Updated: May 29, 2019
East Region 1500 Stars Fall Out of National Qualifying
The 1500 has always been one of the more concerning races for me in terms of predictions. In a way, the tactical nature of the 1500 equalizes the regional fields as athletes who have relied on their raw fitness may not have the same finishing speed as other athletes with slower PR's.
Sure enough, that was the main story in the women's 1500. Yes, Notre Dame's Jessica Harris did secure the top spot in a time of 4:12, but the final six qualifiers were no faster than 4:19.
The most notable casualties were the Villanova duo of Nicole Hutchinson and Rachel McArthur who failed to qualify for Nationals. McArthur settled near the bottom of the results while Hutchinson, who ran 4:14 earlier this season, was four spots out from Nationals. For two women who have thrived by utilizing their middle distance speed, it's surprising to see neither of them make it to Austin.
On the men's side, Columbia's 3:59 indoor miler Sam Ritz (who will be running for Washington next year) was unable to advance despite making it to the indoor national meet this past winter. He was joined by Georgetown's Spencer Brown who was a heavy favorite to make it to the national meet after running 3:39 at Bryan Clay. Brown, like the Villanova women, is a specialist in the middle distances and owns a PR in the 800 of 1:49. It's surprising to see someone with his speed not make it to the next round.
Tyler Day, Ednah Kurgat Fail To Advance in 5k
After putting together a pair of phenomenal performances in the west region 10k, the distance stars took their talents to the 5000 meters where the found a very different result. Although he hung around with the top group for the most of the race, Day was simply not in a good enough position to respond to a surge being made in the final portion of the race. The one knock on Day has been that he's never had the finishing speed to stick with the leaders in tactical racing. Sure enough, this race favors that theory quite a bit. The top 5k runner in the country by time will not be toeing the line for the 12.5 lap affair at NCAA's.
As for Ednah Kurgat, it's yet another performance for her where she simply hasn't found her rhythm. The New Mexico veteran finished 8th in heat one of the 5k which eventually pushed her into the dreaded 13th spot after the results from heat two were recorded. She still qualified for the 10k, but the woman who was once dominating the NCAA has been slowly fading in the power rankings...
West Gets DQ'd From 1500 After False Start
For the past few seasons, the Oregon men have dominated the 1500 and mile distances. Leading part of that charge was James West, the UK native who owns a PR of 3:37 from the 2018 outdoor season. He has been an integral part of the Ducks success and was one of the few veterans who stayed in Eugene when Powell left for Washington.
Unfortunately, West had to end his season short before the gun even went off for the 1500 finals. A false start forced the officials to have a discussion and the end result was that West would be disqualified from racing. The decision sparked notable debate and frustration from top athletes on Twitter who eventually started the hashtag #FreeWest.
While the disqualification may appear to be black and white, there is an additional layer to this story.
Back in March, during the Indoor National Championships, New Mexico's Weini Kelati had a blatant false start before the gun went off in the women's 5000 meters. However, the officials opted not to disqualify her from that race. Instead, she was allowed to stay in the field where she eventually finished 2nd overall.
So why was West not given the same leniency? Was it because it was a shorter race? Was it because it was a regional race instead of a national race? Was it because Kelati was a superstar who was favored to win a national title? All of these are extremely fair questions to ask. While I don't necessarily have an issue with disqualification for false starts, there is clearly no consistency in how these calls are being made. The decision not to DQ Kelati set a precedent that was unfortunately not followed for West.
Final Thoughts From Day Three
Michael Wilson (New Mexico) + Zack Penrod (Wichita State)
I really thought that these were two great sleeper picks for the national meet. They had underrated speed and had proven themselves in the 1500 meters. They weren't superstars, but not seeing them in Austin is tough. Penrod was the First Man Out after finishing 13th in the region.
Lauren Gregory (Arkansas) + Weronika Pyzik (Oregon) + Cailie Logue (Iowa State) + Kaitlyn Benner (Colorado)
All of these women were popular picks to make it to NCAA's in the 5000 meters, but they were unable to deliver on that expectation. In fact, Gregory was a DNF while Pyzik didn't even toe the line. Meanwhile, Benner struggled to stick with the pace, falling to 29th overall. As for Logue, she had a valiant effort, but finished 16th overall. Despite owning the #10 time in the country this season, the Iowa State sophomore will not be making the trip to Texas.
Cole Rockhold (Colorado State)
We knew entering the weekend that the west region 5k was going to leave out a number of top names from the national qualifying field. Sure enough, that was the case as guys like Gilbert Boit (Arkansas) and Alex Ostberg (Stanford) were unable find themselves in the top 12. However, the most impactful miss came from Colorado State's Cole Rockhold whose Cinderella comeback season has come to a close after failing to qualify for Nationals. He may not be going to Austin, but this Ram senior will leave behind a legacy where he is remembered as one of the first superstars who helped jump-start this Colorado State program.
Allie Ostrander (Boise State)
She won't get a ton of attention for what she did at regionals, but my goodness that was an impressive double. Ostrander ran the NCAA #1 time of 9:40 to take down a loaded steeplechase field (which was likely more focused on just getting a national qualifier) and came back the next day to run the top time in the 5000 meters (15:30). This Boise State ace is on fire and could very easily win a national title in two weeks.