Updated: Jan 31
If you're searching for one of the deepest distance-centric meets of the weekend, look no further than the Indiana University Relays. There are stacked fields from the 800 meters up to 3000 meters. This meet will not disappoint as we get to see athletes from Wisconsin, Indiana, Middle Tennessee State University, Iowa State, and many more take to the track in an effort to throw down some soon-to-be monstrous times. This may be a rust-buster for some athletes while others are working on a new racing tactic.
The Indiana women will dominate this race based on seed times. Senior Joely Pinkston leads the field with a 2:05 personal best over 800 meters and has already competed in two 800’s this season, running 2:11 and 2:09. If she continues to chip away at the time, she should come somewhat close to her PR.
The Hoosier will be joined by teammates Kelly Mindak and Mallory Mulzer. Mindak owns a 2:06 PR while Mulzer has run 2:07. Both women have had slower starts to their indoor seasons, but with Pinkston, these three women could attempt a Hoosier podium sweep.
Wisconsin’s Hannah Reale, a redshirt freshman, will be competing in only her second attached collegiate meet. Reale raced at the Iowa Larry Wieczorek Invitational in mid-January and placed 4th in the 800 with a time of 2:13. In high school, Reale has a 2:07 800 meter PR is seeded with that exact time. If she is in top shape, the Badger could try to breakup the Indiana upperclassmen.
Where do I even begin here? Iowa State’s Festus Lagat and Roshon Roomes are entered. Indiana’s Cooper Williams, Adam Wallace, and Jalen Royal are entered. Ole Miss’ John Rivera is entered. And Wisconsin’s Oliver Hoare is entered (yes, you read that correctly). All of these men could theoretically challenge for the win, but at the very least, this race is primed to be incredibly fast.
Lagat enters the IU Relays with the fastest seed time of 1:45 which he ran at NCAA's last spring. He has been on a roll this season thus far, winning four races and placing 3rd in another (the mile). He finally ran the 800, his signature event, at the Cyclone Open last weekend and did not disappoint. Lagat won the race in 1:47, just edging out teammate Roomes. Lagat is experienced, having placed 3rd at the outdoor national meet last season, and could (should?) be looking to dip under 1:47 (and maybe even 1:46) this weekend.
Sticking with Iowa State, we’ve also got Roomes, a senior who has set two personal bests this season (2:21 in the 1000 meters and 1:16 in the 600 meters). Roomes almost took down teammate Lagat at the Cyclone Open last weekend when he finished in 1:47.74 compared to Lagat’s 1:47.55. Roomes isn't currently listed in our rankings as of right now, but that could very easily change after this weekend.
Indiana will have star half-miler Cooper Williams toeing the line for this race with hopes that competing on his home track will be to his advantage. Williams owns a 1:46 PR for 800 meters and was 5th last year at both the indoor and outdoor national meets. He is three-for-three thus far in individual events this season and has beaten some of the men in this field already. Williams is a very consistent runner, but this could be the opportunity where he throws himself into the national title conversation.
Joining Williams from Indiana will be Wallace and Royal. Both Wallace and Royal have run 1:48 in the 800 meters and will most definitely look to improve off of that time considering who they will be competing against. Both men are coming off of setting PR’s for the 400 meters and could be sleeper names this weekend if they are within striking distance of the leaders with 200 meters to go.
Rivera of Ole Miss is yet another man who could challenge those names that we already mentioned. The Rebel ace has a PR of 1:48 and that’s from earlier this season at the Vanderbilt Invitational. Another PR could be possible for Rivera if he plays his cards right, especially since he now has an understanding of how Cooper Williams will approach his race this weekend.
And finally, Wisconsin’s Oliver Hoare. Primarily a miler and 3k runner, Hoare is stepping down in distance to see where his speed is at and he will be greatly tested with this deep field. This race will be the first 800 meter competition of his collegiate career, but his middle distance times speak for themselves. With a 1000 meter personal best of 2:26, 1500 meter personal best of 3:37, and a mile personal best of 3:54, he will surely be able to compete with the top names in this field.
Alicia Monson of Wisconsin will be making her indoor track debut this weekend in an off-distance race for herself. Monson, an established 3k and 5k runner, will test her abilities in the mile before turning her attention to the Millrose Games. She owns the fastest time in the mile field by over six seconds, owning a PR of 4:38. In championship settings, Monson will occasionally throw in a late surge to separate herself from other contenders. However, with her being the class of this field, expect her to be a bit more aggressive pacing-wise at the start of this race knowing that she has enough talent to out-run her competitors.
Middle Tennessee State’s Eusila Chepkemei has a 4:55 mile PR, but has a seed time of 4:45. Chepkemei’s 2:05 PR for 800 meters catches my eye because it indicates that she has a set of wheels which could come in handy late in the race. She has also run 9:43 in the 3000 meters this season, a five second PR. With her mix of speed and endurance, a sub-4:50 result is very possible.
Olivia Howell of Illinois could be an underdog in this race. As a true freshman, this will only be her third collegiate race. Howell ran 4:43 for 1600 meters while in high school and has begun the indoor season already on a high note after running 2:10 for 800 meters. The Illinois runner could run close to her PR if the race is quick from the start.
Indiana will be headlined by three studs, Claire Hamilton, Jenna Barker, and Bailey Hertenstein. Hamilton ran 4:46 last year and then dropped a 4:22 1500 meter time during the outdoor season. Barker’s 4:48 PR comes from earlier this season at the Vanderbilt Invitational and then one week later she ran an 800 meter PR of 2:09. Hertenstein catapulted up in the NCAA ranks this past cross country season and walked away from the cross country national meet with an All-American honor. She is entered in both the mile and 3k this weekend.
If you thought the men’s 800 meters was stacked, just wait until you find out who is slated to compete in the mile. 14 men in the field have seed times under 4:05 in this race, meaning that we could see a few men dip under the four minute barrier, especially with Nike professional Andy Bayer in the field.
Florida State’s Kasey Knevelbaard, a transfer from Southern Utah, headlines the field and owns a 3:58 mile PR. Knevelbaard was an All-American twice at SUU, placing 5th in the mile in 2018 and 6th in the 1500 meters in 2019. With his experience, it should be expected to see Knevelbaard compete for a top three finish, a potential NCAA qualifier, and maybe even the win. He split 3:58 on the Seminole's DMR last weekend.
Spencer Brown of Georgetown will be looking for his first sub-4:00 mile this weekend. Brown has a 4:04 personal best, but his 3:39 1500 meter PR really stands out. If Brown stays near the front, he should surely dip under 4:00 and possibly challenge Knevelbaard for the win.
Georgetown teammate Nicholas Wareham is also entered in the mile and owns a 4:01 PR. Wareham has recorded three DNF’s this January (likely due to pacing duties) and has only completed a 1:51 800 meter time. Sub-4:00 is possible if Wareham can replicate the DMR magic that we saw from him last winter when he split 3:57.
Indiana could see a redshirt freshman vie for a top three finish in Matthew Schadler. Schadler has put down some respectable times already this season. He ran a time of 1:50 for 800 meters, a 2:23 for 1000 meters, and a 4:00 mile the other weekend at Vanderbilt, only 0.69 seconds from breaking the four minute barrier. The only drawback for Schadler is that he doesn’t have as much experience as others in this field.
Wisconsin’s Olin Hacker, typically a solid 3k runner, will be dropping down to the mile to test his strength and hopefully pick up a sub-four result of his own. Hacker owns a 4:01 PR for the mile and has already run 4:04 this season. With some extra training under his belt, Hacker could inch closer to the barrier. This mile will most likely be a tune-up for Hacker before he moves up to the 3k and attempts to qualify for NCAA’s.
Some underdogs in this race are Everett Smulders of Ole Miss, Teddy Browning of Indiana, and Sean Torpy of Miami (OH). All three of these men have run 4:07 or faster in the mile and are experienced middle distance runners. Their success in the 1500 meters during the spring season says that they can be just as good, if not better, than some of the names that we mentioned above.
Women’s 3k (Fast Section)
The Alabama women have a chance at making some serious noise in this race with Esther Gitahi, Leah Hanle, and possibly Mercy Chelangat all set to toe the line. Gitahi is the most accomplished out of the group after placing 3rd in the 5000 meters at the 2019 Outdoor National Championships. Although she only owns a 3k PR of 9:30, she has run a 4:49 mile and (more impressively) a 15:51 5k. After not racing this past cross country season, it might be a little hard to determine Gitahi’s current fitness, but I still expect her to challenge for the win before moving up to focus on the 5k later this season.
Hanle should be right with Gitahi for she owns a 9:23 3k PR. Hanle was an All-American in Division Two with Mount Olive prior to transferring to Alabama this past winter. With some solid teammates and experience, Hanle could chip away at her PR and look for a sub-9:20 result if the race goes out fast.
Bailey Hertenstein of Indiana is a key athlete to watch in this race. Hertenstein had an excellent cross country season a few months ago, highlighted by a 2nd place finish at the BIG 10 Championships and a 31st place finish at NCAA’s. The Indiana sophomore has raced a handful of times already this indoor season, but none of her performances have been eye-catching. That, however, could change this weekend. She comes into the 3k with a 9:33 PR, but just based on her recent success, sub-9:15 (or even sub-9:10) is not out of the conversation. This field may be balanced enough where Hertenstein will be pushed to a fast time while also staying in contention to win.
Rebecca Craddock of Illinois will be racing for the second time this season after her 2:51 1000 meter time at Iowa’s Larry Wieczorek Invitational. Craddock was consistent during this past cross country season before faltering a bit at NCAA’s. She is a stronger runner on the track as it is and owns a 3k best of 9:30. It wouldn’t be surprising to see Craddock drop to the 9:20’s (or faster) after this past fall where she led a breakout season for the Fightin' Illini.
Xavier’s Anna Kostarellis ran 9:33 last winter, but she has shown tremendous improvement since then, placing within the top 16 of every race this past cross country season, qualifying for the cross country national meet, and recording a 66th place finish while she there. If Kostarellis stays with the top group, a new PR could come her way.
Men’s 3k (Fast Section)
The 800 and mile are deep for the men, but so is the 3000 meters. Just looking at the entry list, there are 15 men with a seed time of 8:05 or faster. It is extremely likely that some men will break 8:00 here.
The only question is...how many?
Middle Tennessee State is sending Jacob Choge and Kigen Chemadi to IU to compete against a very tough field. Choge has a 7:50 seed time, but an 8:11 PR. He ran a 13:38 5k PR in early December, so he should surely break his current 3k personal best, especially when you consider the refinement that we've seen in his speed over the past few weeks. It is already assumed that Choge will qualify for NCAA’s based on his 5k time, so the 3k would be icing on top. It's very clear that he is pursuing a fast, national qualifying time in this event.
Chemadi owns a 7:58 PR and, like Choge, has set PR’s in both the mile and 5k this season thus far, running 4:00 and 13:36, respectively. Chemadi’s 3k PR comes from the 2018 indoor season, but he has started out this season on track to break that time.
Another team loading up in the 3k is Indiana. Kyle Mau and Ben Veatch are two highly experienced athletes and own personal bests of 7:50 and 7:56, respectively. Mau has undoubtedly been one of the better distance runners in the country over the past two years, finding his way into the national meet on numerous occasions. He is coming off of a great cross country season where he placed 12th at NCAA’s before soloing a 13:44 5k in mid-December. Mau will be looking to secure an NCAA qualifier here after a somewhat underwhelming mile performance at Vanderbilt earlier this month where he ran 4:00. This will be a key rebound race where he should be the favorite.
Veatch, a stronger 5k/10k runner, will most likely be using this race as a tune-up before taking aim at another fast 5k time. At last year’s indoor national meet, Veatch placed 7th in the 5000 meters and then was 18th in the 10k at the outdoor national meet. He had a bit of a rocky start to his season thus far, only running 13:56 for the 5k in December which was 16 seconds slower than his PR. He then recorded a DNF in the 3k at the Gladstein Invite last weekend, but it's possible that he was just there for pacing duties.
If he is in top shape, Veatch could challenge his competitors for a top five finish. We saw him pick up plenty of momentum at the end of this past cross country season, so there should be little doubt about his current aerobic fitness.
One final Hoosier to watch for is up-and-coming youngster Arjun Jha. The redshirt freshman just ran 4:00 at the Gladstein Invite and he should improve off of his 8:21 3k best from earlier in January. Just based on his mile time alone, a low 8:00 3000 meter time is in the works for Jha who was a solid supporting scorer for the Hoosiers this past fall.
After back-to-back All-American finishes at the NCAA XC Championships, and speculation about what he could do in the 15-lap affair, Waleed Sullman of Ole Miss will be making his 3k debut this weekend. An experienced middle distance runner, Suliman owns a 1:47 800 meter PR and a 3:56 mile personal best. His success makes him one of the more interesting names of this entire meet. With a mixture of speed and endurance, Waleed could run well under eight minutes if the pacing works out and maybe challenge Mau on his home track. If Suliman secures a national qualifier, it will be interesting to see how he balances that with his aptitude for the mile come March.
Two last runners to watch for are Patrick Dever of Tulsa and Aaron Bienenfeld of Cincinnati. Dever was a standout cross country runner this past fall and ended up finishing 11th at NCAA’s in his first cross country national meet. If he continues to ride that high, he could find himself near the front of this race which may favor the Bearcat veteran (who we'll mention shortly) who thrives on aggressive pacing.
Bienenfeld may "only" have an 8:17 PR, but after a breakout cross country where he won the Great Lakes XC Regional Championships, he should see this time fall.
The men’s DMR at the IU Relays should be one of the more enthralling match-ups of the weekend. Indiana, Iowa State, Georgetown, and Middle Tennessee State look to be going all-in with their respective relay teams, leading us to believe that we could see more than just one national qualifying time coming from this race.
Indiana's lineup of Schadler, Williams, and Mau - which some have claimed is the most well-rounded DMR in the country - should be the team to beat. The Indiana men were 4th at the 2019 indoor national meet last winter and may be even stronger with Schadler (assumedly) on the lead-off leg.
The Iowa State men will also be fielding an “A” team in Bloomington this weekend. Lagat, Roomers, and Edwin Kurgat are listed for the relay and this will be the first time we see how strong their roster is. Many fans, including myself, are under the belief that Iowa State will win the national title in the DMR later this year. It will be interesting to see how Kurgat does in the mile seeing that he is more of a long distance runner with limited experience in the mile. However, at the very least, Lagat and Roomes will keep things close throughout the race.
Georgetown is another top team in the field as Brown and Wareham are two men who will add to the Hoyas success this weekend. The men of Georgetown were 3rd last year at NCAA’s in this relay and could challenge for the win this weekend. Historically, Georgetown is one of the best programs in the country when it comes to producing top-tier distance medley relays.
Similar to Georgetown is Middle Tennessee State as they have Choge and Chemadi slated to race. It’s unlikely for this team to qualify for NCAA’s given their limited middle distance prowess, but they should produce a respectable time this weekend.