D2 Headlines & Highlights (4/1/19)

Mike Fanelli Track Classic Leads to Multiple #1 Times

With a newly minted name, the early-season meet in San Francisco stuck true in producing early strong results throughout the entirety of Division Two.

We previewed the meet earlier in the week where we predicted fast results for many of the athletes that were attending. The meet now accounts for 33 marks that are inside the top 10 of times in the NCAA (for the distance events). Understandably, the season is still very young and we should see some more variety of meets scattered throughout the leaderboard at season’s end.

On the men’s side, we saw Victor Moreau (Academy of Art) take home the victory in the 1500 as he ran 3:46.65, good enough for #2 in the NCAA. Moreau has quietly become of the top names in the country after a strong indoor track season where he walked with a 4th place All-American in the 3000 meters. If he is able to maintain this momentum from the indoor season, Moreau will be serious threat at the national meet (again).

Ruben Dominguez (Cal Poly Pomona) entered the national title conversation this past weekend after running 14:01 and finishing 3rd overall (while taking over the top spot in D2). He has quietly come out of nowhere after training through the indoor season and preparing for the outdoor oval. He'll still need to elevate his fitness to another tier, but this result shows just how much he's refined his raw talent. Don't forget that this guy has personal bests of 1:55 and 3:49 in the middle distances as well.

Jake Mitchem (Colorado Mines) and Edwin Kangogo (Alaska Anchorage) battled it out to near-matching times in the 3000 meter steeplechase. Mitchem led the way in 8:56.02 while Kangogo right behind him in 8:56.08. When you consider that it's not even April yet, you have to be excited about what this duo could bring to the table at the national meet in late May.

Marcelo Laguera ran 29:25 and now sits #2 in the country at 10,000 meters. He held the top spot on the NCAA leaderboard until Zach Panning’s race in Raleigh the next day. Regardless, Laguera is on a mission to show that his cross country national title is no fluke. When we think of the elite distance runners in Division Two, we often think of Gidabuday and Panning. However, based on his recent performances, we may need to add Laguera into that conversation.

Danielle McCormick (Alaska Anchorage) was the only woman who earned an NCAA #1 time this weekend. She won the race in 2:05.65 to lock her into another national meet. It's not quite enough to challenge someone like Skylyn Webb, but it could put her in a position to make significant improvements and make her a legitimate challenger.

Sophie Dodd (Simon Fraser) was also in that race and ran 2:07.44. That time has her sitting at NCAA #3, but I feel like she'll build upon that mark over the next few months. She is quietly one of the better half-milers in the NCAA.

It's also worth noting that Casey Monoszlay (Cal Poly Pomona) and Madeline Geesen (Colorado Mines) both ran under the 17:00 barrier for 5000 meters.

Caroline Kurgat Shatters D2 10,000 Record

When we all pulled up the Stanford Invitational start lists earlier in the week, we had a pretty reasonable guess that we would see a D2 record go down with Caroline Kurgat (Alaska Anchorage) entered in the invite section. However, she did more than just break the D2 national record. In fact, she exceeded our expectations as she ran 32:08 for a 5th place finish behind only the likes of Emily Sisson, Molly Huddle, Allie Ostrander (Boise State), and Paige Stoner (Syracuse). Heading into the meet, the record was held by Sylvia Mosqueda of Cal State LA when she ran 32:28 at the 1988 D2 Championships.

Of course, Kurgat's record comes as no real surprise as she has already broken the indoor 3000 and 5000 records this past winter. After this weekend, she has one more record to try and take down as Neely Spence of Shippensburg holds the outdoor 5000 meter record with a time of 15:33. With Bryan Clay and Mt. Sac in just a few weeks, as well as Payton Jordan in May, Kurgat will have chances to claim the legendary quartet of records in D2.

The Women’s 800 Looks to Be Deep

We already mentioned Danielle McCormick and Sophie Dodd as they ran the NCAA #1 and #3 times in the country. McCormick ran 2:05.65 and Dodd ran 2:07.44, both personal bests for the ladies. Rachael Walters (Grand Valley State) ran 2:05.68 at the Florida Relays and is a second off of her personal best. She is a veteran who continues to be a consistently dangerous competitor in the middle distance events.

Kristen Metcalfe (Embry-Riddle) has yet to debut in the 800 this outdoor season, but after her 2nd place finish at NCAA's and a 2:03 personal best, she certainly has to be considered as a threat. Skylyn Webb who hasn’t raced to her full potential yet this outdoor season, but the defending champion won’t be an easy out.

When you look at all of these women, it's tough to ignore the talent. McCormick was the 2018 indoor NCAA champ, Webb is coming off of her second title, Cedarville's Carsyn Koch-Johnson is a former four-time national champion, and Metcalfe has a pair of runner-up finishes on the national stage (she’s also the outdoor D2 record holder at this event).

When we get to late May, these will be the four names that we are likely talking about, but I would not be surprised if we had five to six legitimate contenders for the title. That's pretty crazy to think about when you consider how good Skylyn Webb is...

Early, Fast 10k's

Zach Panning (Grand Valley State) led the way in the 10k this weekend. He ran 28:30 at the Raleigh Relays and now currently sits almost a full minute ahead of NCAA #2. Panning's time is also a 35 second personal best and top 10 all-time performance in Division 2. We could give you some intricate analysis, but the message is simple. Panning is REALLY good.

There were six athletes who broke the 30:00 barrier at Raleigh led by Panning's 3rd place finish. Jack Mastraneda (Charleston (W.V.), 29:36), George McCartney (Malone, 29:40), Matthew Pahl (Michigan Tech, 29:46), Daniel Haymes (West Texas A&M, 29:56) and Luke Greer (Carson Newman, 29:57) also joined in the festivities of the weekend.

Let's also not forget about Stetson Rayas (Dallas Baptist) who found himself under the 30:00 barrier with a time of 29:43 at the Mike Fanelli Track Classic.

Every single one of these performances was a personal best for each respective athlete which is another phenomenon within itself. The 10,000 has a chance to be one of the best races during championship season as the battle for the podium spots will be highly exciting.

Underappreciated Performances

Julia Howley (Simon Fraser)

Julia Howley threw her name into the mix of Simon Fraser athletes who are competing well recently. The senior who primarily competes at the 1500/3000 distances gave the steeplechase a go for the first time in her career.The result? A time of 10:03.19 and an automatic qualifying mark that is nine seconds clear of what was required to run. That mark is a also a top 10 time in D2 history, leading us to believe that Howley can (and likely will) run faster than that by the time NCAA's roll around.

Dennis Mbuta (Grand Valley State)

The sophomore for Grand Valley is continuing to make a name for himself. At the Raleigh Relays this weekend, Mbuta ran one of the more impressive doubles in recent memory. Beginning with the 1500, Mbuta ran to a time of 3:46.98 and won his heat by three seconds. Given where Mbuta finished in the rankings for the mile during indoors, this doesn’t come as much of a surprise. It was the second time he has ever run a 1500 and he cut 11 seconds off his mark from last year. Mbuta proceeded to come back later in the day and win the invite section of the 800. His 1:49.89 is only six tenths of a second off of his overall PR and currently has him sitting at #2 in the NCAA.

Jason Gomez (Notre Dame de Namur)

Talk about a breakout performance from the freshman. With just a few meets underneath his belt, Gomez might have had the race of the weekend as he ran a three second personal best of 1:50.72 and was the second fastest D2 athlete at the Stanford Invitational. There was no evidence that this was coming this weekend given his last time out. Gomez currently sits in the #3 spot on the D2 performance list, but has likely booked his ticket to the NCAA meet in late May. I think it’s safe to assume that Gomez should get faster as the year goes on which could mean we will be talking about another guy in the 1:48 to 1:49 range.