Updated: Apr 29, 2019
Jones. Is. Back.
Everyone stop what you're doing, Dani Jones has returned to the outdoor oval. After battling injuries for the past five months, the Colorado ace has quietly returned to the collegiate circuit during the busiest weekend of track and field when no one was looking for individual performances. At the Jack Christiansen Invitational in Fort Colins, Colorado, Jones posted a time of 4:20 which is wildly impressive considering it was A) her first race back in nearly half a year, and B) it was run at 5000 feet of elevation. Her conversion gives her an NCAA #9 time of 4:14.68 and completely changes the national qualifying picture for the nation's most elite talents. Watch out, the women's 1500 just got a lot more interesting...
Michalski Improves Upon NCAA #1 Steeplechase Time
Indiana's Daniel Michalski had a great indoor season with a handful of strong times while displaying some impressive range. Still, I don't think anyone expected him to have such a phenomenal outdoor season. This past weekend, Michalski ran away from the field at Penn Relays to win the steeplechase in a jaw-dropping time of 8:34. It was the 8th fastest collegiate time in meet history.
Michalski's steeplechase win at the Stanford Invite caught the attention of many, but it had a few fans (like myself) wondering if he was just a one race wonder. Obviously, he is not. After upsetting the BYU duo of Owens and Shumway a few weekends ago at the Stanford Invite, Michalski has validated himself as a legitimate threat to win the national title in June. His mix of endurance and speed that we saw in the winter has clearly made this Indiana senior one of the top talents in the country.
Women Post Impressive Splits at Penn Relays
While many of the men's races resulted in tactical performances, the women opted to put on a show with a handful of eyebrow-raising splits.
Let's talk about the 4x800, a race where there is a lot to discuss. The Indiana women took home the win over mid-distance powerhouse Virginia Tech. The Hoosiers were the only relay to have all four women split under 2:10 and although they didn't have any jaw-dropping splits, their consistency was encouraging.
As for the Hokies, they leaned on a 2:04 split from anchor leg Rachel Pocratsky which was enough to distance the relay from a hard-charging Allie Wilson. The Monmouth veteran posted the fastest split of anyone in the race with a monster time of 2:02.29. If that split were to count as an open time, it would be the fastest mark in the NCAA.
Although the 4x800 held plenty of exciting performances, the DMR was just as much fun. The Penn women walked away with a win on their own track thanks to a huge 3:22 split from mid-distance star Nia Akins which was followed by teammate Maddie Villalba running 4:37 on the anchor. That was enough to fend off the Notre Dame women who had a huge 4:28 split from Jessica Harris who also owns the NCAA #1 time in the 1500 right now (4:13.04).
In total, there were six women who had ran under 4:40 on anchor leg for the DMR. Georgetown's Josette Norris and Villanova's Nicole Hutchinson may not have secured top finishes for their relays, but they did walk away huge splits of 4:33 and 4:34, respectively.
Admittedly, the 4x1500 was the most tactical race of the women's the distance relays with the fastest split coming from Villanova's Rachel McArthur at 4:18. Not only was she the only woman to run under 4:20, but she was also the only woman to run under 4:24.
Hoppel & Aneno Highlight Big 800 Performances
Although the relay events captured most of the highlights from this past weekend, there were other results that were just as impressive (if not more). Indoor 800 meter national champion Bryce Hoppel not only kept his undefeated streak alive, but he also secured one of the fastest marks in the country. His time of 1:45.87 is now the #2 time in the NCAA and it was enough to defeat his competition by nearly five seconds. So far this season, Hoppel had displayed consistency, the ability to double, and strong racing tactics. What more could you ask for?
As for Susan Aneno, the UCONN veteran walked away from the UF Tom Jones Memorial Invite with an NCAA #5 time of 2:03.41. After an indoor track season where she emerged as an All-American finisher in a loaded 800 field, Aneno has found a way to bring her fitness to the outdoor oval. She was also able to hold off a strong effort from Miami's Kayla Johnson who ran 2:04.43 for 2nd.
Zack Penrod Continues to Gain Momentum
Wichita State's Zack Penrod has had a very solid junior year with a handful of respectable performances. However, his 3:42 at Drake this past weekend was the first mark that truly deserves national attention. With underrated 800/1000 meter speed of 1:50/2:25, Penrod could be a sleeper pick to watch at the West Regional Championships which is often a tactical affair and requires strong finishing speed.
Jessica Hull Runs 2:07
It doesn't mean a ton, but her 2:07 is a nice display of speed for someone who will be running the 1500 at Payton Jordan next week. That race will be far more interesting now that Colorado's Dani Jones is back in the picture...
Rogers & Rice Run Fast Steeple Marks Alone
The men's steeplechase at the National Relay Championships was...lacking. The Texas duo of Alex Rogers and John Rice were the only men to toe the line for the race, but still came away with a pair of nice results. Rogers ran 8:48 while Rice was 8:51. Say what you will, but running that fast with only your teammate next to you is pretty darn impressive.