2020 Millrose Preview


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Sam: This week we’re focusing on Millrose (as well as Camel City, but that's for a separate article) and naturally, there is plenty to talk about. The first race I noticed right off the bat was the rematch in the women’s 3000 meters. We have Weini Kelati against Alicia Monson reviving their battle from 2019 at this same meet. Who takes top honors this weekend?


Maura: The women’s 3k has to be one of the best races of this weekend for the collegiates with Kelati and Monson duking it out. Even though Monson was the champion last year and Kelati finished 6th, I have to go with Kelati this time around. The New Mexico Lobo took down Monson this past cross country season and I feel like she is already off to a stronger start given her 15:14 5k in December and her 4:32 altitude converted mile last weekend.


Ben: I completely agree. Kelati hasn’t really been challenged so far in this short indoor season since Boston, so I think she will continue her dominance in the 3000 meters this weekend.


Sam: Is it safe to say that the Kelati / Monson match up is the best individual rivalry in the NCAA right now?


Maura: That’s a tough one.


Ben: It might be. They went back and forth in cross country and battled several times last track season. It will also be interesting to see how Taylor Werner fits into this rivalry even though she is running unattached.


Sam: Werner’s name definitely caught my eye. She has raced once this season, running 15:11 for 5k at the BU Season Opener - a time that would have been a collegiate record had she raced attached. I think over this distance, I like her better than either Monson or Kelati.


Maura: I do wish that Werner was competing attached this weekend because she has been extremely consistent at recent National Championships, track and cross country included. If she is in the same shape as she was in December, does she take down Kelati and Monson?


Ben: This will give us the opportunity to see where her fitness is at. I do think she will take them down if she can maintain her momentum from December. Another interesting question, does the winner of this Kelati vs. Monson showdown become the favorite in the 3000 meters?


Sam: It really depends on what event(s) Whittni Orton decides to run. Orton might just be the best runner across the board right now...and she has never run a 3k before. Dropping an NCAA lead in the mile while also running 15:22 for 5000 meters is some scary range.


Maura: I agree with Sam here. Aside from Orton, also remember that Dani Jones, the 2017 NCAA indoor 3k champion, is also returning for her final indoor season. Monson, Kelati, Orton, and Jones will all have a chance to compete for the 3k titles come March. So no, I'm not sure we can automatically call them the favorites simply because we don't know who will be running what events yet.


Ben: It will certainly be fascinating to see which events the top runners pick come this March. Should we take a look at the Kurgat vs. Klecker battle in the men’s 3000 meters?


Sam: Another battle of the top two cross country runners from this past fall. I’ll be very straightforward here. Joe Klecker is the best distance runner in the NCAA on the men's side right now.


Ben: DISAGREE. Kurgat still has that title in my opinion. While he doesn’t have the range like Klecker (he can’t run a converted 3:55 mile), I think Kurgat has another gear in him. He hasn’t really been challenged during this academic year.


Maura: Sorry Ben, but I’ve got to side with Sam. Klecker is the stronger middle distance runner and the 3k, in my opinion, becomes a middle distance race relative to Kurgat's strengths. One must not only have endurance, but also better finishing speed. Kurgat may be better over the 5k/10k distance, but Klecker’s recent mile performance truly stands out.


Sam: Klecker is coming off of a mile that converted to 3:55 AND he ran the entire second half of that race ALONE. Yes, Kurgat owns a better personal best in the 5000 meters, but that’s only because Klecker has yet to run one this season. I’m convinced Klecker is in sub-13:20 shape right now.


Ben: Dang. I think I’m going to die on this hill. Garrett tried to talk me out of this in our latest Blue Oval Podcast episode, but I think that in a race with this many good professionals, Kurgat’s superior endurance will rule the day. I do, however, agree that Klecker has to be the favorite at NCAA’s in the 3000 meters because of the altitude and shorter distance.


Maura: The fact that NCAA’s is at altitude will surely benefit Klecker because it’s not like he has to change much from his training or racing strategies.


Sam: Ben, if endurance was king in the 3k, my personal best would be way more respectable.


Ben: I know, I know. But Kurgat also just ran a 3:59 DMR split.


Maura: I do give Kurgat credit for that DMR 1600 meter split considering he hasn’t run faster than 4:06 in the full mile yet during his career. However, I’m a bit skeptical on his finishing kick when it comes down to a shorter tactical race where guys can probably display better turnover than him.


Ben: Besides the Kurgat vs. Klecker argument, I do want to point out that NXN champ Nico Young (and NAU commit) is in this race as well and is going for an American junior record in the 3000 meters that Chris Derrick holds. The time he is looking to beat is 7:56.31, and it will be fascinating to see if he can hang with this loaded field and break the record.


Sam: As they say in the business, “ride the train.” It will certainly be interesting to see how he does, even if he won’t be a major player in this race. Still, a record would be exciting.


Before we venture too far into the 3k, let’s turn our attention to another showdown of former NCAA champions - the women’s elite mile. We have Dani Jones vs Danae Rivers. Like before, who comes out on top?


Maura: Jones has only raced twice thus far, running a converted 2:03 for 800 meters and anchoring Colorado’s DMR team to a converted 11:01. Rivers, on the other hand, has toed the line three times. Her 2:04 800 at the Penn State National Open is comparable to Jones, but I like Jones in this Millrose mile.


Ben: It has to be Jones. Like Maura said, Jones has run quicker than Rivers in the 800 which is where we would think Rivers has the edge. The mile will likely play into Jones’ hands even more.


Sam: For what it’s worth, Danae Rivers did run the fastest time in the NCAA last year at this meet when she clocked a 4:29. My money is still on Jones, but Rivers shouldn’t be completely disregarded.


Maura: It will be interesting to see how Jones and Rivers compete in this field. The two collegiates will be taking on Sinclaire Johnson (the 2019 NCAA 1500 meter champion), Ellie Purrier (the 2018 NCAA mile champion), Nikki Hiltz (arguably one of the best American milers of the past year) and plenty of others. I don’t know if Jones and Rivers can win, but I surely expect them to finish in the top half and run PR’s.


Sam: I’m glad you mentioned Purrier’s win in the 2018 NCAA mile because she had to edge out Jones by 0.06 seconds to earn that title. It’s hard to think that Purrier doesn’t have the upper-hand in this rematch, but I legitimately think we could see Jones run 4:27 to 4:28 if the pace is honest.


Ben: Wow. That would be insanely quick, but I agree that it could happen, especially because she will likely have Hiltz to chase as well.


Maura: Hiltz for the win. Purrier a close 2nd. Jones rounds out in 3rd and secures a sub-4:30 result.


Sam: Since we mentioned records, it’s worth noting that the collegiate indoor record in the mile is 4:25.91 by none other than Jenny (Barringer) Simpson. I highly doubt Jones could get that right now, but it would be neat to see it stay with Colorado.


Ben: She could certainly scare it. Changing topics, what do we think of the trio of Carlos Villarreal, Geordie Beamish, and Oliver Hoare competing in the Wannamaker Mile?


Maura: I’m not surprised to see Beamish and Hoare in there, but Villarreal is an interesting entry. I know he has a 3:57 mile PR, but things don’t always go as expected when he gets into these high-stakes races (see the 2019 1500 meters at NCAA’s).


Sam: Fun fact - Geordie Beamish has never broken 4:00.


Ben: We have to assume he finally will since this race isn’t at altitude. He has run several converted sub-4:00 marks during his career, including one this year. I’m going to set the line for the top collegiate time at 3:56. Does anyone go under that time?


Maura: Hoare ran a 3:54 last year in this race and he only placed 7th. All 10 men in the field were sub-4:00. Two men will go under 3:56, Hoare and Beamish. Villarreal will be a second back, matching his PR.


Sam: Hoare will run 3:55, Beamish will run 3:56 (high), and Villarreal will falter.


Ben: I think Maura’s time predictions were spot on. Does a 3:56 or under guarantee that Beamish runs the mile?


Maura: Although Beamish has yet to break 4:00, he has run 7:56 for the 3k and 13:31 for the 5k. Breaking 4:00 and being the reigning indoor mile champion could push him to pick the mile over having to race against Klecker, Kurgat, and Day in the longer distances.


Sam: My original jest at Beamish was more just for the irony that he technically hasn’t broken 4:00 while Nick Willis is also in this race and has run a sub-4:00 mile for 18 years in a row now. Beamish is definitely more than capable of going under, and I think if he runs sub-3:57, then he will pick to compete in the mile at Nationals because the meet is also at altitude.


Ben: I’ve gone back and forth with what Beamish will do, but I think that if he runs that quick of a time and is close to Hoare, then he will probably go with the mile.


Maura: Trying to decide what Beamish could race at NCAA’s is about as difficult as deciding what Whittni Orton could race.


Sam: Beamish has solid range, but realistically I don’t think he has a chance to win the 3k or 5k.

Ben: Agreed.


Maura: I think now is a good time to talk about a few men who could also run sub-4:00 this weekend. The Men’s Elite Mile will see collegiates Cameron Griffith (Arkansas), Cameron Ponder (Furman), and Dan Schaffer (Binghamton) toe the line. Griffith is experienced and owns a 3:59 PR, but Ponder and Schaffer are on the rise. Do any of these three men have what it takes to win this weekend and secure an NCAA qualifier?


Sam: Win? Probably not. Qualify for NCAA's? Maybe....it historically takes 3:57 high or 3:58 low to qualify in the mile and only Griffith has broken the four minute barrier thus far. I feel confident that both Griffith and Schaffer will go under this weekend, but not so much that they will run a qualifying mark.


Ben: I think Schaffer has an outside chance of sneaking in, but I think Griffith is the only one with a realistic chance to qualify for Nationals. Still, I would be surprised to see any of these guys run faster than 3:59.


Maura: I actually think Griffith has a chance at NCAA’s. He may not have a jaw-dropping mile PR, but he has run 3:39 for 1500 meters and was 3rd in that event at the Outdoor National Championships last spring.

Sam: Schaffer is having a heck of a year. Between the mile, 3000 meters, and 5000 meters, he has dropped a combined 55 seconds off of his indoor personal bests this season. He seems better suited for the 3k or 5k during indoors, but breaking 4:00 this weekend would be just another accomplishment for what has been a quietly strong season on his end.


Ben: He could be one the breakout stars of this indoor season and there is no better venue to solidify your place among the country’s elite than at Millrose.


Maura: Okay, final thoughts for the weekend. What is one bold prediction you have?


Sam: Klecker will run 7:46 for 3000 meters.


Ben: I’ll do you one better. Kurgat runs 7:45 and beats Klecker. Remember Fisher and McDonald ran 7:42 last year while Kemboi ran 7:44.


Maura: Dani Jones breaks Jenny Simpson’s collegiate indoor mile record.


Sam: Well dang…that would be something. I really want to continue arguing with Ben so here's one final take. Klecker runs 7:41.


Ben: *the group chat has caught flame and disintegrated*


Sam: Alright, give me the names of the top collegiate for each of the events, in the order of most confident to least confident on your picks.


Maura:

  1. Dani Jones (Women's Wannamaker Mile)

  2. Joe Klecker (Men's Elite 3000)

  3. Weini Kelati (Women's Elite 3000)

  4. Oliver Hoare (Men's Wannamaker Mile)

  5. Cam Griffith (Men's Elite Mile)


Ben:

  1. Dani Jones (Women's Wannamaker Mile)

  2. Oliver Hoare (Men's Wannamaker Mile)

  3. Edwin Kurgat (Men's Elite 3000)

  4. Cam Griffith (Men's Elite Mile)

  5. Taylor Werner (Women's Elite 3000)


Sam:

  1. Dani Jones (Women's Wannamaker Mile)

  2. Joe Klecker (Men's Elite 3000)

  3. Oliver Hoare (Men's Wannamaker Mile)

  4. Taylor Werner (Women's Elite 3000)

  5. Cam Griffith (Men's Elite Mile)