The BIG 10 Championships look to be a highlight meet of the weekend. Hosted at the Spire Institute, the BIG 10 is composed of several top NCAA qualifying athletes. This preview will break down how certain athlete stack up when faced with stiff competition and the possibility of running multiple events.
Here are the key takeaways when looking at the BIG 10 Championships this weekend...
1. Will Danae Rivers Complete the 800/Mile Double?
The senior from Penn State faces a tall task trying to win both the 800 meters and the mile in an effort to score as many points for the Nittany Lions this upcoming weekend.
Facing two prelim races, Rivers will race four times in pursuit of double victory. She shows up on Friday and Saturday as the favorite to win each event, boasting seasonal bests of 4:32.95 (mile) and 2:04.22 (800), which is not far off from her personal bests.
Competing in high-stakes meets like NCAA’s and the Millrose Games, Rivers has had her fair share of big meet experience and will look to capitalize on that this weekend.
Rivers was able to pull off a similar double last spring, winning both the 1500 meters and the 800 meters, so this is not exactly new territory for the veteran star. However, she'll be tasked with VERY deep fields that are full of women whose greatest strength is racing tactically, specifically in the mile.
2. Who Will Prevail in the Hoare vs Kusche Two-Time Battle?
Both Oliver Hoare (Wisconsin) and George Kusche (Nebraska) will face off in the mile and the 3000 meters this coming weekend. Hoare and Kusche are considered favorites heading into each race and both are considered household names in the BIG 10 as far as the distance events are concerned.
Hoare boasts a 3:56 in the full mile this season (and owns a 3:54 PR) while Kusche has run 3:57.93 in the mile and 7:50.93 in the 3000 meters this winter. For Hoare, this will be an excellent opportunity to experiment with race tactics prior to the NCAA Championships, especially considering the challenge that Kusche and Mau are expected to give him in the 3000 meters.
Furthermore, will Hoare take the opportunity to run a national qualifying time? He has yet to run the 3000 meters this season and it was assumed that it would be a national qualifier in this event this winter. With guys like Kusche and Mau in the field, this race may be fast enough to flirt with that mark of 7:51.00.
As for Kusche, this has the opportunity to be a massive, confidence-boosting weekend for him. He is already in the midst of a breakout season, showing off range and consistency that comes with improved racing maturity. A win over Hoare (or even Mau) would be a standout, All-American caliber result for the Nebraska ace.
3. Will Mau Pursue a National Qualifying Time in the 5k?
Kyle Mau is currently set to run in the 5000 meters and 3000 meters. At first glance, that may not seem like a big deal, but when you realize that he has a 13:44 5k season best, then the idea of him possibly pursuing a national qualifying time becomes very interesting.
Surely a handful of top talents throughout the nation will be chasing the NCAA #16 spot one last time in the 5000 meters this weekend, but Mau may have the best chance of reaching that position if the race goes out fast enough. With guys like Beadlescomb, Carpenter, Veatch and Myrer in the field, this race has the potential to be quick.
The only problem is that someone would have to be a "sacrificial lamb" of sorts when it comes to the aggressive pacing and Mau would have to follow. In a championship setting, it's hard to see that happening.
Of course, even if Mau does end up running something absurdly fast, he would likely scratch out of the 5000 meters anyways to focus on the DMR/3k double at Nationals...right?
4. Will These DMR's Aim for National Qualifying Times?
Keep an eye out for the Wisconsin women in the DMR who edge out Michigan for the fastest seed in the race. Anchored by Alicia Monson who is competing in the 5000 meters in addition to this event, the Badgers should feel safe knowing that they have Monson holding the baton going into the final leg.
However, after the recent development of the New Mexico women earning an 11:02 converted time in the DMR, the Michigan women will have PLENTY of incentive to run faster than their 11:06 from last weekend. It seems as though they are expected to run their full "A" lineup, so the pressure will be on to sustain (or better) their NCAA #12 DMR time.
The men’s DMR looks to be wide-open, but Michigan and Penn State will be hungry to find a national qualifying time of their own. They are just on the cusp of NCAA's after last weekend's performances and Washington's time of 9:35 is very surpassable. Luckily for the Nittany Lions and Wolverines, they'll have very competitive relays from Indiana and Minnesota. They won't be "A" lineups, but they'll be pretty darn close to it.
5. Quick Notes
Although Cooper Williams toes the line as the favorite in the 800 meters by over a second, watch out for Hudson Kugel a sophomore out of Wisconsin. Kugel raced poorly last spring at the BIG 10 Championships and should have a chip on his shoulder entering the race. He has run the fastest BIG 10 800 meter time this month (1:48.94) and looks to be peaking at the right time. Kugel should also benefit now that he has a year of experience under his belt.
The Hasz sisters out of Minnesota have both run under 15:40 for 5000 meters this season, but that won't stop Alicia Monson from being the favorite. The Badger veteran has yet to post a 5000 meter time this season, but she will likely want to earn herself a national qualifying time in an attempt to defend her title. With the Hasz twins in the field, she could certainly do that.
With essentially every athlete doubling heading into the men’s and women’s 3000 meters, don’t be surprised to see some of the favorites lose out due to hard racing the day before. This event is essentially a war of attrition with heavy legs and the meet nearing its conclusion.