Note: Due to the late release time of the GLVC entries, the below analysis is only speculation as to what certain athletes will run.
1. Could Berenice Cleyet-Merle Aim for the Triple Crown?
Berenice Cleyet-Merle (Indianapolis) is the middle distance queen of Division Two at the moment. She currently holds the top spot in the 800 meters with an impressive time of 2:06.80 from just a couple of weeks ago. In addition to that mark, she also has the NCAA #4 time in the mile with a wildly impressive 4:40. Her recent performances lead us to believe she could be crowned champion in up to three events this weekend.
Heading into the GLVC Championships, she holds the best times (by far) in the 800 and and mile, and is a close second in the DMR. The next fastest runner in the 800 and mile is Elysia Burgos (Southwest Baptist) who has marks of 2:13.37 and 4:47.
We will likely see both of these women in the 800, mile and anchor leg of the DMR. Burgos has impressive times and has been having a stellar season, but with Cleyet-Merle owning times seven seconds faster in both events, it is hard to see Burgos being able to take her down. That said, Burgos has some sneaky-good speed and could very easily challenge Cleyet-Merle if a race turns tactical.
If Cleyet-Merle and the Indy coaching staff want to, three conference titles could be in her future.
2. Comastri & Bailey Highlight Longer Distances
Jennifer Comastri (Southern Indiana) and Lauren Bailey (Indianapolis) are two distance studs who will be fun to watch this weekend. Based on their national rankings and the fact both teams will be trying to score as many points as possible, it’s feel somewhat safe to assume that both women will run the 3k/5k double. Bailey could also run in the DMR for what would be a very tricky triple.
Comastri has the NCAA #4 time in the 3000 meters this season with a 9:34 and the NCAA #5 time in the 5000 meters with a 16:31. She ran a converted 4:53 mile at the Indianapolis Greyhound Invitational, which currently ranks at NCAA #18 in D2 and #3 in the GLVC.
Meanwhile, Lauren Bailey has the NCAA #2 time in the 3000 meters with a 9:28 and the NCAA #2 time in the 5000 meters with a 16:17. She was also the lead leg in the Greyhound’s DMR that is ranked at NCAA #9 in Division Two. Bailey has simply been incredible this winter in what has been a breakout season for her. Her consistent progression leads us to believe that her big-time results are far from flukes.
It is unlikely that the 5k will be a fast race as these women will want to conserve energy for other events, but that doesn’t mean that it won’t be an exciting match up between Bailey and Comastri. Bailey may have the faster times, but Comastri has the speed based off her performance in the mile. Plus, Comastri may not end up running in the DMR whereas Bailey might (but again, this is all just speculation).
So the question is: Will Bailey run away with the titles or will Comastri out-kick Bailey?
3. Women's DMR: Southwest Baptist vs Indy
Southwest Baptist and Indianapolis went head-to-head in the DMR at the GVSU Big Meet two weeks ago and Southwest Baptist was able to pull ahead by two seconds (11:40 to 11:42) for the top time in the GLVC.
Southwest Baptist’s top relay consists of Tabitha Weber, Tamia Rayford, Alexis Barber and Elysia Burgos. Indianapolis has a lineup of Lauren Bailey, Mary Watts, Yailene Leon, and Berenice Cleyet-Merle.
On paper, Indianapolis looks to have the better relay team, but Southwest Baptist already proved that a strong, fast-finishing anchor like Burgos could bring them a win. It’ll be a tight race and as mentioned previously and it could come down to a battle between middle distance stars Burgos and Cleyet-Merle (or Bailey) on the anchor.
4. Partee & Christoffer Aim to Solidify 800 Meter Marks
John Partee (Lewis) highlights the GLVC 800 meters with his converted time of 1:51.16 from the Frigid Bee Invitational. This time is good enough for the NCAA #15 time and the top time in the GLVC. Meanwhile, Matt Christoffer (Southwest Baptist) has the next best time in the GLVC with a 1:52.02. Christoffer’s time is currently ranked at NCAA #28 in Division Two. In order to qualify for Nationals, he’ll have to run one second faster.
Partee currently has a top-16 mark, but after this weekend, it's very possible that he'll be knocked out of that spot if he doesn't run faster. Meanwhile, Christoffer hasn't quite reached that 1:51 threshold in his last few attempts, running 1:54 and 1:55.
Not only is a GLVC title on the line, but so is a national qualifying spot. If Christoffer is somehow able to defeat Partee with a result faster than 1:51.16, then Partee could be in serious jeopardy of ending his season early (assuming someone else in the country also runs faster than 1:51.16).
5. Winders & Co. Dominate the Distance Events
Titus Winders (Southern Indiana) currently has the top times in the GLVC for the mile, 3000 meters and 5000 meters. With the focus of scoring as many points as possible, it could be possible that he runs all three distance events.
He leads the conference in the mile by 10 seconds with his time of 4:07 from the Meyo Invitational. The 3000 meters, however, should be a tighter race with Winder’s time of 8:08 from the GVSU Big Meet being only two seconds faster than teammate Austin Nolan’s 8:10 from the Meyo Invitational. Nathan Hall (also of Southern Indiana) has the #3 time in the GLVC this season with an 8:24 (as well as the GLVC #4 mile time with a 4:17).
Could the comfort of knowing that Nolan and Hall are the next athletes in this year's 3000 meter field be enough to keep Winders out of the event? It seems like a mile/5k double be far more ideal prior to racing at Nationals.
In the 5000 meters, Southern Indiana holds the top three times in the GLVC with Titus Winders (14:06), Austin Nolan (14:19) and Wyat Harmon (14:31) leading the way. The Southern Indiana men highlight the distance events and should be able to control the races with Winders up front.
The Screaming Eagles have yet to put their best runners in the DMR, but could easily do so in an effort to dominate the GLVC distance events.