D2 Headlines & Highlights (4/8/19)

Colorado Invite Ignites Rivalries, Accounts for ten Top 10 Marks

We previewed the CU Invite on Friday because of what it potentially could mean in terms of marks on the D2 performance list. Both start lists in the 1500 were very impressive to say the least. On the women’s side, we saw a matchup that we could potentially repeat itself at the NCAA meet with Eilish Flanagan of Adams State and Alicja Konieczek of Western Colorado finishing 3rd and 4th overall in the meet. Flanagan ran 4:27.91 to Konieczek’s 4:28.40.

The two athletes ran the same two events last year at the outdoor NCAA meet (albeit, not the 1500) with Konieczek coming out on top in terms of placing. Konieczek won the steeplechase with Flanagan finishing 2nd. The Mountaineer was also the runner-up at 5000 meters with Flanagan finishing 16th in that race. Flanagan got her revenge after she finished runner-up at the NCAA cross country earlier this fall while Konieczek was 4th. If these two don't have a rivalry yet, we're going to keep saying they do until someone agrees with us.

Skylyn Webb of UCCS stepped up in distance and was the 5th place finisher in a time of 4:31.32. Not bad for someone who is known mainly for her prowess in the 800 meters.

With altitude conversions, Flanagan sits at NCAA #1 with a 4:21.45, Konieczek is NCAA #2 at 4:22.00, and Webb sits at NCAA #5 with a 4:24.85.

The men’s side saw seven performances from the weekend that will likely stick around until the weeks leading up to Nationals. And, just like the women, we’re beginning to see a rivalry form as Elias Gedyon (Adams State) and Brett Meyer (Fort Hays State) found themselves in another strongly contested battle, although this time they had some surprise company.

Gedyon was the 2nd place finisher as he ran 3:47.93 (3:42.50@). However, it wasn’t Meyer who was next, but Colorado Mines’ redshirt freshman Luke Julian instead. He was a half-second back in 3:48.42 (@3:42.98). Meyer finished in 5th, crossing the line in 3:49.65 (3:44.18@). These three currently sit 1-2-3 in the NCAA after their conversions.

If we flashback here, Gedyon currently holds a 2-1 advantage over Meyer in national meets, most recently finishing just ahead of Meyer in the 2019 mile final. It’ll be interesting to see how the rest of the season shakes out as we could see these two go against each other oncemore in a few weeks.

The surprise name here is Julian. He anchored Mines’ DMR team to a 3rd place finish and then finished 5th in the 3000. He only has a PR of 4:09 in the mile and to essentially run that at elevation tells us that he should be a serious competitor in this event come May.

We said there were seven top 10 performances here and we’ve only named three. Joining the three aforementioned athletes we have Adams State athletes Sydney Gidabuday (@3:45.79, #4) and Jackson Sayler (3:47.60, #8) as well as Western Colorado athletes in Taylor Stack (@3:47.63) and Ross Husch (@3:47.89). If you’re counting, that’s currently six RMAC athletes all inside the top 10 early in the season. If anything, the conference meet will be loaded in seemingly every event.

Alaska Anchorage Continues to Build

We all know the name of Caroline Kurgat by now. She’s broken multiple D2 records and is the favorite in the 5000 and 10,000 this spring. But it’s not just her that has excelled recently.

Danielle McCormick currently holds the NCAA #1 at 800 meters right now. Her 2:05.65 from earlier this year is a personal best. McCormick also won the 2018 indoor national meet at 800 meters, finished 4th during outdoors, and then came back and finished 3rd this year. Not to mention, she is also sitting at #15 in the NCAA for 1500 meters with a time of 4:32. That’s just a second off her personal best in the event. Talk about consistency...

Ruth Cvancara joins McCormick in the national rankings for the 800 as she sits at #13 in the NCAA with a 2:11.43, just one hundredth off of her personal best as well. A personal best in the 1500 of 4:35 has her at #30 currently.

Vanessa Aniteye is the third Seawolf under the 2:14 barrier in the 800 as she has run 2:13.52 and now sits at #24 on the performance list. She’s qualified for the National Championships in the 400, and while the 800 might have been a building block race, it’s still an impressive move up in distance for Aniteye.

Nancy Jeptoo just recently ran a mile in 4:58 and 17:26 (PR) in the same meet. After the mile-1500 conversion, she is now #32 in the NCAA. Given her PR in the mile of 4:51, she should move up the NCAA leaderboard later on in the season.

Edwin Kangogo and Felix Kemboi are leading the men’s team as Kemboi just set personal bests in both the mile (4:11) and the 5000 (14:28) at the Mike Fanelli Track Classic. As for Kangogo, he ran a PR in the steeple with a time of 8:56 (also at Mike Fanelli). Given it’s been two years since he ran that race, it’s safe to say that his training is moving in the right direction as he’s right back where he left off. Now, if he can get back to his 14:16 shape, we could see a strong senior season from him.

Too Long; Didn't Read: Alaska Anchorage is much better than you realize.



Moving on...

Nading Still Absent, 1500 Title Wide Open

After the indoor season didn’t have the reigning champion as part of the field, we all wondered where Dustin Nading was. The runner-up for 1500 meters last year has still yet to race since the cross country season.

So what gives? A possible injury from the cross country season and/or from the winter break has kept Nading sidelined since early December. As the weeks passed during indoors, we kept waiting for the Western Oregon Wolf to make his debut. That, however, wasn’t the case. It’s a feeling that is much of the same as the outdoor season will be near the halfway point by the end of this week. With meets like Bryan Clay, Mt. Sac, and Long Beach all on the upcoming schedule, should we expect to see Nading in uniform soon?

In the case that Nading is also out during the outdoor season, that gives the likes of Felix Wammetsberger, Elias Gedyon, Brett Meyer, Daniel Wallis (and so on) an even greater chance of taking home the national title in late May. That being said, I don’t think Nading is going to graduate with his last meet being a cross country 10k.

Underappreciated Performances

Leah Hanle runs second auto mark of the year

It's weird to place this in the “underappreciated” part of this article. But that’s what this is. Hanle has already run 16:02 this year which is one second personal best. She then came back this past weekend and ran 34:09 to ensure that she’ll be racing in two events come May. She’s still a bit off of her PR in the 10k, and with the way Kurgat is running, she’ll need to break that in order to compete with her.

Leakey Kipkosgei continues to be a wild card

Two weeks after an opening 1500 of 3:50, Kipkosgei came back and ran 3:46.16 which is a personal best AND is the fastest raw time of anyone in D2 despite being ranked at #5 on the TFRRS list. Kipkosgei clearly benefitted from his strong summer and his exceptional cross country base. He hasn’t skipped a beat and he has the ability to run whatever race he wants to at Nationals (yes, any race from 800 to 10k).

Jaylen Tryon keeps improving

The Lubbock Christian junior has raced every single weekend since the Indoor National Championships. In that time he’s run 4:11, 1:56, 1:53 and now 1:50. Is the three second improvement each week unlikely? Sure. But he’s three-hundredths of a second off of his personal best after this weekend. A breakout is coming.

Tai Smith runs a personal best, becomes the ninth man under 30:00 in 10k

The Mount Olive ace gave us a strong showing, running a personal best a year to the date as he ran 29:58 at the Colonial Relays this weekend. Smith was 19th at last year’s Outdoor National Championships, so he will be looking to avenge that race as the season goes on. Although he's not a title contender yet, he’s got a chance to compete for the podium later this season.

Ezekiel Kipchirchir is a name to keep an eye on

The Iowa Central CC transfer has quickly put his name on the performance lists. After having just an okay indoor season, Kipchirchir has set PR’s in the 10,000 and the 3000 steeple in back-to-back weekends. He ran 30:38 at the Raleigh Relays (good enough for NCAA #17) and then 9:17 (good enough for NCAA #10 after altitude conversion brings the time to 9:09).

Quick Thoughts

Thomas Staines

I think most of expected more out of him in the 1500. He ran 3:59 and while we all know he’s not a miler, but after his DMR performance, I think most people thought that he would be a bit more competitive here. Looking at splits, Staines closed in 70 after being with the pack through 1100 meters. In the grand scheme of things, there's no real cause for concern here.

Christine Myers

How does a 32 second PR sound? That’s exactly what happened to Myers this weekend as she ran 36:15 at the 9th Annual Yellowjacket Invitational. With that performance, she’s vaulted herself up into NCAA #11 spot on the TFRRS list and should have her first national track meet appearance locked up.

Benoit Campion

The freshman was 2nd behind his teammate Kipkosgei, but was able to run 3:48 in the second time he’s ever run the 1500. It’s a three second improvement over his last time out and serves as a reminder that he’s going to be in the mix at the end of the season.