1. What will Colorado's DMR (women) look like?
The Colorado women have the potential to not only have the best DMR in the nation this season, but they could run break the collegiate record. Dani Jones and Sage Hurta paired together make the Buffs national title favorites as it is and having Rachel McArthur on the 800 leg makes this squad somehow ever better. Yet, if Hurta or Jones opted to pursue other open events, we could also see women like Makena Morley or Tabor Scholl find a spot on this relay. With so many top-tier talents, it's hard to say what this DMR will look like.
2. What will Iowa State's DMR (men) look like?
Some of my fellow writers believe that Edwin Kurgat could anchor Iowa State's DMR this season. While that may be an option in theory, I'm not sure he's a practical anchor. He would essentially have no rest after the 5000 meters at NCAA's (an event he'll almost definitely run) and his mile PR of 4:06 makes him far from a sure thing in terms of being competitive on the national stage if he's assigned to the anchor leg (even if he does improve).
I think it's somewhat safe to assume that an Iowa State DMR would have some combination of Roshon Roomes, Daniel Nixon, and Festus Lagat. The only question is...in what order? Lagat seems to be the most logical choice for the anchor leg, but can Roomes or Nixon be a reliable option on the 1200 leg?
3. Which unattached women from the Boston University 5k will redshirt this indoor track season? Which women will race attached?
Yes, I know this is technically more than one question, but just work with me here.
Back in December, we saw a handful of the NCAA's top distance talents toe the line for the Boston University Season Opener 5k...except some of those women were running unattached. Taylor Werner, Courtney Wayment, Erica Birk-Jarvis, and Elly Henes were not wearing their school's singlet, leading us to believe that they could redshirt the winter of 2020.
We know for a fact that Werner will be sitting out this season, but we will still get to see her at the Millrose Games in February. But what about the other three? Our assumption is that they will be redshirted, but it's difficult to say for sure.
4. Who is the favorite to win the women's mile national title if Dani Jones doesn't contest the event?
TSR is currently under the assumption that Julia Rizk has left the collegiate system as she is no longer on the Ohio State roster (we are awaiting confirmation). If that's the case (and it seemingly is), then a new champion will be crowned in 2020.
The favorite to win this year's title is Dani Jones, but that's under the assumption that she'll even contest the event (more on that later). If she decides to go for the DMR/3k double, then the mile will likely be out of the question for her (although she could triple).
So who does that leave us with? Danae Rivers could be a title favorite, but she could very easily end up running the 800 meters instead. Whittni Orton, Lauren Gregory, Carina Viljoen, and Sarah Edwards are strong candidates to take home NCAA gold this winter, but are we ready to call any of them "favorites" yet? I would say no.
If Jones doesn't run the mile, then this year seems wide-open for the event.
5. Who is the favorite to win the men's mile national title?
Some people will quickly point to Nuguse and argue that he's the national title favorite. To some extent, I would agree with that, but I believe that he's a favorite...not necessarily the favorite. Beamish showed us last year that he is tactically much better than we give him credit for and Hoare has the most raw talent out of anyone in the NCAA.
Going into the indoor national meet last year, everyone rightfully placed Hoare as the favorite, but after showing that he's human on a few occasions, there may be less certainty with this event as we enter the winter months.
6. How will star freshmen fare during indoors? Who gets redshirted?
Michigan's Ericka VanderLende's 5k personal best from high school was 16:20. The catch is that she ran that time on an indoor track. If she's not redshirted this winter, then she'll clearly be a sneaky-strong talent to watch in the 5000 meters as she should significantly improve on that PR.
I'll be curious to see how the Washington women handle the indoor oval. We know how talented Melany Smart is and Carley Thomas is expected to be just as good (if not better). The only issue is that we don't know if they'll be able to replicate their outdoor performances on the indoor oval (we're not saying they can't, we just haven't seen it yet).
As for the men, the top talents that we were used to seeing this past fall (Bosley, Harrison, and Hocker) have a very good chance of being redshirted, especially Harrison. Colorado almost always redshirts their youngsters (at some point or another) as does Northern Arizona.
After a long cross country season, these men will more likely than not be sidelined for the winter.
7. How deep will the 5000 meters be this season?
Last year's depth in the 5000 meters was unfathomable. Based on what we could find, last year was the hardest year to make it to Nationals in the event. The #16 time in the NCAA (the final automatic spot to Nationals) for the men's 5k was 13:41 (Vincent Kiprop). For the women, that time was 15:42 (Abbie McNulty). Those are absurdly fast times just to qualify for the national meet.
This year, however, we don't necessarily expect the 5k to be quite as fast.
Guys like Clayton Young, Morgan McDonald, Obsa Ali, Vincent Kiprop, Gilbert Kigen, and Connor McMillan have all used up their eligibility. Meanwhile, James Sugira hasn't competed in the past two seasons of competition, Mantz is pursuing the Marathon Trials this winter, it's unclear what Brandt's health status is, and we don't know who will be redshirted.
As for the women, the potential redshirts of Werner, Birk-Jarvis, Wayment, and Henes, along with the graduation of top names from last year (Kurgat, Lokedi, Ostrander, Smith, LaRocco, and McNulty) seemingly dilute this year's 5000 meters.
There will obviously be plenty of men and women who step up and have breakout seasons, but it seems like it will be difficult to match the extensive depth of last year's 5000 meters in 2020.
8. How many men will run under the 4:00 barrier in the mile this season?
In an episode of Hops & Props, fellow TSR contributor John Cusick suggested that we could see up to 40 men break the four minute barrier this season. While that does seem a bit aggressive, it's not totally out of the question. Last spring was a historically deep year for the 1500 meters and numerous top talents will be returning in 2020. While the number will likely fall in the range of 33 to 37, expect a heavy number of men to run under 4:00 this winter.
9. How many women will run under the 4:40 barrier in the mile this season?
We've actually seen the number of women running under the 4:40 barrier dip in recent years. Back in 2017, 41 women ran under the mark (including conversions). In 2018, that number was 39. Last year? It was 35.
While we don't necessarily expect that number to drop much lower, we shouldn't be expecting anything crazy in 2020. Anything above 38 would be considered a deep year for the event.
10. Can the Stanford women bring their success from last spring to the indoor oval?
Fiona O'Keeffe will be great as always (if she's healthy), but what about the other Stanford women? Jessica Lawson, Ella Donaghu, and Jordan Oakes had breakout cross country seasons this past fall, but that shouldn't have come as much of a surprise considering both Lawson and Donaghu ran 4:11 for the 1500 meters last spring.
The only catch is that between Oakes, Lawson, and Donaghu, the fastest mile PR is 4:43 (Donaghu). These three women have respectable indoor track resumes, but their outdoor track and cross country performances have been significantly better.
That, however, could very easily change over the next two months.
11. Will we finally see Dustin Nading return to the track? How will he perform?
The newest Washington Husky who transferred from Western Oregon is the 2018 D2 mile national champion. Unfortunately, we haven't seen him race in an entire year (he was absent throughout the entirety of 2019). With a new coach and new team supporting him, will we finally see him toe the line this winter?
12. Will Jonathan Davis return to competition?
13. Will James Sugira return to competition?
We're combining these two because they both have the same talking points. Neither Davis nor Sugira have competed since last winter. They both ran at the Indoor National Championships in 2019 (where Sugira was a DNF), but have since been absent from competition over the past two seasons. Will that change in 2020?
14. Will Emily Venters return from injury?
One of the biggest transfers of the summer was Emily Venters taking her talents from Boise State to Colorado. She would have made the Buffaloes a podium team this past fall, but an injury kept her sidelined. Now that she has (assumedly) recovered, can we expect to see her toe the line this winter? After missing qualifying for NCAA's by a few spots in the 5k last winter (despite running 15:45), Venters will likely be hungry to get to the national stage in March.
15. Will Katrina Robinson return from injury?
Robinson has supposedly dealt with injuries non-stop over the past year. In fact, she hasn't competed since the end of the 2018 cross country season. Despite being one of the better distance running talents in the country, she has been unable to stay healthy. Arkansas took precautionary measures by redshirting her this past fall with Coach Harter putting an emphasis on not rushing her back. Does that mean she'll be ready to go for this winter? Fingers crossed...
16. Will Robert Brandt return from injury?
17. Will Aidan Tooker return from (an assumed) injury?
Both of these top-tier talents were absent in the postseason this past cross country season. Brandt and Tooker could be potential All-Americans this fall, especially in the 5000 meters which (as mentioned above) doesn't seem to be quite as deep as last year.
18. Does Yared Nuguse anchor Notre Dame's DMR again? Or does he pursue a national title in the mile? Does he try both?
It's impossible to say. Notre Dame is a team-oriented program that has recently thrived in the DMR. Having Nuguse fresh for an anchor leg would seem to mimic what they have done over the past two years which makes plenty of sense.
However, Nuguse has already done his job by helping Notre Dame win a national title. With a 1500 meter gold medal and a DMR gold medal, the open mile is the only event in his 1500/mile/DMR wheelhouse that he has not yet won.
Will Nuguse and the coaching staff want to change that this winter?
19. Can Wilson-Perteete replicate her success from outdoors this winter?
One of the best talents in the NCAA last spring was Avi Wilson-Perteete who ran 2:02 on multiple occasions and finished 3rd at NCAA's. Her personal best of 2:01 is from the spring of 2018. However, the UNLV middle distance ace has only ever qualified for one national meet during indoors (2018). At that national meet, she failed to make it out of the prelims. Last winter, she didn't even qualify for NCAA's.
Wilson-Perteete is clearly one of the more talented 800 meter runners in the NCAA this year. However, she'll need to find a way to replicate her success from the spring seasons on the indoor oval if she wants to be competitive with other top talents.
20. Will Devin Dixon run a new collegiate record in the 800 meters this season?
I think people are dismissing this question far too quickly. Dixon already has the American Collegiate Record of 1:45.27 (non-converted) and his aggressive racing style almost always puts him in a favorable position to run fast. With a personal best of 1:44.84 from last spring and a converted time of 1:44.97 from last winter, all signs are pointing to a potential record attempt for Dixon over the next couple months.
21. Who attempts to triple at NCAA's this year?
Last year, we saw Oliver Hoare and Kyle Mau attempt the mile/3k/DMR triple at NCAA's last year (which is the only reasonable triple that a distance runner could attempt). For the most part, it didn't go that well, which leads us to believe that they won't attempt that triple again.
Based off of last year's results, we could see James West or Cooper Teare go for the triple and maybe even Alex Ostberg as well. Washington's Talon Hull and Arkansas' Cameron Griffith seem like other solid candidates for the triple given their success in the mile and 3k distances and their team's history of qualifying for Nationals in the DMR.
As for the women, it seems less likely that we will see someone try a triple. In fact, no one attempted the triple last winter (that we could find). Dani Jones could try the triple. Katie Rainsberger could try the triple. Lauren Gregory could try the triple. But unless their respective teams are desperate for points, we don't think they'll take on the unnecessary workload.
22. What does Dani Jones run at Nationals?
As we just mentioned, we don't think Dani Jones will try the triple at NCAA's. Instead, running both the mile and DMR seems like a very realistic double. The mile will be wide-open this year and it would be Jones' to lose. Meanwhile, the 3k and 5k will likely be crowded at the top with Weini Kelati and Alicia Monson headlining the events. As for the DMR, the potential to see a Hurta/McArthur/Jones relay just sounds too good to pass up.