There may not be many “super stars” in this race, but the field is certainly deep and filled with underrated talent.
A rising star from division two is Derek Morton who should be the favorite to win this one as he owns PR's of 1:49 and 3:46 (both this season). He has a lot of experience and that should bode well for him against Stanovsek and Gutierrez who, while talented, haven’t consistently competed at the level Morton has for the past few seasons.
However, Morton will not be able to cruise to the win. He’ll have to deal with a rising mid-distance stud from Buffalo, Tyler Scheving.
Scheving ran a 1:48 two weekends ago and is currently ranked 18th in the nation (for division one). Hopefully, him and Morton will push each other to the line. Is 1:47 in the cards? It’s certainly possible in my mind.
George Espino is another underrated name that is typically an after thought on a distance-oriented NAU team. This should be a good level of competition for the Lumberjack senior as he pursues a fast time (and hopefully a regional qualifier).
Joe Day is one of the better half-milers in division two and although he’s consistent, he’ll need to find an extra gear if he wants to be in contention for a top eight finish. However, just like Espino, I believe this the perfect level of competition for someone like Day.
The (assumed) Elliot brothers are a nice tandem and one of them is bound to have a decent race this weekend. They each own PR’s of 1:51 and won’t have to travel too far compared to their counterparts. That can play a big role when race time approaches.
1. Derek Morton (Chico State)
2. Tyler Scheving (Buffalo)
3. Mick Stanovsek (Oregon)
4. Derek Gutierrez (Mississippi)
5. George Espino (NAU)
6. Blake Elliott (Arizona State)
7. Joe Day (Alaska Anchorage)
8. Kyle Elliott (Arizona State)
Just look at the prestige of this field! We may be looking at one of the best 1500 fields of the 2017 regular season. And to make things better, these predictions don’t even include the Bowerman Track Club guys.
Originally, Cheserek was supposed to race at Mt. SAC, but clearly heard of a better race with a deeper field. Thompson and Kerr are the most elite milers in the NCAA and Engels owns the fastest 1500 PR of any collegiate in this field (aside from Cheserek). Throw BTC into this equation and we could very well see Eddy Ches secure his second NCAA record.
The positions behind Ches is where things get interesting. Anyone could take that runner-up spot. However, I’m going to agree with fellow writer Alex Fox and say that Craig Engels is primed for a killer outdoor season after an exciting 800 at Florida a few weeks ago. Engels is at the top of his game while Thompson and Kerr may just be building back up from a long indoor season.
After those four, it simply becomes a matter of which Oregon athletes finish where. It pains me to not be able to list Tamango or Prakel, because they are so incredibly talented.
That said, Blake Haney is due for a big race. He was primed to run well at the Stanford Invite before falling in the final lap and recording a DNF. Could this be the race where Haney finally rebounds?
As for Gorman and Maton, they both qualified for nationals and they aren’t any less talented than they were before. They’ll get into the mix, but their performance will depend on how well they handle navigating the pack, something they didn’t do very well at NCAA’s.
Finally, my biggest sleeper in this race is Western Oregon’s David Ribich. The division two junior ran 3:43 for the second time of his career a few weekends ago at the Stanford Invite and is coming off of a winter season where he secured the bronze at Nationals. With 1:49 800 speed, Ribich is bound to be a contender in this loaded field.
1. Edward Cheserek (Oregon)
2. Craig Engels (Mississippi)
3. Josh Kerr (New Mexico)
4. Josh Thompson (Oklahoma State)
5. Blake Haney (Oregon)
6. Tim Gorman (Oregon)
7. David Ribich (Western Oregon)
8. Matthew Maton (Oregon)
It’s an underrated field that could provide us with promising times. Cale Wallace is the favorite in this event with a personal best of 8:41 in this event. He’s also incredibly versatile and can run anything from the 800 to the 5000. He even has an impressive 1500 personal best of 3:40. Add on the fact that he’s an experienced senior and this race is his to lose.
Former Shorter athlete, Jordan Cross, is a name that you should get to know. He’s a talented guy that is already beginning to show progress at Weber State with a PR of 8:49. Shorter typically produces talented distance runners (see Alfred Chelanga) and I think Cross is another solid product. Expect a breakout race from him this weekend.
But Weber State’s talent doesn’t end there. Cross actually has an equally impressive teammate, Luca Sinn, to train with. Sinn currently holds the 12th fastest time in NCAA for the steeplechase with a time of 8:51. What you probably don’t know about Sinn is that he’s only a freshman! Could this kid be the future of the steeplechase?
Gatien Airiau and Christoph Sander probably won’t get a lot of attention in this race due to their small school, division two status. Still, these are some of the top steeplechasers in division two. Airiau actually has one of the best PR’s in the field with a time of 8:51.
Swain and Vennard both come from respectable distance programs and although I don’t expect them to run a blazing fast time, I do expect them to be competitive and dip under nine minutes (at the very least).
The last name to mention is Jackson Mestler, the Oregon freshman. The last time Oregon had a marquee name in the steeple was in 2014 when they had Tanguy Pepiot (an All-American.) This weekend will be Mestler’s first attempt at the event, so it’s tough to say whether or not this kid is the next All-American Oregon steeplechaser. If the Ducks want to be in the team title conversation this year, they better hope that that is the case.
1. Cale Wallace (Arkansas)
2. Jordan Cross (Weber State)
3. Gatien Airiau (Academy of Art)
4. Luca Sinn (Weber State)
5. Michael Vennard (Boise State)
6. Jackson Mestler (Oregon)
7. Aidan Swain (Arkansas)
8. Christoph Sander (Alaska Anchorage)
I imagine this race being one of the more exciting races of the weekend. Jack Bruce is incredibly underrated and Kasey Knevelbaard is part of a Southern Utah squad that has been ON FIRE as of late. As long as the race doesn’t come down to a kick, then I see Bruce having the edge over Knevelbaard who, at the moment, seems to be more of a miler than anything (but only time will tell).
Tanner Anderson is due for a big race. The former NXN champion has a PR of 13:51 and could very easily take the win. That said, the Oregon sophomore has never won a race at the collegiate level (according to TFRRS) and I’m not sure he’ll get one this weekend. I’m sure he’ll run well, but I think a win isn’t in the picture at this moment.
The same could be said for Austen Dalquist who has had some solid races and owns respectable PR’s, but has never taken an individual win.
We’ve already seen some strong performances from Southern Utah’s Mike Tate and Kasey Knevelbaard, so it’s not crazy to think that Josh Collins will follow suit. I’m high on all of SUU’s guys right now and I’d like to think that Collins can dip under 14 minutes this weekend.
Gonzales, Reichow, and Fontanarose all hold very solid personal bests in this event and I think each of them will improve upon those times. Luckily, the talent in this field isn’t too fast or too slow which means that these three will have a chance to stay competitive late in the race.
1. Jack Bruce (Arkansas)
2. Kasey Knevelbaard (SUU)
3. Tanner Anderson (Oregon)
4. Austen Dalquist (Arkansas)
5. Josh Collins (SUU)
6. Joel Reichow (South Dakota St.)
7. Ethan Gonzales (Colorado)
8. Pierre Fontanarose (Academy of Art)