By: John Cusick
Going through heat sheets has me feeling some type of way this year. I recently rewatched Josh Kerr’s 3:35 from last year at this meet and it has me amped for this weekend.
There’s no real need to do anything except jump right in for our preview. I’m sure if you’re reading this then you have already looked at the heat sheets as well.
The 800 meters immediately gets out to a fast start as Arizona’s Collins Kibet leads the performance list in terms of career personal bests. Right behind him is Division II’s Thomas Staines from CSU-Pueblo, and the current 800 meter champion from the winter season. With these two set to go head-to-head, it will definitely be a race to see. Kibet ran 1:49 earlier in the year and has a personal best of 1:46 from the 2016 season while Staines has run 1:48 on the year. It's probably safe to assume they’ll be looking to go sub-1:48.
The Iowa Hawkeye duo of Tysen VanDraska and Matt Manternach both ran 1:49 at the Florida Relays earlier this season and will both be looking to improve upon that mark. Ricky Faure of Wyoming ran 1:48 at the end of last year and then opened up in 1:50 at altitude almost a month ago now. He’ll look to join the Hawkeye athletes chasing fast times.
Two more Division II athletes show up near the top of the performance list. Decano Cronin (the runner up to Staines during indoor) of Fort Hays State and Patrick Weaver from Colorado Mines will look to mix it up as well. Cronin, much like Staines, is most likely looking to go sub-1:48 when you look at his resume. Meanwhile, Weaver (who redshirted last year) will look to improve upon his PR of 1:48 from 2016.
Some other athletes that have the potential to throw their name in the mix and flirt with the victory include: Sean Munnelly (UMASS Lowell), Robert Tully (Tulsa), Humberto Freire (Florida State), and George Espino (Southern Utah).
Prediction: Thomas Staines (CSU-Pueblo)
The Thunderwolf athlete is just too strong. He ran 1:48 at altitude and has been consistent all year long. Not only have his performances been top-notch, but he's also one of the better tactical racers in the NCAA. I see Staines taking the W here with a time under 1:48.
My mind was seriously blown when I pulled up this next heat sheet. I expected some big names, but not quite as many as this.
To begin with, we have Lopez Lomong, Ryan Hill, and Peter Callahan as the elite runners. But the household names don’t stop there. New Mexico’s Josh Kerr, Syracuse’s Justyn Knight, and the Oregon duo of Mick Stanovsek and Sam Prakel headline the field.
Kerr is the reigning champion here. He dropped a HUGE 3:35 last year to light the track world on fire for a few weeks. This will be Kerr’s first race of the year since he defended his title at the Indoor National Championships. His debut is highly anticipated as it’s expected he’ll run fast again.
Knight closed in 55 seconds last weekend to win the Bison Outdoor Classic in a time of 3:42.71. It was his first race of the season since the championships. Assuming Knight’s training has tracked liked it has in the past, we should expect Knight to be in sub-3:40 shape.
Prakel and Stanovsek both ran 3:39 at the Stanford Invitational earlier this season. They’ll once again test their fitness against the country’s best this weekend. With primer races at the Pepsi Invitational at 800 meters (where they both ran 1:52), another finish like the one at Stanford wouldn’t be shocking.
Cole Rockhold of Colorado State and Andy Trouard of Northern Arizona will have their first stab at the 1500 this year. Rockhold has already run 13:40 and 1:51 earlier this year while Trouard is back for his first race of the season. Both should be expected to try and go at least 3:40 with a field like this. Trouard showed his lethal kick this past winter when he upset Knight, so he should be considered a dark horse in this field.
David Ribich is the lone Division II athlete in this race. He's already run 1:48 from the Stanford Invite and is always looking to run fast. Jumping into a heat with these high profile names only aids in his efforts. He has a PR of 3:39 and has proven himself to be a threat whenever he’s in the heat.
Other names that didn’t make the fast heat and will most likely run fast include: Reed Brown (Oregon), Waleed Suliman (Ole Miss), Carlos Villarreal (Arizona), Dustin Nading (Western Oregon). Seriously, the heats are loaded. PR’s will be coming in bundles this weekend.
Prediction: Peter Callahan
Top Collegiate Prediction: Justyn Knight (Syracuse)
I’m going with the pro on this one. Callahan won the Stanford Invitational earlier this year in 3:38 over the two Ducks and looks prime to run fast once again. Knight's experience and impressive finish from last weekend makes him someone who could legitimately challenge Kerr for the top collegiate spot.
We move to the 3000 meter steeplechase and although the names aren’t as strong as the 1500, it will still be a highly contested race.
Bailey Roth of Arizona looks to be the favorite as we come into the weekend. He's already dabbled in two steeples earlier this year with his fastest being 8:57 at the Stanford Invite. He brings in an 8:37 PR and while we not get a time that fast, we could see sub-8:45.
Gonzaga’s Troy Fraley hasn't competed since the Dellinger Invite during cross country, but he's already run a 5000 to open his 2018 season. Fraley has a personal best of 8:35 in the steeple and has gone sub-8:00 and sub-14:00 in his career. He’ll look to make a big return and reestablish his presence among the top steeplechasers in the NCAA.
There are two athletes at the Division II level who will be looking to improve upon their times. Colorado Christian’s Evan Verbal and Simon Fraser’s Oliver Jorgenson both come into this race with top ten times on the season. Both will be looking to try and get underneath that 8:50 barrier.
Prediction: Bailey Roth (Arizona)
The Colorado native will look to bounce back strong after a tough steeple his last time out. He’ll be looking to get back near his PR and with some help from the pros, he may just be pulled along to create a thrilling victory.
The last highly contested race of Bryan Clay will be the 5000 meters. Seriously, if you haven't seen the heat sheets for this yet, stop reading and go look and then come back.
We've got pros in Evan Jager, Lopez Lomong, Suguru Osaka and Futsum Zienasellassie in the field. Joining them are names like Morgan McDonald (Wisconsin), Tyler Day (NAU), Colby Gilbert (Washington), Matthew Baxter (NAU), and Sydney Gidabuday (Adams State).
While it's expected for the pros to run fast, we are sure to see some elite-level times from the student-athletes as well.
Morgan McDonald is back for Wisconsin and if he is in any shape close to that of his 13:19 from earlier this year (when he was trying to qualify for the Commonwealth Games), we could see McDonald take the victory here. After redshirting indoor, McDonald seems primed to solidify his name as a Wisconsin great.
The duo of Lumberjacks from Northern Arizona (Tyler Day and Matthew Baxter) will look to get back into form at a distance they are familiar with. Both have ran under 13:45 for this distance with Baxter also eclipsing the 8:00 barrier at 3000 meters (Day did as well, but ran it unattached). They both should challenge the pros and come away with solid times.
Colby Gilbert of Washington has a history of running fast throughout his college career and he’ll look to continue that trend this weekend. Gilbert has run 13:35 and 7:45 cementing him as a contender for this weekend's race.
Oregon's Tanner Anderson is also entered here and the redshirt sophomore will look to build upon his strong indoor season. He's already run 29:07 for 10,000 meters and should be primed for a fast 5000 here given the current entries.
Gidabuday from Adams State ran in a 10K earlier this year and will be looking to run fast yet again. He ran 13:36 a few years ago at the Mt. Sac Relays (where he won) and with this field, it wouldn't be surprising to see another time around there.
Prediction: Futsum Zienasellassie
Top Collegiate Predictions: Morgan McDonald (Wisconsin)
Futsum holds the stadium and meet record from 2016 when he ran 13:37. I think he’ll be ready to roll once again and we could see something even faster than that this year. He certainly has the competition that easily translates into fast times. As for McDonald, there's not much of a reason to doubt his fitness after coming off of the Commonwealth Games. Tactical running aside, he is the best collegiate 5000 meter runner in this field.
This weekend is going to be the talk of the track and field community for weekends to come. The Bryan Clay Invite falls at a perfect time for athletes to transition from Indoor Nationals to the outdoor season. With athletes looking to work their way into the top 48 times for each region, it’s expected that many of those times will come from this upcoming weekend.