John Cusick (800 / Mile)
Michael Weidenbruch (3k / 5k)
There isn’t a whole lot of emphasis on the 800 this time around at the Husky Classic. In fact, there's only four total heats of the event (which is relatively low for a meet that hosts so many teams). The name that immediately headlines the event is Harun Abda of Nike’s Oregon Track Club Elite, but we’re not here for the professionals. We want to know about the collegiates.
There are four Huskies in the fast heat with Jason Palmer, Devan Kirk, Conner Morello, and Cass Elliott. This would be Palmer’s first ever 800 if he were to finish, giving us an idea that he may be pacing through for a quick time. Kirk and Morello have both broken 1:50 before while Elliott is looking to dip underneath that barrier this weekend. If they have a good day and are paced properly, Kirk and Morello could sneak into the national qualifying conversation...
Hari Sathyamurthy of Stanford is also in the fast heat and after helping the Stanford team run a fast time in the distance medley relay two weeks ago, he’ll be looking to log a fast time to put himself in a good position for March. He has a personal best of 1:49.93 from last year’s outdoor season.
The other two athletes in this final heat are Nickson Rotich of Eastern Kentucky and Sean Munnelly of UMass Lowell. Rotich has run two 800's prior to this one, clocking times of 1:50 (converted to 1:49) and 1:52. The junior holds a best of 1:49.52, which was also set during the outdoor season last year. As for Munnelly, he just ran a mile in 4:15 (PR) last weekend and comes into the meet with a 1:48.68 as his best.
All of these athletes seem to be on the same plain when it comes to their best times in this event. This usually signals a strong race and likely some new personal bests coming from it. It will help that Abda from OTC Elite is racing and he should carry some of these athletes to a strong time.
Moving to the mile, we have what feels like a more electric field. There are seven total heats with the seventh one potentially having multiple athletes go sub-4:00.
Before we get to the final heat though, there are several athletes that are more than capable of being towards the top of the results when it is all said and done.
Carlos Villarreal (Arizona, 3:57), Sam Worley (Texas, 3:58), Alex Rogers (Texas, 3:58), and Mick Stanosvek (Washington, 3:57) were all left out of the fastest heat and all are clearly capable of running the fastest (collegiate) time of the weekend. This heat also includes Izaic Yorks, Drew Piazza, and Brannon Kidder rounding out a penultimate finale. This might be the best mile matchup we will see all year (prior to Nationals). Heck, it might even be better than the fast heat.
In the span of two years, Villarreal has gone from being a respectable miler to top-tier guy in the NCAA with incredible range. However, he'll have to deal with numerous mile specialists in this race. It will be interesting to see what kind of strategy he employs this weekend.
The Texas duo of Rogers and Worley seem to always produce strong results when they're in the same race and I can't imagine that this weekend will be any different. Worley has yet to break four minutes this season while Rogers has asserted himself as the top Longhorn miler so far in 2019 with back-to-back personal bests.
Mick Stanovsek has become one of the best tactical runners in the country. Not only has he elevated his fitness to a national-contending level, but he has learned how to navigate and thrive in competitive environments (such as this race). After a pair of 800's and a 2:21 for 1000 meters, expect a breakout mile performance from Stanovsek on his home track.
So where does that leave us with the fast heat and the athletes entered in that? Well, let’s take a look...
James West and Blake Haney will represent the Ducks. Haney has run 3:56 before and is coming off of a personal best in the 800 (1:49) from the Razorback Invitational two weekends ago. A few years back, Haney was considered one of the top milers in the nation. He can still be a national contender, but he needs to regain that fitness and confidence. This will be the perfect week to do so.
West has yet to break 4:00 in the mile, but has come close with his 4:02 and owns a 1500 PR of 3:37. He ran 1:50 recently and was apart of the Oregon DMR team that ran 9:36.
Jonah Koech of Texas Tech is another athlete yet to break 4:00, but his pedigree says that he should be capable of getting under that 4:00 barrier this weekend. Koech ran 1:47 two weekends ago in the race that set the American collegiate record.
Arkansas' Cameron Griffith, a guy known for his incredible range, is entered in this race. He ran 3:59 two weekends ago at his home meet and he comes into this race with that time as his personal best. He also holds bests of 1:50 and 7:49, leading us to believe that he is capable of an even a faster time in the mile. We’ll certainly see if that claim holds true this weekend.
Colin Abert from Penn State ran 4:05 and 1:52 last weekend in the first race(s) of his season. He comes into the meet with a time of 3:59 as his personal best and it looks like this might be the race that he focuses on this winter. Abert is likely a dark horse for this race as he’s not as big of a household name. I wouldn’t be surprised if he stays in the mix and finds himself in the front with 50 meters to go.
We are finally going to see Cole Rockhold debut for the indoor season. After an injury sidelined him for the last few weeks of the cross country season, he’ll look to get back into the swing of things. He has a PR of 3:59 and has some underrated finishing speed. When it comes down to it, he’s at least going to be talked about and hopefully, it’s for the right reasons.
The last athlete to talk about is likely the favorite for the collegiate athletes and that is Kasey Knevelbaard from Southern Utah. He set a personal best two weeks ago when he ran 3:58. After that, he ran 1:51 and 8:26 at the Mountain T’s Invitational to take home two victories. After redshirting the cross country season, it’s clear the Knevelbaard is in great shape and is likely looking to run even faster than that 3:58 from two weeks ago.
Also joining this race are Brooks Beasts runners David Ribich and Henry Wynne. They’ll both be looking for strong times early in their season and that usually bodes well for the rest of the field.
The 3k is loaded with national caliber talent from around the NCAA. The Oregon Ducks are fielding Cooper Teare (who owns personal bests of 3:59 and 7:53) as well as James West who has a PR of 7:51 in this event. The Ducks have been a little quiet so far this season, but this duo could break into the national qualifying picture this weekend.
Another headliner is Isai Rodriguez, the Oklahoma State sophomore who established himself as one of the nation’s best distance runners with his 4th place finish at NCAA's in cross country. Rodriguez has yet to run a collegiate 3k, but he has run 13:53 for 5k and 4:05 in the mile.
Cameron Griffith of Arkansas is another top seed with a PR of 7:49. Griffith finished 3rd in last year’s NCAA Championship 3k, and is the top returner this season.
Stanford’s Alex Ostberg is entered in the 3k as well. He doesn’t have a listed collegiate 3k PR, but his 3:59 mile PR (which was run at UW earlier this season) should hold up against this strong field. Stanford teammate DJ Principe is entered in what will also be his collegiate 3k debut. Principe’s collegiate career has been relatively quiet after running 4:00 for the mile in high school, but the Stanford sophomore ran 4:04 in the mile at UW a few weeks ago so he seems to be rounding into shape nicely.
Texas’ Alex Rogers is entered as well, and he holds a 3k PR of 8:11 which he ran in January 2017. Rogers has been on a tear lately, running 3:59 and later 3:58 in the mile. This could be a breakout race for him if he's comfortable with moving up to the 3k distance.
Washington’s own Talon Hull is coming off of a 3:59 mile performance and will be running his first 3k of college as well which could be an impressive debut on his home track.
This race has the potential to put a bunch of guys in the NCAA top 16. None of the guys entered are currently in qualifying position, but five of them are in the top 16 for the mile so it is very likely that we could see some guys trying to get a qualifying spot in a second event before heading into conference championships.
The 5k field is shaping up to be just as impressive as the 3k. Eastern Kentucky freshman James Sugira is entered in what will be his collegiate 5k debut. The NCAA Southeast regional cross country champion and 14th place finisher at the Cross Country National Championships ran 7:58 in the 3k at Camel City last weekend, a flat-track time that converts to 7:52 which currently puts him at #9 in the NCAA. Sugira appears to be in the same terrific form he was in during the fall, so we could see him push the pace in this race.
Joe Klecker and John Dressel of Colorado are both entered with PR's of 13:42. Klecker just ran 8:01.68 for 3k at altitude, which converts to 7:48.32, an NCAA-leading time. He will likely battle for yet another qualifying mark while Dressel looks to reenter the national qualifying conversation.
Stanford’s Steven Fahy has a PR of 13:44 and comes in as another top seed. He also holds a top 16 time for 3000 meters and will be looking to follow that up with a similar result in the 5k. If he's healthy, he'll be a major factor in this race. Alek Parsons is also entered for Stanford; he has run 13:58.
Portland has entered Emmanuel Roudolff-Levisse who has recently run a personal best of 7:55 to complement his 5k PR of 13:57. Arkansas’s Gilbert Boit is coming in with a PR of 13:50 along with his teammate Austen Dalquist who has also run 13:50. UCLA’s Robert Brandt is entered with a PR of 13:41 and is coming off of a respectable win in the collegiate 3k at the Dr. Sander Columbia Challenge.
The Washington duo of Tanner Anderson and Fred Huxham will also toe the line and are coming in with PR's of 13:43 and 13:44, respectively. They will likely work together to keep the pace honest and put themselves in favorable positions throughout the race. UW teammates Gavin Parpart (14:00) and Tibebu Proctor (8:16 3k) are also entered for the Huskies.
Some other interesting entries include Oregon’s Soren Knudsen who recently ran 8:13 in the 3k and owns a PR of 13:54. Paul Roberts of Wyoming is entered, coming off of a 20th place finish at NCAA's in cross country this past fall.
The 5k at UW includes many of the nation’s best distance runners who will be looking for a coveted spot to Nationals in March. This is one of the best opportunities to throw down a fast time, as the UW track is oversized and we have yet to reach the tactical races that come with conference championships. Keep an eye out for some of these big names to break into the top 16, which currently cuts off at 14:10. I imagine we could see that cutoff dramatically lowered after the competition this weekend.