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Mnt. SAC will feature a very underrated 800 field that has the potential to record some fast times. Leading the charge will be Eliud Rutto and Blair Henderson. Both of them qualified for nationals this past winter. The difference at nationals was that Rutto failed to make the final while Henderson ended up as an All-American.
I like the fitness that Henderson has displayed so far. The LSU senior earned double gold three weeks ago at the Louisiana Classic where he ran 1:47 and 3:48. Rutto hasn’t really shown anything notable since nationals and that’s why I’m taking Henderson for the win.
Other gold medal contenders could be Rutto’s teammate, Sampson Laari who believes he is still an “800 guy” despite placing 3rd at in the NCAA mile this past indoor season.
USC’s Robert Ford is due for a big race after barely missing nationals for the past three seasons.
As for Carter Lilly, I would usually consider him a favorite, but he had a bit of a super-par race at Florida where he ran 1:48. That’s still a good time, but he’s probably working to peak in the post-season.
Gioielli may not have the big-name recognition that some of these other guys do, but he is one of the top 1k runners in the country. He should be able to handle this race pretty well considering his overall experience.
Homan and Munley are the final two to round out my predictions. They are both very consistent and have run under 1:50 more times than I can count. One of them is on the brink of a breakout race, it’s just a matter of who…
1. Blair Henderson (LSU)
2. Eliud Rutto (Mid. Tenn. State)
3. Sampson Laari (Mid. Tenn. State)
4. Robert Ford (USC)
5. Carter Lilly (Iowa)
6. Joe Gioielli (Central Connecticut)
7. Ethan Homan (Boston U.)
8. Brennan Munley (Michigan)
Sleeper Picks: Mason Fletcher (Washington), Collins Kibet (Arizona), Matt Molinaro (Ohio Northern), Will Teubel (Iowa), Jack Wilkes (LSU)
In most years, the conversation surrounding Edward Cheserek would be which NCAA titles he was going to win. However, we have seen that discussion shift to NCAA records and which ones he could potentially take down.
Many agree that the 10k record (27:08) is out of reach, but that the 1500 and 5000 records (3:35.30 and 13:08.40) have the potential of falling. With Cheserek entered in the 1500 next weekend, could we see him take down the 36 year-old NCAA record? The indoor mile is already in his grasp and Ches may want the 1500 record to dampen any debate about who the best 1500/mile runner ever is.
The best part about this assumed record attempt is that he will have a fast enough field to push him. Josh Thompson is a stud and one of the best milers in the nation. His closing ability will make sure things stay fast towards the end of the race and push Cheserek to a fast time.
Matthew Maton will look to open up his outdoor season with a strong performance after a poor showing at indoor nationals where he failed to earn All-American honors. He will also be alongside fellow teammate Blake Haney who is hungry to prove that his DNF last weekend at Stanford was simply an unfortunate fall and nothing more.
Conversely, Southern Utah’s Kasey Knevelbaard will look to prove that last weekend’s win wasn’t a fluke and throw down another fast time to assert himself as a legitimate contender in the NCAA 1500 conversation.
Guys like Aitchison, Gilbert, and Willig are individuals that could easily get overlooked in this field and end up creating a few surprises. If you’re looking for a game-changer, watch out for one of these three.
1. Edward Cheserek (Oregon)
2. Josh Thompson (Oklahoma State)
3. Matthew Maton (Oregon)
4. Kasey Knevelbaard (Southern Utah)
5. Oliver Aitchison (Adams State)
6. Colby Gilbert (Washington)
7. Blake Haney (Oregon)
8. Ned Willig (Michigan)
Sleeper Picks: Josh Collins (Southern Utah), Tim Gorman (Oregon), Matt Dorsey (Air Force), Talem Franco (BYU), Ned Willig (BYU), Kyle Medina (Chico State), Sam Prakel (Oregon), Alex Seal (Boston U.), Derek Wiebke (Minnesota), Sampson Laari (Mid. Tenn. State)
It seems as though this steeplechase field will be overlooked despite the incredible amount of talent it holds. Nearly all of these guys made appearances at nationals last spring and could very well make repeat appearances again in 2017.
MJ Erb is coming off of an outstanding indoor track season where he became an All-American and earned two PR’s of 7:54 and 13:43. You could argue that Erb is in the best shape of his career, even after he ran 8:34 in the steeplechase last spring. The Ole Miss senior has all of the momentum in his favor and I would be surprised to see him lose.
However, if he does lose, then it could be to Arizona sophomore Bailey Roth who will look to better his underwhelming time of 8:46 a week ago at Stanford. Benard Keter of Texas Tech also has the potential to pull off the upset as he is someone who really thrives in the later portion of this race.
Experienced veterans like Colby Wilson, Dylan Lafond, and Willy Fink are safe picks. They’ve been running steeplechase for years now and have shown consistent success in the event. I’d be surprised to see either of these guys outside of the top eight.
Robert Murphy and Benjamin Preisner are names you may not know, but should. They’ve both had some pretty impressive performances and each individual has dipped under the 8:50 mark in the steeple at one point or another in their racing career.
1. MJ Erb (Mississippi)
2. Bailey Roth (Arizona)
3. Benard Keter (Texas Tech)
4. Colby Wilson (Utah State)
5. Dylan Lafond (Illinois)
6. Willy Fink (Eastern Michigan)
7. Robert Murphy (IUPUI)
8. Benjamin Preisner (Tulsa)
Sleeper Picks: Austin Benoit (Michigan State), Emmanual Rotich (Tulane), Connor Mora (Michigan), Christian Noble (Lee – Tenn.)
It is arguably the most loaded field of the meet with superstar names dominating the headlines. The most prominent individuals as of late are Alfred Chelanga, Erik Peterson, and Jerrell Mock. Those three ran at the Stanford Invite 10k last weekend and will once again toe the line for a rematch.
I’m a big fan of Peterson and Mock. They’ve made great improvements and have proven to be one of the best out there. Still, Chelanga has gotten the best of these two in their last two match-ups. I don’t see that trend ending next weekend which is why I have Chelanga at the second spot.
Despite the recent success from that group, Marc Scott is the favorite in this race after silver and bronze performances at indoor nationals a month ago. He is capable of establishing an honest pace and is known to have one of the best kicks in all of the NCAA. He isn’t invincible, but the target will be on his back.
However, the one name that consistently gets overlooked is Sydney Gidabuday of Adams State who is just as good as the best division one runners. Last year, we saw Gidabuday break away from an elite field of at this very meet to run a 13:36 PR and put a tally in his victory column. While I do believe that some of these guys are simply in better fitness right now (based on recent results), it’s still quite possible that we see Gidabuday pull off another win.
If he does win, is it still an upset or an expectation? I'll let you decide that one.
Clayton Young (BYU) and Grant Fischer (CSU) are two names to watch after their breakout indoor seasons. Both have stepped up their fitness in a big way and have established some consistency in their performances.
Rounding out my predictions is Purdue’s Jaret Carpenter who may be the next big Purdue star since Matt McClintock. The true freshman has had some incredible performances in his first year of competition. He doesn’t mind running with the best of the best and seems to only succeed in those kinds of atmosphere’s. I may have him at 8th, but don’t be surprised if he sneaks into the top five.
1. Marc Scott (Tulsa)
2. Erik Peterson (Butler)
3. Alfred Chelanga (Alabama)
4. Sydney Gidabuday (Adams State)
5. Jerrell Mock (Colorado State)
6. Clayton Young (BYU)
7. Grant Fischer (Colorado State)
8. Jaret Carpenter (Purdue)
Sleeper Picks: Jake Leingang (North Dakota), Diego Leon (Montana State), Euan Makepeace (Butler), Aaron Baumgarten (Michigan), Tanner Anderson (Oregon), Garrett Reynolds (UCLA)
The field is an interesting mix of established veterans, budding stars, and individuals attempting an off-distance event. Regardless, the different mix of runners makes this a very interesting race.
The Mount SAC title will most likely be fought for by Jefferson Abbey and Amon Terer. Abbey had some significant struggles during his cross country and indoor track seasons. His performances were discouraging and I questioned whether or not he would return to full form. Luckily, he bounced back out of nowhere by throwing down an incredibly 13:37 5k last weekend to finish at the top collegian.
Although Abbey’s result was exciting, he does not have a 10k time recorded on his TFRRS profile. Campbell’s Amon Terer, however, actually qualified for the NCAA 10k last spring. Experience in a 10k is huge which is why I am giving the edge to Terer.
Just like Terer, Luke Traynor is also a national qualifier in this event and owns a solid PR of 29:10. He’s experienced and will have a teammate (Marc Scott) with him in this race.
At spots four and five, I have BYU’s Rory Linkletter getting the best of Andrew Ronoh from Arkansas. The Arkansas Razorback may have an impressive PR of 28:36, but Linkletter has been the most impressive runner these past few seasons.
Why Tait Rutherford? I’m high on all of the Colorado State guys. They’re doing something right.
Why Troy Fraley? He may be running an off-distance event, but he is still one of the more talented guys in this field.
Why Jacob Choge? While he may be young, he has proven to be a legitimate talent and thrives in the longer races.
1. Amon Terer (Campbell)
2. Jefferson Abbey (Colorado State)
3. Luke Traynor (Tulsa)
4. Rory Linkletter (BYU)
5. Andrew Ronoh (Arkansas)
6. Tait Rutherford (Colorado State)
7. Troy Fraley (Gonzaga)
8. Jacob Choge (Mid. Tenn. State)
Sleeper Picks: Myles Smith (UCLA), Daniel Salas (Dartmouth), Brayden McLelland (BYU), Kyle Eller (Air Force), Eric Aldritt (Oklahoma)