The NCAA has just released their accepted entries for the Indoor National Championships which are set to take place next weekend (March 13th to the 14th). There were plenty of predictable entries, but there were even more surprising scratches which left our TSR group chat buzzing.
Here are our categorized reactions to some of the scratches (and non-scratches) for the upcoming National Championships...
*Disclaimer: There were very few surprises or unexpected scratches on the men's side.
The "Everything I Know Is A Lie" Tier
Dani Jones To Attempt Mile/800 Double
It's not the fact that Jones is entered in the mile or that she will be doubling that surprises anyone. When we saw that she didn't qualify for NCAA's in the 3000 meters, the mile/DMR double seemed like it would be the logical choice.
But the 800 meters? I would have bet everything I own (which isn't much to be honest) that Jones would have scratched from that event. Instead, she's entered to run the half-mile as well as the mile.
In a year where Nia Akins and Carley Thomas look unstoppable, it seems like Jones is looking to assert herself as the most versatile distance runner in NCAA history by dropping down in distance to a non-traditional event.
Jones understandably scratched out of the 5000 meters, but we still have no idea what this means for Colorado's DMR. Could Jones attempt to run three races on day one of the national meet? Has that ever been done before?
The mile/800/DMR triple feels extremely ambitious, even for Jones, leaving me to believe that she won't be on that relay next Friday night.
The "We Said This Could Happen But Didn't Actually Think It Would" Tier
Defending Champion Danae Rivers Scratches Out Of 800 In Favor Of Mile
In retrospect, there really wasn't a right or wrong answer in terms of what Rivers should be pursuing. She was going to have to face Nia Akins and Carley Thomas in the 800 meters or Dani Jones in the mile. Chasing a national title, regardless of event choice, wasn't going to be easy.
Even so, it comes as a shock that the defending national champion for the indoor 800 meters is opting to move up in distance to an event that she ran at Nationals back in 2017. However, since then, Rivers has made the 800 meters her primary event. In fact, she has run the 800 meters in four of her past five national meets (she ran the 1500 meters in the spring of 2018).
All signs pointed to Rivers running the 800 meters this year.
I'm not necessarily saying that it was the wrong decision, just a surprising one.
Susan Ejore Opts For 800 Meters Over The Mile
Out of nine sets of predictions, Sam and Maura were the only TSR writers who accurately projected Susan Ejore to scratch out of the mile in favor of the 800 meters.
The idea of Ejore running the mile instead of the 800 would have made perfect sense. The Oregon ace would have been able to run the mile prelims on the first day of competition and then had plenty of rest prior to the DMR finals later that night. Not only that, but the mile field was expected to have so many more scratches than the 800 meters (and it did).
Sure, Ejore could still run the 800/DMR double, but she will now have far less recovery time for the distance medley than if she went with the mile.
The "You Had a 50/50 Chance of Getting This Right" Tier
James West Enters Both The Mile & 3000 Meters
There were a few athletes who had the possibility of attempting both the mile and 3000 meters, but James West seemed like the most realistic candidate to actually do so.
With the mile and 3000 meters on deck, could West go for the triple by adding the DMR to his racing schedule? Many have struggled to properly execute that same triple, but he's clearly fit enough to be competitive in whichever race he toes the line for.
BYU Women Go All-In On DMR
The BYU women essentially had two options.
On the first day of competition, Anna Camp and Lauren Ellsworth could have run the 800 meter prelims while Whittni Orton could have run in the 5000 meter finals (or technically the mile prelims). Camp and Ellsworth would then have theoretically come back to run the DMR later that night (for a very difficult double) while Orton recovers for day two.
It sounds complicated, but it's a reasonable scenario.
The other option was that the entire trio scratches out of their first day of events, go all-in on the DMR and then Orton returns for the 3000 meters the next day (or the mile finals).
In the end, BYU went with option #2.
My mindset was that Orton was the most tactically-refined runner in this year's 5k field. Plus, if she got to run the 3000 meters on the second day of competition, then it would have only been fair to let Camp and Ellsworth run their open events on the first day of competition.
I probably over-analyzed this, but my point is that BYU is going all-in for the distance medley with the mindset that they can win a national title.
Anyone Who Is Scratching To Be Fresh For The DMR
The BYU women aren't the only ones who will be focusing on the DMR during the first day of competition. Sara Freix (Virginia Tech) and Adva Cohen (New Mexico) are scratching out of the 5000 meters to run on their team's DMR.
For Cohen, this makes plenty of sense. She has struggled for most of this season and with Kelati running in the 5000 meters, the Lobos needed someone to anchor their relay. As for Freix, she is also qualified in the 3000 meters, so it seemed like a no-brainer for her to run the DMR/3k double.
The Stanford duo of Jessica Lawson and Ella Donaghu have scratched out of the mile (likely in favor of the DMR). However, this scenario is different compared to BYU's situation when you consider that they will both be running in the 3000 meters the next day.
Michigan's Aurora Rynda would have qualified individually for the women's 800 meters, but it looks like she was ready to go all-in on the Wolverines' DMR.
The "We Knew What Would Happen, But Option B Sounded Fun" Tier
Nuguse & Teare Scratch Mile For DMR/3k
It's usually a big deal when one - much less two - 3:55 milers scratch out of the event for the National Championships (it's technically three if you count Klecker's converted 3:55). However, most times, those elite milers don't have to run on historically great DMR's and they usually aren't considered as national title favorites in the 3000 meters. Those two reasons should explain why we're not seeing Teare or Nuguse run the mile.
Julia Heymach Scratches From 800, Will Run Mile Prelims
The 800 meters was expected to be stronger at the top and Heymach wasn't as highly ranked in that event as she was in the mile. The Stanford ace has shown tremendous improvement at the mile distance this year and may not have to worry about a DMR with Lawson and Donaghu staying fresh for the relay (although Heymach may still be tasked with the 800 leg).
Kelati & Izzo Will Attempt 5k/3k Double
Seeing these two run anything other than the 5k/3k double would have been a shock. These two are clearly long distance specialists and the DMR was likely never in their long term plans.
The "I'm Still Confused" Tier
Megan Hasz Scratches From 5k Despite Not Being Qualified In Any Other Event
To be fair, we were only confused for a few minutes until we realized that Hasz hadn't raced since December and was a DNF at the BIG 10 Championships (according to TFRRS). It's very likely that injuries got the best of her this season which ultimately forced her to sit out this winter.
What Is Iowa State's Plan For The DMR?
Edwin Kurgat is entered in the 5000 meters while the trio of Lagat, Roomes and Nixon are all entered in the 800 meters...so what does that mean for their DMR? At this point, it's obvious that their relay lineup will be guys who are running the double or guys who aren't qualified for open events (a "B" team of sorts). With Kurgat in the 5k, there is little to no chance that he runs on this relay.
Alicia Monson Was One Spot Away From Qualifying For The 5k, But Scratched Anyways
The defending indoor 5k national champion didn't seriously pursue the 5000 meters this year despite it being the only event that she has a national title in. Regardless, Monson was only one spot away from qualifying for Nationals in the 5k after scratches.
The catch? Monson also scratched the 5k.
In the grand scheme of things, it doesn't really matter whether or not Monson scratched the event seeing as how she wasn't going to qualify anyways. Still, this tells us that the Wisconsin Badger is ready to be 100% committed to the 3000 meters, an event where most athletes will be doubling.