April Anarchy Championship: All Regions (Men + Women)

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#1 Jenny Simpson (Colorado ‘09)


#5 Emma Coburn (Colorado ‘13)

#1 Edward Cheserek (Oregon ‘17)


#2 Galen Rupp (Oregon ‘09)

Who will win each matchup and why?

Eric: Jenny Simpson should win as she currently holds the 1500 meter collegiate record with a time of 3:59.90. People may forget, but she was also an accomplished steeplechaser at Colorado and had the school record until Emma Coburn bested it years later.

On the men's side, Edward Cheserek should win as he has twice the number of NCAA Championships that Galen Rupp has. To be fair, Rupp won six championships during the 2008-2009 academic year along with the Bowerman award. However, Ches is at a different all-time level which will not be matched by anyone else in NCAA history.

Maura: Out of the four of us who predicted the final competitors, I was the only one who picked the correct athletes. I was anticipating a Buffalo-Duck battle and that’s what we got!

It’s a really hard pick on the women’s side. Both Simpson and Coburn are extremely popular given their collegiate and professional success. They have a strong social media presence, which seems to help with the voting. Since only one can win, give me Simpson for the April Anarchy title. Simpson set five collegiate records during her time as a Buffalo and three still stand. Yes, Coburn broke the steeplechase record, but Simpson had better range over multiple distances, everything from the 800 meters to the 6k on grass.

King Cheserek will reign victorious on the men's side when pitted against Rupp. Both men contributed to the distance legacy at Oregon, but Cheserek’s 15 individual NCAA titles solidify the win. He never failed to finish outside of the top three at an NCAA championship meet. As only a freshman, competing against men who were more experienced than him, Cheserek won four national titles. Cheserek’s resume is enough to give him the overall win.

Ben: Unlike Maura, my Final Four predictions were less than stellar, but I feel pretty confident agreeing with Eric and Maura and predicting that Jenny Simpson and Edward Cheserek will take home the April Anarchy titles. The collegiate records give Simpson the edge over Coburn while the insane number of titles gives Cheserek the advantage over Rupp. It always seemed like Simpson and Cheserek were the two favorites to win at the beginning of this tournament, and I don’t see any reason to change my mind.

Michael: Like Eric, Maura, and Ben, I’m going with Jenny Simpson and Edward Cheserek to win it all. Jenny Simpson excelled over many events while at Colorado and she still holds the NCAA 1500, 5k, and indoor mile records. This is especially impressive when considering how many great performers we have seen in those distances since Simpson graduated from Colorado. I think this will be a pretty tight contest between Simpson and Emma Coburn, but Jenny Simpson will ultimately prevail due to her legacy.

As far as the men’s matchup goes, Edward Cheserek is a pretty easy pick. His 17 titles (15 individual) speak for themselves and nobody else in the competition had anywhere near that number, so Cheserek has been a safe bet from the start. Galen Rupp will give Cheserek a good fight as I’m sure he will garner some support, but there really isn’t much of an argument that needs to be made as to why Cheserek should come out on top.

Did our readers get the final matchups right via voting?

Ben: No, I think that Shalane Flanagan should have made it over Emma Coburn. The former North Carolina runner won two cross country titles which put her in a very elite class of runners who have ever accomplished that feat. Plus, she won the 2003 3k national title. Coburn’s two titles are impressive, but they are not as good as Flanagan’s. For the men, I think a Rupp vs Cheserek matchup seems right. Both men are very accomplished distance runners who broke records and won multiple titles.

Maua: I agree with Ben. On paper, one would’ve expected Flanagan to be in the final. Flanagan was more impressive over multiple distances whereas Coburn is mostly known just for steeplechase success. The men’s matchup, though, was very much expected. Cheserek and Rupp have everything one would be looking for. Record times, countless NCAA titles and All-American honors...along with tons of popularity.

Eric: Yes, I do think readers got the final matchups right. I had to do some more research on Emma Coburn’s collegiate career, but her times prove that she belongs in the finals. She dominated the steeplechase in college while also winning NCAA titles in the mile (indoor) and partaking in the mile at the Millrose Games.

It is also a yes from me in regards to the men’s bracket. Galen Rupp and Edward Cheserek were both extremely dominant in college. Between the two of them, they have over 20 national titles. They both deserve to be here and we should see an easy King Ches victory.

Michael: I think the readers got the finals matchups “right” as much as they could have. On both sides, there are more than two athletes who were fully deserving of these spots, so Simpson vs Coburn and Cheserek vs Rupp are not the only matchups that I think are fitting. Personally, I expected Shalane Flanagan to get the spot in the finals over Emma Coburn, but Coburn getting the spot is totally valid. Both of these matchups make sense, and I am not left scratching my head wondering how any of these athletes made it this far.

What was your favorite matchup of April Anarchy?

Eric: My favorite matchup had to be Dani Jones of Colorado vs Allie Ostrander of Boise State. This matchup was tied at 50% to 50% for the longest time until Ostrander finally pulled away for the victory at the last minute, 51% to 49%.

Maura: For the women, I’ve got to pick the Elite 8 matchup between #2 seed Shalane Flanagan and #4 seed Kara Gocuher. Both women were complete studs during their collegiate careers, winning three NCAA titles apiece. Their names are well-known by distance fans across the nation and countless girls of all ages idolize Flanagan and Goucher. If these two women were in different regions, I could have seen them vying for the April Anarchy championship title.

As for the men, any match that included #15 seed Sean McGorty was my favorite. McGorty survived until the Sweet 16 where he lost to #3 seed Chris Solinsky. McGorty was able to defeat a #2 and #7 seed on his way to the third round. Although he only won one NCAA title, McGorty’s post-collegiate popularity really helped him get far in the tournament.

Ben: For the men, my favorite matchup was #4 seed Donavan Brazier going up against #5 seed Bryce Hoppel in the second round. We didn’t see many matchups between 800 specialists, but this one was a very cool matchup to watch because of how easy it was to compare the two runners. They both had quick times and impressive championship performances. Hoppel and Brazier certainly could have gone farther if they were in different regions and didn’t have to face Cheserek so early on.

On the women’s side, the Dani Jones vs Allie Ostrander contest was superb. Two recent stars went head-to-head and the result was an ever-so-close win for the former Boise State runner. They have similar personal bests and an equal number of NCAA titles. I thought that Jones would squeak out the win, but it was Ostrander’s dominance in the steeplechase that propelled her to the next round.

Michael: The Elite 8 matchup of Jenny Simpson vs Karissa Schweizer was my favorite contest on the women’s side. In my mind, this was a battle between two of the greatest collegiate athletes of their eras. Simpson’s career at Colorado began nearly 10 years before Karissa Schweizer enrolled at Mizzou, and each of these women have become icons for their schools. While Simpson obviously came out on top, this felt like as even of a matchup as any in the entire tournament and it was very fun to watch play out.

I also really enjoyed the Sweet 16 matchup of Morgan McDonald vs Matthew Centrowitz. Both had some very memorable performances in the NCAA and were fan-favorites in college (as well as to do this day). Centrowitz ended up winning with 55% of the vote to McDonald’s 45% of the vote, making this a pretty close matchup.

Which current NCAA runner will be in our April Anarchy bracket challenge in 2040?

Eric: I’ll take Kashon Harrison of Colorado. He had a stellar freshman cross country season and it seems like he will benefit from another three to four years under Wetmore’s training. I could see him winning a national title on the oval before grass, but I feel like he will always be in the mix either way.

Maura: For the women, give me Melany Smart of Washington. Smart earned the title of being the NCAA's top freshman this past cross country season when she finished 12th at the National Championships. Smart took her cross country success and brought it to the indoor track when she recorded a 9:06 3k best to qualify for the NCAA Indoor Championships. With Coach Maurica Powell at the helm, Smart is sure to be one of the best talents in the country before she leaves the collegiate scene.

For the men, I’m taking Casey Clinger of BYU. Clinger was a stud in high school for American Fork in Utah and is expected to do big things for the Cougars when competition resumes. In his only season for BYU before departing for a mission trip, Clinger placed 24th at the 2017 cross country national meet. He has since returned and, with the help of Coach Ed Eyestone, Clinger could vie for a title or two.

Ben: I really like the Casey Clinger pick by Maura, but I will go on the other side of the BYU-NAU rivalry and pick Abdi Nur. The redshirt freshman was 33rd at NCAA’s this past fall and also qualified for the Indoor National Championships in the 5k this past winter, running a converted 13:39. He will be a force for the Lumberjacks for the next few years on the grass, but he also has the potential to pick up some NCAA titles on the track.

As for the women, I'll go with another Washington freshman. However, instead of Melany Smart, I’ll pick Carley Thomas. In her first season as a Husky, she ran 2:02 and 2:03 and beat Nia Akins. She will be one of the national title favorites in the 800 meters for the next few years. If she picks up a few titles, then she will be guaranteed a place in our next April Anarchy.

Michael: I can see Kelsey Chmiel of NC State being a contender 20 years from now. She is still unproven as 2019-2020 was just her freshman year, but she finished 22nd at the NCAA XC Championships and ran 16:02 for the indoor 5k (which qualified her for the NCAA Indoor Championships before the meet was ultimately cancelled). With four more years to make an impact, I think Chmiel will have great success and put her name in the ring to be one of the best collegiate athletes of the next 20 years.

Similar to Chmiel, I think Northern Arizona’s Theo Quax is a up-and-coming star who will make a name for himself over the next couple of years. This past indoor season as a redshirt freshman, Quax ran 3:58.13 in the mile. He has also run 3:39.84 for 1500 meters as a true freshman as well. These are obviously very impressive times, and his career is just getting started. If Quax continues to improve, he could run some ridiculously fast times and challenge for multiple NCAA titles as a Lumberjack.