Part 2 is now up!
What does every entrant for every distance event need to do in order to win the national title? We gave a few of our thoughts...
Josh Kerr (New Mexico)
- It should be pretty obvious that Josh Kerr is the favorite in this one. If he wants to win, he just needs to act like the favorite. He can win whether the pace is slow or fast. As long as he dictates how this race plays out, he should have the ability to kick it in or run away from the field.
Jonah Koech (UTEP)
- After a couple of seasons where he has struggled, it looks like Koech is back near the top of his game. If that's the case, he may be able to channel some of that 1:46 800 speed from outdoors during his freshman year and kick away from the rest of the field.
Kasey Knevelbaard (Southern Utah)
- Knevelbaard may have one of the most underrated kicks in the NCAA. If this race goes out slow enough and Knevelbaard doesn't have a lot of traffic in front of him, I truly believe he could out-kick anyone in the field (which includes Josh Kerr).
Vincent Ciattei (Virginia Tech)
- The Hokies are set to field three men in this race and it would be silly if they didn't take advantage of that. Whether it be establishing the pace or allowing each other to get through traffic, the VT trio needs to work together if one of them wants to defeat Kerr and the rest of this field.
Patrick Joseph (Virginia Tech)
- See Vincent Ciattei
Cole Rockhold (Colorado State)
- This will be a difficult race for Cole Rockhold to gauge as he still has the 3000 meters after this race. That means he would probably prefer a tactical race where he can at least sit-and-kick. Can he out-run guys like Josh Kerr and Kasey Knevelbaard? I'm not too sure about that, but it is his best chance if he also wants to have some left for the 3000.
Sam Prakel (Oregon)
-Much like the Hokies, Oregon also has three men entered in this field. Historically, the Ducks have worked well together when they have multiple men in one prelim or final. They will need to replicate that teamwork if they want someone to break away from the field and earn the gold.
Neil Gourley (Virginia Tech)
- See Vincent Ciattei
Reed Brown (Virginia Tech)
- See Sam Prakel
Zach Perrin (Colorado)
- Many people might think of Perrin as a Mile/3000 guy, but he also has 1:49 speed. Not too many others in the NCAA have the range that he does. In Perrin's last two races (both 3000's), he struggled to stick with a fast pace which led to him placing 18th and 39th overall. Based off of those performances, something is telling me that he may thrive in a sit-and-kick type race. Much like Rockhold, I'm not sure that he can match the kick of Kerr and Knevelbaard, but it does seem like his best bet.
Diego Leon (Montana State)
- A week before conference championships, Diego Leon came out of nowhere to throw down a 3:57 that was converted from a flat-track AND altitude. At this point, Leon doesn't have much to lose. He is coming down in altitude by 4500 feet and will be on a banked track when he toes the line in College Station. At this point, why not go all-out and see if the chase pack can catch him? If he gets to the finals, then guys like Josh Kerr, the VT trio, and the Oregon trio will most likely be on tired legs after running prelims AND the DMR the night before.
Amos Bartelsmeyer (Georgetown)
- At the UCS Invite, Bartelsmeyer got the baton, opened up his anchor leg in 55 seconds, and closed on the field to get Georgetown the win and split a 3:57. If Bartelsmeyer can control the race and throw in some unexpected surges, he may catch a few others in this field by surprise. An inconsistent and fluctuating pace can be trouble for even the top milers in the nation which could open a door for Bartlesmeyer to take the win.
Carlos Villareal (Arizona)
- After breaking 4-minutes for the first time in his career, Villareal talked about having to work on his mid-race strength and not relying just on his kick. Sure enough, he did just that when he threw down a 3:57 at the Husky Classic. If Villareal can combine that top-end speed while still having the strength to stick with a fast pace, he could very easily challenge some of the best names in this field...including Josh Kerr.
Mick Stanovsek (Oregon)
- See Sam Prakel
Sam Worley (Texas)
- The Texas freshman phenom has been great all year with times of 3:58 and 1:48. This will be his first time competing in a national championship (he was a DNS for XC) so it's difficult to say how he could pull off a win. With 1:48 speed, his bet is to kick a little earlier than the rest of the field if the race becomes tactical. If he begins to kick with 250 to go, you never know what might happen...
Sean Tobin (Ole Miss)
- Sean Tobin has been a smart runner this season with multiple top five finishes in nearly every race he has toed the line (except for one). After winning a very tactical SEC title in the Mile, Tobin may find that his racing style can work again at NCAA's. With 1:47 speed, expect Tobin to try and go with the leaders if the pace becomes slow for most of the race.
Michael Saruni (UTEP)
- Just get out of trouble as soon as he can. Last indoor season he got DQ'd after jostling with other athletes as they entered a curve. In the spring, he got tripped up by his then-teammate Emmanuel Korir and finished last in the final. This season, Saruni is so much better than the rest of the field that he simply just needs to get out to the front and stay away from traffic. If he does that, he should be an automatic gold.
Bryce Hoppel (Kansas)
- He has won in tactical races, won in fast races, and has the ability to double. If Saruni gets caught in traffic or just has a bad day, Hoppel has a chance to separate himself from the rest of the field and emerge as the top finisher in this race.
John Lewis (Clemson)
- Lewis may be the best suited for this race. He is known for pushing the pace and getting out hard from the gun. If anyone can rattle Saruni, Lewis may be the guy to do it if he is able to drop a big time.
Robert Heppenstall (Wake Forest)
- Heppenstall may be one of the most consistent post-season runners in the NCAA. He has yet to walk away from a championship race without an All-American finish. If the pace is slow enough and if Saruni is within reach, expect Heppenstall to be one of the guys to battle for the top spot.
Devin Dixon (Texas A&M)
- Much like Lewis, Dixon thrives off fast paces. If he is able to maintain his composure, he may be able to challenge Saruni if he begins to lag in the final moments of the race. Still, he would need a big breakout performance if he wants to shock the nation and win gold.
Isiah Harris (Penn State)
- If Heppenstall isn't one of the best post-season runners in the NCAA, then Harris definitely is. With a personal best of 1:44, a World Championship qualification, and multiple All-American finishes, Harris may be the only one in this field to legitimately challenge Saruni. His best bet may be to match fitness to fitness. If he's willing to go with the pace, he may be able to hang with Saruni.
Avery Bartlett (Georgia Tech)
- Bartlett finished 4th at ACC's, but that was by less than a second. If the pace is slow at NCAA's, Bartlett can still have a shot at the dub if he is able to position himself in a spot with minimal traffic. That, of course, is harder to do than it sounds.
Marco Arop (Mississippi State)
- Although he had an off-day at SEC's, Arop has been one of the best 800 runners in the nation this season with two wins and a 1:47.62 PR. The freshman doesn't have a lot of experience of racing on the big-stage, so why not go out and test his limits? Unlike the longer distances, young guys have often succeeded in the mid-distances, specifically the 800 (i.e. Brazier, Korir, Saruni, etc). With his potential still not fully tapped, a fast race against one of the best in the nation may bode well for him and lead to a surprise gold if he gets really lucky...
Vincent Crisp (Texas Tech)
- The Texas Tech veteran thrives in fast races. If enough guys like Lewis and Dixon get ahead of the field, Saruni may be stuck behind the rest of the pack. A scenario like that, although unlikely, gives Crisp a great opportunity.
Myles Marshall (Harvard)
- A heavy portion of this field may thrive in fast races, but Marshall may be better off in a race where the pace lags. With a 300 personal best of 34.49 and a 400 personal best of 47.70, he may have enough top-end speed to challenge Saruni in the final 200 of a tactical race.
Dylan Capwell (Monmouth)
- It may have been a while since Capwell seriously contended for a national title, but he has the experience of racing at the front. If he has enough room to navigate the front of the pack alongside Saruni, he may be able to react to surges and put himself in a position to earn a top finish. It happened in 2015, so who's to say it can't happen again in 2018?
Daniel Kuhn (Indiana)
- Much like Marshall, Kuhn has some wicked fast speed in the shorter distances with times of a 1:01 500 and a 1:17 600. If the race starts out slow, Kuhn's speed may the best in the field, especially from 400 out.
Abraham Alvarado (BYU)
- One of the more underrated names in this field is Abraham Alvarado. Although he has isolated himself to just the 800 (with a few appearances in the Mile), he also put himself in a position to be prepared for nearly any race scenario. With two wins in the Mile this season and a training environment that takes place at altitude, Alvarado may be able to handle a more aggressive pace that would typically tire the rest of the field. If that happens and Alvarado is at the front, he'll need to respond to the change in urgency a little earlier than everyone else if he wants to contend for the win.
Clay Lambourne (Utah State)
- We talked about the outstanding sprint speed that we've seen from Daniel Kuhn and Myles Marshall, but Lambourne's range extends all the way down to the 60 meters. With personal bests of 22.36 and 47.42, Lambourne could play a big role in this race if the pace goes out slowly.
Michael Rhoads (Air Force)
- After having a lifetime best performance almost 10 days ago, it's hard to say what race strategy best suits Rhoads. His focus as a 400/800 runner means that he has great speed, but can he kick with all of these other guys? Rhoads will have to use the traffic to his advantage if wants to work around some of these top stars and give himself an opportunity to finish in the top pack.
Dejon Devroe (Mississippi State)
- Mississippi State has a history of strong 800 runners and that history has reemerged this season with three men under the 1:50 mark. It's tough to say what tactic Devroe should attempt, but much like Marco Arop, he doesn't have much to lose. If he can go out there and push the pace, he can at least control the race from the front and give himself a shot to pull away from the field with a surprise performance.
Justyn Knight (Syracuse)
- If the pace goes out hard, Knight can outrun the field. If the race comes down to a kick, Knight should be able to pull away for the win as well. In an event like this, he's not invincible. However, he is the favorite and should be able to win regardless of race tactic.
Andy Trouard (Northern Arizona)
- After his upset win over Grant Fisher at Iowa State, it seems pretty clear that Andy Trouard could be a legitimate threat to take gold. Much like Knight, he can handle a fast pace and still throw down a pretty strong kick. Don't be surprised if you see a repeat of the ISU 3K this weekend.
Grant Fisher (Stanford)
- He may have been out-kicked by Trouard at Iowa State, but Fisher's best bet it to bring it down to a kick. He won the 5K national title last spring on a kick, so who's to say he shouldn't do any differently now? He'll have to hope that the race becomes tactical.
Colby Gilbert (Washington)
- Much like Trouard, Gilbert found success earlier this season in a fast race that came down to a final kick. The Washington Husky has some experience in the shorter distances, so if the races becomes tactical, he's just another top-tier name who could be in the running to win it all.
Cameron Griffith (Arkansas)
- I don't want to sound like a broken record, but Griffith also has a lot of solid marks in the mid-distance events. With personal bests of 1:50 and 2:23, Griffith can be a gold medal contender in the final moments of the race if his positioning with the rest of the pack allows him a clear lane to kick..
Jonathan Davis (Illinois)
- As inexperienced as he may be, Davis should still be considered one of the top guys in the nation this year. After finishing 3rd at Iowa State with a 7:49, I felt that Davis waited too long to move himself up to the top pack. By the time he slid himself to the front, Fisher and Trouard had already separated themselves from the field. If Davis can put himself at the front of the pack with 200-300 to go and be prepared to run with the top group when they make their move, they he may have a chance at a massive upset.
Cole Rockhold (Colorado State)
- Typically, a faster race may play into Rockhold's favor. However, with a Mile prelim and final all before this event, he may want a tactical race to avoid being dropped simply from having tired legs. He may not have the same speed as some of these other guys, but if he can get himself to the front and react to moves before the rest of the field does, he'll have a shot at earning the dub this weekend.
Kyle Mau (Indiana)
- Much like Jonathan Davis, I felt that Mau waited a bit too long to move up to the front pack at Iowa State. If he was able to secure a better position up front, he may have reacted sooner to the hard moves made by Trouard and Fisher in that final 250 or so.
Ben Saarel (Colorado)
- Saarel is an aerobic beast and should not be slept on in a field like this. He's one of the few guys that I think could take out the pace hard and hang on. He did it at the Olympic Trials 1500 prelims in 2016 and I think that it could potentially work out here as well if the rest of the field is caught off-guard.
James West (Oregon)
- We don't know a whole lot about the British distance star, but with a personal best of 1:49 in the 800, West has speed that no one else in this field has. If the race becomes tactical and comes down to a final kick, do not underestimate what this Oregon Duck can do...
Oliver Hoare (Wisconsin)
- Hoare put himself in great position at Iowa State with 400 to go, but simply couldn't respond to the rest of the field when they began their kick. If the pace is a little slower (around 8:00-8:10), Hoare may have a shot to unleash some of that Mile speed we heard about at Alex Wilson where he split a 3:54. If he does that, he may be able to contend with the top guys in the field...and potentially upset them.
Mike Tate (Southern Utah)
- Much like the 5000 meters, Tate's best bet is to go out hard and lead from the gun. He may not be able to drop guys like Knight and Fisher, but he'll at least take away from the closing speed from most of the field. If he can make this an all-out race based solely on who's the most fit, I think Tate could be the x-factor for a surprise title.
Lawrence Kipkoech (Campbell)
- Just like I mentioned with Tate, Kipkoech is someone who can take the pace out hard and still hang around the front of the pack. If he can catch the pack off-guard with a hard move around 1K to go, he may have a shot at pulling away from the rest of the field.
Kigen Chemadi (Mid. Tenn. State)
- It's hard to really know what race style best suits Chemadi. He has solid marks in every event from the 800 to the 5000, but nothing that really stands out. If the race is tactical and Chemadi still finds himself at the front of the pack, starting his kick a little further out than usual may catch a few people by surprise and give him an edge as they near the finish line.
Dillon Maggard (Utah State)
- Maggard fell to Knight in the Iowa State 5K after failing to match his kick in the final 150 meters. Maggard has the fitness and talent to compete with Knight, but he needs to catch him off-guard. If they can replicate their race at Iowa State, Maggard needs to make his move earlier and get in front of Knight with 150 to go. It's not fool-proof, but it will at least give him a shot.
Matthew Baxter (Northern Arizona)
- Baxter ran a gutsy race in the Iowa State 3K after leading the field through 2700 meters. He did fall back in that meet, but it was still a strong performance overall. If NCAA's is anything like it Iowa State, Baxter may want to consider starting out towards the back and working his way up and into the lead with halfway to go. That way, he can still dictate a heavy portion of the race and not have go through the difficulties of taking the lead for the entire duration.