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D2 National Championship Preview

By: John Cusick

This may come as an oddity seeing how most rankings on the site all have been about D1 athletes and their performances. However, we all know that it’s not just those athletes that are getting it done on the oval. The D2 National Championships always display courageous efforts that seem to catch even the biggest track fans off-guard.


Don’t believe me? Go ahead and check out last year’s DMR race between Adams State and Western Oregon. How about Sydney Gidabuday’s effort to give Vincent Kiprop his only loss during his D2 track career? Bastion Grau denied Oliver Aitchison his third straight mile title and it was an electrifying environment that only looks to shine even more this coming weekend.


800

We’ll start, as per usual, with the 800 meters. Thomas Staines (CSU-Pueblo) comes into the meet with the fastest time with a 1:47.12. He sits over a second ahead of the field.

Following Staines are American International’s Ackeen Colley (1:48.78) and Leakey Kipkosgei (1:49.41). We’ll also see key returners from last year’s championship such Shaquille Dill (St. Augustine’s, 1:49.67), William Mayhew (UCCS, 1:49.88) and Josh Barrows (Augustana S.D, 1:51.14).

All eyes will be on Shaquille Dill as he attempts to defend his crown. The junior attempted the rare 400/800 double as a freshman at the national meet and suffered dearly. He came back last year and won the 800 in a thrilling victory over Luis Romero. He clocked a 1:49.67 earlier this season which is good for 6th in the country. He is joined by Decano Cronin (Fort Hayes St.) who is back after entering the last year’s championship with the second fastest time, but failed to make the final. He’ll be looking to avenge that disappointment in 2018.

Buried at the bottom of the entry list is the RMAC Champion Devundrick Walker, who walked down Staines and Mayhew in the final last year and surpassed Patrick Weaver (Colorado School of Mines, 1:49.63) inches before the finish line just two weekends ago. After a performance like that, Walker was able to cement his name as a contender for the national crown.

Overall, I think we have a really good race on our hands here. Mayhew of UCCS is most likely going to head straight to the front and try to lead wire to wire. It’s worked for him before in previous championship seasons, but I’m not sure it will work this time.

I’ve got Cronin.

I saw his race that got him to outdoor Nationals and believe that Cronin is going to have that kind of run in Kansas.

Mile

As we move to the mile, we have yet another RMAC runner ranked at the top of the leaderboard. And it’s not a common RMAC school as we’d come to expect. Evan Verbal of Colorado Christian University boasts a time of 3:59.20 (converted from 4:05.18) after a strong performance at the Colorado Invite. While some may scoff at the conversion, his 3000 meter of 8:00.80 shows that he is fit.

Behind Verbal are Adams State’s Elias Gedyon (4:00.78, also a conversion) and George Kelly (4:00.99, another conversion). The Grizzlies have struggled in recent track championships and will look to shake that off this upcoming weekend as they’ll vie for an indoor team title.

Josh Evans, Luke Julian and Vincent Workman will join their conference rivals as the other three representatives in the Mile.

Grau is back for his senior year and will look to repeat as the champ. He ran 4:04.51 earlier this season (which currently ranks 8th), but he’ll most likely come in as the favorite. This guy is in great shape and already has one win under his belt at this discipline.

Not to be forgotten is Western Oregon’s Dustin Nading (4:04.50), who has had a very successful college career, but seldom gets the recognition he’s deserved. Nading has competed in multiple national championships and has always been willing to chop it up at the front. Nading will look to add to the Wolves’ collection of individual titles as his teammate David Ribich has already taken home the 1500-meter title from the 2017 Outdoor National Championships.

Brett Meyer of Fort Hays State has stepped up in distance this year and was able to clinch a spot in the Mile preliminaries after qualifying last year for the 800 meters. He’ll be joined by Mason Phillips of Sioux Falls, as well as the Queens N.C. duo of Daniel Wallis and Felix Wammetsberger.

The Mile will most likely come down to a tactical race as it does every year, the question will be who has the better kick. If I had to put my money on this one, I’d like to put it down on Dustin Nading of Western Oregon. I think he rises to the challenge and helps bring WOU to the forefront of the distance world in D2.


3000

The 3000 meters might arguably be the best race of the championships. We have the aforementioned David Ribich who has run 7:50.81 and is nine seconds faster than Gidabuday who is looking to repeat as the 3K champion despite a rougher than usual cross country and indoor season.

Behind those two sits previously mentioned Evan Verbal (Colorado Christian) who has taken full advantage of another season of eligibility.

James Ngandu from Tiffin is coming off an individual national title during the cross country season and is more than likely to push the pace from the get go once again.

After Ngandu, we have more RMAC competitors in Chandler Reid (Adams State), Grant Colligan (Colorado School of Mines), Kale Adams (Adams State), Josh Hoskinson (Colorado School of Mines), Derrick Williams (CSU-Pueblo), George Kelly (Adams State), and Taylor Stack (Western State).

Sure, it seems like I’m favoring the RMAC (I did run for Colorado Mesa), but just for reference, in order to qualify for the top 18 in the RMAC, you needed at least a provisional time. It might be safe to say that the deepest distance conference is rearing its head this weekend.

While the RMAC has nine of the sixteen competitors, it goes without saying that they’ll all be challenged by the likes of Wuoi Mach and Zach Panning, both from Grand Valley State. The GVSU duo will look to aid the Lakers’ in their team title run. Mach has seemingly been around forever and Panning is always in the mix of things to come during championship season. They’ll be ready for whatever comes their way.

5000

We move to the 5000 meters, we begin to see a lot of familiar faces. Hold on, let me just get this out of the way now…

The RMAC is sending 12 of the 19 athletes that will toe the line in Pittsburg, Kansas come this Friday. Gidabuday headlines the field as the national leader with a time of 13:50.29. The Adams State star didn’t look great in cross country, but he has turned it around throughout this indoor season.

Behind Gidabuday on the performance list is James Ngandu (Tiffin, 13:57.54) who is slated second while Panning (GVSU, 14:01.35) returns to double from the 3000 meters as well. Panning be joined by teammate Chris May (14:05.39).

The next nine guys on the list are all RMAC competitors and boast times of 14:15 or faster. Grant Colligan (Colorado Mines), Nick Sevcik (Colorado Mines), Marcelo Laguero (CSU-Pueblo), Matthew Kade (Colorado Mines), Joshua Joseph (Adams State), Josh Hoskinson (Colorado Mines), Lucio Ramirez (Adams State), Chandler Reid (Adams State), and Taylor Stack (Western State) currently occupy the 5th spot all the way to the 13th spot.

As we analyze the race and the potential racing strategies of each one, it’s hard for me to go against Gidabuday here. His combination of speed and strength, which seems to be back after cross country, might be too much for the competitors this year. Ngandu will be his toughest competitor for the sole reason that he will most likely try to take the legs out from under Gidabuday by setting an honest pace early.

Gidabuday wins in a race that turns out to be a thriller.

DMR

Lastly, we have the distance medley relay. And if you watched last year, you’ve probably anticipated this race almost as much as the Adams State Grizzlies have. After losing last year by less than a hundredth of a second, the Grizzlies will certainly be looking to take home the title this year.

Despite being the main conversation of this race, ASU enters with the seventh fastest time (entry list time, not TFRRS time) while WOU holds the fourth. The leaders? Colorado School of Mines and Colorado State-Pueblo.

Black Hills State snuck into the race as the 12th team and another RMAC school to get into the Big Dance. Joining the field is Grand Valley State, Mount Olive, Sioux Falls, American International, Stonehill, Queens N.C. and Academy of Art. There are only six seconds between all of these teams.

We understand that the RMAC schools enter in with converted times, but it’s well known that they are successful when it comes to competing at nationals. In what I think will be a four-team race, I believe that Western Oregon will prevail. Dustin Nading on the 1200 leg with Ribich closing the mile leg? I’ll take my money to the bank on that.

If you guys get the chance to watch this meet this weekend, please do it. All of these races are going to be fantastic. You will see some of the best finishes that track has to offer. Division 2 track and field rapidly rising as more and more athletes are beginning to rise the ranks for multiple nationalities being represented. This meet will not disappoint you at any discipline.

1 Comment


caleb.gatchell
Mar 09, 2018

The 800 is a brutal one to predict, as most of the top entries have been a bit inconsistent at best this year. Colley and Staines are certainly talented, but Colley has only won one race this year and Staines has only been under 1:52 once this year which is a little concerning. Especially once you factor prelims in, experience is a huge factor, so I think I have to go with Decano Cronin. He's undefeated at the D2 level this year and only has one loss overall. I think he's going to be really tough to beat.


The Mile is pretty open, especially with Ribich scratching out. Verbal is certainly talented and has been running very well this year,…


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