#1 Jenny Simpson (née Barringer) (Colorado ‘09)
#8 Leah O’Connor (Michigan State '15)
Leah O’Connor was very similar to Simpson during her collegiate days at Michigan State. The Spartan ace was primarily a miler during indoors and a steeplechaser during the spring, capturing national titles in both events. O’Connor also holds one of the fastest marks in collegiate history for the steeplechase with her mark of 9:33 at the 2015 Outdoor National Championships.
Of course, Jenny Simpson had other-worldly success in those same events (as well as a few others). Simpson might be the best collegiate distance runner of all-time, racking up title after title, both in the NCAA and at the USA Championships while still in college. She set collegiate records in the 1500 meters, mile, 3000 meters, steeplechase and the 5000 meters (both indoors and outdoors). If Simpson fell short in any area, it was cross country, where her highest finish was runner-up (twice).
The winner of this matchup will face a woman more known for the true long distances - either Dom Scott or Shannon Rowbury.
#5 Dom Scott (Arkansas '16)
#13 Shannon Rowbury (Duke '07)
When considering what Shannon Rowbury did in college, it is important to also consider what she might have done. Yes, she earned a handful of All-American honors and was the NCAA runner-up in the mile. However, she also redshirted her entire senior track seasons where she set school records in every event from the 800 to the 5k. Unlike many athletes in the “modern era”, Rowbury was good at almost everything throughout her collegiate career. While she may not have won a national title, she had national caliber personal bests in every event and was a key figure in Duke’s relay teams as well.
When you consider only the first three years of their careers, Dom Scott and Rowbury are actually quite similar. Both won a handful of conference titles and earned numerous All-American honors. However, Scott really distances herself over her senior season where she finished 3rd at the NCAA XC Championships and then won outdoor national titles in both the 5k and 10k. The former Razorback also won a DMR national title during her sophomore campaign.
Scott also earned All-American honors in cross country three times compared to once for Rowbury.
#6 Natoya Goule (LSU / Clemson '15)
#14 Sinclaire Johnson (Oklahoma State '19)
The winner of this matchup will depend on what holds more weight - big performances or consistency. Goule started off at South Plains College before transferring to LSU and eventually Clemson. During those years, she won three national titles in the 800 meters (two indoors and one outdoors). Goule also earned an All-American finish in her final race for Clemson, finishing 6th at the 2015 Outdoor National Championships.
In a somewhat sharp contrast, Sinclaire Johnson has largely one race to her name - the 2019 Outdoor Championships 1500 meter final. Despite facing the heavy favorite Jessica Hull, Johnson came out with her one and only national title, which she earned by running the second-fastest 1500 meter mark in NCAA history. Up to that point, Johnson had only been an All-American one other time, helping Oklahoma State to a 3rd place finish in the DMR at the 2019 Indoor National Championships.
#2 Karissa Schweizer (Missouri ’18)
#10 Alicia Shay (née Craig) (Stanford ’02)
Winning easily over #15 seed Carsyn Koch-Johnson of Cedarville, Karissa Schweizer is looking to run herself into the Sweet 16. Her six national titles are overwhelmingly impressive and frankly may have been enough to argue her for a #1 seed in our bracket. Her marquee wins, dramatic finishes and jaw-dropping collegiate bests of 4:27 (mile), 8:41 (3k), 15:17 (5k) and 32:00 (10k) make her difficult for even the NCAA's all-time greats to take down.
However, maybe more importantly, she has recency and name recognition on her side. That may be the most important aspect in all of this when it comes to the voting.
However, Stanford alum Alicia Craig has plenty of accomplishments of her own. A dominant name in the early 2000's, Craig may have been snubbed from a better seed when you consider that she has two national titles, a previously held collegiate record in the 10k (which has since been broken) and nine All-American honors. She may not have the same number of titles that Schweizer has, but Craig was a key figure in the early 2000's who helped define greatness in women's collegiate distance running.