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Iowa State Classic Preview (Men)


Man, does indoor season seem to fly by. Believe it or not, we are about to reach the second weekend of February which means it is time to start running national qualifying times. This weekend is always one of the most exciting weekends of the indoor track season because it is when most runners earn their spot to the promised land (Nationals). The Iowa State Classic, along with the UW Husky Classic, is a meet that every elite runner circles on their calendar at the start of the year. Let’s take a look at the runners who are waiting to punch their ticket to Nationals...


800

I am pumped to watch this 800. Like the other distance events, the 800 field is deep and has at least three or four guys who will make it to NCAA's. Last year’s qualifying time was 1:48.31, but the current mark according to our Scratch Tracker is 1:49.09. With that in mind, everyone will be gunning for at least a sub-1:49.


The reason why this race stands out to me is that it gives us a small preview into the national race, or at the very least the prelims. Bryce Hoppel from Kansas is someone that I have talked about a lot since the beginning of the year as a favorite to win the title. Compared to some of the preseason favorites, he hadn’t run quite as well until he walked away with a big win at the Texas Tech Open to run 1:48.


Also racing is one of the most consistent runners in the country and another preseason favorite, Robert Heppenstall. The Wake Forest runner has famously made it to the 800 final at indoor and outdoor Nationals every single year of his career. Heppenstall has yet to break 1:50 this year in the 800 this season, but I don’t expect that to last after this weekend especially since he just ran an unconverted 4:07 in the mile last week.


The last big challenger in the field is someone who came into this year as a bit of a dark horse. Cooper Williams from Indiana hasn’t run in two weeks, but his performance at the Indiana University Relays was very impressive. He ran 4:05 in the mile after he helped Indiana run the fastest DMR time in the country this year. Oh, and he assisted in IU’s 3:11 4x400 team. The guy is a beast. Williams has run a fast 600 and 1000 already and has won every single race (including relays) that he has run in this year besides his 6th place finish in the mile.


Those three guys could all challenge for top three places at Nationals in a very deep 800 field. Whoever wins this race will gain a lot of confidence knowing that they beat some of the top contenders already.


My prediction is that all three run under 1:48 with the pace being quick from the gun. Heppenstall will surely run a smart race and put himself in the right position to kick for the win. That said, I believe Williams will pull off the upset and narrowly edge out Heppenstall and Hoppel. He seems to have everything working for him right now between the solid mile time and 400 and 600 times. This might not be the case in March, but I think Williams is in the best shape out of this elite crew.


Other guys to watch out for who could run qualifying times are Roshon Roomes from Iowa State who has already run 1:48.94, Brennan Munley from Georgetown, Matthew Harding from Virginia Tech who has run 1:49 so far, and Nittany Lion Domenic Perretta who owns a 1:48 season best. All of those guys will look to improve their current times to guarantee themselves a spot at Nationals.


Mile

The mile might be the least interesting race at Iowa State, but that is like calling the lightest kid at fat camp skinny. The top dog is obviously Kyle Mau of Indiana who has been on a tear the entire season. He has run 13:58, 7:50, and 4:01 this season and even anchored the top DMR time in the country. Look for him to go under 4:00, easily.


The rest of the field is full of very good runners who will try to push their way into Nationals. The time to qualify for the mile was 3:58 last year, but the current standard is 4:00.3.


Michigan’s Chase Barnett ran 4:00 two weeks ago at Boston. Daniel Michalski from Indiana and Ben Hill from Michigan have both run 4:01. Ben Young from Kentucky and Loyola Chicago’s Kevin White have run 4:04 so far. When you throw in Dylan Jacobs (Notre Dame) and Dan Curts (Iowa State), the mile looks to be stacked with people who will run sub-4:00.


3000

While the mile was loaded with guys who have chances at making it to Nationals, the 3k is full of people who are expected to qualify. Out of the 16 runners who qualified for the 3k last year, six of them earned their spot at the Iowa State Classic. This shows you the importance of running well at this meet, but it also means that even if you don’t win the race then you could still qualify.


That said, there will be at least 10 guys looking to earn a spot at Nationals. Last year, the final qualifying time was 7:53. This year the current cut-off time is 7:56, but that will most likely be lowered (by a lot) after this weekend.


The top team from cross country brings all of their top guys into this race. NAU has Tyler Day, Geordie Beamish, Luis Grijalva, and Brodey Hasty all toeing the line. Beamish, Grijalva, and Day are all coming off of converted times of 3:57, 3:58, and 4:00, respectively. Day might be the man to beat as he also owns the top 5k time in the country.


Johnathan Davis is probably the co-favorite with Day when you consider his personal bests of 3:58 and 7:49. Wisconsin's Olin Hacker has been posting some solid performances of his own over the past few weeks, running 7:56 and 4:01 so far this year. Also of note, Daniel Carney from BYU is making his indoor debut after he qualified for Nationals in the 3k last year.


Some dark horses to watch out for are Mike Ward from Bradley, Cornhusker George Kusche, and Missouri’s Kieran Wood. All have run very good times already. Ward has run 7:57 while Kusche narrowly beat Wood in the mile last week (each running 3:59). Look for all three of these guys to challenge for the win and more importantly, hit national qualifying times.


Want more sleeper picks? Yared Nuguse (Notre Dame) and Noah Affolder (Syracuse). Those two will not disappoint.


5000

The 5k might be the most competitive race of the weekend. Like the 3k, most of the qualifiers for Nationals came from the Iowa State Classic in 2018. Last year, nine of the 16 qualifiers ran their times at Iowa State. This year looks to be no exception. The current last time in according to the Scratch Tracker is 14:15 which is very weak compared to last year’s 13:46. I have little doubt that the current time will drop like a rock this weekend. Let’s take a look at our contenders...


BYU has entered nearly their entire top seven from cross country (Clayton Young, Rory Linkletter, Connor McMillan, Connor Mantz, and Clayson Shumway). McMillan and Young have both run 7:51 this year while Mantz has run 7:53. In the mile, Linkletter has run 4:02 in what seemed to be an effort to develop speed. All five of these guys have gone sub-13:55 in their careers with Young and Linkletter owning PR's of 13:37.


The Iowa State combo of Andrew Jordan and Edwin Kurgat will look to build upon their indoor seasons by qualifying for Nationals in the 5k. Jordan has already run 7:51 and Kurgat just earned a (converted) 7:53 for 3000 meters. Out of all the teams fielding multiple runners in this race, my bet is on Kurgat and Jordan to finish better than any other.


Next up is the Alabama duo of Vincent Kiprop and Gilbert Kigen who are returning to the spotlight after redshirting cross country. They obviously have the talent to earn All-American spots at Nationals, but we still don’t know if they are 100%, even after running 7:59 in the 3k.


Aidan Tooker of Syracuse is coming off of a sub-4:00 and is one to watch as he looks to qualify for Indoor Nationals for the first time in his career. Similarly, Indiana’s Ben Veatch is looking to punch his first ticket to Indoor Nationals. The Hoosier ace has already run 7:56, so it would not be surprising to see him go under 13:50.


Lastly, some other names to watch are Minnesota’s Obsa Ali, Purdue’s Jaret Carpenter, and Virginia Tech’s Peter Seufer.

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