Garrett: Heat two wasn’t really full of many surprises. The heavy favorites and veterans got into the final round as expected. It was pretty cool to see Colorado’s Eduardo Herrera advance after being seeded #43 in the West Region. However, seeing that both Carlos Villarreal and Waleed Suliman did not qualify for the finals is a shock. They were elite talents that were expected to move on and, depending on who you asked, were deep sleeper picks to take home NCAA gold.
Maura: As Garrett pointed out, heat two went just as planned, the favorites survived and advanced. Heat one, on the other hand, left me guessing after many pre-race favorites struggled. Illinois State’s Jack Anstey qualifying for the finals was not at all surprising for me. Anstey has shown his strength and speed all season.
Garrett: Maura brings up a good point. Seeing Jack Anstey advance is interesting and when you look at the other qualifiers around him (such as Kiprotich and Knevelbaard), it’s clear that the tactical runners with better overall speed thrived in this prelim.
Maura: Another surprise has to be Oregon’s Reed Brown finishing in last place overall after coming in as the #12 seed. Maybe the heat and humidity started to take its toll early, only leaving those questioning how the 5k and 10k runners will do.
Ben: As Matt pointed out in our GroupMe, it was surprising to see Brown miss out on finals because he is from Texas and should be prepared for the conditions more than anyone in the field (with the exception of Sam Worley). One runner I have been impressed by is Knevelbaard who, after a disappointing during the Indoor National Championships, has run extremely well at regionals and is now through the first round. I think he is a sleeper to win the title on Friday.
3000 Steeplechase Prelims
Maura: BYU men are set up for a historic championship after qualifying all four steeplechasers to the final. Whatever Coach Eyestone is doing in Provo seems to be working for his distance runners.
Garrett: This will be overlooked, but BYU sending all four men to the finals in the steeplechase may be just as impressive as sending six men to Nationals in the 10k (maybe even more impressive).
Ben: I think it probably is more impressive in an event that has a lot more variables than the 10k.
Maura: Besides the BYU dominance, many of the favorites qualified for the finals (Ali, Fahy, Smeeton, and Michalski). Fahy looks to be in good position to vie for the national title after winning his heat. However, Ed Trippas, the #1 seed from the regional championship, failed to qualify for the finals, as did Alec Basten. After Trippas ran 8:33 at regionals, I was looking forward to a fast steeplechase that would most likely be determined at the finish line.
Garrett: There were a handful of big names with fast PR’s that were going to be left out. Unsurprisingly, the men who were less experienced on the national stage (like Trippas and Basten) didn’t move on, although that should speak volumes to freshman Kenneth Rooks who is moving on the finals. After him, the rest of the field is about what I expected...
Ben: I was surprised to see Emmanuel Rotich from Tulane to miss out on the final, but like Garrett said, there were going to be some big names left out. I feel even better about Steven Fahy’s chances after running another very solid race. Between Fahy, Smeeton, Ali, and Michalski the steeple final is going to be an all out brawl.
Maura: If you’re not already on the Bryce Hoppel bandwagon, you should be hopping on after he continued his winning streak. Winning the prelim in a personal best has to give Hoppel a lot of confidence heading into the final. At this point, how could you bet against Hoppel? As for the rest of the field, some of the favorites did not advance through the finals: Isaiah Jewett, Roshon Roomes, Dejon Devroe, and Myles Marshall. Jewett appeared to let up just before the finish line, ultimately costing a chance to race for a title.
Garrett: I agree that Hoppel is still the favorite, but I’m interested to see how he’ll rebound after running a personal best in the prelims. That may have been Dixon’s goal - to make Hoppel work harder in the earlier rounds and make him do it again on Friday. Regardless, I’m not too overly shocked about the men who didn’t move on. They weren’t quite established veterans and weren’t really known for their experience...although Jewett was a bit surprising in my mind.
Ben: It is really hard to imagine Hoppel not winning at this point. Between his fitness (which seems like it is at an all-time best) and smarts, the Jayhawk ace knows how to get it done. His only challenger, Dixon, has the talent, but he hasn’t been able to run a smart tactical race at Nationals. Maybe he will be able to do it for the first time on Friday, but I’ll bet on Hoppel continuing his streak.
Ben: Oh my goodness!! So BYU is good I guess.
Garrett: *breathing intensifies*
Garrett: But in all seriousness, what an absolutely dominant performance from BYU. They had such an awful performance at the national meet last year and they were heavily criticized for it. But after tonight, I think it's fair to say that they have redeemed themselves. To have Clayton Young out-kick Gilbert Kigen to take home the title in a 55 second last lap was pretty magical. Plus, he had McMillen and Mantz finish 3rd and 4th behind him. What an epic night for the BYU Cougars.
Ben: And Linkletter (my pick to win) came in 15th, and they still had three guys score!
Ben: Kigen looked like he was going to fly by Young at 250 meters.
Garrett: How pissed are you if you’re Alabama right now? It’s now the second year in a row where you have a guy in the lead in a position to win and you are out-kicked by someone who really isn’t known for their finishing speed.
Ben: Lol. Didn’t even think about the same thing happening last year. I mean I think before the meet, we all knew that *checks notes* Clayton Young had the best kick in the field.
Maura: With Young winning tonight, I begin to wonder how well he will recover for the 5k on Friday. If he has some of that kick left, he could surprise some of the race favorites.
Ben: I mean, if he has another 55 last lap in him, then he should have a great chance at finishing top five in the 5k.
Maura: Aside from BYU, I was hoping to see Tyler Day have a stronger performance. I thought he could have run with a vengeance after not qualifying in the 5k, but 6th is still respectable in a relatively tactical race. His Nationals resume is still something he should be proud of.
Garrett: Tyler Day is a phenomenal talent who will thrive on the roads and in the pro circuit. However, tactics haven’t always been his strong suit. I kept waiting for him to make his move to the front and push the pace with a few laps to go but he never did. Granted, that’s FAR easier said than done, but I thought it would have given him a chance.