Texas Tech has gone after the 800 this season with the addition of Jonah Koech to the squad. Their top three of Vincent Crisp, Jonah Koech, and Sven Cepus sit 1-2-4 in the conference standings with Crisp and Koech at #6 and #7 in the NCAA. Cepus sits right outside NCAA qualifying at #18.
They’ve decided to leave Cepus as the only Texas Tech athlete in the field as Crisp moved down to 600 yards and Koech is going to contest the 1000 meters.
Cepus' biggest competition comes from Bryce Hoppel of Kansas who sits #13 in the NCAA with a 1:48.10 from early February. Hoppel won this race in 2018 and will certainly want to repeat.
Festus Lagat enters as the #3 highest ranked individual in the seven-person field with his 1:48.80, a time that is good for #20 in the nation. All three will want to improve their times to guarantee themselves a path to Birmingham in two weeks and should want a quick pace, especially since there will only be a final (not enough athletes for a prelim).
Dan Curts of Iowa State enters with the best time of 2019 with his 2:25.03 clocking, but will face tough competition in his preliminary heat from Sam Worley of Texas who has run 3:57.98 for the mile. Cebastian Gentil will also be in the first prelim with a 2:27 result from earlier in the year, but comes with the benefit of not running the mile like Curts and Worley are.
The second section includes Jonah Koech of Texas Tech who is a NCAA #7 at the 800, but has yet to tackle five laps in a race this season. He will be met by Alex Rogers of Texas who has run sub four twice this season, the first Longhorn to do that since Leo Manzano. Rogers will also be doubling in the mile, while Koech will not be. Ethan Donley of Kansas and Ackeen Colley of Oklahoma are both focusing on the 1000 and have PR's of sub-2:27 which should speed up the second section.
Coming into the final, the Longhorn duo should be on their final bursts of energy which will benefit Koech of Texas Tech. Koech should try to head to the front and blast away from the gun and continue to show why he’s a great power at the middle distance events. Curts will join the Longhorn duo in a battle for the next spots, but it will be interesting to see which of the other athletes try to use their fresher legs to earn them a spot on the podium.
Sam Worley highlights the first section of the mile with an eight second lead over the next best time in the field. That would be Milo Greder of Iowa State with his 4:05. Both should feel very secure with their skill in being able to navigate well to the final.
The Oklahoma State duo of Ryan Smeeton and Isaiah Priddey have both run 4:07/4:08 and will be fighting hard with Brendan Hebert of Texas who has also run 4:08. Hebert is also entered in the 1000. The heat should not aim to run so fast, but with the uncertainty of time qualifiers, one should expect those three to push the pace toward 4:07 with hopes of earning security into the final.
Dan Curts of Iowa State and Alex Rogers headline the second section and have a huge gap over the rest of the field. Both should be able to sit and kick at whatever speed the heat decides to run. Charles Mills of Texas, Dylan Hodgson of Kansas, and Heath Warren of Oklahoma will be the next three across the line via PR with their 4:08, 4:08, and 4:09 seasons best. They will know exactly what time they need to beat to earn a slot in the final and should also be aiming at the 4:07 mark in order to earn some of the time qualifiers. Curts and Rogers will probably not play a factor until the final laps unless their teammates from the previous section might be affected by running a slower pace.
In the final, one should expect Curts, Rogers, and Worley to be head and shoulders above the rest of the field. All three will have run the mile prelim and 1000 prelim from the day before and will be on tired legs. This opens the door for Milo Greder, but even that should not be enough for anyone other than the first three to challenge for the win. Worley probably has the most strength and speed, but Rogers has been the most consistent over the year. Regardless, expect this battle to happen again in the 1000 meters an hour or two after the mile final.
The seeded section of the 3k is stacked with Alex Rogers and Dan Curts who will be on their third events of Saturday if they appear. It also features the Iowa State pack of Edwin Kurgat, Andrew Jordan, Thomas Pollard, David Too, John Nownes, and Chad Johnson. Kurgat and Jordan are two of the top 3k runners in the nation. Their greatest competition could also come from Isai Rodriguez who shocked the NCAA with his 4th place in at the cross country national meet this past fall. Rodriguez has not yet shown that form in track, but has posted an impressive 7:54 and is within a second of Edwin Kurgat.
The intrigue in the seeded section will come from what happens in the unseeded section. Sam Worley of Texas and Milo Greder of Iowa State are both entered without a seed time and could play spoiler if they can push they pace here and the seeded section gets tactical. Sukhi Khosla of Oklahoma State is also entered without a seed time and could spoil the spoilers.
The seeded section should be able to gauge their effort and even with a level of tactical racing, overtake the times of the first heat. Regardless, it will be on the shoulders of the Iowa State group to take the legs out of Alex Rogers and Isai Rodriguez. Depending on who shows the best finishing speed in the 5k the night before, it will be interesting in who tries to push the pace the next day. Kurgat should be the favorite.
Edwin Kurgat leads the field as only five athletes come in with a seed time. Kurgat has cemented his spot in the NCAA Championships with his 13:34 for NCAA #4 and is the clear favorite. His biggest challenge will be from Rodriguez of Oklahoma State as will be true in the 3k. Rodriguez has yet to run the event and will be looking to qualify for nationals, so look for him to push the pace, especially since there’s a large group of OK State Cowboys in the field. Thomas Pollard of Iowa State has the best 3k time and is also yet to complete a 5k, so he may be looking for a 5k qualifier of his own for NCAAs, unless Iowa State envisions him anchoring the DMR at NCAAs. Pollard should be confident in his kick as should Kurgat. Both should wait for Rodriguez to take the pace and make the biggest moves of the event. Expect a close finish, but Iowa State to stay in control, even as Rodriguez and Oklahoma State dictate pace.
Who will end up in the DMR is a huge question as the top legs for Texas and Iowa State are all doubling and tripling in the individual events. Both teams have run 9:27 already. Iowa State has the most replacement legs with Festus Lagat and Roshon Roomes being able to take control of the mile and 800 legs while Texas does not nearly have the strength without both Worley and Rogers. Texas Tech has only run 10:15 so far in 2019, but the trio of Vincent Crisp, Sven Cepus and Jonah Koech is very dangerous if they decide to line up together. That group could certainly contend for an NCAA qualifying spot, especially with the altitude conversion they receive in Lubbock. Oklahoma State has also run 9:33 and while their team does not look ready to aim for an NCAA qualifying time, they should still contend if the race becomes tactical. The meet record of 9:37 should be rewritten without a doubt.
Gabby Crank of the Texas leads all entrants in the 800 with her early season time of 2:04.50. She leads the first heat by over two seconds over Kaylee Dodd of Oklahoma State. Aaliyah Miller of Baylor is the clear 3rd place choice in the heat with her 2:07.85.
The second heat is lead by Marleena Eubanks of Kansas and Erinn Stenman-Fahey of Iowa State both have 2:06 clockings on the year. Leticia De Souza of Baylor and Rilee Rigdon of Oklahoma State also have 2:06 results in 2019 and all four should advance based on the relative weak field.
Eubanks, Stenman-Fahey, Dodd, and Miller all have the potential to enter the NCAA qualifying picture as the current cutoff is 2:05.90 should no one scratch or improve. They will all want to push the pace in order to utilize the Lubbock altitude conversion to push their times into the top 16. Eubanks will probably be the first person to make a move to overthrow Crank for the title, with Dodd and Stenman-Fahey challenging later in the race. As long as the first lap does not dawdle, someone should be able to impact the NCAA top 16.
Sinclaire Johnson is opting to skip the mile to take on the 1000 in which she ran 2:43.37 in January. That time was a world top five when it was completed. Johnson is a key piece on the NCAA #1 DMR for Oklahoma State and is a contender for the NCAA mile title in two weeks and should be the clear favorite in this event.
Alex Cruz of Texas comes in without a seed time, but should also be a factor. Kassidy Johnson of Kansas State will lead the second prelim and should compete for 2nd behind Sinclaire Johnson in the final.
Haley Jackson of West Virginia enters at the fastest seed since Sinclaire Johnson has opted for the shorter event. Jackson has run 4:40 already this season and enters the weekend with a four second lead over Alex Cruz (section two) and a seven second lead over those in her prelim. Molly Sughroue of Oklahoma State is the 2nd fastest in that first prelim and has had good results at 3k, but not as much in the mile in 2019. The second section also has Ariane Ballner of Oklahoma State who has run 4:45. Those four athletes are by far the class of the field and should compete for the top spots without much difficulty.
The BIG 12 might set a record for largest heat as the unseeded section has 38 entrants. While a number of these are 800 runners (Kaylee Dodd and Gabby Crank for example) who might drop out later in the race, trying to put this many athletes on the track will be an absolute nightmare. Luckily, the women do not have any major contenders in this section unlike the men.
The seeded section is led by Sharon Lokedi of Kansas who has a 9:06.65 from the Iowa State Classic. This time is a borderline NCAA qualifier, but should be secure since all conferences run the 3k as one of the final events and most athletes are doubling or tripling. Lokedi is known more for her strength than her speed and will be challenged by Callie Logue of Iowa State and Sinclaire Johnson of Oklahoma State. Johnson has the most sprint speed of anyone in the race and should certainly be the favorite if the three are together with a lap to go.
Molly Sughroue of Oklahoma State and Destiny Collins of Texas will be the duo looking to pick up the pieces if the top three falter.
Sharon Lokedi will take a bigger favorite’s lead into the longest event of the indoor season after her spectacular result at the BU meet in early December. While she has only continued to impress, one should not expect anything close to the 15:15 finish from that race.
Callie Logue and Amanda Vestri of Iowa State will be some of the toughest competition as they can work together and set the right tempo. They also have a number of other teammates in the race including Anne Frisbie who can control the action early on.
Haley Herberg of Oklahoma could also be a factor with her sub 16 result from 2019 as will Destiny Collins who will be trying to earn points for the Texas Longhorns. The race should be Lokedi’s to lose and Iowa State’s to control for the rest of the placings. It will be interesting to see if anyone else tries to make a big move to shake up that status quo.
Oklahoma State should be considered the favorite with their firepower behind Kaylee Dodd, Molly Sughroue, Abbie Hetherington and most importantly, Sinclaire Johnson. Not all of them will end up running the relay here, but they should have enough strength to hold onto the win regardless.
Iowa State could challenge of course with Callie Logue and company, but they are better suited for the longer distance events and would have to come back immediately from the 5k to make that attempt.
Sharon Lokedi and the Kansas squad would face the same challenge since Lokedi will have run the 5k right before. Lokedi should have enough energy since she will not be majorly challenged, but it may not be worth it to run the extra event before NCAA's since the Jayhawks have already qualified for the NCAA meet in the DMR.
Texas is maybe the most interesting squad since their 11:03.45 is one of the fastest times to not make the NCAA meet at this moment. They might want to give the event one more try to qualify their squad to Birmingham. Definitely don’t overlook that factor as they should be a better contender than Kansas, even though the Jayhawks have a five second lead over them by season best.