We have analyzed every individual in every distance event and discuss what we believe they need to do in order to win it all in Eugene next week...
Josh Kerr (New Mexico)
Honestly, it doesn't really matter what kind of race style Kerr decides to implement. The new NCAA record holder for 1500 meters can handle any scenario, fast or tactical. As long as he stays out of trouble, he should be cleared to take gold once again.
Sam Prakel (Oregon)
The Oregon veteran is one of the best 1500 runners in the nation and has the talent to hang with nearly anyone in the NCAA. His indoor Nationals performance was impressive and I really liked the way him and Reed Brown worked together at the front to battle with Josh Kerr. I still think that same game plan could be effective, but I'm a believer that against big talents like Saruni and Kerr, you'll need to make the first move and catch them off guard.
Sam Worley (Texas)
Despite his youth, Worley is one of the better 1500 runners in the nation and boasts a strong 800 personal best as well (1:48). In a faster race, I'm unsure if Worley will be able to handle the constant back-and-forth with savvy veterans. If the race is slow enough, I like Worley's chance of taking the pack by surprise and shooting off the bend to take W. That's the only way I see him taking gold in a star-studded field like this.
Oliver Hoare (Wisconsin)
For most men in this field, I think the pace needs to be slow if they want any chance of upsetting Kerr. However, for a guy like Hoare, faster is better. After splitting 3:54 on Wisconsin's DMR during indoors and then running 3:37 at Bryan Clay, it just goes to show that he's one of the best out there. If the pace is fast, he'll be able to outlast the rest of the field. In terms of how you beat Kerr? That's never an easy answer, but if Hoare can start his surge before the New Mexico miler, he'll at least have a chance to be neck-and-neck with him on the final straight.
Cameron Griffith (Arkansas)
After a breakout indoor track season, Griffith's performances during the spring were a bit quieter. His season bests (prior to the Regional Championships) of 13:58 and 3:45 were solid, but nothing mind-blowing. Yet, Griffith bounced back and beautifully navigated his way through Regionals to find himself a spot in Eugene. One of the great things about Griffith is that he has pretty decent range. His 800 PR of 1:50 isn't earth-shattering, but his 1k personal best of 2:23 gives me the impression that he could be a dangerous kicker with 200 to go. If the race turns tactical and stays slow until that point, Griffith may have a shot to pull off some last lap heroics.
Kevin White (Loyola - Illinois)
I'll admit that I don't know a whole lot about White who contested the 1500 and 800 at the West Regional Championships. His personal best of 1:47 would better suit him for the 800, but he only qualified for the 1500 after doubling two weeks ago. Much like Griffith, if the race is slow and lagging during that last lap, White could potentially unleash a lethal kick and shock the nation.
Ian Crowe-Wright (New Mexico)
One of the better tacticians in the NCAA is Ian Crowe-Wright who knows how to position himself throughout a race and take advantage of any pace that he is given. Although his teammate is heavily favored, Crowe-Wright may be able to emerge as a true title contender if other competitors opt to make life difficult for Kerr by boxing him or creating traffic around him. His a speed isn't quite as developed as some of the other entrants, which means he'll need to hope that the pace doesn't lag too much.
Ben Malone (Villanova)
Although he hasn't been 100% this season after coming off of appendix surgery, Malone is still one of the best finishers in the NCAA. Not only that, but he has strong personal bests of 1:48, 2:22, and 3:39 (from Swarthmore). He's improving with every passing day and that can be a scary thing to think about if he's in your heat. If the race becomes slow and tactical (think 3:47 to 3:52), I like the role that Malone could play with 400 to go. He's one of the few individuals who can match Kerr in the final lap.
Chandler Teigen (Washington State)
Much like Crowe-Wright, Teigen has developed his tactical racing and positioning over the past year. He looks a lot stronger and has been a top finisher in most of the races he's entered. He can maintain his form late in the race, but I'm unsure if he'll have the necessary turnover needed for that final 100 meters. His best bet may be to hope that the surges and finishing kicks come with 400 meters to go. The longer the kick is drawn out, the better it will suit Teigen.
Justine Kiprotich (Michigan State)
We've talked about how great guys like Crowe-Wright and Teigen are at navigating through elite fields of competitors. However, the best of them may be Justine Kiprotich who pulled off a silver medal finish in 2017 and looks to be a contender once again in 2018. We've seen him do it before, but if the pace isn't too fast and the kicks start coming at 200 meters out, Kiprotich will have a chance to match that finishing speed. If he can get a jump on Kerr, you never know what could happen...