Iowa State Classic Preview (Men)

Updated: Feb 14

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Rhoads to Battle Iowa State’s Trio of 800 Meter Stars

Some of the top 800 meter runners in the country will collide this weekend in Ames, Iowa. The Cyclone triumvirate of Festsus Lagat, Roshon Roomes, and Daniel Nixon will look to bounce back after losing to Cooper Williams and John Rivera at the Indiana University Relays in the open 800. Rhoads of Air Force will also look to earn a statement win after he finished runner-up a few weeks ago at Texas Tech's Red Raider Invitational.

All four of these men have the potential to be All-Americans this March, and this weekend is the time to prove their fitness. The favorite has to be Lagat who was 3rd at NCAA’s last June and has displayed a variety of impressive performances. Still, his performance at Indiana the other weekend shows that he's human.

Rhoads was 6th in the same race at Outdoor Nationals last year and was a national qualifier the winter prior. Consequently, this is a huge opportunity for the Falcon ace to punch his ticket back to NCAA’s and to earn a confidence-boosting win over the ISU trio. As for Roomes and Nixon, they have likely already earned their places at Albuquerque in March, but this race is a great opportunity for them to prove their tactical acumen against a strong field.

Another trio of runners from Iowa will also look to earn their places to NCAA’s in March. The Hawkeye group of Matt Manternach, Alex Birkett, and Tysen VanDraska have all run under 1:50 this year, but will need to improve their times by almost a second to secure their spots at Indoor Nationals. With the loaded field and a fast pace surely to follow, I like their chances of dipping under the 1:49 barrier, especially Manternach who owns a PR of 1:46 from last spring.

Kurgat Leads Congregation of Sub-Four Candidates

With the Cyclone superstar already earning national qualifying times in the 3k and 5k, Kurgat is testing his speed in the mile on his home track. Under Armour professional Patrick Casey has the fastest seed time, but there are also three collegiate athletes with sub-4:00 seed times. Kurgat, Sean Peterson of Youngstown State, and Jack Anstey of Illinois State. While Kurgat has never broken the four minute barrier, he did run a 3:59 split on Iowa State’s DMR a few weeks ago.

Peterson has run 4:05 this year, so a sub-4:00 result would be quite the improvement, but it's not totally out of the question. Also running 4:05 for the mile this year is Anstey who finished 7th at NCAA’s last spring in the 1500 meters. Tactically, he is one of the most underrated distance runners in the country.

Two other names to watch are Bashir Mosavel-Lo of Virginia Tech and Ben Hill of Michigan. The Hokie middle distance standout ran a converted sub-1:50 in the 800 last weekend at Camel City and will try his luck at the longer distance this weekend. Also bouncing back from an 800 meter performance is the Wolverine (Hill) who has run 4:05 this season, but will be aiming to break his PR of 4:01 at Iowa State this weekend.

It will be interesting to see how Kurgat fares against some true milers. He has showed some signs of improved speed this indoor season, but this will be his biggest test. Having Casey in the field will certainly push the Cyclone. I like Jack Anstey to be the top collegiate in this race, but I think Kurgat will be right behind him, both flirting with times around 3:59.

Mau Aims to Add Name to Growing Sub-7:50 List

Indiana Hoosier Kyle Mau will be the main to watch as he is expected to lead a strong field in the 3k at Iowa State. The senior has already run 7:51 this year, but ran that race on his own for the most part. In a stronger field, I expect Mau to become the seventh runner of the year to run under 7:50.

Behind him we have Euan Makepeace (Butler), Zach Facioni (Wake Forest), Nathan Mylenek (Iowa), and Mau’s teammate Ben Veatch. All of these men have seed times under 8:00 and will look to see if they can hang with Mau long enough to give themselves a chance at earning an NCAA qualifying time. Facioni is coming off of a converted sub-4:00 mile, while Makepeace and Mylenek ran a pair of 4:05's at the Meyo Invitational last weekend.

Makepeace is an underrated veteran who is tactically savvy and displayed peak fitness this past fall when he finished 15th at the NCAA XC Championships. Mylenek, one of the better steeplechasers in the country, has shown raw fitness in a variety of events, but this seems like his ideal distance (in theory). As for Facioni, he's still young and sometimes inconsistent, but the Wake Forest ace has enough potential to be the face of ACC distance running in the near future. A good performance this weekend will certainly help with that perception.

Two other names to watch are Brody Smith of Purdue and Diego Zarate of Virginia Tech. Smith had a rough 3k performance a few weeks ago, but before that he opened the season with a PR in the mile, running 4:01. I like his chances of earning another PR and running under 8:00 this weekend.

Meanwhile, Zarate has run a PR in each of his last three races including a converted 3:59 at Camel City last weekend. Running under 8:00 might be a big ask, but the Hokie has been on fire lately, so it would not be surprising to see him defy expectations once again.

Seufer Shifts Focus to 5000 Meters, Highlights Deep Field

After his sparkling converted 3000 meter of 7:48 last weekend, Virginia Tech's Peter Seufer will look to lock down his spot in the 5k at NCAA’s as well. With nine men already running times under 13:41 this season, anything under 13:40 should guarantee that the Hokie veteran will make it Nationals in this event. Based on his 3k performance, I would be very surprised if Seufer was unable to do so.

One man who has already run 13:40 this season is Eric Hamer of Colorado State. The senior will look to improve upon his time from December which was run in the second heat at Boston University. Racing Seufer will be a good measuring stick of how competitive Hamer will be at Nationals in March. It's been difficult to gauge his fitness after he was largely uncontested in the 5k back in December.

The next three fastest seed times belong to Titus Cheruiyot (UTEP), Barry Keane (Butler), and Jaret Carpenter (Purdue).

Cheruiyot had an underrated fall campaign that saw him finish 13th at Pre-Nationals and 3rd at the Conference USA Championships behind Choge and Chemadi of MTSU. This, however, is his first chance in a big-time track meet to compete with some of the best in the country.

Keane has already run 13:58 and 7:59 this indoor season and has been in good form since December. 13:40 might be out of his reach, but he should be able to hang with the pack for a while and earn himself a new PR.

And then we have Carpenter who probably has the best chance of splitting up the top two (Hamer and Seufer). The Boilermaker was an outstanding 10th plcae at the NCAA XC Championships last fall and has run 4:02 and 8:01 so far this indoor season. Both are solid times for someone who will likely be running in the 5k and 10k this spring, but they don't show his true talent. He ran 13:43 for 5000 meters last year and just missed out on qualifying for the indoor national meet. However, if there was a race for him to gain vengeance, this would be the meet to do so.

Two other names to watch are Patrick Dever (Tulsa) and Morgan Beadlescomb (Michigan State). Both had very impressive cross country seasons last fall and have started the indoor season well running quick times in the 3000 meters. It wouldn’t be shocking to see either of these two mix it up with the top three given their accolades.