Maura: The NCAA Leader vs. The Defending Champion. As expected, Jessica Hull and Sinclaire Johnson made it out safely from their preliminary heats. I’m looking forward to what these two can do in the final when they meet for the first time this outdoor season. Even though we saw most of the favorites qualify, there were some shocking finishes...and not in a good way. Rachel Pocratsky, Karisa Nelson, Alexis Fuller, and Carina Viljoen all failed to qualify for the finals.
Garrett: Wow, that was...ugly. No Pocratsky. No Nelson. No Fuller. I really thought that a tactical race would favor Pocratsky given her speed, but that’s what happens when you lead a slow tactical race. Without a Pocratsky-Fuller-Nelson trio, this women’s 1500 final loses a ton of firepower.
Ben: That just ruined my projections. I had all four of those women finishing in the top eight. Really surprised to see Pocratsky out. She was, in my opinion, the biggest challenger to Hull besides Sinclaire Johnson.
Maura: Like Ben, I too just saw my women’s 1500 projections fall apart.
Garrett: Branching off of Sinclaire Johnson, the Oklahoma State women continue to produce quietly strong results as three women qualified for the finals. It’s a wildly impressive result.
Ben: It seems like this is the year for dominant team performances. Oklahoma State is picking up where BYU left off last night.
3000 Steeplechase Prelims
Garrett: Allie Ostrander is so. flipping. good. She just cruised a 9:44 like it was nothing and then turned around handing water out to her competitors who were pretty much gassed. Ostrander looks completely untouchable.
Ben: Does that change your thoughts on Ostrander’s chances at winning the steeple and 5k?
Garrett: A little bit, but not much. It’s still a brutal double without much rest in the scorching heat. Although I will say that if the race is tactical...you never know what could happen.
Ben: I agree. For me, it depends on how hard she gets pushed in the steeple. With Cohen, Prouse, and Birk in the race I think she will have to dig deep to win, but if she cruises again then she has a shot.
Garrett: Outside of the Boise State star, Cierra Simmons and Rachel King not qualifying for the finals is tough. These were two women who showed enough potential to be All-Americans during the regular season. I was also a little bummed about McKenzie Andrews not qualifying as I thought she would have been a great sleeper pick for the podium. Unfortunately, heat two didn’t play out in her favor.
Maura: Wichita State’s Rebekah Topham qualifying for the finals was a surprise for me. She has been quietly moving up in the NCAA this season and she appears to be a tactical runner. If Topham remains patient in the finals, she could find herself in the top eight.
Maura: Val Constien is also living up to the Colorado steeplechase legacy of All-Americans. Don’t count her out of a potential top four finish.
Garrett: Agreed, Constien is a great pick to get into an All-American position. She is someone who could find herself in the top eight if she gets into a good position on Saturday.
Maura: Quick note with regards to those doing the steeple/5k double, there are five women (Ostrander, Cohen, Prouse, Clark, and Steelman) who will make an attempt to be named double First-Team All-American. With the short time period between the two finals on Saturday, it will be interesting to see which of these five recover the fastest.
Ben: The defending indoor 800 meter champ is OUT! Shocking from Danae Rivers.
Garrett: Just at a complete loss for words. She just did not look great at all. It was all so bad. The trip on Egbeniyi, the failure to get around the wall of women in front of her, the clear discomfort on her face with 300 meters to go...it was all such a shock.
Ben: Surprising to also see Susan Aneno, Martha Bissah, Abike Egbeniyi out as well. My predictions, again, are not looking great.
Garrett: Very happy to see BYU’s Anna Camp advance. She has done so well this season and has made tremendous progression over the past few months. On the flip side, I would have loved to see Aneno in the final. She got dealt with a brutal heat and I feel like she would’ve been better off in a different race.
Ben: I know that Rivers not making it to finals is crazy, but should we have seen this coming a little bit? While she won indoors, it was a very close race where she misplayed her tactics. With so many athletes running top 800 times outdoors, it was always going to be tough just to qualify for Nationals.
Maura: I agree with Ben. Rivers did not put herself in good positioning at any point during that race. After watching those prelims, Nia Akins looks to be in prime championship form. Akins has proved that her runner-up finish at Indoors was not a fluke.
Ben: Additionally, we got to see a strong race from Jazmine Fray who has struggled at Nationals in the past. You have to imagine that this race will give her confidence as she heads into the finals.
Garrett: These are all good points. Still, I just thought that a woman who was the collegiate indoor record holder for the 1000 meters and then owns a 4:29 mile would at least be able to get onto the podium in her best event...
Ben: Agreed! I think we put too much weight on her indoor performance instead of what she did outdoors which was not nearly as impressive.
Maura: Someone a little overlooked right now is Kristie Schoffield. Although she qualified on time, Schoffield has been in the mix with the top runners in recent races.
Maura: What a finish! If Carmela Cardama Baez had made the pass on Weini Kelati, there would have been a major upset. Even though Kelati found one more gear, Cardama Baez has shown she is not a sleeper pick anymore.
Garrett: What? Of course, I’ve always been a fan of *looks at results* Carmela Cardama Baez.
Ben: I guess I should know this, but who?
Garrett: Kelati was so far ahead in the final lap that even when Cardama Baez threw down a heavy kick on the final lap, you just never thought she would really make it interesting...looks like I was wrong. Truthfully, I wasn’t sold on the Oregon junior before this race, but my opinion has clearly changed.
Ben: Kelati showed me she was the favorite. The race served as a microcosm of who she is as a runner. The New Mexico Lobo led nearly the entire race (or at least the important parts of it) and showed all her strengths and her biggest weakness. Luckily for Kelati, her strengths made up for her lack of a kick. My big takeaway from this race is that Kelati is about to have a really hard time winning the 5k. Dani Jones and company will throw down some hard kick like Cardema Baez did, and it will be fascinating to see if Kelati can hang on again.
Maura: Another strong result out of this race has to be Isobel Batt-Doyle taking the bronze. Batt-Doyle has come out fighting this outdoor season, producing some solid results. I really wish I had made some different choices with my predictions.
Garrett: Agreed. Batt-Doyle has done a phenomenal job this season. She was consistently at the top of her game over the past three months and raced at a very high level. Josette Norris may have some competition for breakout runner of the year after all...
Ben: Anyone else a little disappointed in Paige Stoner? I thought she was one of the safe bets to finish in the top three and push Kelati, but she wasn’t able to hang with the pack after the big surge.
Garrett: After a shaky regionals performance, I wasn’t too blown away. Races like these are unpredictable.
Maura: What about Ednah Kurgat? She ended up 9th, which is not where you would expect someone of her talent.
Ben: Ever since her sensational indoor 5k in December, she has had a downward trajectory, but because of her talent she has hung around the national picture. I’m not sure what has happened to her since that December race, but something has just been a little off for her this season. All this to say, I’m not very surprised to see her finish 9th.
Garrett: Also, shoutout to Anna Rohrer for setting the pace and making the field work for it.
Maura: Agreed. Rohrer really helped open this race up early on. After coming back from an injury and only racing twice before tonight, Rohrer still proved that she belongs with the top women in the NCAA.