Ryan Smeeton Runs Jaw-Dropping PR
Oklahoma State was able to gain some attention this past cross country season thanks to the emergence of distance stars like Isai Rodriguez and Ashenafi Hatte. Although Ryan Smeeton had been a steady contributor for the team, no one (not even him) expected to see the Cowboy sophomore post a performance like he did at Payton Jordan. On Thursday night, Smeeton showed incredible poise against some top-tier professional runners and a handful of elite collegiates such as defending NCAA steeplechase champion Obsa Ali and BYU's Matt Owens.
Smeeton found himself in the top pack for most of the race, allowing his competition to battle for positioning while he maintained his spot. His composure paid off for him as he calmly followed the pace and took control of the lead on the last lap to come out victorious in a time of 8:27.90.
This the fastest regular season steeplechase performance we've seen since 2015 when Arkansas' Stanley Kebenei ran 8:23 (also at Payton Jordan). Smeeton's time is also the fastest time we've seen in the NCAA at any point in the season since Mason Ferlic ran 8:27.10 at the NCAA Outdoor Championships back in 2016.
Simply put, Smeeton's result is wildly fast and it continues to blur who should be considered as the national title favorite come June. Can Smeeton replicate this masterful achievement? Or will he struggle to fend off the likes of Obsa Ali (8:31) or Matt Owens (8:33) come the postseason?
Hull Edges Schweizer, Birk Replicates 4:13 PR
The Payton Jordan 1500 may not seem like a big deal from the NCAA perspective, but the end result had a rather significant influence on what Jessica Hull and Erica Birk could end up running at Nationals.
The Oregon superstar walked away with the win by barely holding off Missouri-alum Karissa Schweizer, 4:12.08 to 4:12.10. Not far behind was BYU's Erica who finished as the second collegiate and 5th overall woman in a time of 4:13.77 which is actually slower than her 4:13.57 from the Sun Angel Classic exactly one month ago.
The new NCAA #1 time from Hull likely solidifies the idea that she'll attempt the 1500 over the 5000 meters at NCAA's next month. However, the return of Dani Jones and the idea of potentially pursuing the longer distances at the national meet still leaves a slimmer of uncertainty about the future.
As for Birk, there are now even more questions about what she will do come NCAA's. Her Payton Jordan race wasn't better or worse than what we've seen from her before. She seems relatively comfortable at the 1500 meter distance and she has now shown that she can consistently be a top performer in that event. Still, you have to wonder if the 5000 meters or the steeplechase are options for her, especially with the depth that is beginning to develop in the 1500.
NAU + BYU Dominate Distance Events
The Northern Arizona men went to work in the 5000 meters at Payton Jordan and they certainly didn't disappoint when they crossed the line. Tyler Day emerged as the top collegiate in the race with a new NCAA lead of 13:25. After a handful of inconsistent performances throughout the winter, Day seems like he could be a threat for the national title in the 10k and a very strong All-American pick in the 5k.
As for his teammates, Geordie Beamish and Luis Grijalva aren't making things any easier when trying to predict what they will pursue at NCAA's (1500 vs 5000). After running 13:31 (Beamish) and 13:37 (Grijalva), these two men will have to ponder whether or not they are more confident in those personal bests, or their 3:39's from Bryan Clay. If I had to guess, I would suspect the 1500 is the more likely option considering Beamish's upset from indoors and the lack of obvious front-runners in that race.
In regards to the BYU men, they secured a strong(er) grasp of the NCAA leaderboard in both the 5000 meters and 10,000 meters at Payton Jordan. Conner Mantz thrived off the fast pace and walked away with a new personal best of 13:29 while teammate Clayton Young was close behind in 13:31. It's not necessarily surprising, but it seems like these two men will pursue the 10k/5k double at NCAA's come June.
BYU's Conner McMillan and Rory Linkletter opted to run double the distance on Thursday night. That duo was able to battle a large field of pro's to place 11th (28:11) and 12th (28:12) overall. With those performances, the BYU men now own the top four times on the NCAA leaderboard for the 10k.
No, that was not a typo.
The Cougars now hold NCAA #1, #2, #3, #4 times in the country for that distance. In a year where the 10k is wide open, this could be the time where BYU puts someone at the top of the podium.
Ostrander Holds Off Cohen In Steeplechase Battle
One of my "bold" predictions was that Ostrander would run under 9:30 for the steeplechase at Payton Jordan...I may have gotten carried away. Although she didn't run quite that fast, Ostrander still walked away with a win, but only barely. The Boise State star posted a time of 9:45.66, but was closely followed by New Mexico's Adva Cohen who was less than half a stride behind in 9:45.71. Those two women now easily top the NCAA leaderboard and separate themselves from the rest of the D1 field when it comes to favorites for the national title.
Cohen's teammate Charlotte Prouse was the 5th overall finisher in a time of 9:55. Although she wasn't able to hang with the top athletes this time around, she is still very much a threat for a potential upset at Nationals. However, different pacing and an alternative approach to her racing tactics could yield a better result when toeing the line against Cohen and Ostrander a month from now.
Alexis Fuller Surprises w/ 4:13 1500
Allie Ostrander will capture the headlines for Boise State, but her teammate Alexis Fuller just ran 4:13 at the Portland Twilight meet which was enough to take home the win by three seconds. Fuller barely made it into the national meet this past winter, but she has quickly proved herself worthy of toeing the line against the best. She now ranks #3 in the NCAA.
Reed Brown and Co. Dip Under 3:40
The Payton Jordan 1500 underwhelmed last year, but this year was a different story. While Nike professional Clayton Murphy easily controlled the field from the front, he was flanked by Stanford's Grant Fisher for most of the race. However, as the pace began to quicken in the final lap, Fisher was unable to hang. Instead, it was Oregon's Reed Brown who made a surge on the final straightaway to dip under 3:40 and earn a new personal best of 3:38 (NCAA #7).
Following Brown was Arizona State's Williams Paulson and Nebraska's George Kusche who each ran times of 3:39. This isn't a new personal best (or even a seasonal best) for Paulson, but it is for Kusche who has been one of the more underrated milers in the NCAA since the indoor track season. In a year where 15 (!!!) different men have run under 3:40, it is easy to overlook strong performances such as these.
Ejore Runs 2:02
Jessica Hull will likely gain all of the attention for Oregon on the women's side, but Susan Ejore was able to quietly post another wicked fast time this past weekend. She maintained her position on the NCAA leaderboard at #3, but Ejore was able to dip under 2:03 at Payton Jordan with a new personal best of 2:02.66. She is yet another woman with championship experience who is beginning to peak interest when we start discussing candidates capable of pulling off an upset over national title favorites.
Kelati, Stoner Run Under 15:30
There were so many fast times at Payton Jordan that it's easy to forget about other performances. In the women's 5000 meters, Kelati hung on to the fast pace and locked down a new seasonal best of 15:23. Moving out of the second heat and into the elite field was Syracuse's Paige Stoner and she made the most of the opportunity. Her time of 15:28 now ranks #2 in the NCAA and makes her event selection for NCAA's more unclear given her success in the steeplechase. However, I think it's fair to predict that she'll attempt the 10k/5k double given the amount of firepower that we're beginning to see in the steeplechase.
Espino Takes Home Win Over Wilson
After quietly running 1:47 at Bryan Clay earlier this season, Southern Utah's George Espino showed that he was more than just a one-race wonder. His 1:48.44 win over New Mexico's Michael Wilson (1:48.77) validated that he is the real deal and is capable of putting together performances at a high level. Watch out for him in the postseason...
Myles Marshall (Harvard)
Nice run for Marshall who has been relatively underwhelming this year. His 1:48.84 gave him the Ivy League title and puts him back into the national qualifying conversation.
Nia Akins (Penn)
She anchored her Penn teammates to a conference title in the 4x800 which was paired with a 2:04 win in the open 800. This was a very strong weekend for her and it was one that may push her into a Top 25 spot in our rankings.
Will Battershill (Harvard)
Despite running a personal beset of 8:48 earlier this season and entering as the favorite, Battershill struggled at the Ivy League Championships. He ran a time of 9:09 and dropped to 6th overall.
Lisa Tertsch (Harvard)
Tertsch was someone who I identified as a key sleeper pick in our midseason discussion earlier last week. Sure enough, her performances at the Ivy League Championships helped my case. She took home two golds, one in the 5000 and one in the 10,000. Fun fact: Tertsch hasn't lost a race since she placed 100th at the NCAA Cross Country Championships back in November. Don't forget about her when choosing your National Championship qualifiers.
Kyle Mau (Indiana)
On his home track, Mau walked away with the W in an impressive time of 3:40. After running 13:44 earlier this year at the Stanford Invite, Mau continues to display impressive range. It's a nice rebound performance for the Hoosier ace after he struggled at Bryan Clay.