The JDL Fast Track is touted as the fastest 200 meter flat track in the country and this year's collegiate fields for the Camel City Elite meet are slated to be the deepest in meet history. Add in rabbits to every race and a slew of professional athletes and there is a good chance we see some NCAA qualifying marks from these star studded fields this weekend.
The Camel City Elite meet hosts three distance events per gender; the 800, the mile, and the 3000. Only a select number of athletes are invited to compete at this prestigious event which will feature a number of Olympians including Ajee Wilson and Nick Willis. The collegiate fields are just as deep, featuring many All-Americans and NCAA qualifiers in each event. One event that is particularly stacked is the men’s 3000 meters...
This race features four collegiate stars who finished in the top 20 at Cross Country Nationals this past fall. Edwin Kurgat of Iowa State was the highest finisher among them and will be looking to break 8:00 for the first time this season. Currently he sits at #25 in the NCAA after running 8:00.23 at Arkansas a week ago and would need to run under 7:56 to put himself in contention for an NCAA qualifying mark. However, he may need to run faster as he will be facing strong competition from the likes of James Sugira, Aaron Templeton, and Peter Seufer.
Templeton has only raced once this indoor season when he ran a 5k personal best of 13:58 at the BU Opener back in December. That time bettered his lifetime best of 14:03 from outdoors in 2018 and would currently be #7 in the NCAA had he not raced unattached. He will certainly be looking to better his personal best of 8:07, but since he has exhausted his indoor eligibility, this season will be more of a build-up for outdoors.
James Sugira of Eastern Kentucky is making his collegiate debut at the 3000 meter distance and has been making waves during his collegiate campaign thus far. He finished 14th at XC Nationals and opened up his indoor season with a win in the mile at the Thundering Herd Invitational where he ran 4:11. Sugira’s stellar performances in cross country suggest he is capable of running under the 8:00 mark which will put him in the national qualifying conversation.
Peter Seufer of Virginia Tech and Jacob Choge of Middle Tennessee State are two more collegiates who will be looking to run under 8:00. They own personal bests of 8:04 and 8:11, respectively and have both already run fast times this indoor season. With the race slated to be paced at 4:12 to 4:16 through 1600 meters, expect these two to be in the mix.
Dropping down in distance, the 800 meter field also features a strong collegiate contingent with four men who have run sub-1:50 for the distance. Matt Wisner of Duke is the fastest of the four men with an indoor personal best of 1:49.61 and already has a number of competitions under his belt this season. He competed as a member of Duke’s DMR and 4 x mile relay teams at the Dr. Sander Columbia Challenge last weekend and is one of two collegiates in the field to go sub-1:50 indoors.
Matthew Harding of Virginia Tech is the other collegiate to accomplish this feat, running 1:49.68 last February. Harding will be a bit of a dark horse coming into the meet as he has some of the fastest times on paper (with a PR of 1:47), but is the only collegiate yet to race this season. Even with an extended hiatus, Virginia Tech tends to show out on the track and Harding is unlikely to be an exception.
The other Hokie in this race is redshirt freshman Bashir Mosavel-Lo. He has run 1:48.66 outdoors, but will be making his indoor debut at the 800 meter distance on Saturday. He is off to a strong indoor start after running 4:06 for the mile and 2:26 for 1000 meters earlier this season. He will likely be chasing his teammate this weekend in hopes of cracking the 1:50 barrier.
Nickson Rotich will also be looking to break that barrier for the first time indoors. The junior from Eastern Kentucky opened up his season with a 1:50.53 and owns a personal best of 1:49.52 from outdoors. Given he has the slowest marks of the collegiate runners, it will be a stretch for him to come out on top. However, a sub-1:50 mark is certainly within reach given his performances this season.
Last, but certainly not least is the mile - a field which features a handful of collegiates looking to break 4:00 for the first time. Of the seven men entered, only two have dipped under that mark. One of those two was Princeton transfer William Paulson (now of Arizona State).
Paulson ran a gutsy race in Washington and was the only man in his heat to break the barrier, running a time of 3:59.94. The former Princeton runner will be joined by his teammate (also formerly of Princeton) Garrett O’Toole, who will be looking to break the barrier for the first time this weekend.
O’Toole owns a personal best of 4:01.24, but has run the sub-4 equivalent in the 1500 when he ran 3:41.85 (and 3:39 unattached). Breaking 4:00 has been a long awaited result for O’Toole after running 4:01 as a high school senior. With the pacer set to run 1:57-1:58 through 800 meters, this will be his best chance to finally have a breakthrough race.
Another runner who has come incredibly close to the mark is Festus Lagat of Iowa State. The junior ran 4:00.83 last weekend at the UW Invitational and will be looking for redemption this weekend. Lagat has great speed, owning a personal best of 1:48 for 800 meters which should set him up with a great opportunity this weekend. If he can hang onto the group for most of the race, he should have the speed to close hard and slip under 4:00 for the first time.
Robert Heppenstall of Wake Forest is another athlete with fantastic speed. His mile personal best is "only" 4:08, but he has run 1:46 and 3:41 which indicates the ability to break 4:00. Like Lagat, if he can ride the group for most of the race, he is certainly fast enough to close a gap in the final 400 meters. So far this season, he only has one individual mark, a 1:50.05 from the Bob Pollock Invitational, which he won.
All the other collegiates in the field are capable of breaking 4:00 with Diego Zarate of Virginia Tech and Ryan Adams of Furman both owning personal bests of 4:02 and a pair of strong 1500's.
The fastest collegiate is Benjamin Young of Kentucky, who ran 3:59.59 last February. So far this season, Young has only one result to his name - an 8:17 in the 3000 at the Clemson Invitational.
All of these men will be hard-pressed to win their respective events given how strong the professional fields are. While Aaron Templeton has the most impressive result of the season, he appears to be someone geared towards longer distances. Edwin Kurgat has some underrated closing speed and will have the added incentive of just missing the 8:00 barrier last weekend to motivate him. James Sugira adds intrigue to the conversation, but Kurgat's personal best of 7:56 makes him my pick to take home the win
The 800 has no clear-cut favorite, but Matt Wisner is coming off of some strong performances this season and is also the fastest collegiate in the field. He should face a strong challenge from Harding, but at the end of the day Wisner will finish ahead.
Normally betting for the guy with the fastest personal best is a safe way to go, but the mile field has quite a few guys with potential to run a lot faster. Both Paulson and Young have broken 4:00, but O’Toole will finally break the coveted mark and be the first collegiate across the line.