Going For Gold: 3k Steeple

Three down, two to go! Our Going For Gold series has continued with the 3000 meter steeplechase. You can view all of the NCAA entries by clicking the link here.

You can also view our other articles from the Going For Gold series below...



Let's begin...

Obsa Ali (Minnesota)

The Minnesota senior has been phenomenal this year after running 13:43 at the Cardinal Classic, winning the BIG 10 steeplechase title, and running the fastest time of the year at the West Regional Championships with an 8:36. Ali is an incredibly patient runner and if you watched his conference or regional performances, you'll see what I'm talking about. In the three steeplechase races he's had this season, he won all of them. If he can continue to stay calm and patient near the top group, a gold medal is definitely within reason.

Matt Owens (BYU)

If he didn't trip up on the last barrier at the West Regional Championships, Owens may have walked away with the win and the fastest time in the NCAA. The freshman has been nothing short of phenomenal this season with back-to-back-to-back steeplechase times under 8:40. Much like Ali, Matt Owens needs to continue staying near the front of the pack and patiently waiting to make his move while the leaders wear themselves out.

Clayson Shumway (BYU)

You have to love the aggression that Clayson Shumway runs with. He attacks each barrier and asserts a strong pace. His performance at West Regionals was strong, but those who were more patient overtook him at the end. If he were to delay his front-running for a lap or two, he might have enough to respond to moves made in the final lap. The BYU ace is full of raw talent and if he's able to put the pieces of the puzzle together, he'll be an NCAA Champion.

Steven Fahy (Stanford)

Fahy has been a great tactician this season. He won the PAC 12 title and stayed strong against an excellent group at West Regionals. Much like Owens and Ali, he stayed patient and let the other competitors do the work up front. He may have made his move a lap too early at West Regionals, but that is an easy adjustment.

Andrew Gardner (Washington)

One of the most impressive performances at the West Regional Championships was from Andrew Gardner. The Washington veteran got stuck on the inside rail, but waited until the traffic in front of him cleared out before completely taking over and winning his heat. While some may not like to be stuck on that inside rail in a crowded race like the steeplechase, it might work for someone like Gardner if he's able to stick near the top group. If the pace is fast (and it usually is at Nationals), Gardner's tactic could pay off big time.

Brian Barraza (Houston)

One of the names that has been consistently mentioned in the conversation for the national title has been Brian Barraza. The Houston star has been an animal on the outdoor oval this season after running 8:41 to start the season and later running 13:38 at Mt. SAC. His West Regional Championship performance was solid as he led for most of the race and got himself out of any traffic to safely qualify for Nationals. He began to struggle a bit on the final lap, but that's what happens when you control the pace the entire time. Barraza can do the same thing at Nationals and still win, but he'll have others pushing the pace along with him so he won't have to do all of the work by himself. If a situation like that unfolds, the Houston senior may have enough in the reserves to emerge victorious.

Jordan Cross (Weber State)

When you look at the 3rd heat of the West Regional Championships, it looked like there were a few moments when Cross was falling off the pace. Yet, when the final lap approached, Cross closed hard and made up some ground on his competitors. If he's able to stay at the very top of the front group at Nationals, he may have the turnover to compete and potentially pull off a major upset.

Emmanuel Rotich (Tulane)

Rotich didn't need to do too much in his East Region quarterfinal in order to qualify. He easily responded to the moves being made and cruised to an 8:43 victory. If the race at Nationals is slower and he's able to find a spot near the front, I like the closing speed that Rotich has. It could be enough for him to take the win. Of course, I still think he can win in a faster race as well. He's that talented.

Dylan Hodgson (Kansas)

Much like Shumway, Hodgson was assertive at the front during the West Regional Championships. He eventually fell off the pace, but it was obviously enough to get him a spot to Eugene. If he were to delay that front-running tactic and move up throughout the race, Hodgson will give himself a chance to fight with the best names in the NCAA and potentially pull off a major breakthrough win.

John Rice (Texas)

When you look at Rice's West Regional Championship performance, you have to commend him for a perfectly executed race. He slowly pulled away from the rest of the field and comfortably took the win. His time may have only been 8:43, but I think a faster race would actually do him quite well. I think Rice has more to give and a faster race would eliminate anyone who is going to rely on a kick. If the end goal is winning it all, that may be Rice's best option.

Mihret Coulter (Charlotte)

As talented as Coulter is, he may have been a bit too aggressive at the beginning of his quarterfinal in the West Region. In the end, it didn't really matter since he got a spot to Nationals. However, if he's able to take his foot off the gas for those first few laps, he might have a chance to stick with the increased tempo at the end of the race.

Jamaine Coleman (Eastern Kentucky)

If you thought Emmanuel Rotich's 8:43 looked easy, be sure to review the race video from Coleman's race at the East Regional Championships. He made his heat win of 8:44 look super easy and it was clear that he still had more left. If he pushes the pace, he may have enough fitness to breakaway from some of the top athletes in this field and establish a dominant win.

Riley Osen (Portland)

For some reason, the steeplechase is one of the events that I see a lot of freshmen prosper in. Riley Osen is one of those thriving freshman and although I'm not a big fan of youth at championship meets, I do like what this Portland Pilot brings to the table. When you look at his West Region race, Osen slowly worked his way up to the top pack, but finished just outside the top four. If he were to give himself better positioning earlier in the race, he may have a chance to battle with the best in the NCAA.

Hlynur Andresson (Eastern Michigan)

The EMU senior has done well in his final collegiate season. In his regional quarterfinal, he kept an honest, but somewhat controlled, effort to earn an automatic berth to NCAA's. I like to think that he still had something in the tank, but it did look like he was sort of caught behind the leaders during the final lap or two. If a similar scenario plays out at NCAA's and he's near the front, he'll need to make his surge first and try to break the rest of the field if he wants any shot at an upset.

Max Benoit (Michigan State)

Between BIG 10's and Regionals, it's safe to say that Benoit likes to get out of the traffic early and run from the front. That, however, doesn't always end in a win. Just like Hodgson from Kansas, he may want to delay his surge to the front for a lap or two. If the pace is lagging and Benoit decides to make a decisive move, he could catch the leaders off guard and walk away as the surprise winner.

Spencer Fehlberg (Utah State)

There's a lot to like about senior Spencer Fehlberg this season. When you review his Mountain West steeplechase race, he put on a great performance by slowly moving up and then throwing down a strong kick to nearly catch Uchikoshi. However, the Utah State senior did expend a lot of energy working his way to the front. If he was able to establish his position earlier, he might have had enough of a kick to pull off the upset. A similar scenario at NCAA's could greatly benefit someone like him.

Bailey Roth (Arizona)

As talented as Roth is, he's struggled this season with lackluster times and finishes. Luckily, he was able to rebound at the West Regional Championships with a strong time of 8:45. His execution, however, wasn't perfect. He was pushed out to lane two early in the race and was later caught behind a few rows behind the leaders. Roth eventually got caught on the inside rail and was only able to get out thanks to a brief opening allowed by Noah Schutte. Roth has a lot of potential to be one of the better steeplechasers in the nation (if he isn't already), but his positioning definitely needs to improve if he's going to respond to surges and exploit openings. If he's able to perfect that by the time he gets to the finals at NCAA's, we may be able to see the full extent of his ability...which may be enough for a national title.

Wesley Kirui (Hampton)

Despite his unconventional hurdling style, Kirui is one of the better young steeplechase stars on the rise. His 8:45 from Regionals was a great improvement on his 8:51 from the Virginia Challenge, but you could tell that it was still a difficult pace for him when Jamaine Coleman started to hit the gas and pick up the pace. If he's able to make it to the finals, he might want to hope for a slower race where he can respond to surges being made late in the race. When you consider how fast the steeplechase at Nationals gets, that might not be an option. Still, it's probably his best chance for a miracle win.

Noah Affolder (Syracuse) + Aidan Tooker (Syracuse)

I opted to switch Tooker and Bowman for this section because it's impossible to mention one Syracuse steeplechaser without the other. The young duo of Affolder and Tooker have really impressed me so far this season and they aren't showing any signs of slowing down. They may not have the same experience that some of these other veterans do, but they are racing at a high level that you rarely see at this age. The pair placed 1st and 3rd at the Virginia Challenge (amongst collegiates), followed that up with a 1-2 finish at the ACC Championships, and did the exact same thing in their heat of the East Regional Championships (although Troy Reeder did fall on the last barrier while in the lead). They both had surprisingly strong kicks and showed great patience even when things started to get crowded. Honestly, I'm not sure there is much I would change. If they can continue to feed off of each other at Nationals, they'll make the lives of their competitors a lot more difficult...which could lead to one of them become the national champion.

Andrew Bowman (Oakland)

Bowman may not get a lot of recognition, but his kick is definitely underrated. He made a tremendous surge in the final straightaway of his East Regional quarterfinal heat to nearly snag the last automatic berth. If the race gets tactical, he may have a chance to unleash a huge kick and make some noise.

Tom Nobles (Charlotte)

What I like about Nobles and teammate Mihret Coulter is that they are aggressive runners who don't like to trail others. For the most part, that's admirable and it shows a lot of confidence in their racing style and fitness. That said, unless you're running under 8:40, it may not be a great idea to jump to the lead right away. Nobles went to the front early on in his East Regional quarterfinal, but faltered later in the race. Luckily, he found another gear and fought his way to a qualifying spot. As talented as he is, Nobles may be better off responding to surges and making his move with three laps to go rather than three laps into the race.

El Hocine Bouchrak (High Point)

I'll admit that I don't know a lot about Bouchrak nor do I know much about his racing style. That said, his finish at East Regionals was impressive. Bouchrak was (roughly) three full seconds off from Nobles as they entered the final lap. The final result showed Nobles edging Bouchrak by less than a second. If the High Point freshman can somehow stay within striking distance of the leaders in a slower race, his kick might surprise a few people...

Parker Scott (Ole Miss)

Scott has been a solid contributor on the Ole Miss roster for a few seasons now and his performance at Regionals was only validation of his worth. Admittedly, a fall by Reeder and a strong final kick is the main reason why he'll be going to Nationals. However, a better starting position may benefit Scott when he toes the line at Nationals. During his quarterfinal, he got caught in the back of the pack for nearly half the race and had to fight his way to the front. That probably cost him more energy than he wanted to and it left him relying on a sprint in the final straightaway. If he can find himself a spot in the top group early on in a slower race, Scott might have enough turnover to match the steeplechase elites of the NCAA.