Updated: Feb 14
Men's Preview Coming Soon
As it has been all season, distance runners will be flocking to Seattle, Washington to compete on the oversized track at the University of Washington this weekend. The Husky Classic is a prestigious meet and consistently produces top times from the 800 meters up to the 5000 meters. With the indoor season now in full-gear, some athletes are looking to secure a potential national qualifying time as the end of the regular season nears the end.
With a mix of professionals and top NCAA talents in the fields, each event for the respective gender is sure to be fast.
BYU's Camp & Ellsworth vs Schoffield At 800 Meters
Lauren Ellsworth and Anna Camp are the heavy favorites heading into the Husky Classic at 800 meters after leading the Cougars to an NCAA lead in the DMR. Ellsworth has a PR of 2:02 from last spring and is coming off of a very strong 800 leg in the DMR. During the 2019 outdoor track season, Ellsworth qualified for the National Championship in the 800, placing 11th in the prelim.
Although she has yet to earn an All-American honor in an individual event, 2020 looks to be Ellsworth’s year where she finds her way on to the podium. However, the BYU ace will need a strong race this weekend if she wants to qualify for NCAA’s. Her current seasonal best is well off the top 16 position that she needs to qualify, leaving us to believe that she will be a bit more aggressive than usual with her pacing.
Challenging Ellsworth will be teammate Camp, a 2:03 half-miler in her own right. Camp led BYU on the 1200 meter leg of the winning DMR at the UW Invitational a few weeks ago. She had to race the leg twice in less than 24 hours due to an officiating mistake, but that didn’t stop Camp from getting the stick around the track as fast as she could. Aside from the DMR, Camp has also had considerable success in the 800 meters this season, placing 3rd at Dr. Sander Columbia Challenge behind two professional athletes en route to a mark of 2:06. Right now, Camp is ranked at NCAA #14 for the event, but will need to improve upon her time in order to safely secure a national qualifying spot.
If someone were to attempt to break up the BYU duo, it would most likely be Boise State’s Kristie Schoffield. Schoffield owns a 2:02 800 meter PR and qualified for both the Indoor and Outdoor National Championships last year. She fared better during outdoors, placing 6th in a deep field at Nationals, and has been a major name on our radar this season.
Schoffield has competed three times this indoor season, running the 1000 meters, the mile, and 4x400 meters relay. It is hard to gauge where the Boise State junior is right now in terms of fitness considering she ran a 5:04 mile at UW two weeks ago.
If Schoffield can replicate that same half-mile magic that we saw from her last year, then she should be considered a favorite to take home the top collegiate spot this weekend.
Danae Rivers vs. Arkansas In The Mile
Danea Rivers (Penn State) will be racing in the mile for the second time in the span of a week. Does this mean that Rivers will move her focus to the mile for the latter part of the season? I don’t have an answer to that, but after her 4:32 at the Millrose Games, it is very possible. Rivers currently sits at NCAA #4 in the mile and could contend for the win come Nationals in said event.
Throughout her career, Rivers has been predominantly been an 800 meter specialist, qualifying for a handful National Championships and winning the 2019 indoor national title at the half-mile distance. Rivers has put up some solid marks this season already, including a 2:04 season best in the 800 and the aforementioned 4:32 mile time, but does she have what it takes to challenge the women of Arkansas in the mile this weekend?
Arkansas is stacking the mile field with Carina Viljoen, Krissy Gear, and Katie Izzo all entered. Viljoen owns a 4:33 personal best in the mile and has been consistent this year (as well as her entire career) with a 4:36 and 4:37 in her two races at the distance. During the 2019 indoor season, Viljoen placed 5th in the mile at Nationals and is the top returning athlete from that field. After a stellar cross country season, Viljoen has found a way to maintain her momentum. She could vie for the individual title against the Husky Classic field.
Two transfers who have been on the rise at Arkansas are Gear and Izzo. Gear, a mid-year transfer from Furman, has already tremendously improved. Gear ran her mile PR of 4:37 two weeks ago at the Razorback Invitational and also helped lead the Razorbacks to a runner-up finish in the DMR. Izzo slates in right behind Gear with a 4:37 PR of her own. Izzo, who is also entered in the 3000 meters, will be able to work with her teammates this weekend in an attempt to limit the damage that Rivers is expected to have on this field.
Orton Makes 3k Debut, Faces Elite-Level Field
It’s been a long time coming for Orton to make her 3000 meter debut after a successful cross country season, a 15:22 5k PR, and a 4:29 mile personal best. Luckily, the wait is over. With her mix of speed and endurance, the 3k could be Orton’s best event on the track this season.
Orton pushed Adidas pro Nikki Hiltz all the way to the line in the mile at Dr. Sander Columbia Challenge in late January and seeing the depth of this Husky Classic field, it could be another nail-biting race for Orton. The BYU Cougar appears to be unafraid to push from the beginning and somehow still have enough to stay competitive with top finishers in the homestretch.
She'll certainly need that mix of aggressiveness and finishing speed when she toes the line against Ella Donaghu (Stanford), Jessica Lawson (Stanford), Katie Rainsberger (Washington), Melany Smart (Washington), Gabrielle Jennings (Furman), Alicia Monson (Wisconsin) and Katie Izzo (Arkansas).
The Stanford duo of Donaghu and Lawson have put down solid time after solid time. Donaghu has run 4:33 in the mile and 8:58 in the 3k thus far, times that currently place her within the top five for Division One. After a pair of break seasons last fall and spring, it was expected for Donaghu to improve on the track. Did we expect it to be this much this early on? Not quite. You could make the argument that she is in contention to win a national title this year, and a solid race in the 3k this weekend would only help that cause.
Lawson should be close behind Donaghu this weekend after her surge of recent success. With a new mile PR of 4:35, Lawson’s 9:09 3k personal best could drop under the 9:00 barrier this weekend. She has mimicked the same success that we've seen from Donaghu over the past few seasons, albeit just at a slightly lighter level.
Washington's Rainsberger and Smart are two more ladies that Orton will have to fend off. Rainsberger is an experienced runner, specifically in the 3000 meters and has continued to prove why she should be in the All-American conversation each and every weekend. She has already run 9:01 this season and kept things competitive with Orton on the anchor leg of the DMR two weeks ago.
True freshman Mel Smart will join her teammate after competing unattached in the 3k at the UW Invitational. Her 9:17 performance was promising given her youth and inexperience, but it will be interesting to see if she gets over the learning curve this weekend and replicates her cross country success on the oval.
Furman's Gabrielle Jennings is coming off of a 4:37 mile (flat-track converted to 4:34) at the Camel City Invitational last weekend. After a pair of strong mile results this season, it was assumed that Jennings will focus on the mile come Nationals. However, the 3000 meters (in theory) may be her ideal event. She currently owns a 9:26 PR, but that should drop significantly weekend against this kind of competition.
Monson and Izzo are both entered in two events this weekend. Monson is entered in the 3k and 5k while Izzo is entered in the mile and 3k. Assuming they focus on just one event, Monson may opt for the 5000 meters after just competing in the 3000 meters at the Millrose Games. Meanwhile, Izzo may opt for the 3k to secure a potential NCAA qualifier.
Monson owns a 8:45 best in the 3k from the 2019 Millrose Games and she has already ensured that she will qualify for Nationals in this event. Izzo, on the other hand, has yet to race the 3k and after her 15:13 5k from December, she should see massive improvement upon her 9:29 PR from her time at Cal Poly.
If Orton continues to do what she has been doing over the past five months, she should be the favorite to finish as the top collegiate. However, Izzo has shown on numerous occasions that she can outrun Orton if the pace is fast enough, and Monson (if she runs the 3k) is one of the few women capable of matching Orton's endurance-speed combo.
In other words, the 3000 meters is going to be one thrilling race.
Monson Highlights Field Loaded With Important Debuts
Alicia Monson is slated to race both the 3000 and 5000 this weekend at Washington, although it's fair to assume that she will only race one event. In this case, we feel confident that it will be the 5000 meters. The Husky Classic is expected to be Monson’s 2020 debut in the 5k, the event she won the 2019 indoor individual title in.
The Wisconsin senior has a 15:31 PR and depending on who you ask, could end up with NCAA gold in this event come March. Given her consistency and history of success, she doesn't necessarily have to match her PR to earn that consideration.
The closest competitors to her are expected to be Jessica Drop (Georgia) and Devin Clark (Arkansas). Drop and Clark both own 5k personal bests of 15:38, but a crowded upper-tier in the distance events has taken the attention from woman like Drop and Clark. Drop has already raced this season, earning time of 4:44 (mile) and 9:18 (3)k. Clark has yet to debut, but after strong outdoor track and cross country seasons, she should be good to go against some stiff competition.
Other names to watch in the 5k will be Esther Gitahi (Alabama), Aoibhe Richardson (San Francisco), and Savannah Carnahan (Furman).
Gitahi placed 3rd in the 5k at the outdoor national meet last spring. She has clocked a 4:50 mile and 9:32 3k this season, both just shy of her current PR’s. The Alabama runner is clearly better equipped for the longer distances, so if she sticks near the front alongside Monson, Drop, and Clark, she could be pulled to a fast time and prove that her 3rd place finish outdoors wasn’t a one-time ordeal.
Then we have San Francisco ace Aohibe Richardson who was a surprising 19th at the cross country national meet in November. Since then, she has only competed once this season, a 3000 meter race at Washington two weeks ago. She has a current personal best of 16:16 in this event, but if this is a fast race, sub-16:00 is certainly possible for the recent breakout runner.
Furman's Savannah Carnahan has a 15:45 PR to her name and much like a handful of other women in this preview, had a strong cross country season, earning an All-American honor via 13th place finish at the national meet. The Furman athlete has started four races this indoor season, but has only finished two of them. It is difficult to see where Carnahan’s current fitness is given the DNF’s, but she it's clear that she is more than capable of staying with a consistently honest pace.
Monson will most likely push the pace in this race in an attempt to ensure that she qualifies for NCAA’s in an event that is very top-heavy. As of now, the #16 best time in Division One is 16:16, but that mark will certainly get MUCH faster after this weekend.
Western Colorado’s Bailey Sharon will be rubbing elbows with some of the NCAA’s best. Sharon is a top Division Two athlete in the 800 meters and owns a PR of 2:07. She was 4th last winter at the Division Two national meet. Bailey has had a slower start to the season, only running a 2:13 for the 800 (at altitude), but in a race like this, a PR is possible.
Alyssa Brewer of USC will also be in the 800 behind the BYU women and Kristie Schoffield. Brewer has a 2:04 personal best in the half-mile and could vie for a top three finish at the Husky Classic. She has already run 2:08 this season, but needs to take the next step forward to reappear in the national picture.
There are obviously more than just Rivers and the Arkansas women in the mile. Division Two stud Stephanie Cotter (Adams State) will be making her indoor debut. Cotter won the cross country national title, the 1500 meter national title, and the mile national title during the 2019 seasons. Cotter has run 4:50, converted to 4:48, and that time should surely be improved upon when she races the ladies in this field. She'll have plenty incentive to run fast given the 4:39 that Allie Ludge ran last weekend. Cotter is also entered in the 3000 meters, but that would be a career debut for the Adams State ace.
PAC-12 competitors Susan Ejore (Oregon) and Rachel McArthur (Colorado) will also be competing in the mile. Both women will be running their first mile of the season. Ejore owns a 4:34 PR and is already off to a great start this indoor season with her wildly impressive 800 meter and 1000 meter performances. Meanwhile, McArthur ran the 800 at the Colorado Invite two weekends ago, recording an altitude converted 2:09. However, her 4:37 mile PR from her time at Villanova tells us that this distance may be her best event when it comes to the indoor oval. Both women are capable of making some serious noise in this race, but it will be interesting to see how much of their speed will play a role.
Sarah Feeny (Utah), Carmela Cardama Baez (Oregon) and Adva Cohen (New Mexico) are all expected to race the 3k this weekend. Feeny was an All-American last winter in the mile, but might be going after the 3k this year. She owns a 9:07 personal best and could go under 9:05 if she finds herself in the right heat. Cardama Baez has raced twice this season and both times recorded PR’s. Her 15:25 5k is the most notable performance she has on her resume this season and it safely qualifies her for NCAA’s. If Cardama Baez is going after another national qualifying mark, she chose the right race to do so. Finally we have Cohen who will be making her indoor debut at UW and could be going after a 3k PR and her first bid to the indoor national meet. She ran 9:08 last year and with this kind of field, Cohen could also threaten to dip under 9:05.