The PAC-12 is host to some of the top runners from across the NCAA. Some names include former NCAA champions such as Jessica Hull, Dani Jones, and Grant Fisher, along with notable All-Americans such as Carlos Villarreal and Katie Rainsberger.
This weekend’s meet will be a chance for some athletes to build upon their long list of accolades, while others will be looking to prove themselves as the regional meet approaches. Below, we take a look at some of the biggest headlines and names to watch at the PAC-12 Championships this weekend.
The Men’s 1500 is LOADED
No event at the PAC-12 Championships can match the depth of talent that the men’s 1500 holds. Six of the top 20 runners in the country are slated to race one another, including Carlos Villareal of Arizona (#2) and Grant Fisher of Stanford (#11). Not only will these two superstars throwdown, but both William Paulson of Arizona State (#4) and Reed Brown of Oregon (#7) are also ranked in the top ten of the NCAA.
Villareal will be the favorite heading into this week after running a mark of 3:37.22 and finishing only 0.02 behind Oliver Hoare at the Bryan Clay Invitational earlier this season. The Arizona junior is also entered in the 800 which could make for a challenging double this weekend. He may be someone who prefers a more tactical 1500...
William Paulson has been one of the biggest surprises in the NCAA this season. The Arizona State senior (formerly of Princeton) had never broken 4:00 in the mile before the UW Invitational this past indoor season. Since that performance, Paulson has been one of the best in the country, finishing 5th at the NCAA Indoors Championships and currently ranking #4 in the NCAA for the 1500. With Villarreal looking to double down, this may be Paulson’s only chance to win a PAC-12 title. However, he'll have to battle Oregon's Reed Brown who finished ahead of Paulson at Payton Jordan with a blistering time of 3:38.76.
One Duck that’s been flying under the radar this season is Blake Haney of Oregon. When he first entered the NCAA, Haney was one of the best milers in the country, finishing 3rd in the NCAA 1500 as a freshman and runner-up in the mile during his first indoor season. Since those performances, Haney has struggled to find his old form and was unable to qualify for the mile finals this past indoor season. He is the only athlete coming into this race without a time, but he will surely be looking to crack the top 48 in the West Region and earn a qualifying mark. Haney would need to run under 3:45.7, a time that should be relatively easy for a man whose personal best is 3:40.09.
Jessica Hull vs Dani Jones in… the 5000?
This showdown between two of the NCAA's best has been on our radar for a while now, but most people figured it would be in the 1500, not the 5000. Hull has been dominant on the track in 2019, having not lost a race during either indoors or outdoors. She currently ranks #1 in the 1500m and #5 in the 5000, and still boasts the title as the reigning NCAA 1500 meter champion.
Before this indoor season, Dani Jones was the woman to beat. She came away with an upset victory in cross country and was runner-up in the NCAA mile in 2018. The indoor season came and with each passing week, Jones continued to remain absent from results. Eventually, it was discovered that she had been dealing with a stress-related injury and would not be competing during the indoor season. After 161 days, Jones finally stepped on the track again at the Jack Christiansen Invitational and ran a 4:14.68 (altitude converted) for 1500, ranking her #10 in the NCAA.
With both women having safely secured regional marks, the two will face-off in the 5000 on Saturday. Jones has only raced the 5000 one other time in her career and it was at this same meet in 2017. She ran 16:12 to earn the victory that day, easily beating a much younger Jessica Hull who finished 12th as a freshman. T
his weekend, however, will be a completely different story.
Hull has come a long way since that race and should have no issues breaking the 16 minute barrier this weekend. Although Jones is incredibly talented, this will not be the weekend that Hull’s winning streak comes to an end.
10,000 Time Trial
With this weekend acting as the last real competition before the regional meets, some athletes will be looking to post qualifying marks for events they have yet to run. The marquee example of this will be the 10,000 meter races at PAC-12's this weekend where a total of 17 athletes will be making their season debut in the event.
In the West region, the 48th ranked time is currently listed at 29:25 for the men and 34:57 for the women. At least five of the men and three of the women should have no issues hitting these marks at PAC-12's.
On the men’s side, the five athletes who should easily advance are John Dressel (Colorado), Tanner Anderson (Washington), Ryan Forsyth (Colorado), Alex Ostberg (Stanford), and Connor Lane (Stanford). The other four men without times all have credentials that put themselves in good standing to hit a qualifying mark if they can hang onto the pace.
Both Anderson and Dressel will likely look to focus on the 10k at NCAA's, essentially guaranteeing that this race will go out fast enough to qualify. Notable names in the race who already have a qualifying time include Tibebu Proctor of Washington and Robert Brandt of UCLA. They may not have as much incentive to push the pace, but they are certainly capable of walking away with the win.
On the women’s side, the three athletes who should easily secure regional qualifying marks are Makena Morley, Kaitlyn Benner, and Tabor Scholl (all of Colorado). All three of these women already have qualifying marks in the 5000, so running sub-34:57 this weekend will give them some leeway on deciding which event to focus on for regionals. Of the other women without marks this season, keep an eye on Poppy Tank of Utah and Holly Bent of Colorado. Both will be making their 10k debut and have 5k personal bests that indicate they could run qualifiers this weekend.
Notable names who have already run a qualifying time include Isabel Batt-Doyle of Washington (NCAA #4) and Carmela Cardama Baez of Oregon (NCAA #10).
Other Notable Mentions
Keep an eye on the men’s 5000 meters this weekend. The race features three of the NCAA’s best in Grant Fisher, Cooper Teare, and Thomas Ratcliffe. If the race comes down to a kick, our bet is on Fisher.
While neither 800 field is particularly deep, the top athletes for the men’s and women’s fields rank among the best in the country. Susan Ejore of Oregon and Isaiah Jewett of USC are both currently ranked #3 in the NCAA for 800 meters.
Both Jessica Hull and Grant Fisher will be looking to pull off the 1500/5000 double this weekend. Hull has better odds of doing such as she has not lost since 2018 whereas Fisher currently sits at fourth in the field for 1500.