Mississippi State Flexes Mid-Distance Dominance
Marco Arop ran 1:45.50. That should surprise no one. The Mississippi State 800 superstar will put himself back in the national title conversation later this spring after finishing runner-up to Isaiah Harris last year. Seeing his name at the top of the NCAA leaderboard isn't anything we didn't expect.
However, we also got to see teammates Daniel Nixon and Dejon Devore post some incredibly strong times of their own. Nixon had a breakout performance, posting a personal best of 1:47.06 (NCAA #2) which is over a two second improvement. In fact, prior to this past weekend, Nixon had never run under 1:50 during the outdoor season. The Bulldog junior had shown incredible consistency over the past few years, but this was a career defining race that has catapulted him into the national conversation.
As for Devroe, he was one of the more underrated 800 runners during 2018. He was a 6th place All-American finisher at last year's indoor national meet while posting a personal best of 1:47.73. After a 2019 indoor season where he ran 1:49 on four different occasions, the Mississippi State veteran got back on track by posting an improved mark of 1:47.50 this past weekend (NCAA #5).
Akins and Egbeniyi Battle at Tennessee Relays
We knew Penn's Nia Akins was a top-tier talent, but I was unsure if she would be able to carry her momentum on to the outdoor oval after she nearly won the indoor national title. Of course, that assumption was wrong as she pulled off a big 800 meter win over Middle Tennessee State star Abike Egbeniyi.
Akins was the first to cross the line at Tennessee, running a strong NCAA #4 time of 2:03.76, just .02 off of her personal best from Indoor Nationals where she ran her personal best. In other words, Akins' surprise performance from the indoor national meet doesn't seem to be a fluke. Not only is she consistent, but she's running fast times while continuing to take down some of the best women that the country has to offer. She may very well be a national title contender come June if she's not already.
As for Egbeniyi, it's another step in the right direction. Her 2:04.04 is now #6 on the NCAA leaderboard and puts her back in the All-American conversation. We saw Egbeniyi push Sammy Watson to the line at last year's outdoor national meet to settle for a runner-up finish, but she hasn't always seemed like a national title threat in 2019. If she can build upon this performance, maybe she can gain enough momentum reclaim the same attention she was receiving last year.
Suliman and Bethmann Hold Off Comber
Another week, another fast performance from Waleed Suliman. The Ole Miss ace continues to impress with a huge NCAA #2 time of 3:40 which was run on his home track at the Joe Walker Invite. This isn't all that surprising considering he ran a 3:56 mile during indoors after running 3:39 and 1:47 last spring.
Yet, maybe one of the more exciting performances was seeing a huge breakout race from sophomore teammate Cade Bethmann. As a freshman, Bethmann showed a ton of promise with respectable times and underrated consistency. Now, he has one of the top times in the country (3:41) to validate himself as a legitimate NCAA contender.
As for Comber, he had to settle for 3rd behind this Ole Miss duo in what was his third battle with Suliman this year. Regardless, a 3:42 is an encouraging PR which shows that his indoor season was no joke. I always viewed Comber as more of a long distance runner, but after running a 3:57 mile this past winter and earning silver at the Indoor National Championships, it's hard to say that the 1500/mile isn't his best event...especially after running the #5 time in the NCAA this past weekend.
Howard, Villalba Post Breakout 1500's Behind Shields
The Bison Outdoor Classic at Bucknell University was host to a handful of respectable performances. However, the women's 1500 was extra entertaining as we got to see a handful of surprise results. 8x NAIA national champion Anna Shields (Point Park) shut down the field with a statement win in a time of 4:15.60 (which would currently rank #4 on D1 leaderboard). Although the win was impressive, it wasn't a surprise to see Shields come out with a fast time and big win. However, what was surprising was seeing the women finish behind her.
Temple's Millie Howard posted a huge personal best time of 4:16.81 to finish runner-up and secure herself the #5 spot in the NCAA (for now). Behind her, Philadelphia neighbor Maddie Villalba (Penn) was a close 3rd in 4:16.83 (NCAA #7). After these performances, both of these women will be considered as potential favorites to win their conference titles and even become national qualifiers. The East region is wide-open in 2019 and it wouldn't be surprising to see one (or both) of these women make it to Austin, Texas later this June.
Steelman Solo's 15:52
After completely soloing a 9:52 steeplechase in Florida last weekend, Steelman came back this past week to run 15:52 by herself. At the very least, it's encouraging to see that she has enough control and composure to run fast even when no one is pushing her.
Men's 1500 at Bison Outdoor Classic
The men's 1500 at Bucknell was a unique mix of underrated talent all along the east coast. The winner was D2 indoor mile national runner-up Danny Wallis (Queens (N.C.)) with an eyebrow-raising time of 3:43. Behind Wallis, we got to see Penn State's Colin Abert run 3:44.72 while true freshman teammate Drew Maher posted an exciting time of 3:44.88. Meanwhile, Syracuse ace Aidan Tooker didn't have quite the performance we were looking for, running 3:45 for 4th place overall. James Abrahams (Penn State), Jacob Stupak (Bucknell), and Felix Wammetsberger (Queens (N.C.)) were the final few men to run under the 3:46 mark. Overall, it was a fun tactical race that resulted in a few surprising finishes and times.
Nevada Moreno Runs 4:17, Earns First Collegiate Win
Moreno's decision to transfer from Stanford to NC State seems to be paying off. The redshirt freshman has been thriving so far this outdoor season. At the Raleigh Relays, she 16:14 to finish 12th overall. Now, just this past weekend, she ran 4:17 for 1500 meters to win the Charlotte Invitational. Not only that, but Moreno took down a handful of big names in the process including teammate Dominique Claremont and Norfolk State's Martha Bissah. Don't sleep on Moreno as we progress through April and enter the month of May.
Long Shows Off Range
There's no doubt that Tennessee's Zach Long will pursue the 5000 meters when the postseason rolls around, but it's also clear that the Volunteer star wants to develop his middle distance speed for tactical racing. So far, the development of speed has been encouraging. Long won the Tennessee Relays 1500 this past weekend with a strong personal best of 3:43. The victory required Long taking down a handful of respectable talents from Virginia Tech, Indiana, and Furman. He is yet another name you don't want to sleep on later this spring.
After transferring from Virginia, the Hoosier senior has slowly under improved while training in Bloomington, Indiana. He finished runner-up to Long this past weekend in a personal best time of 3:43.29. The men's 1500 in the East region always has a few wild cards when it comes to national qualifying and Hagen is a great name to consider when discussing names who could finish among the top 12 in late May.
Sughroue and Celis
The Oklahoma State duo of Molly Sughroue and Jenny Celis took care of business at the John McDonnell Invite, running a pair of 4:17's to finish 1-2 over Arkansas' Maddy Reed (who finished 3rd in 4:19). The women who raced at Bucknell will catch most of the attention, but it's good to see that Sughroue is maintaining her fitness from this past indoor season while Celis is emerging as another reliable competitor for Oklahoma State.
The Ole Miss freshman took a back seat to some of his teammates during cross country, but Hengst has come back strong this outdoor season. The young star ran 3:43.92 (NCAA #15) at the Joe Walker Classic to finish ahead of guys like Avery Bartlett as well as teammates Everett Smulders and Mario Garcia Romo. Hengst was one of the most electric high schoolers in the nation just a year ago and having him reappear as a national contender so early on in his collegiate career should be an exciting sign for fans of collegiate distance running across the country.