The Outdoor National Championships are next week, but that shouldn't stop us from continuing our discussion! Last winter season, we gave you the "Going For Gold" series for the Indoor National Championships and explained what each entrant would need to do in order to win it all on the biggest stage. You can check out Part One & Part Two by clicking on the links.
During that season, we split this series into two parts. However, indoor NCAA's only had 16 entrants per event. During outdoors, that number increases to 24 entrants. Instead of splitting it into two parts, we'll be giving you an event-by-event breakdown of what each entrant will have to do in order to win gold. We'll giving you the names in the order of the qualifying list from the Regional Championships which you can find here.
Michael Saruni (UTEP)
For the indoor NCAA champion and new collegiate record holder, the process is simple. Don't be fancy, just get the job done. Get to the front, stay in good position, and attack the pace when necessary. Saruni won't have any issues unless he puts himself in one. If he can stay clear of any traffic, another gold medal will be in his future.
Devin Dixon (Texas A&M)
I like to think that Dixon's front-running ability will play a key role in the preliminaries and finals next week. He's run 1:45 and knows how to get separation from the rest of the field. If he can take Saruni by surprise and assert a hard pace down the back-straightaway, he could really shake up the final results.
Marco Arop (Mississippi State)
After a breakout personal best of 1:46 at the Regional Championships, Marco Arop looks like a guy who has all of the confidence in the world. If the pace is fast, he just needs to hang onto the top pack and slowly work his way to the front. That's easier said than done, but sometimes the answer doesn't need to be extravagant.
Isaiah Harris (Penn State)
Harris is an excellent performer when it comes to championship racing. He knows when to make his moves and respond to surges. It also helps that his fitness allows him to hit faster paces as well. If the situation allows, Harris may want to make his move/surge before Saruni does which is the exact opposite of what happened at the Indoor National Championships. It's tough to beat someone who just broke the NCAA record, but if anyone can do it, it's Harris.
Jonah Koech (UTEP)
We haven't seen Koech reach the 1:46 mark he had during his freshman year, but he is beginning to reenter that realm of fitness once more. He's got underrated speed and great endurance, so he'll be able to handle most racing styles. If the pace lags enough, he needs to put himself a position at the front. His combination of endurance and turnover may give him an edge in the final 200 if he can stick around for that long.
Clay Lambourne (Utah State)
I like Lambourne because you know you'll always get consistent results from him. He's been picking up some solid momentum this season and if the pace in the finals is slow enough, he'll have a chance at making some serious noise. If he can assert the pace in the last 300 to 400 meters, he just needs to have enough strength to stay with the top pack. I like to think that his training at altitude would help him in a scenario like that.
Robert Heppenstall (Wake Forest)
Heppenstall has phenomenal finishing speed and great endurance to boast. The Wake Forest junior has built his reputation on numerous All-American finishes, but he'll typically let the top pack get out of the range of his kick. If he can stick a bit closer with the top group with 200 to 300 to go, he'll have a very realistic chance of shocking his competitors and winning it all.
Jonathan Moore (Bethune-Cookman)
It has been an incredible breakout season for Jonathan Moore who ran 1:47 and qualified for Nationals. Admittedly, I'm not sure how much of a shot he'll have at winning the title. However, seeing him win would be the perfect way to end his Cinderella season. He's an aggressive 2nd half runner who isn't afraid to run with the big boys. That's why he'll be in Eugene. Quite frankly, I don't see why he should change anything when you consider how well he's been running. Let the top names waste energy battling for position, make surges and moves towards the front, and go for an all-out effort in the last 250 meters.
Avery Bartlett (Georgia Tech)
Bartlett has been on fire this season and he hasn't shown any signs of slowing down. His final kick in last straightaway can be lethal and it makes him a legitimate contender to win it all. If the pace is slow enough, Bartlett automatically becomes a title favorite.
Bryce Hoppel (Kansas)
Hoppel has been having an up-and-down spring track season. His resume this spring wasn't quite as strong as what he was displaying during indoors. Still, that doesn't mean he's lost fitness or suddenly lacking a tactical running style. If all goes well, he can make his way from the mid-pack and use a very underrated kick to surge past the field (even in a faster race). He'll need to utilize the traffic behind him and leave the race favorites in a difficult position, but like most of these race tactics, that's easier said than done.
Robert Ford (USC)
As fast as Ford's season best of 1:46 was, his wins have been in tactical races. Since the MPSF Championships in February, Ford has won four different 800 races. Those winning times have all be 1:48 or slower. If the race turns slow and leaves an opening for a hard charge down the back straightaway, I see Ford finishing with the top group...maybe in 1st place.
Jaymes Dennison (Iowa State)
I like the speed and experience that Dennison brings to the table. He's run 46.9 before which means that he could be a huge threat in the final 150 of a race. Again, the race needs to be slow and the top pack needs to be within striking distance. Still, it's a realistic scenario that could play out in Dennison's favor.
Dylan Capwell (Monmouth)
The half-mile veteran has returned to the big stage and although he hasn't looked like his 2016 self, he is still a top contender. He has a strong finish, but his strength mid-race is underrated as well. His ability to stick close to the top pack will be key as he makes his title run. Plus, his experience on the championship stage and running through rounds could give him an edge over a field that is filled with younger, less experienced individuals.
Vincent Crisp (Texas Tech)
Like a few others in this field, I've always seen Crisp as someone who isn't afraid to put himself at the front of the pack and keep things fast. As long as the pace isn't anything suicidal, Crisp has a shot to take over on the back straightaway of the final lap and make things interesting. He'll need to make the first move before anyone else and get out of any traffic. If he does, he'll surprise a lot of people.
Cooper Williams (Indiana)
One of the most striking things I saw during the Regional Championships was seeing how large Cooper Williams is. The guy is absolutely massive which makes him an extremely difficult person to get around. If he can get to the front and maintain his position there for most of the race, other competitors will have to work extremely hard to get around him. That may leave Williams with enough energy in his reserves to get the dub.
Dejon Devroe (Mississippi State)
Devroe is an aggressive front-runner and is rarely seen working from the back. However, I do think that he needs to be careful about how soon he goes to the front and assumes the pace. If he can delay his pacing duties for a couple hundred meters on the opening lap, he'll surprise everyone with a hard charge in the last 200 to 300 meters.
Collins Kibet (Arizona)
Years back, Collins Kibet ran a 1:46 and looked the the future of the Arizona Wildcats mid-distance program. Unfortunately, Kibet wasn't always consistent and he failed to ever reach that mark again. However, this 2018 spring season has a bit different. He's been running faster much more consistently and earning top finishes. The fact that he even made Nationals is a victory in-and-of itself. I'm a believer that when you're training as hard and as often as Kibet probably was, you don't lose fitness. He has a lot of momentum now, so my best advice would be to simply put himself at the front and see what happens. He seems to improving every week and he really has nothing to lose. That could be enough for a miracle upset.
Daniel Kuhn (Indiana)
We saw Kuhn aggressively take the pace out at the East Regional Championships and nearly cost himself a bid to the National Championships. A strong finish may be his best bet when he heads to Eugene. If he's able to work with his teammate Cooper Williams, Kuhn may have an opening to kick away from the field while the rest of his competitors attempt to work around the large figure that is Williams. The race concept is a bit of a stretch, but I like to think that this duo could work together in some way, shape, or form.
Stefano Migliorati (Eastern Carolina)
There are very few individuals in the NCAA who can navigate through a crowd and find positioning as well as Migliorati. The ECU senior has a top competitor for the past few seasons and will continue to mix it up with some of the best. He may not have the same resume as some of these other individuals, but his ability to find openings during a race and exposing them could do wonders for him if the race becomes super slow (i.e. 1:48 or slower).
John Lewis (Clemson)
Lewis is known as a runner who will go straight to the front and establish a fast pace. He's done that since high school and has had plenty success doing so. In fact, there may not be a better front-running threat than Lewis. Much like Dejon Devroe, he may want to delay his appearance at the front of the race until the rest of the race pack develops. If he does, he may find himself with stamina to take the top spot and achieve the upset.
Anthony Hawthorne (La Salle)
One of the biggest breakout stars over the past few weeks has been Anthony Hawthorne. After monumental success with All-American Christian Sanders, Hawthorne appears to be following in his footsteps. Much like Kibet, I don't know if Hawthorne really has anything to lose. He'll need to put himself in top position and find openings. If he can keep Saruni behind his back and respond to surges, he may be able to walk away as a top finisher. That, however, may require some teamwork from the rest of the field.
Matt Manternach (Iowa)
I'll admit, I don't know a whole lot about Manternach. However, neither does the rest of the nation. The Iowa sophomore never finished better than 7th in any 800 that he competed in this season. He's only run under 1:50 three times in his career and two of those instances came during the Regional Championships. Basically, Manternach is a HUGE underdog. Still, I like his front-running style and he didn't do all that poorly in a slow prelim at BIG 10's where he was unfortunately left out of the final based on time. He'll need to be more aggressive at the front when he gets to Eugene, but there aren't many runners like Manternach who can keep their composure on the final straight away after challenging up front.
Erik Martinsson (UT-Arlington)
Much like Manternach, Martinsson is also a huge underdog after running a season best of only 1:49. It would take a near miracle to pull off the win. Still, a slower pace, bad performances from a few top guys, and a breakout race for Martinsson could be the perfect storm for a UT-Arlington national title.
Moujtaba Mohammad (Nebraska)
The Nebraska duo of Ty Moss and Moujtaba Mohammad caught my attention this season and I have to commend them on a job well done. They put together some solid performances and had strong results across the board. When I look at the BIG 10 prelim, I really liked what I saw from Mohammad. He stuck with the top pack, responded to surges, and made a hard charge in the last 150 to finish a couple strides ahead of Williams. There are a variety of factors that would need to be perfect if Mohammad is going to win a national title, but I would say that his best chance is to replicate that BIG 10 prelim performance. If he's able to get closer to the top pick at the beginning of the race, then he may have a shot to do something special.