First Thoughts: Hoosier Open

The Hoosier Open is now in the books and although we were unable to get you a preview, we do have a recap! Here are a few major takeaways that we had from the results in Bloomington, Indiana.

Kyle Mau Dominates 5k Field in 13:44

It's no secret that TSR #12 Kyle Mau has developed into one of the more elite distance runners in the country. While many people saw Mau as a mile/3k runner earlier in his career, the Indiana ace has since shown off his range by attacking the 5k and cross country distances and thriving every time he toes the line.

On Friday night, Mau posted an excellent mark of 13:44 to easily win the men's 5k. Teammate Ben Veatch (2nd) and Butler's Barry Keane (3rd) ran 13:56 and 13:58, respectively. Mau's winning time, although impressive, leaves us wondering what he could have done in Boston last weekend. It seems fair to say that he could have dipped under the 13:40 mark with some competition.

Mau may go after the 5k distance later this season, but there's a much stronger chance that he pursues the mile and 3k distances instead. Last year, 13:44 would not have been enough to qualify for the National Championships, although that was a historically fast and deep year when it came to the 5000 meters (on both the men's and women's side).

Regardless, Mau's 13:44 should not be ignored. He essentially matched his overall PR from the 2019 spring season where he also ran 13:44. Replicating that time on an indoor track while not having anyone within 10 seconds of him is awfully impressive.

Lauren Bailey Solidifies Spot Among D2 Elites

One of the more exciting breakout stars in Division Two so far this year has been Indianapolis' Lauren Bailey. The junior solidified herself in the upper-echelon of distance talents this past cross country season, and continues to do more of the same in the month of December, running 16:17 for 5000 meters last weekend and then running 9:38 for 3k on Friday.

Not only are Bailey's performances impressive, but her recent rise to the top couldn't be more timely. Accomplished long distance runners from last year such as the Flanagan sisters, Leah Hanle, Caroline Kurgat, and others have either transferred or have used up their eligibility. This leaves Bailey as a potential title favorite this season, especially with the way that she has been running as of late.

Naturally, the competition will still be stiff, especially with women like Ida Narbuvoll, any of the GVSU women, any of the Adams State women, and a handful of others gunning for the top spot. Even so, Bailey's back-to-back performances makes her a big name to watch as we look ahead to January.

Cleyet-Merle Runs 4:47 Mile En Route to Win

The star of Indianapolis as of late has been Lauren Bailey, but Berenice Cleyet-Merle is showing us that she is arguably just as good. After transferring from California Baptist, the 4:20 1500 meter is using up the rest of her eligibility with Indy, and so far, she has shown phenomenal progression.

On Friday night, Cleyet-Merle took down a strong, up-and-coming name in Sarah Schitt (Indiana) to earn a huge new personal best of 4:47 for the mile, which is currently the #2 time in the NCAA so far this season (for D2). Considering that she opened up her season last weekend in a time of 4:59, Cleyet-Merle and her Indianapolis coaches should be thrilled.

And if that wasn't enough, it appears that these two meets were the first times that Cleyet-Merle has ever raced on an indoor track. According to her TFRRS profile, she never ran an indoor race while at CBU, which makes sense since some California programs opt not to compete during the winter months.

As for Cleyet-Merle's overall potential, she could enter the title conversation for an already stacked D2 mile field this season, although Cotter will be the undeniable favorite if she chooses to defend last year's crown.

Even so, the more experience that Cleyet-Merle gets and the more comfortable she becomes with racing on the indoor oval, the more dangerous she will become.

Cooper Williams Runs School Record of 2:22 for 1000 meters

One of the more painful absences from our TSR Indoor Top 25 rankings was Cooper Williams who has shown a lot of promise in the middle distance events over the past year or two, specifically in the 800 meters. With a personal best of 1:46 and a pair of 5th place All-American finishes, it seems almost criminal to leave someone that talented off of our list.

Well, Williams certainly made that decision even more questionable after running 2:22 for 1000 meters this past Friday. The Indiana middle distance veteran secured a new school record in the process (which had previously stood for 32 years) and was just one second off of the meet and facility records.

The result, although not entirely surprising, is still a great start for Williams' indoor track season. The favorite heading into this year's 800 meters will likely be Devin Dixon (Marco Arop has opted to turn pro), but Williams could take that next leap in development and become an even stronger challenger than he already is.

More so, his ability to move up in distance shows us that he could be a very strong candidate to run the 1200 meter leg of a DMR if the Hoosiers opt to go "all in" on the event come March. With one of the deeper 800 meter groups in the country, it wouldn't at all be ridiculous to think of Williams moving up to the lead-off leg for Nationals.

Hertenstein Leads Seven Others Under 3:00 for 1000 meters, Indiana Displays Mid-Distance Depth

This article seems to be all about the breakouts stars and Bailey Hertenstein is one of the names that falls into that category.

This past cross country season was huge for the current sophomore, finishing runner-up at the BIG 10 Championships before ending her season as an All-American with a 31st place finish at NCAA's. It would be unfair to look at her past track times and compare them to now as Hertenstein has clearly made the freshman to sophomore jump in regards to fitness. However, based on her success in the longer distances, I'm not sure we expected her to run 2:51.59 to win the women's 1k this past Friday.

Hertenstein's win, although mainly against her own teammates, is a nice display of range and it suggests that she can be the program-defining star that Indiana needs (in the wake of Katherine Receveur and Margret Allen graduating) across all three seasons...not just cross country.

However, to say that this was a run-away win would be misleading. Hertenstein may have won, but she was closely followed by teammates Kelly Mindak (2:51.77) and Jenna Barker (2:51.94). And if that wasn't enough, two more teammates (Mulzer and Stanhope) rounded out the top five with a pair of 2:52's.

It's important that we don't overreact to an early-season meet in the middle of December, but this was a really great race for the IU women. The Harris sisters are essentially out of eligibility (Kelsey Harris still has outdoors), which means that the IU women need to replenish that area of their roster. So far, they're not having any problem doing so with Mulzer being the only senior out of that aforementioned top five.

There are currently a lot of good pieces in place for a potential Indiana DMR this winter.