguse from the mile last indoor season for an all-in gamble on the DMR and clearly, that worked out for them.

Quite simply, guys like Mau and Williams are just too talented not to double. They'll likely double come March, leaving their DMR without fresh legs.

Iowa State Cyclones

Why They Can Contend

When you have three guys who run 2:21 or faster for the 1000 meters AND 1:47 or faster for 800 meters, then you have the makings of a potentially very scary DMR lineup. Between Festus Lagat, Roshon Roomes, and Daniel Nixon, there may not be a team with more potential for success than the Cyclones.

Lagat has proven that he can be a reliable, albeit not elite, anchor leg while guys like Roomes and Nixon are great candidates to fill in the 1200 spot. There are a handful of other talents who could also step into a role on this DMR, but these men are the likely three.

Area of Emphasis

Despite all of the exciting potential, there may be more question marks with this team than anyone else. Despite their incredible success in the middle distances, the lead-off and mile legs are where things become less clear.

Lagat is a strong and respectable talent, but his PR for the event is 4:00. He has great national meet experience, and he's slowly developing his understanding of how to race tactically, but he'll simply need to be better if he wants to truly contend with the likes of Nuguse, Hoare, Suliman, Mau, Stanovsek, or any of the Oregon milers.

Take last year for instance, where Iowa State opened up a huge lead on the rest of the field before handing off to Dan Curts who, despite holding his own, simply didn't have the same wheels that the other anchors did.

Further, we still have questions as to who will take on the role of the 1200 meter leg. Can Roomes and Nixon move up to that distance and hold their own? They have already impressed us this season with a pair of 2:21's in the 1000 meters, but moving up yet another 200 meters is asking a lot.

Stanford Cardinal

Why They Can Contend

I mean...it's Stanford. It feels like them being competitive in the DMR is a requirement each and every indoor track season. Alex Ostberg is a 3:58 miler and a solid name to have on the anchor leg. Between Thomas Ratcliffe and a handful of young, untapped talent, it seems absurd to think that this team couldn't find a reliable option at the 1200 or 800 legs.

Between Brandon McGorty, DJ Principe, or anyone in their recent superstar recruiting class, there are a lot of interesting lineup variations that the Cardinal could try out.

Area of Emphasis

They may have a lot of great potential, but outside of Ostberg, there isn't anyone on this team that is an established ace in their respective events. Don't get me wrong, they'll have guys who can be competitive, but there may not be enough middle distance star power on this team to get them past the DMR lineups that are simply...well, better. Thomas Ratcliffe could be a solid option if a) he stays healthy and b) his cross country fitness translates to the mile distance, but that is far from a given.

Wisconsin Badgers

Why They Can Contend

They have a 3:54 miler. Moving on...

Area of Emphasis

Oliver Hoare is an elite miler and as long as he gets within reasonable striking distance of the leaders, he can win any DMR that he's entered in. The problem, however, is that he may end up running the mile prelims prior to the DMR at NCAA's. If he does, he'll be running on tired legs.

More so, there are questions as to where the rest of their firepower on this relay will come from. With Eric Brown out of eligibility, there now seems to be a lot more ambiguity as to who will support the middle distance group of this Wisconsin roster.

When we look at the 1200 leg, it seems like the default leg will be Olin Hacker who, despite owning a respectable 4:01 mile PR, may not have enough speed to stay competitive with the middle distance specialists in the six-lap affair.

Oliver Hoare can carry this relay if he wants to, but if they'll need a few men to step up if they want to contend for a national title.

Notre Dame Fighting Irish

Why They Can Contend

Where do we even start? They were runner-ups in 2018, won the national title last year, and return everyone in 2020. In the eyes of almost everyone, they are the favorites to win it all. Having a superstar miler in Nuguse, who has built his reputation in this event, is a good enough reason to pick them as the preseason favorites.

When you consider that both Voelz and Jacobs are another year older and have experience from last indoor season, it's hard to look at this relay and have any major complaints.

Area of Emphasis

Of course, if we were to have any complaints, it would likely be that both Voelz and Jacobs own personal bests that are just simply slower than some of the men that they'll be up against in March. Obviously, that didn't stop them from winning it all in 2019, but it does seem like a fair critique.

And what about Nuguse's personal aspirations this winter? After scratching out of the mile last indoor season, will Nuguse opt to pursue individual glory? Or will his 1500 meter national title prompt him to defend Notre Dame's win from last year?

Of course, if Nuguse does choose to pursue the mile as an individual, he could always double back from the DMR. That, however, would leave him less than 100% in a race where the anchor leg has typically had to run well under four minutes to win.

Georgetown Hoyas

Why They Can Contend

Death, taxes, and Georgetown having a competitive DMR.

Each and every year, the Hoyas are somehow able to assemble a national qualifying DMR. Some years (like in 2016) weren't all that surprising, especially given how loaded they were in the 800 and mile distances. However, over the past two years, the Georgetown Hoyas have found ways to stay competitive with guys who have slower open PR's and are not primarily middle distance runners.

Nicholas Wareham, for instance, owns an open mile PR of 4:01. However, at Indoor Nationals last year, he split 3:57 and gave Georgetown a 3rd place finish. And in 2018? Scott Carpenter, who owned a mile personal best of 4:03, also split 3:57 on the anchor leg and also finished 3rd.

Regardless of who they field this year, Georgetown will find a way to not only be nationally relevant, but to also peak at the right time.

Area of Emphasis

Going off of the above section, this team (on paper) doesn't quite have the firepower of some of these other teams. Their open PR's are a bit slower than some of the other top teams that we're discussing (as far as indoors goes), leaving us to wonder if they can find a way to actually contend for the national title and not just contend for a 3rd place finish (but if that's your worst problem, then you're in a pretty good spot).

Washington Huskies

Why They Can Contend

If there is any team with a group of milers as strong as Oregon's, then it is likely the Washington Huskies. Between Mick Stanovsek, Talon Hull, Sam Ritz, and Sam Tanner, Coach Powell will have numerous weapons that he can utilize in order to find the ideal lineup for the national meet.

Stanovsek has proven to be a steady, reliable, superstar anchor after splitting 3:55 en route to a national qualifying result last year. He's not the most consistent on the national stage, but he's still an excellent option to have.

One guy who may be overlooked is Sam Ritz who could end up being the best 1200 meter leg in the NCAA this year. With a personal best of 3:59 in the mile and 2:23 for 1000 meters, Ritz's ideal distance could be the 1200 meters.

With Devan Kirk (who owns a 1:48 PR) and a slew of talented freshmen who have yet to reach their full potential, it seems clear that Washington has the potential to own one of the most thorough and complete DMR's in the nation.

Area of Emphasis

It's hard to find a lot of flaws with this team, at least when you are looking at the numbers and results. They have an experienced anchor, numerous lineup options, and talented runners at every distance leg.

We do, however, have to look at the lack of championship experience that some of these athletes (outside of Stanovsek) have.

Sam Ritz has limited experience on the national stage (he's only qualified for one national meet) and didn't run all that well when he was there. The same goes for Devan Kirk who has never even qualified for a national meet.

Talon Hull was on the anchor leg of Washington's DMR from last year, but that relay lineup (which had Stanovsek on the lead-off) finished 10th. Hull is a talented option for any relay, but the 1200 may be his best bet if Ritz doesn't fill that role.

Ole Miss Rebels

Why They Can Contend

One team that you can never count out of the DMR is Ole Miss. The Rebels won the national title back in 2017 behind a powerhouse middle distance group and have since reloaded with a handful of strong middle distance options in the 800 and mile distances.

With Waleed Suliman rocking a 3:56 mile PR, the Rebels immediately come into the discussion of teams who could challenge Notre Dame this year. Cade Bethmann (1:47/3:41) looks like he could contend for the title of "NCAA's best 1200 meter runner" if he can translate his outdoor success to the indoor oval.

Plus, the depth of their middle distance group is arguably better than any other team in the nation. Last outdoor season, Coach Vanhoy's group had three men run 1:48 or faster.

None of them were named Suliman.

Area of Emphasis

Despite the armory of middle distance weapons known as the Ole Miss roster, we would be remiss to not point that out that a bulk of their personal bests took place during outdoors. With the exception of Suliman, most of these men have not had the same level of success during the winter months that they have had during the spring (although that's not to say that they have been unsuccessful).

Whether or not this group can replicate their outdoor performances will be the differentiator between them being All-Americans or national title contenders.

Illinois Fighting Illini'

Why They Can Contend

One of the biggest and best breakout relays from the 2019 indoor season was Illinois who came out of nowhere to secure a national qualifying performance. The Jonathan Davis and Jesse Reiser duo gave this team enough of a boost to earn a spot to the national meet. In 2020, both of these men are expected to return (with national meet experience) despite recent absences from the fall.

Area of Emphasis

Illinois finished last at Nationals last year and truthfully, it wasn't necessarily a shock. The Fighting Illini' qualifying for Nationals was a surprise to begin with, and with their lack of experience on the national stage, they may have simply been overwhelmed.

Jonathan Davis, when he's at 100%, is just as good as the other DMR elites that we have already mentioned. However, his recent extended absence leaves us cautious about looking too closely into Illinois' DMR this winter.

Arkansas Razorbacks

Why They Can Contend

The Arkansas men return all four men from last year's 6th place All-American DMR lineup. Much like Washington or Notre Dame, it's hard to find a flaw with this group. Cameron Griffith is a veteran 3:59 mile who has extensive experience on the national stage and has consistently racked up All-American honors. Meanwhile, 1:48 800 meter runner Kieran Taylor has shown improvements of his own and could be a sleeper pick to thrive in this year's 800 meter field.

Area of Emphasis

Although Arkansas is expected to have one of the most complete and thorough DMR lineups in the nation, they don't necessarily have the same amount of firepower on any leg that teams like Washington or Indiana do. That's not to say that these Arkansas athletes aren't talented, but Griffith isn't quite on the same level as Hoare or Nuguse (at least not in terms of raw, non-tactical fitness) and Taylor isn't on the same level as Cooper Williams or the Iowa State middle distance trio.

And Gilbert Boit? Well, honestly, he seems to be a bit of an odd choice for the 1200 meter leg, but if he was good enough to help the Razorbacks place 6th at NCAA's last year, then his return certainly can't hurt this lineup.

Others to Watch

Villanova Wildcats

Virginia Tech Hokies

Michigan Wolverines

Miami (OH) RedHawks

Missouri Tigers

Texas Longhorns

BYU Cougars

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