D1 Headlines & Highlights (4/7/19)


Ellsworth holds off Ejore en route to PR and win

In one of our first recaps of the outdoor season, we mentioned that Lauren Ellsworth was someone to watch this spring. Sure enough, she posted a huge time of 2:02 to win the Sun Angel Classic this past weekend. Not only was her time absurdly fast, but she was able to hold off Oregon's Susan Ejore, one of the more underrated middle distance runners in the country who ran 2:03 for 2nd.

The season is still young, but there is a lot to like about this performance. This was Ellsworth's second win in her second race of the season, and it's encouraging to see that she can consistently beat out some of the nation's top talent in the process.

As for Susan Ejore, she may not have won, but her time suddenly makes her a threat for the podium in June. While many fans of the sport may view Ejore as a 1500 runner, she was able to show that she has just as much speed as the other top half-milers around the country. The women's 800 was already stacked, but it just got a lot deeper...

Klecker cruises to 3:45 at altitude, earns conversion of 3:39

Another race, another mind-boggling performance from Joe Klecker. The Colorado ace cruised to the finish line on his home track in the 1500, running a time of 3:45 for the win. He comfortably took home the victory while running a conversion of 3:39. Many of us view Klecker as a long distance star (and rightfully so), but he's beginning to show that he has the same range and versatility as other stars like Morgan McDonald and Grant Fisher.

Teammates John Dressel and Ryan Forsyth also posted respectable times of 3:49 and 3:50, respectively, which dropped to 3:43 and 3:44 after being adjusted for altitude. While many fans of the sport were focused on Klecker's performance, we shouldn't overlook Dressel or Forsyth's finish. Those are two nice marks that shows off some underrated speed.

Birk shows off range by running 4:13 to win Sun Angel 1500

Speaking of underrated speed, Erica Birk continues to post monster results. After a dominant cross country season and major success in the 3000 meters during indoors, Birk has been using this outdoor season to show off her range. After running 15:38 at the Stanford Invite last week, she toed the lie at the Sun Angel Classic and dropped a huge time of 4:13 for 1500 meters. It's the fastest time in the country this season and would've been ranked #11 on the 2018 NCAA leaderboard.

Although the BYU star will likely focus on the 5000 for the rest of this season, you can't help but think that she'll reconsider her preferred race for Nationals if she runs any faster in the 1500. With no sign of Dani Jones, Jessica Hull potentially leaning towards the 5000, and a wide-open field in the 1500 meters, you can't help but think that Birk will carefully weigh her options when the time comes for her to choose what she will race at Nationals.

Best Event of the Weekend: 800 Meters

Ellsworth and Ejore may have gained most of the attention with their performances at the Sun Angel Classic, but there were a ton of other fast 800's run this past weekend. How about Carlos Villarreal who showed that last year's 1:46 was no fluke? The Arizona star flexed his range after running 14:07 at Stanford last weekend with a time of 1:47.54 at the Jim Click Shootout. His time is currently tied for NCAA #3 with Avery Bartlett, even though TFRRS has them ranked in the top two spots in the country right now.

The reason for that is because TFRRS has not yet processed the results from the Sun Angel Classic where the Iowa State duo of Festus Lagat and Roshon Roomes ran a pair of 1:47.14's which are now the top two spots in the country. Iowa's Matt Manternach ran 1:47.84 after running 1:48 last week at the Florida Relays. Those are two strong performances in back-to-back weeks for someone who hasn't really been a national contender like some of these other names that we've mentioned.

Switching back to the women, Monmouth's Allie Wilson is silencing anyone who suggests that she is a one-season standout. She just ran 2:03.81 at the Sam Howell Invite thanks to Nike's Raevyn Rodgers keeping the pace honest up front. Meanwhile, Georgia's Amber Tanner is riding the momentum from her indoor season onto the outdoor oval. She just ran a huge personal best of 2:04 at the Spec Towns Invite and did it all alone, winning by nearly seven seconds. It will be exciting to see what Tanner can do against a field with a similar talent level.

We should also mention the Reville Invite where we saw Texas A&M's Carlton Orange run a time of 1:48.48 to hold off two strong challengers from Texas Tech (Vincent Crisp and Jonah Koech). Devin Dixon may get most of the attention, but Orange is quietly one of the better middle distance runners in the country.

Underappreciated Performances

Hannah Steelman dominates steeplechase debut

The Wofford distance stud ran 9:52 in a four person field which is now the #2 time in the country (she won by a minute and 44 seconds). Does anyone realize how impressive that is? Steelman soloed a time that would've ranked #6 in the country back in 2018. Just imagine what she could've done in a more competitive field...

Salisbury runs 3:45 at Sam Howell

The Georgetown sophomore has been one of the more reliable milers in the country and his consistency can occasionally be overlooked. He took the win at the Sam Howell Invite this past weekend with a respectable time of 3:45. Strong times, consistent performances, and the ability to win often indicate that a breakout race is coming. Don't be surprised if this Hoya runs something fast later this season.

Hutchinson prospers in battle with Ajee Wilson

Sticking with the Sam Howell Invite, we got to see another strong result in the 1500. Villanova's Nicole Hutchinson had to settle for 2nd to Adidas pro Ajee Wilson, but she still walked away with a time of 4:14 (NCAA #2). Much like Birk, she could end up in the 1500 meters at Nationals later this season and even be a sleeper pick to win the national title if we see a similar field to what we saw during the indoor track season.

Bryce Hoppel keeps winning streak alive

Hoppel is no longer an underdog after winning the indoor national title in the 800 meters. However, what people don't often recognize is his ability to double and win. After going undefeated throughout the 2018 indoor track season last year, Hoppel went into the outdoor season without the same spark, accumulating a few losses before finishing 4th at the 2018 Outdoor National Championships. Now, Hoppel looks like he has maintained his momentum, earning double gold with times of 3:47 and 1:49 at LSU's Battle of Bayou this past weekend. The pair of wins continues to solidify one of the more impressive winning streaks we've seen in recent memory.

Quick Thoughts

Kigen Chemadi and Jacob Choge

After redshirting cross country and severely underwhelming during indoors, the Middle Tennessee State duo seems to be rebounding. Choge ran 29:24 for 10,000 meters last weekend at the Raleigh Relays while Chemadi just posted a time of 8:55 for the 3000 steeplechase following a time of 13:46 in the 5000 a week ago. It's still early, but the Blue Raider duo look to be back at full strength.

Richmond Duo

Richmond's Maria Acosta and Brooke Fazio posted a 1-2 finish at the Colonial Relays, running 2:05 and 2:06, respectively. Let's not overlook Acosta this season. She was the IC4A champion during indoors and has now followed up that win with a personal best which led to another victory. She still needs to make another jump in fitness, but Acosta is a name to watch this spring season (along with her teammate Fazio).

Kutch, Hogan, and Avery

They aren't superstar names, but these three men are some of the better distance runners among the mid-major schools in the Northeast. At the Colonial Relays, Fordham's Ryan Kutch took home the win in a time of 14:04 while UMass Lowell's Paul Hogan and Stony Brook's Cameron Avery were close behind in 14:05 and 14:09. If you're looking for a sleeper pick to make it to Nationals out of the East Regional Championships in May, you may want to take a look at someone from this trio.