Many south central and southeastern universities will be traveling to Clemson University for the Bob Pollock Invitational this weekend. Some athletes will be racing in their key events while others will be racing in a shorter or longer event to adjust and refine their racing tactics. Here is a quick rundown of some of the key events to follow.
Although we don’t get to see current NCAA 800 meter leader Andrea Foster (Clemson) compete on her home track, we will still be graced with other talented women toeing the line.
Kamryn McIntosh of Clemson leads the field with her 2:03 PR. McIntosh is an experienced athlete, but she has not run close to her PR since the 2018 season. Hopefully things will turn around on her home track this weekend in a field that should be fast, but not overwhelmingly so.
Behind McIntosh, there are a slew of women who have run 2:08 or faster for 800 meters. Vanderbilt's Reagan Bustamante and Haley Walker both own personal bests of 2:06 and should be able to push the field to a fast time given the opportunity to work with each other. Anna Marian Block of Georgia and Ginelle Demone of Florida State are two more experienced half-milers with 2:08 PR’s.
Maybe one of the most intriguing athletes in the field will be Florida State’s Yasmine Abbes. The freshman, a native of the Netherlands, comes into this race owning a high school PR of 2:08 in the 800 meters and 4:23 in the 1500 meters. Despite her inexperience on the collegiate stage, she has enough talent to make things very interesting.
This is one of the most well-balanced 800 meter fields in the country this weekend. A deep group of entries with similar personal bests could lead to a number of improvements across the board.
Based on current personal bests, the men’s 800 meters at the Bob Pollock Invitational should be a tight race. Clemson’s Malik Epps will have the home track advantage and he has the most collegiate racing experience in the field. Epps has a PR of 1:49 and has seemingly already shaken off the rust with a 1:56 performance at the 2020 Clemson Invitational. It's difficult to say how much we should read into that result, but it doesn't exactly make Epps the overwhelming favorite at first glance.
Bennett Hiller of Georgia Tech will look to challenge Epps as the two men own similar 1:49 PR’s. Hiller competed at the 2019 NCAA East Preliminaries in the 800 meters last spring and has experience racing against some of the nation’s best. He will have his work cut out for him against Epps and the rest of the field, but he is coming off of a 600 meter PR of 1:22 from early January.
Wake Forest’s Zach Facioni will be stepping down in distance this weekend. Facioni, primarily a 5k runner, has yet to race an 800 in college. He will be joined by teammate Archie Wallis on the starting line. Wallis has a 1:50 PR and will look to dip below that time this weekend as he attempts to insert himself in the ACC title race alongside Virginia Tech's Bashir Mosavel-Lo and Duke's Matt Wisner (among others).
Of all the distance races at Clemson’s Bob Pollock, the women’s mile has to be the most competitive. Maudie Skyring of Florida State, Johanna Schulz of Wake Forest, and the Drop sisters of Georgia headline the field.
Skyring owns a mile best time of 4:40 and just recently ran 9:26 in the 3k the other weekend. The Florida State Seminole ace had a great cross country season and looks to be building upon that endurance-based strength already. She has the ability to run sub-4:40 at some point this season.
Wake Forest’s Schulz has a mile PR of 4:43 and could challenge Skyring for the win. Schulz had a strong 2019 outdoor track season, running 2:06 in the 800 meters and 4:20 in the 1500 meters. If she can carry her outdoor track momentum over to the indoor facilities, she could see some major improvements this year...but will it be enough to topple Skyring this weekend? Only time will tell.
The Drop sisters, Jessica and Samantha, are also in the mile field. Jessica Drop owns a mile PR of 4:41 and in her last race (the 2019 cross country national meet), she placed 40th, taking the final All-American spot. Jessica is an accomplished track runner in the longer distances, but will be testing her speed in this mile. Her sister, Samantha, has run 4:50 in the mile and will be looking to run sub-4:50 for the first time in her career. After a respectable cross country season where she just missed All-American honors (placing 45th at NCAA's) the idea of a new PR seems not only possible, but probable.
It should also be noted that Georgia’s Amber Tanner, primarily a 800 meter specialist, will be competing in the mile. Tanner has run 2:04 in the 800 meters and this will be her first collegiate mile.
The men’s mile is a fairly quiet field, but that doesn’t mean it won’t be short of drama. Most of the men in the field have run PR's within two to five seconds of each other.
Georgia Tech’s Braeden Collins leads the field with his 4:09 PR. Collins will be challenged by Clemson’s Colt Griffith and South Alabama’s Warno Potgieter. Griffith and Potgieter have both run 4:11 for the full mile. Potgieter has the advantage due to having a faster 800 meter PR, but Griffith won’t want to lose to Collins or Potgieter on his home track.
Wake Forest’s Hannah Brookover will be the favorite in the 3k at Clemson this weekend. Brookover has a 9:43 3k PR to her name and is coming off of a mile win at the Virginia Tech Invitational. Another solid performance here could establish game-changing momentum throughout the rest of January and into February.
Not far behind Brookover should be Florida State’s Rebecca Clark and Jennifer Lima, Georgia’s Ansley Heavern, and Wake Forest’s Elise Wright. The Florida State duo of Clark and Lima have PR’s of 9:50 and 9:54, respectively. Clark had a strong cross country season, placing 76th at the cross country national meet, while Heavern and Wright have run 9:52 and 9:53, respectively.
All of the ladies mentioned above will want to challenge Brookover for the win and could make this an exciting race over the final kilometer due to their similar calibers of talent.
There are four men in this 3k field who should compete for the win at the Bob Pollock Invitational. Warno Potgieter of South Alabama has the fastest PR in the field with an 8:22. This will be Potgieter’s first race of the season, so he may be a little rusty.
Georgia’s Michael Hans comes in with an 8:23 personal best and could challenge for the win. Hans hasn’t competed since the 2019 outdoor track season, but with some time to train, he should be itching to return to competition.
Tommy Johnston and Joaquin Martinez De Pinillos (both of Wake Forest) are the last two guys to focus on in this 3k field. The Deacons duo have a pair of 8:26 3k PR’s and will look to use each other in an attempt at finishing 1-2 this weekend.