With a number of big meets ahead of us (UW Invite, John Thomas Terrier Invite, Penn State National Open, etc.) it is easy to get excited and speculate about the weekend. Although the fast times are definitely on the way, there have been plenty of other performances so far this season that might give us an idea of what to expect in the future. These aren't necessarily predictions, but more of an idea of what may be to come. Here is some speculation and general thoughts that we have gathered so far..
Just a couple of weeks ago, we saw the Wildcats produce two DMR's that finished 1-2 at the Kentucky Invite. The 'A' Relay finished in 9:49.16 while the 'B' relay finished in 9:49.95. Right off the bat, you might be thinking that these are two very average DMR's that have a long way to go until they are in NCAA qualifying position. And you would be right!
However, what if these two DMR's put their best legs together to create something even faster? Two underrated mid-distance studs in Benjamin Young and Ian Jones were on the 'A' relay while Kentucky's ace (Jacob Thomson) was on the 'B' relay. We may not know the exact splits from either of these squads, but it's probably be safe to assume that this team could produce something much faster if they were to combine their best legs from each relay.
This past weekend at the Clemson Invite, Thomson, Jones, and Southard all secured wins in their respective events. Thomson even put up an NCAA #1 time of 7:53 in the 3k. Simply put, there are a lot of decent pieces that could make Kentucky a threat in the D-Med this year. For now, enjoy the fast times that other teams put up, but don't forget about the potential of this squad.
Still no Matthew Maton...
After a rough end to his indoor season last year, Matthew Maton was MIA throughout the entirety of outdoor track and cross country. You could argue that Maton was just taking a redshirt season to save eligibility, but to be out of commission for two seasons is when things get a little suspicious. Is Maton healthy and just saving eligibility? Or is he dealing with a nagging injury that won't go away?
A heavy majority of this Oregon team is young, so it may make sense to have Maton around for another few seasons so that he can help them grow and adjust. Still, we didn't see him race at the UW Preview a couple of weekends ago. Surely he would have raced then if he had planned on competing during this indoor season.
Trying to figure out redshirt/injury situations like these are never easy. You have no idea when someone could make their debut or even if they will at all. We could absolutely still see Maton compete this weekend or even into February, but so far it's looking like he may be missing his 3rd consecutive season.
Penn State is holding back for something big
In their first meet of the season, the Nittany Lions looked strong with Jordan Makins earning a win over Roshon Roomes in a time of 2:24. The favorite in that race was initially Domenic Perretta, but he hopped out with 800 to go as he finished his duties as the rabbit. In the mile, Colin Abert threw down a very solid time of 4:02 to take the win while Isaiah Harris made his season debut with a time of 4:07.
Fast forward to the Clemson Invite and things have flip-flopped. Isaiah Harris was a DNS in the 800, an event he was favored to win. Perretta, on the other hand, was able to try his chops in the mile where he was able to get a win with a conservative time of 4:10.
So what exactly is Penn State's plan? Why are we seeing Harris and Perretta acting as rabbits and not even toeing the lines to race? Why are they doing off-distance events? Performances like this usually means that a team is going through some off-distance, fine-tuning and is planning to unleash their superstars all at once in a single meet.
UPDATE @ 2:37pm, 1/24 (article was started on 1/23)
Sure enough, that seems to be the case as both Harris and Perretta are entered in the 800 this weekend at the Penn State National Open. Expect Harris to push the pace and throw down something big in response to Michael Saruni's 1:45 from earlier this season.
While we're on the topic of Penn State, the Nittany Lions could gather a lethal DMR if they wanted to. Colin Abert looks like a great guy to have on the anchor leg while Harris, Perretta, and Makins look like the perfect guys to attack the 1200 and 800 legs. This team always produces top-tier DMR's and this year may be no different...
Indiana can be a distance powerhouse (if they can get over the hump)
Indiana is a team that races a lot during the season which means that their coaching staff gives their athletes a lot of chances to run fast. With so many opportunities, Indiana may have a chance to go to Nationals and score a majority of their points with distance runners, much like Oregon has done over the years.
Ben Veatch is now NCAA #3 in the 3000 meters (7:58) and NCAA #2 in the 5000 meters (13:57). Those times are going to need to improve, but we're looking at the very real possibility that Veatch qualifies for Nationals in both the 3000 and 5000. Not only that, but Kyle Mau is also listed at NCAA #4 in the 3000 meters (8:03).
Speaking of Kyle Mau, it is more likely that he will pursue the mile this season just like he did last year (rather than the 3k). After anchoring Indiana's DMR to a 5th place finish last year, Mau has the experience of racing against some of the best in the nation. As of right now, he is sitting at NCAA #6 with a 4:02 mile. I would expect that time to eventually get faster and dip under the 4 minute barrier, but what really matters is if he can get into that 3:58 range and qualify for Nationals.
Of course, we can't just ignore one of Indiana's best. Daniel Kuhn is an established ace among 800 runners in the NCAA and should be set to repeat as an All-American once again this indoor season. After running an earth-shattering 1:01 for 500 meters in December, Kuhn clearly has the speed to dip into the low 1:46 range within the next month and half.
Finally, Indiana's DMR could be at the top of the NCAA once again. Yes, guys like Kuhn and Mau would need to double, but the Hoosiers could very easily be among the top five finishers in a DMR field that is always wide open.
The only problem with all of this is that Indiana needs to get over "the hump". With the exception of Kuhn, Veatch and Mau are not guaranteed to get into NCAA's. They are definitely talented enough to be some of the best distance runners in the nation, but they need to enter that next tier of fitness where they can safely get to the starting line at Nationals. If they are able to accomplish that, Indiana would have potential scorers in the 800, Mile, 3000, 5000, and DMR (Kuhn, Mau, Veatch, Veatch, Relay).