Payton Jordan Sets Up Strong NCAA Narrative
The Payton Jordan Invitational never seems to disappoint and it certainly didn't this year as we saw some of the nation’s best toe the line in Palo Alto. With so many key performances being run, we now have a better idea of what specific storylines we will need to watch as we enter the postseason.
Payton Jordan produced the top two times in the women’s steeplechase as RMAC rivals Alicja Konieczek and Eilish Flanagan both ran marks under the 10:00 barrier. Konieczek, the current D2 record holder, ran 9:52 and was the 3rd place finisher behind Allie Ostrander and Adva Cohen. It felt like there was more on the line for Konieczek as she hung on to the leaders until the last lap of the race. We were curious as to when we would see Konieczek run her preferred event and after this race, it’s hard to argue that she is not the favorite going into NCAA's.
As for Flanagan, her strong season continues. She put up a five second personal best in the event running 9:55. She bounced back after getting stuck out on her own for a little bit during the middle of the race. Flanagan’s mark is the #5 fastest time in D2 history and is a legitimate threat to upset Konieczek at Nationals.
This also marks the first time we’ve had two women under the 10:00 mark since TFRRS became a thing in the fall of 2009 (I am not 100% sure on this so if someone else is able to correct me, do not hesitate to comment).
Jackson Sayler of Adams State also dropped a quick mark in the steeplechase as he ran the #2 fastest time NCAA mark this year. He ran 8:45 and sits only behind Leakey Kipkosgei who ran 8:44 the week prior at Penn Relays. Not only was Sayler 6th in his heat, but his 8:44 now eclipses his previous PR of 8:55 which he ran back in 2015.
It's going to be hard to bet against Sayler who should find himself in the mix to take home the national title later this month. He’s on the right track with his training and he’s fit enough to replicate the time if needed.
The reigning indoor mile champion, Stephanie Cotter, ran the #3 fastest time in the NCAA this year for D2. After surprising everyone this indoor season, Cotter posted an underwhelming time of 4:25 at Bryan Clay. Luckily for her, she was able to rebound and produce an automatic qualifying time of 4:19 at Payton Jordan. It’s the fifth automatic mark of the year in this event and it's the third for the Grizzlies (in the 1500) this year.
Cotter’s title this past winter clearly wasn’t a fluke and now her Payton Jordan performance sets up the potential chance of Adams going 1-2 (again) in the middle distance event (my guess is Eilish Flanagan drops the 1500 for the 5000).
The last mark to discuss from Payton Jordan is from Sydney Gidabuday. The distance star debuted in the 5000 this past week and walked away with a 13:59 mark. That’s the #3 fastest time this season behind his teammate Elias Gedyon and Grand Valley’s Zach Panning. Still, I think it's fair to say that it was a bit of an underwhelming performance for Sydney who may have had the D2 national record in the back of his mind.
The 3000 meter battle we saw during indoors between Gedyon, Gidabuday, and Panning helps set the stage for an interesting rematch at Nationals, this time in the 5000 meters. With these three men all under the 14:00 mark, and others under the 14:10 mark, we could very well see one of the better 5000 races in recent memory. Or we could just see a three-man battle for the top spot. Either way, it will be a race worth watching.
Conference Championships Provide Fast Times
We didn’t get a chance to preview as many conferences meets as we would have liked leading up to them. Luckily, TFRRS does exist and we can mention those who had good days and are likely to be seen again.
First on this list is Ayman Zahafi. At the Lone Star Championships this past weekend, the TAMU-Kingsville sophomore continued his spectacular season with yet another personal best. He ran 1:48.54 to lower his PR by another three-tenths of a second. That time is the fastest raw time in the NCAA and after the conversion, it was lowered to 1:48.13.
John Partee of Lewis took home the GLVC conference title with a two second victory over the next runner. His time of 1:50.15 now ranks him #7 in the NCAA and was also a personal best by six-tenths of a second. Lewis was a qualifier for the indoor national meet earlier this year and will be looking to build upon that later this month.
Shayla Huebner of Northern Michigan raced to a runner-up finish at the GLIAC Championships. The senior ran the fastest time of her life with a mark of 2:08.97. That time is now good enough for #12 on TFRRS. Huebner was an All-American during the indoor season and is on track to do that again later this May.
Ashleigh Macleod ran a personal best in the preliminaries of the GLVC Championships with a time of 2:09.51. She almost repeated that performance in the finals on her way to a six second victory. The Lewis sophomore joined her teammate Partee at the indoor national meet earlier this year and will be doing the same later this month.
Casey Monoszlay improved her standing in the 1500 this weekend with a victory at the CCAA Championships. The senior from Cal Poly Pomona set a best in the event by a second, running 4:26. The time was five seconds better than 2nd place and it gives Monoszlay a Top 20 mark in three events.
Jessica Gockley from Grand Valley State ran the #21 fastest time in the 5000 with her time of 16:57. There’s a chance that it might be good enough for the national meet depending on how many athletes the NCAA decides to take this year. Regardless, we’ll still see Gockley in the 10,000 later this month.
The boys from Cal State San Marcos certainly treated their conference meet more like a qualifying one in terms of racing. Vahagn Isayan and Josh Litwiller ran the #23 and #26 fastest times in the 10,000 this weekend. Isayan ran 30:09 while Litwiller ran 30:12 for a 1-2 finish at the CCAA Championships. Both are personal bests for the Cougar duo.
Steeplechase Seems to be Wide Open on Both Sides
We had eight top marks in the steeplechase come from conference championships this weekend. Two came from a great race at the G-MAC Outdoor Championships where we saw Jacob Kernell of Walsh and Trent Classen of Cedarville both dip under the 9:00 mark.
Kernell continues his strong season as he dropped another seven seconds off of his personal best from 8:59 down to 8:52. Classen was able to drop three seconds off of his personal best to run 8:59.
Both of these men were qualifiers for the NCAA meet last year with Classen qualifying for the final. They’ll make an appearance once again with momentum in their favor.
On the women’s side, Allysen Eads of Hillsdale ran the #5 fastest time in the country with her run of 10:25. It’s not only a personal best for Eads, but it also yielded a 21 second victory for the G-MAC title. The 2nd place finisher was Alexa Leppelmeier who posted a 12 second personal best in the event. Her time of 10:43 is now the #20 fastest time in the NCAA.
At the GLIAC Championships, we saw Madison Goen and Holly McKinney both post top 18 marks in the steeple. Goen ran 10:39 while McKinney ran 10:43. Both times are personal bests for them. Meanwhile, the last mark comes from the CCAA meet where Hayley Boynton of Chico State ran 10:43 which is the #19 fastest mark which is just in front of McKinney.
Derek Noll (Indiana (Pa.))
Getting lost in the conference weekend performances is Noll who ran at the LHU Qualifier. His time of 1:50.35 is the fastest of his life and it moves him up to the #9 fastest time in the NCAA. Noll has continued to improve throughout the entire season and has inched ever so closer to the sub-1:50 mark. I would not be surprised to see Noll continue his success and dip under 1:50 at the national meet. In all likelihood, he’ll need to in order to qualify for the final.
Miryam Bassett (Simon Fraser)
The Clan senior traveled down to Portland to take part in the Twilight meet just before her conference championship. She recorded a 4:26 1500 and a two second personal best that moves her to #15 on the TFRRS list. She’s been to two national meets before, but hasn’t qualified for the final in either of them. She’ll be looking to make that a thing of the past after this month is over.
Drew Johnson (Alaska Anchorage)
The freshman looks to have a bright future ahead of himself as his first year in uniform has been good to him. At the Linfield Open, Johnson posted the fastest 1500 of his young career with a 3:49. He also ran the 800 where he ran 1:56 which is a second off of his personal best. There’s a chance that Johnson could get in with the 3:49 as he sits at #26 on the NCAA leaderboard, but he'll likely want to focus on improving that time at his conference meet.
Ida Narbuvoll (U-Mary)
Narbuvoll won the Howard Wood Dakota Relays 5000 this past weekend with a time of 16:48. It’s a four second improvement from when she ran this race at the Indoor National Championships earlier this year. It’s the #14 fastest time of the season and it should solidify her spot at the Outdoor National Championships.
Eddie King (Chico State)
King won his second straight 5000 title (this time over Ruben Dominguez of Cal Poly Pomona) at CCAA’s this past weekend which is a feat within itself. King is also the 18th straight Wildcat to be atop the podium. Yes, you read that right. Eighteen straight years of Chico State dominance. A hat tip to Coach Gary Towne and all of those who have been successful under his tenure.
Caroline Kurgat (Alaska Anchorage)
She might be the greatest D2 runner we have ever seen in terms of her range. She’s got the fastest times in the indoor 3000, indoor 5000, and the 10,000. She’s run 4:47 for the mile, 4:19 for 1500 meters, and she just recently has run 2:09 for 800 meters as of this past weekend. She currently has a qualifying mark in four of the five disciplines that are contested during the outdoor season and I’d put money on her setting a top mark in the steeplechase if she were to try it.