The ACC will most likely feature one of the deepest 800 fields of the weekend with a total of seven entries seeded under 1:50.
The favorite in this one will be Wake Forest's Robert Heppenstall. The 5x All-American has produced consistent results and is an absolute star during the postseason. He'll look to regain his outdoor ACC title from 2016.
Despite Heppenstall's outstanding accomplishments, his title pursuit will be threatened by 2018 indoor 800 All-American John Lewis (Clemson) and 2018 indoor mile All-American Vincent Ciattei (Virginia Tech). Lewis' aggressive front-running style paired with Ciattei's experience and mile strength will make these two formidable opponents for Heppenstall.
Georgia Tech's Avery Bartlett is a great name to mention in this preview. He was on the brink of stardom throughout the past year, but has finally found his groove this spring. With a 1:47 win over Isaiah Harris and a 3:43 1500 PR, it's hard to dislike what he brings to table. He's proven that he can upset a postseason star once, what's to say that he can't do it again?
There are a slew of sleeper picks that could have a big impact on this race. Andres Littig (Georgia Tech), Elijah Silva (Notre Dame), and Bashir Mosavel-Lo (Virginia Tech) are just a few of those names. However, there may not be a better sleeper pick than Duke's Matt Wisner. The Blue Devil sophomore has had a string of solid races over his young career, but his 1:48 win over Vincent Ciattei on his home track was his statement race.
1. Robert Heppenstall (Wake Forest)
2. Avery Bartlett (Georgia Tech)
3. Matt Wisner (Duke)
4. Vincent Ciattei (Virginia Tech)
5. John Lewis (Clemson)
6. Andres Littig (Georgia Tech)
7. Jake Burton (Duke)
8. Elijah Silva (Notre Dame)
If you weren't impressed by the depth of the 800, then the 1500 should capture your attention. Leading the way is Justyn Knight who will attempt his 3rd 1500 of the season. He is easily the heavy favorite after running 3:36 at Bryan Clay. We've never seen him race the 1500/mile more than twice in a single season. Could this be an indicator that Knight may attempt the 1500 in late May? Never say never...
In addition to the 800, Vincent Ciattei will also be racing the 1500. The mile All-American will certainly give Knight a run for his money in a tactical affair, and even if the pace is quick, Ciattei can still hang late in the race.
Along with Ciattei will be teammate Diego Zarate who ran 3:43 at the National Relay Championships. Don't forget that Zarate was part of the 1-2-3 sweep that Virginia Tech accomplished at the ACC Championships last year.
As dangerous as the VT duo is, the Notre Dame duo will be just as challenging. Yared Nuguse has split 3:57 on the anchor of the Fighting Irish DMR, but has never broken the 4 minute barrier in the open mile. Teammate Jacob Dumford ran 3:42 at the Stanford Invite and has had a lot of exposure to top-tier competition over the past two seasons. That experience should bode well for him in a deep field like this.
Sleeper picks include David Barney (Florida State), Alex Milligan (UNC), Nahom Solomon (Georgia Tech), and Mike Marsella (Virginia). All of those guys can compete for a top five spot. If the race is tactical, they will play a role.
1. Justyn Knight (Syracuse)
2. Vincent Ciattei (Virginia Tech)
3. Alex Milligan (UNC)
4. Jacob Dumford (Notre Dame)
5. Diego Zarate (Virginia Tech)
6. Yared Nuguse (Notre Dame)
7. Mike Marsella (Virginia)
8. David Barney (Florida State)
Justyn Knight is the favorite in the 1500 and will be held in the same regard for the 5000 meters. After a phenomenal 13:18 at Payton Jordan and his history of cruising to ACC titles, there is no reason to pick against him this weekend.
As usual, Knight will be flanked by a slew of talented teammates such as Aidan Tooker, Colin Bennie, Noah Affolder, Iliass Aouani, and Philo Germano. Collectively, this Syracuse group has absolutely dominated the ACC distance running scene. I imagine a nice chunk of this squad will find spots in the top eight.
Virginia Tech's Peter Seufer has been a consistent force in the ACC distance events. He's been one of the few men capable of breaking up the Syracuse sweep over the past few seasons. The same goes for Georgia Tech's Nahom Solomon who always finds a place at the top of the results.
I also like the NC State men in this event. Between Elijah Moskowitz, Joe Bistritz, and Patrick Sheehan, this group will be able to work together and potentially mix it up with the Syracuse guys if the pace is slower.
1. Justyn Knight (Syracuse)
2. Philo Germano (Syracuse)
3. Peter Seufer (Virginia Tech)
4. Aidan Tooker (Syracuse)
5. Nahom Solomon (Georgia Tech)
6. Colin Bennie (Syracuse)
7. Ari Klau (Virginia)
8. Elijah Moskowitz (NC State)
The 10k is one of the few events where there isn't a clear favorite (or favorites). As usual, the Syracuse men will be leading the charge with veteran Philo Germano at the front. By his side will be Iliass Aouani, Joe Dragon, Kevin James, and Dominic Hockenbury. Altogether, that group of five should play a heavy role in how fast (or slow) this race becomes.
The Syracuse influence will certainly be felt, but UVA is also fielding a heavy number of athletes. With a 29:28 season best, senior Chase Weaverling will be the one to lead the Cavaliers throughout the race. Teammate Alex Corbett should be close behind as he attempts to better his season best of 29:50.
Virginia Tech's Peter Seufer may have a season best of "only" 29:40, but this is a field where he could definitely walk away with the win (which he did last year). He's been a bit quiet this season, but don't be surprised if he puts himself at the front of this race.
Finally, NC State's Elijah Moskowitz enters the 10k with the 2nd fastest seed of 29:23. The Wolfpack junior has slowly developed and progressed under NC State coach Rollie Geiger since transferring from Brown.
Sleeper picks include Sean Grossman (Miami) and the Florida State duo of Steven Cross and Stanley Linton.
1. Peter Seufer (Virginia Tech)
2. Philo Germano (Syracuse)
3. Chase Weaverling (Virginia)
4. Elijah Moskowitz (NC State)
5. Iliass Aouani (Syracuse)
6. Alex Corbett (Virginia)
7. Kevin James (Syracuse)
8. Stanley Linton (Florida State)
Steeplechase during the postseason is always an exciting event. Championship racing is typically when we get to see a big drop in times and more names under the 9 minute barrier.
The young Syracuse duo of Aidan Tooker and Noah Affolder will be the favorites in this one when you consider Tooker's 8:45 PR and Affolder's 8:51 PR. There aren't too many other athletes in this field who are capable of competing with these guys if the pace is honest.
However, underrated ACC talents like Clemson's James Quattlebaum (8:55 PR) and NC State's Gavin Gaynor (8:57 PR) are strong competitors. Both of these men have had strong spring seasons and were able to record a few wins as well. In a less-intensive field, I expect these two to thrive.
If you're looking for a reliable choice, look at Florida State's Michael Hall. The Seminole senior has had an impressive senior campaign by running sub-4 minutes during indoors (3:59) and now 8:55 during outdoors. He's been producing consistent performances in nearly every event and should do well against competition that he's familiar with.
Outside of those four, there are a variety of names that could find themselves among the top finishers. Younger guys like Fitsum Seyoum (Virginia Tech) and Albert Kosgei (Louisville) each enter this race with season bests under 9 minutes. On the other hand, conference veterans like Alec Kunzweiler (Duke) and Billy Caldwell (Pittsburgh) have shown promise in their first season of steeplechase competition.
1. Aidan Tooker (Syracuse)
2. Michael Hall (Florida State)
3. Noah Affolder (Syracuse)
4. Gavin Gaynor (NC State)
5. James Quattlebaum (Clemson)
6. Matthew Novak (Virginia)
7. Billy Caldwell (Pittsburgh)
8. Fitsum Seyoum (Virginia Tech)