With indoor season ramping up as we move into January, much of the talk has been surrounding familiar names from 2018. The likes of Weini Kelati, Ednah Kurgat and Dani Jones come up synonymously with the word “Nationals” and many of the other returners have their eyes set on a national title after the previous winners in the 800, mile, 3000, and 5000 have all graduated. While all these women deserve recognition for their previous accomplishments indoors, what about all of those who have yet to perform on an undersized oval?
During the cross country season, a handful of freshman women made names for themselves by performing above and beyond expectations and it’s almost certain some will do the same indoors. Plenty of others also opted to redshirt, but have potential to debut for the respective school this winter. Below, we highlight a few freshmen to keep an eye out for this winter.
Anne Forsyth (Michigan)
Forsyth was one of the best freshman in the NCAA this fall and was an integral part of a 4th place Michigan squad. She made her initial debut at BIG 10's where she placed 8th overall and finished as the top freshman in a loaded conference. Two weeks later, she crushed any doubts about her potential when she finished 3rd at the Great Lakes regional with only Alicia Monson and Anna Rohrer finishing ahead of her. Even with a somewhat underwhelming 46th place showing at NCAA's, Forsyth showed the talent of an All-American this fall and should only go up from here.
Not only was her cross country season impressive, but Forsyth comes into the indoor season with great track personal bests. She has run 4:43 for 1600 meters (outdoors) and 4:54 for the mile (indoors). She also owns a personal best of 10:08 over 3200 meters (outdoors) which converts to roughly 9:30 for 3000 meters. With solid credentials and a great cross country season, the BIG 10 Freshman of the Year is someone to watch as the indoor season begins to unfold.
Jacqueline Gaughan (Notre Dame)
Despite a rough ending to her freshman campaign, Gaughan established herself as one of the premier young runners in the country as a member of Notre Dame’s team this fall. Gaughan finished 9th overall at the Joe Piane Invite, but truly established her presence two weeks later when she finished 13th at the Wisconsin Pre-Nationals meet. From then on, she was always near the front, finishing 6th at ACC's and 7th at the Great Lakes regional.
Gaughan also carries an impressive indoor resume from high school. As a senior, she won the New Balance Indoor Nationals 5000 meter race and owns a personal best of 16:19 indoors. Other personal bests include 9:34 for 3000 meters, 4:52 for the mile, and 10:09 over two miles (all indoors). This past fall, Gaughan ran with the poise of a seasoned NCAA veteran and her depth of indoor experience bodes well for a strong freshman season.
Katrina Robinson (Arkansas)
Robinson was arguably the most impressive true freshman in the NCAA this fall. She was Arkansas’ top runner the entire season and finished in the top eight of every competition (except Nationals), including wins at the Chile Pepper Festival and SEC Championships. Although she ultimately missed out on All-American honors by only one spot, her freshman season was very impressive and bodes well as indoor track rolls around.
Coming into the track season, Robinson already boasts great personal bests across a wide range of distances. She has run 4:14 for 1500, 9:09 for 3000, and 16:06 over 5000, putting her in the top end of women for any of the three events. She also has a proven ability to win, owning seven national titles from her time in Australia, along with 35 state titles.
Based on her personal bests, it seems that either the mile or 3000 would be her best event for indoors. The majority of last year’s field in the mile have graduated while the majority of women from the 3000 are back, giving her a better chance to make an impact in the mile. Will she follow in the footsteps of former Razorback Nikki Hiltz or will we see Robinson step up to the longer events?
Caitlin Collier (Stanford)
After sitting out during cross country, there is no guarantee Collier will compete attached this indoor season. If she does, there is a good chance she makes an immediate impact for Stanford. As one of the best middle-distance runners in prep history, Collier ran 2:00.85 over 800 meters last spring as the fifth fastest high school time ever. She also qualified for both the 800 and 1500 meter events at the IAAF U20 World Championships this past summer where she qualified for the semifinals in the 800 and finished 12th in the 1500.
Her 2:00.85 may have been run outdoors, but that time immediately puts her in contention with the best in the NCAA. If she runs anything similar this season, it’s almost a given she would qualify for the national meet this year. Outside of the 800, she could be a key member of a potential Stanford DMR relay. With Christina Aragon and Fiona O’Keefe likely running the 1600 and 1200, Collier would be a huge addition for the 800 leg. Running the DMR would certainly make competing in the 800 more challenging, but there are certainly plenty of options this winter for a talent like Collier.
Gabrielle Wilkinson (Florida)
Wilkinson flew somewhat under-the-radar this fall as a member of Florida’s cross country team. Although she finished in their top seven throughout the year, she went relatively unmentioned after finishing 245th at Nationals. That said, don’t overlook her this indoor season.
With indoor personal bests of 2:06 for 800 meters and 4:42 for the mile, Wilkinson appears to already have enough talent to be on the bubble of qualifying for NCAA's. Her personal best in the 800 would have put her 46th in the NCAA last year and it’s likely some of the women ahead of her would opt to race in other events. It might be a longshot, but if Wilkinson continues to improve in a thriving Florida distance environment (thanks largely to the addition of Chris Solinsky as head coach), it wouldn’t be a stretch to see her at Nationals come March.