A Battle for PAC-12 Half-Mile Supremacy
It’s going to be a battle between Washington, Arizona, and Oregon this weekend in the 800 meters at the Husky Classic. When you look at this field as a whole, this is quietly one of the deeper 800 meter races that we'll see this year.
Arizona’s Carlos Villarreal has the fastest PR in the field with a 1:46, although that was from 2018 when Michael Saruni dropped a 1:43 in the same. Villarreal's indoor PR is a modest 1:51, although he has only contested the event once during the winter months.
Villarreal is coming off of a mile PR at the Millrose Games. He placed 5th in a crowded finish en route to a time of 3:56, using his strong finishing kick to propel him to an NCAA top three mile time. It is unlikely that Villarreal will contend for an 800 meter spot at NCAA’s, but the shorter race does give him the chance to work on his speed. He is also entered in the 3000 meters this weekend.
Washington is bringing out middle distance veteran Mick Stanovsek and Western Oregon transfer Dustin Nading. Stanovsek is a strong miler, having broken the four minute barrier on numerous occasions, and he also owns a 1:49 personal best in this event. In his last race, Stanovsek ran a 4:09 in the mile and placed 36th overall, a rare off-day for the senior who ran 3:59 just two weeks prior to that.
New teammate Dustin Nading is another name to watch in this race as he has run 2:22 in the 1000 meters earlier this season. That, along with his recent 3:59 mile PR, is hard to ignore when talking about talented middle distance runners. A Division Two transfer, Nading must be looking to improve upon his speed before turning his focus back to the mile, an event he owns a D2 national title in.
Oregon’s James West would have been a big name to watch closely in the 800 meters, but considering that he is also entered in the mile and 3000 meters, this doesn't seem like a race that he will actually contest this weekend.
If you look at all of the men mentioned above, each one owns a sub-4:00 mile PR. The 800 isn’t their main event and it won’t be what they go after at Nationals. However, if they're looking to develop speed and refine their race tactics, then this will be a great opportunity.
Six Sub-4:00 Milers Offer Exciting Depth
Numerous men in this mile field own personal bests under 4:00 for the mile, but there are still plenty of others trying to break that barrier.
Texas ace Sam Worley was the 6th place finisher at the 2019 Indoor National Championship in the mile and has placed 5th and 9th in the 1500 meters at the Outdoor National Championships. He is coming off of his 3000 meter debut, running an 8:08 at the Razorback Invitational, as well as running a leg on the DMR at the same meet.
Worley recorded a DNF at the Boston University John Thomas Terrier Classic recently which is a bit concerning considering it’s mid-February and he hasn’t put together a solid performance yet. The Texas junior is experienced and knows what it takes to qualify for NCAA’s. Seeing him succeed on the national stage isn't a concern, but the clock is ticking towards actually getting there.
Oregon’s James West and Charlie Hunter will be running on Washington’s oversized track and looking for a national qualifier of their own. West has qualified twice for NCAA’s in the 3000 meters, owning a PR of 7:51. What really stands out, though, are his 1500/mile personal bests of 3:35 and 3:57, respectively. With his unique mix of speed and endurance, West should find himself well within the top 16 after this weekend.
Hunter was also member of Oregon’s record-breaking DMR two weeks ago and is looking to return to NCAA’s in the mile for the second year in a row. He was 8th at the National Championships last winter in the mile and is experienced enough to requalify...or even win. His top-end speed is arguably just as good as anyone else in this field.
Crayton Carrozza (Texas) and Sam Tanner (Washington) will be battling for the title of “Top True Freshman” in the mile this weekend. Both have run 3:59, but Tanner comes out on top as far as TFRRS is concerned. Tanner is currently sitting at #12 in Division One while Carrozza is behind him at #17. Hoping that this race is fast, both freshmen could see another jump in time and hopefully ranking when it's all said and done.
Derek Holdsworth (Western Oregon) will also be on the line, looking to run the first sub-4:00 mile of his career and jump up in the Division Two rankings. If he does, he will only further complicate the D2 NCAA Championship picture as far as event selection is concerned.
Powerhouse Battle: Wisconsin, Oregon, Stanford, & NAU
Wisconsin, Oregon, Stanford, and Northern Arizona each have two entries on the performance list for the 3000 meters this weekend. Oliver Hoare and Olin Hacker (Wisconsin), Cooper Teare and James West (Oregon), Thomas Ratcliffe and Alex Ostberg (Stanford), and Ryan Raff and Abdihamid Nur (Northern Arizona) will be the main players in this race. All of these men have the ability to vie for a top three finish, but of course, only one will walk away with the individual win.
Hoare and Teare have to be the favorites coming into this race. Hoare has a PR of 7:48 and has the best mile speed in the field. He is coming off of a runner-up finish at the Millrose Games in the mile which resulted in a 3:56, but he will have to manage a rising star in Cooper Teare, a 7:50 3k runner who has been performing well above his pay grade as of late.
Teare finished 6th at the cross country national meet this past fall and has brought that momentum into the winter months. He was the anchor leg for the Ducks in the DMR that broke the NCAA record. What makes that record even better is that he practically soloed a 3:55 split on the anchor. Teare was 4th at the Indoor National Championships last winter in the 3000 meters and based on the way that he is running right now, he can put himself in the national title conversation despite this year being one of the best ever when it comes to the event.
It wouldn’t be surprising to see teammate James West or the Stanford duo of Ostberg or Ratcliffe behind Hoare and Teare. West and Ostberg have each run 7:51 while Ratcliffe has a 7:53 PR (unattached as a freshman).
Ostberg and West raced each other last year at the indoor national meet in the 3k with Ostberg finishing 5th and West dropping back to 15th. They each have experience on the big stage and have raced pretty much everyone in this field, so they should be somewhat comfortable against this kind of competition. This will be their season debuts in the 3k.
Thomas Ratcliffe has had a tough time in college due to injuries, but after his 3rd place finish in the 5k at the outdoor national meet, things seem to be looking up. He just ran a 4:00 mile and when healthy, can compete for a top spot. A disappointing finish to this past cross country season has left us wondering how the rising Cardinal star will rebound. His 4:00 mile performance was encouraging, but it still leaves us wanting more.
NAU’s Raff and Nur are the two dark horses in this race. At the Mountain T’s Invitational, both men ran superb 5000 meter times at altitude and found their way into the top 16 of Division One via conversions. Nur ran a converted 13:39 while Raff was just behind in 13:40.
Nur will be making his 3k debut at the Husky Classic and based on the men in the field, he should run under eight minutes. Raff should also see a sub-8:00 mark next to his name. He ran 8:10 last year at the Iowa State Classic, but it's clear that he has matured into a much smarter (and simply more fit) runner.
Raff is also entered in the 5000 meters, but we believe that the 3k will be his focus.
Altitude Athletes vs Sea Level Athletes at 5000 Meters
The men from Colorado, Northern Arizona, and BYU will be sending an army of altitude athletes down to Seattle to toe the line for the 5000 meters. Meanwhile, teams like Washington and Arkansas won't be seeing much of a drastic impact in their elevation change.
In the end, who will fare better?
Colorado’s dynamic duo of Joe Klecker and John Dressel are entered in the 5k. Klecker is coming off of a 4:01 mile performance which was run in Boulder, Colorado (ultimately converting to an NCAA-leading time of 3:55) and a shiny 3k PR of 7:47 from the Millrose Games. He was runner-up last year in the 5k at Indoor Nationals and is one of the title favorites heading into this year’s national meet so long as he runs a qualifying time (which he surely will).
The Colorado senior has a 13:35 5k PR (technically 13:30 if you count his unattached performance from the 2018 Portland Track Festival) and could very easily match that personal best this weekend given that Klecker is in the best shape of his life.
Dressel hasn’t competed since the 2019 cross country national meet where he finished 7th in a deep field, but it's a bit surprising to see that he's making his season debut in mid-February. The Colorado veteran owns a 5k PR of 13:41 and has placed as high as 4th at an Indoor National Championships in the 5000 meters (2017). There are few athletes as experienced and as consistent as Dressel is. This field will be deep, but if he's healthy, he's more than capable of helping the Buffaloes put together a 1-2 finish.
Ryan Raff of NAU shocked the NCAA when he ran an altitude-converted 13:40 at the Mountain T’s Invitational the other weekend, catapulting into the top 16 on the NCAA leaderboard. It will be interesting to see how Raff does at sea level, on an oversized track, and against some of the NCAA’s best. However, he is also entered in the 3000 meters. We see that being that more likely option in terms of what Raff will actually run at the Dempsey this weekend.
One more altitude runner to watch for is BYU’s Jacob Heslington. The Cougar senior is coming off of a 7:55 3k PR and is slowly rising towards becoming one of the better distance runners in the country. With his newfound confidence following a 21st place finish at the NCAA XC Championships, Heslington could challenge the men ahead of him and secure a top 16 time in the NCAA.
Then we have the sea level athletes.
Washington’s Tanner Anderson ran 13:40 at Boston in early December, a race that resulted in one of the best marks of his entire career. He has only competed once since then, running 8:02 in the 3000 meters, running one second shy of his PR.
Anderson is an experienced collegiate veteran who has slowly progressed over his year's with Andy Powell as his coach. Tactically, Anderson has always been one of the best with times that were solid, but not necessarily eye-catching. This year, however, seems to be a bit of a different story as Anderson has seemingly taken one step up in fitness.
Arkansas's Gilbert Boit will be the other non-altitude athlete who is expected to toe the line for the 5k this weekend. Boit is a unique name to think about in this race. His wins over the Alabama duo in previous races shows that he can handle an aggressive pace and still come out on top, but Klecker looks like a whole different beast this season.
Boit didn’t compete this past fall, but an early-season 13:44 5k performance back in December has him been sitting at NCAA #11 on the TFRRS leaderboard. The Razorback star has yet to individually qualify for an indoor national meet in his career.
Boit is also slated to compete in the mile, an interesting move for a predominantly longer distance athlete. We think he will focus on the 5000 meters over the mile, but if the coaching staff is willing to gamble that the 5000 meter national qualifying won't be faster than 13:44, then maybe Boit toes the line for the mile instead.
Wisconsin’s Olin Hacker is entered in the 3000 meters and has a 7:53 PR. He has only raced once this indoor season, a 4:04 mile at the Iowa Larry Wieczorek Invite. Hacker missed out on NCAA’s last year, but if he is in top form, he could qualify alongside teammate Hoare in a field that will surely run something close to 7:50.
Waleed Suliman (Ole Miss), Cameron Griffith (Arkansas), and Carlos Villarreal (Arizona) are expected to compete in the 3k alongside some of the nation’s best. Suliman has only raced at the Vanderbilt Invitational this season, winning the mile over Ryan Adams in a time of 3:57. This will be Suliman’s first collegiate 3k. Griffith and Villarreal are both strong middle distance runners, especially in the 1500 meters, but they have proven to be just as good in the 3000 meters. Griffith owns a 7:49 3k PR from 2018 while Villarreal is close behind with 7:52.
Emmanuel Cheboson of Arkansas will be running in his second race as a Razorback since transferring this winter from Louisville. Cheboson owns an 8:02 3k PR, a time recently run at the Razorback Invitational.