Welcome to championship season. As conference championships from all over the country begin to ramp up, many fans from across the country are gaining a better understanding of what the fields for Nationals will look like. Still, there are is a lot of uncertainty, especially with so many potential scratches (or non-scratches) that could take place in addition to the big performances we are expecting this weekend.
Below, we took a gander at breaking down each of the open distance events and evaluating what we could see in terms of national qualifiers. Keep an eye out for Part 2 (women) tomorrow!
Let's start with the event that will likely not have any scratches. All of the top 16 men in the 800 seem relatively set in running that event. With the exception of Devin Dixon in the 400, none of the men in qualifying position are set to double in anything else other than the DMR. This means that, as of right now, Sean Torpy of Miami (Ohio) will be the last man into Nationals with a time of 1:48.44. Keep in mind that TFRRS does not have him listed on their performance list for some reason (even though he ran that time attached).
Despite his favorable position, the BIG 12 Championships could produce fast enough times to bump Torpy out of qualifying. Hoppel, Koech, and Crisp have all run under 1:47 (via conversions), meaning that the race will likely be fast for the Iowa State duo of Festus Lagat and Roshon Roomes, as well as Texas Tech's Sven Cepus, should they choose to enter the event. All three of those men are just outside of Torpy's qualifying time as of right now.
In fact, that also means that Robert Heppenstall is in jeopardy of losing his spot. Historically, Heppenstall is a great postseason runner who runs his best when it matters (championships), but he'll need to produce a season best to guarantee his spot on the line in March.
The mile may be one of the more interesting events in regards to scratches this year. The numerous double qualifiers in the mile and 3000 leave many athletes and their coaches with a good problem to have.
Let's start with Oliver Hoare and Kyle Mau, two names who are essentially guaranteed to qualify for Nationals in the mile, 3000, and DMR. Right now, we have both individuals attempting the ultra-difficult triple of running in all three events.
But why? Doesn't that seem excessive?
I'm glad you asked, Mom.
Both Wisconsin and Indiana are programs that will likely put their focus on earning as many points as possible for the team battle, which is why a triple for both of these men seems (somewhat) realistic. Plus, with Wisconsin having McDonald in the 3k and DMR, the Badgers may feel that earning an individual national title is simply a matter of playing the odds. After all, they have two title contenders with four title opportunities...
What about Oregon's James West? He is currently qualified in the same triple that we mentioned for Hoare and Mau, but we have him scratching the mile. For West, his presence in the DMR seems vital for Oregon (especially when you consider how successful of an anchor he was last year) and trying to double back from the mile doesn't seem ideal when he can simply compete in the 3000 the next day.
The same thought process goes for Alex Rogers of Texas who is not only needed for a DMR, but may simply be a better 3k runner than miler this season (which is not something I expected to say entering 2019).
Other names such as Cooper Teare and Amon Kemboi aren't currently in qualifying position for this event to begin with (according to our Scratch Tracker projections), but they were likely going to forfeit their mile entry anyway to focus on the 3000 meters.
However, Stanford's Alex Ostberg could attempt the mile / 3k double. He is currently the Last Man In for the mile and is comfortably positioned to qualify in the 3000 meters at the #9 spot. Assuming he isn't pushed out of the mile leading up to Nationals, then a mile / 3k double seems entirely reasonable solely for the fact that he has nothing to lose. Without any DMR responsibilities, Ostberg can focus on his individual goals. Of course, the Stanford ace could end up scratching from the mile if he truly believes that being fresh for the 3000 could make him a contender to get on the podium.
We have already mentioned all of the crossover associated with the mile and 3000 which makes discussion about this event a bit boring. According to our current projections, we do not believe anyone will scratch.
However, it is very possible that we see Oliver Hoare opt for a double instead of a triple. If he does that, then he would likely pursue the mile and DMR. Although he would have to double in the DMR from the mile prelims, his chances of pulling out a national title are far greater for the mile than they are for the 3000, an event where three men are at 7:44 or faster.
The same could be said for Kyle Mau who may decide that he doesn't want to deal with one of the greatest 3k fields we have seen in a very long time. If he does attempt the double, it will likely be the event without Fisher, McDonald, and Kemboi at the top of the leaderboard.
Although our projections disagree, we could also see Rogers, West, and Ostberg choose to run the mile over the 3000. In theory, it doesn't necessarily make a ton of sense since the 3k is the last distance event of the meet and they have nothing to lose by running it. Unless they're simply looking for a lesser workload, scratching out of the 3000 would be a passed up racing opportunity. Still, it's happened before and it could very easily happen again. If it does, then we could see some major shakeups in this field.
Between Hoare, Mau, Rogers, West, and Ostberg, all five have the potential of scratching the 3k. These are the men who could get in depending on how many of the five aforementioned athletes scratch...
1 scratch: Cameron Griffith, Arkansas
2 scratches: Conner Mantz, BYU
3 scratches: Edwin Kurgat, Iowa State
4 scratches: Olin Hacker, Wisconsin
5 scratches: Isai Rodriguez, Oklahoma State
There isn't too much to talk about in this one as the entire field seems relatively set in stone. Yes, we could see new national qualifiers on the NCAA leaderboard by the end of the weekend, but the cut off for the 5k may already be the fastest we've even seen it (Rory Linkletter, 13:42.07). Further more, there is a good chance that we won't see many scratches (if any) for this event. The 5k/3k double is the most popular double there is. Unless certain names decide that they would rather be fresh for the 3k and not race the 5k, the top 16 we have right now should be a theoretical lock.