Digits: Analyzing the Stanford Invite 10k

“Just how fast are these 10k’s?”

That was the question I asked myself as I watched Alabama’s Alfred Chelanga fight Nike-sponsored athlete, Abbabiya Simbassa on the home straightaway en-route to a time of 28:04. It was certainly one of the more impressive performances of an already eventful weekend.

The next two collegiates to cross the line were Erik Peterson (Butler) and Jerrell Mock (Colorado State). Each individual posted a blistering fast time of 28:11. The trio of Chelanga, Peterson, and Mock were joined by 13 other collegiate athletes who finished under the 29-minute barrier (for a grand total of 16).

It seemed rather obvious to me that these times were uncharacteristically fast for this early in the season. These numbers prompted a series of searches and the results I found justified my initial suspicions.

Fact: 2017 was the fastest year for the Stanford Invite 10k in recent history.

By nearly every metric, that statement is true. But before we dig deeper into the numbers, it’s important to note that we are only talking about “recent history” because the data we are using from TFRRS goes back no earlier than 2010. Although we may address other years before that (like 2008), the basis of our discussion will feature the last seven years of competition for the sake of simplicity.

Let’s look at the top 100 NCAA 10k times in the past seven years. The fastest time and current NCAA record is held by Sam Chelanga (formerly of Liberty) with a time of 27:08. He is one of 11 men to dip under the legendary 28-minute barrier.

The catch? Every single one of those 11 times were run at Stanford’s Payton Jordan, a race that isn’t contested until late April/early May.

So who owns the 12th overall time among these top 100 10k runners? That spot now belongs to Alfred Chelanga, the fastest collegiate 10k runner who hasn't competed at Payton Jordan in the past seven years. And of the 11 men that are ahead of Chelanga, no one ran faster than he did when they competed at the Stanford Invite. That sounds like a good sign for the Alabama senior should he choose to race at Payton Jordan.

The last collegiate to finish faster than Chelanga (at the Stanford Invite) was Sean Quigley (formerly of La Salle) in 2008 when he ran a time of 28:03.72. Eastern Kentucky’s Jacob Korir also ran faster than Chelanga in that same race with a time of 28:04.47 (compared to Chelanga’s 28:04.95).

In short, Alfred Chelanga’s 28:04 is a big deal.

But what about Erik Peterson (Butler) and Jerrell Mock (Colorado State)? In terms of rankings, their time of 28:11 isn’t that far off from Chelanga as they currently sit at 14th and 15th respectively among 10k runners in the last seven years. They also rank second and third among Stanford Invite 10k times in the past seven years.

So yeah…it was fast.

But what about the overall depth of the field? Were the overall performances better or worse?

If we narrow down our history, we find an interesting trend. The Stanford Invite currently holds an impressive 55 of the top 100 10k times in the past seven years. This fun fact raised the question, “which years have the most athletes in the top 100”? We were able to give you a breakdown below…

For reference, the 100th fastest time was 28:54.90 run by Gilbert Kirui (Iona) in 2017.

Keep in mind that this lists is for Division 1 runners only. The list doesn't account for the following D2 and D3 athletes who have run faster than Kirui's 28:54.90...

- Ian Lamere (Wisc.-Platteville)

- Johnnie Guy (Southern Indiana)

- Micah Chelimo (Alaska Anchorage)

- Aaron Dinzeo (Cal. PA)

- John Crain (North Central)

- Tyler Pennel (Western State)

- Issac Chavez (Chico State)

Clearly, 2017 was the best year in recent meet history and despite the glaring outlier in 2016, the Stanford Invite 10k is only getting faster.

With the first few weeks of competition now finished, it seems as though we have found our candidates to potentially break 28 minutes. 2013 had three men under the barrier, is it possible that 2017 has the same or even more? It certainly seems possible, especially when you consider that these guys now have personal bests ahead of legends like Hassan Mead, Luke Puskedra, Lawi Lalang, and even King Ches.

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