2020 Indoor Preview: DMR (Women)

BYU Cougars

Why They Can Contend

Four hugely qualified legs, not including Birk-Jarvis, can be easily rearranged based on needs at NCAA's and throughout the season. The NCAA XC runners-up are on a roll and have huge amounts of confidence. Wayment, Camp-Bennett, and Barnes-Ellsworth are all coming off of breakout seasons, either on the track or during cross country, which should translate very well to the upcoming indoor season.

With a rising star and established miler in Whittni Orton, and a handful of underrated middle distance studs, it's entirely reasonable to think that this team could have the perfect balance of athletes on all three distance legs to win the national title.

Area of Emphasis

This might be the year for BYU athletes to focus on individual events. Last year, only Orton had to compete on the first day of competition. This year, Orton is already qualified for the 5000 meters (should she want to compete) and the likelihood of Camp-Bennett, Barnes-Ellsworth, and Wayment qualifying individually are also very strong. So not only is doubling a concern, but so is the idea that the BYU women will forgo the DMR altogether.

We also don't know if Birk-Jarvis or Wayment are going to be redshirting. After running unattached in Boston, we assume that they both will, but that is not entirely a given. Even so, their potential absences gives the Cougars two less options for this relay.

Stanford Cardinal

Why They Can Contend

New coaching may put a greater focus on the DMR. Donaghu and Lawson are way above where they were last indoor season and each of them have 4:11 for 1500 meters from last spring. Caitlin Collier still has one of the strongest 800 meter PR's in the NCAA and Christina Aragon is one of the most dangerous 1500/mile runners when she's healthy.

On paper, there aren't many teams that will be able to match the firepower that Stanford can bring to every distance leg of their relay this season.

Area of Emphasis

Failing to qualify for Nationals in 2019 is never a good start. Donaghu and Lawson can offer some serious firepower in the 1200 and mile legs, but the uncertain health status of Aragon and Collier leaves us wondering if the Cardinal can assemble their best possible lineup.

It may also be a bit hasty to assume that Donaghu and Lawson will be able to replicate their outdoor success on the indoor oval. While we certainly think that they'll be better, seeing them running in the mid-4:30's is not a guarantee.

Arkansas Razorbacks

Why They Can Contend

The team that finished 5th at NCAA's last year in this event is returning almost everyone and will enter 2020 with an exceptionally strong group of reinforcements. Between, Devin Clark, Carina Viljoen, Lauren Gregory, and Alexandra Byrnes, the Razorbacks could assemble a very experienced DMR lineup that is very capable of contending for a top three finish (at the very least) come NCAA's.

Area of Emphasis

Katie Izzo's exceptional 5k performance likely takes her out of the equation for the Arkansas DMR should she go on to run an strong mile time. Not only that, but Taylor Werner is also expected to redshirt this season, leaving the Razorbacks without a superstar anchor that could have made them favorites for the national title.

We also don't know the full status of Lauren Gregory's health. She wasn't exactly 100% this past fall, but she will be aiming to climb back to her previous fitness this winter.

New Mexico Lobos

Why They Can Contend

It’s hard to pick against Weini Kelati on the anchor, especially if she somehow gets the baton in or near the lead. This is one of the most internationally experienced groups that will not only be competing at NCAA's on their home track, but they'll also be racing at altitude. While a handful of non-altitude teams could end up struggling at the national meet, New Mexico has the potential to thrive.

Area of Emphasis

New Mexico is much more focused on the longer distances and outside of Kelati, this group significantly lacks legitimate speed in the middle distances. In fact, to suggest that this team may even seriously pursue the DMR at Nationals is a stretch. We will likely not see Weini Kelati on this relay.

Washington Huskies

Why They Can Contend

Carley Thomas is potentially the strongest 800 runner in the NCAA after her appearance in Doha for the World Championships this past summer. When you pair her with Allie Schadler and Katie Rainsberger (a pair of sub-4:38 milers), this group looks like they could have the best 1200/800/mile combo in the NCAA.

Not only that, but freshman Mel Smart is establishing herself as another huge impact piece for the Huskies and could certainly make or break this relay if Coach Powell employs her services.

As far as firepower, lineup options, and reinforcements go, Washington may be the team best suited for the DMR this winter.

Area of Emphasis

When you're a well-rounded distance program, it's a double-edged sword when it comes to the DMR. All of the aforementioned athletes have a very strong possibility of pursuing individual events, making them either non-factors for a relay or leaving with tired legs on the double.

Not only that, but there is also some (assumed) indoor inexperience with the Australian duo of Melany Smart and Carley Thomas. How they will handle their first collegiate season? Especially at Nationals when they have to race at altitude?

Oregon Ducks

Why They Can Contend

Susan Ejore is probably one of the most underrated 800/mile runners in the NCAA right now. You could put her on any leg and she will be at or near the front. In fact, the 1200 leg seems like it could be the perfect fit for her given her unique balance between the 800 and mile distance. Additionally, Hannah Waller could easily be the best 400 meter runner on a DMR this year.

A vast history of legendary success tells us that the Ducks will be national contenders winter, even if we don't know who the rest of their lineup options will be. Who knows? Maybe Carmela Cardama Baez can come down in distance to contribute on the mile leg...

Area of Emphasis

Jessica Hull is gone, leaving the Ducks with a significant lack of firepower. With Cardama Baez likely choosing the 5000 meters over the DMR, the Oregon women are left with very limited options when it comes to constructing a competitive distance medley relay. The pieces they do have are strong (Ejore and Waller), but they will need someone to step up in a big way this season if they want to send a four-person group to Albuquerque in March.

Colorado Buffaloes

Why They Can Contend

Dani Jones. Sage Hurta. Tabor Scholl. Makena Morley. Rachel McArthur.

My goodness is that a scary-good group of distance runners. Any combination of those three women could be assembled to win the national title in this event and I don't think anyone would be surprised if that happened. An ideal DMR would be Hurta on the 1200 leg, McArthur on the 800 leg, and Jones on the anchor (it would also be super reasonable to see Hurta and McArthur switch).

Not only that, but since NCAA's is at altitude, the Buffs will be largely unphased by the thin air of Albuquerque. For them, it's just another day at practice.

Areas of Emphasis

Gosh, it's hard to find a potential flaw with this group. The idea of doubling at the national meet, specifically for Jones and Hurta, could possibly dilute their chances of winning a national title. It all depends on how Coach Wetmore and his staff want to approach this postseason, knowing that this may be one of the decade's greatest collection of distance talents.

Wisconsin Badgers

Why They Can Contend

Alicia Monson.

Area of Emphasis

Alicia Monson.

If Monson decideds to pursue the 5k/3k double like she did last year, then the DMR is almost definitely off the table. At the very least, she can keep Wisconsin in contention for an All-American spot, but solidifying the middle distance portion of this roster will be key if the Badgers want to assemble a title-contending relay.

Ohio State Buckeyes

Why They Can Contend

We're not entirely sure if Rizk will be returning this season to use up the rest of her indoor eligibility, but if she does, she gives an up-and-coming Ohio State team a lot of exciting potential on the anchor leg. Her 4:32 mile PR puts her in contention to hang with the lead pack if she gets the baton close enough.

When you add Rizk in with Aziza Ayoub (2:05 for 800 meters) and Annie Ubbing (2:06 for 800 meters), Ohio State could be thrown into the argument of possible title contenders if everything goes their way perfectly.

Area of Emphasis

Having a top-tier miler and two strong 800 meter runners rarely causes any problems, but it's not totally clear if Ayoub or Ubbing will be able to produce at a national level in the 1200 meters. Ayoub has a 1500 meter PR of 4:34 (roughly 4:51 mile conversion) while Ubbing has a 1500 meter PR of 4:45 (roughly 5:02 mile conversion). Those times are fine, but they aren't necessarily competitive on the lead-off leg of a National Championship.

And of course, if Rizk ends up not using the rest of her eligibility, then Ohio State likely falls out of this conversation.

Michigan Wolverines

Why They Can Contend

The Wolverines owned the fastest time in the NCAA last year, recording a mark of 10:54 on Notre Dame's oversized track at the Alex Wilson Invite. They went on to place 6th at NCAA's.

In 2020, they return everyone from last year's lineup except their star anchor Hannah Meier. Despite the loss of Meier, they do have a rising young star in Ericka VanderLende and it seems hard to believe that one of the deepest teams in the country wouldn't be able to find another valuable relay contributor on their roster.

Area of Emphasis

Rynda and Hill were phenomenal relay pieces for the Wolverines last year, but losing a 4:32 miler has to hurt quite a bit. Replacing that kind of firepower won't be easy. As mentioned above, it's very possible that the Michigan women can find a competent substitute for Meier, but an inexperienced anchor leg is not usually an ideal situation for a team gunning for the national title.

Others to Watch

Virginia Tech Hokies

NC State Wolfpack

Penn State Nittany Lions

Penn Quakers

Clemson Tigers

Texas Longhorns

Florida State Seminoles

Boise State Broncos