Predictions & Previews: Payton Jordan


800

Despite a few key scratches from this event, the race will still be an interesting one to watch. With a nice mix of pros and collegiates, we could see this race becoming pretty fast.


Although there are only a few collegiates entered, there are a couple of standouts. New Mexico's Michael Wilson will be the biggest name to watch given his 1:48 PR from Bryan Clay just a few weekends ago. Don't sleep on the budding potential Wilson has. He was a top 30 half-miler during the indoor track season.


George Espino (Southern Utah) will be another name to watch. He's run 1:49 twice and has some underrated range for someone who is classified as an 800 runner. However, Espino will also have to battle Stanford's Scott Buttinger who owns a PR of 1:49. Granted, Buttinger has never broken 1:50 during outdoor season so it will be interesting to see how he approaches this race.


In the end, I expect these guys to all have a shot at adding new personal bests. The race will have some high-quality competitors, but won't be overly fast. A scenario such as that should be perfect for guys of this caliber.


Final Predictions (COLLEGE ONLY)

1. Michael Wilson (New Mexico)

2. George Espino (Southern Utah)

3. Scott Buttinger (Stanford)

4. Christian White (Stanford)


1500

I am super excited for this 1500 as we get to see two heats of elite talent toe the line and go head-to-head. Professionals like Matt Centrowitz, Craig Engels, Paul Chelimo, and Colby Alexander will almost definitely keep this pace honest and fast. We'll even get to see Norwegian teen superstar Jakob Ingebrigtsen face-off against these top names as well.


However, the collegiates set to run in both heats will give us fast times and hopefully a slew of sub-3:40 performances. Of the collegiates entered, Western Oregon's David Ribich headlines the field after dropping a massive time of 3:37 at Bryan Clay two weeks ago. With the D2 record already on his resume the only thing left for Ribich to accomplish is just seeing how much faster he can go.


The Stanford power duo of Grant Fisher and Sean McGorty will an interesting combination that should keep things exciting. McGorty is looking to better his season best of 3:40 from the Stanford Invite while Fisher is looking to prove that he can do so much more than his current PR of 3:42 indicates. Be sure to keep an eye on the closing speed for both of these guys. McGorty was out-kicked by three Oregon Ducks at the Stanford Invite while Fisher was out-kicked a variety of times during the indoor track season.


In heat two, we'll get to see Abraham Alvarado (BYU) and Amos Bartelsmeyer (Georgetown) toe the line against some high-level competition. The move for Alvarado to scratch from the 800 and focus on the 1500 indicates that he could be looking to enter this event in the postseason. If he dips under 3:40 (or gets close to it) then we may see the indoor All-American try a different plan of attack during the Regional Championships. As for Bartelsmeyer, he'll be making his spring debut in the 1500 and I imagine he'll want to make a statement with a sub-3:40 performance.


Final Predictions (COLLEGE ONLY)

1. David Ribich (Western Oregon)

2. Sean McGorty (Stanford)

3. Grant Fisher (Stanford)

4. Amos Bartelsmeyer (Georgetown)

5. Abraham Alvarado (BYU)


5000

Here we are. The event of the evening. Although most of these races will be filled with big storylines and superstar names, the attention going to Justyn Knight is certainly dominating this meet. The Syracuse legend won this event last year in a 13:17 to upset Cheserek, but now he'll have to face a wider variety of elite competition. Yet, despite all of the big-name pros with fancy contracts from Nike, Brooks, etc., one name stands out: Andy Trouard. The Northern Arizona senior (who upset Knight for the indoor NCAA 3k title) is back for his second race of this season and this time he'll have to defeat Knight in a race that will most likely be much faster than that indoor 3k. As talented as Trouard is, I wonder if he'll be able to match the endurance that Knight has.


Although the top heat is going to be the most exciting event of the evening, heat two is still primed to bring us some fast times. Arkansas' Jack Bruce is a big name to watch in this heat. He's proven that he can be successful with a variety of racing styles and now has a 3:39 to show off his new-found speed.


Bruce will certainly be a tough opponent, but Utah State's Dillon Maggard is just as lethal. Although he was ranked 2nd in the NCAA, Maggard scratched from the 5k this past indoor season to attempt the DMR/3k double. With no relay duties to worry about, you can bet that Maggard is looking to reestablish himself as one of the top 5k runners in the nation once again.


Of course, when you talk about the top 5k runners in the nation, you have to bring up Maggard's in-state rival Mike Tate (Southern Utah). The pace at Payton Jordan is most likely going to be super fast and that benefits a grinder like Mike Tate who isn't afraid to run hard from the gun. Watch for Tate to establish a quick pace early-on in an attempt to better his 13:34 personal best.


BYU's Clayton Young is an interesting name to consider as well. He had a huge 10k performance at the Stanford Invite with a 28:27 and will now look to see what he can do in a race that's half the distance.


Other notable collegiates to watch include Frank Lara (Furman), Emmanuel Roudolff-Levisse (Portland), Emmanuel Rotich (Tulane), and Peter Lomong (NAU). Rotich is entered in the 5000, but we believe that he will scratch and attempt the steeplechase instead.


Final Predictions (COLLEGE ONLY)

1. Justyn Knight (Syracuse)

2. Mike Tate (Southern Utah)

3. Dillon Maggard (Utah State)

4. Andy Trouard (NAU)

5. Jack Bruce (Arkansas)

6. Clayton Young (BYU)

7. Emmanuel Roudolff-Levisse (Portland)

8. Emmanuel Rotich (Tulane)

9. Frank Lara (Furman)

10. Peter Lomong (NAU)


10,000

If the 5k doesn't give you enough entertainment, the 10k should make up for it. The 10k will feature a nice chunk of top collegiate athletes, many of whom will most likely thrive off of the fast pace.


The NAU duo of Matthew Baxter and Tyler Day are the top collegians entered and there are lofty expectations for both of these men. Baxter has a personal best of 28:48 from last season while Day's personal best of 29:04 actually came from this past cross country season at the NCAA Championships (his PR on the track is a 29:06). History has shown that these two individuals thrive off of fast paces which sets them up perfectly for this Payton Jordan field. If they're able to get comfortable and not battle for position, they may have a shot at overtaking Vincent Kiprop's NCAA #1 time of 28:19.


Take note that teammate Peter Lomong is also entered in the 10k. However, I anticipate that he will race the 5k and scratch from this event.


Another dynamic duo that could have an impact on this race is the BYU pairing of Rory Linkletter and Connor McMillan. Linkletter is the returning 10k silver medalist from last year's NCAA championship and should be in the hunt for the top collegiate spot. His PR of 28:58 is solid, but his recent 5k PR of 13:37 at Mt. SAC indicates that he's at another level in his fitness and has the capability to drop under 28:30. The same goes for McMillan who ran a personal best of 13:38 in that same Mt. SAC race. He's been an extremely consistent and undervalued piece of that BYU squad. Don't be surprised if you see him have another breakout race at PJ.


Georgetown's Jonathan Green is the last collegiate entered. He may not have the fancy PR's or achievements that some of these other guys do, but he's an outstanding tactician and someone capable of producing strong results if he's able to get comfortable early on.


Final Predictions (COLLEGE ONLY)

1. Matthew Baxter (Northern Arizona)

2. Rory Linkletter (BYU)

3. Tyler Day (Northern Arizona)

4. Connor McMillan (BYU)

5. Jonathan Green (Georgetown)


3000 Steeple

For some reason, the steeplechase never gets the same kind of media attention that the other races do. Maybe that's because it's only run during the outdoor season? Who knows.


Heat one of this event features only two collegiate athletes, but they are both extremely accomplished. BYU freshman Matt Owens is back to attempt the steeplechase once again after his breakout 8:39 performance at the Stanford Invite earlier this season. He'll get to battle a potential NCAA finalist in Simon Grannetia (Portland) who is undefeated in his three efforts so far this season. For Owens, this will be great exposure to what top-tier competition is like while Grannetia should be able to test the true extent of fitness.


The next heat may not have the same caliber of professionals set to run, but the depth of collegiate entries is far greater. Gatien Airiau (Academy of Arts) is looking to better his personal best of 8:49 from earlier this season and close the gap between him and D2 counterpart Kyle Medina (Chico State). Luckily for fans of the steeplechase, Medina is also entered in this race which should be a nice preview of what to expect at D2 Nationals.


If you're looking for a sleeper pick, make sure you don't forget about Tulane's Emmanuel Rotich. With a personal best of 8:36 and a seasonal best of 8:45, Rotich is primed for a strong performance in this field. He has yet to become an All-Amercan in any season of competition, but 2018 might be his year if he can maintain his consistency and strong performances.


Matt Owens may be representing BYU in the top heat, but the Cougar trio of Shumway, Heslington, and Carney will be a dangerous group to race against. Keep in mind that Heslington and Carney qualified for Nationals last year while Shumway was just on the brink of qualifying. I expect these three to have big-time runs and potentially see one of them dip under the 8:40 barrier.


Gonzaga's Troy Fraley is the last name I'll mention and deservedly so. Fraley had a breakout year in 2017 with a personal best of 8:35 and an All-American finish. Furman's Troy Reeder is a similar story. He too had a breakout spring last year and finished the season with a PR of 8:36 and an 8th place All-American finish at NCAA's.


Final Predictions (COLLEGE ONLY)

1. Simon Grannetia (Portland)

2. Troy Fraley (Gonzaga)

3. Clayson Shumway (BYU)

4. Kyle Medina (Chico State)

5. Matt Owens (BYU)

6. Emmanuel Rotich (Tulane)

7. Troy Reeder (Furman)

8. Daniel Carney (BYU)

9. Jacob Heslington (BYU)

10. Gatien Airiau (Academy of Arts)