Questions We Still Need Answered

It was an exciting weekend of action with many big-time performances all over the country. Invites like Bryan Clay and Mnt. SAC headlined the weekend and gave us a lot to review and analyze.

Yet, despite so many notable and telling performances, there are still questions that we as fans need answered. Let’s take a look at a few of those questions…

Why did Cheserek not run at Bryan Clay? Could he have beaten Kerr?

There was plenty of skepticism about the validity of Kerr’s indoor national title over Cheserek as most spectators and fans assumed that Kerr simply had a better kick and was lucky the race got tactical. Of course, those assumptions were put to rest this past weekend as Kerr ripped open a 3:35 to show the doubters and skeptics that he was just as fit as anyone in the NCAA.

Nonetheless, there is still plenty of curiosity regarding how fast the race could’ve been had Cheserek competed. Could Ches and/or Kerr have hit the NCAA record? Who would’ve won in all-out effort? Those questions remain unclear when you consider how fast Kerr just ran.

But the biggest question remaining for me is why did the Oregon coaches decide not to run Cheserek this past weekend? Is there an injury we don’t know about? Did they not think he could beat Kerr? Did they simply not want to race him and leave people like me asking these ridiculous questions? I like to think all of those are possibilities.

Can we call Haney’s 3:42 a comeback?

After failing to become an All-American at last year’s outdoor championships, Haney’s cross country season became virtually nonexistent as he raced in two small invitationals and then never raced again for the entire fall season.

Come indoors and things still weren’t looking great for Haney who recorded modest times of 4:09 and 8:12. He had three “No Time” results throughout the regular season, but was able to help his Oregon teammates place 4th in the DMR at nationals.

The transition to the spring season was intended to be better, but as fate would have it, Haney tripped in the final lap of the 1500 at Stanford and had to settle for yet another “No Time” result.

Now, after nearly a year of struggling results, the Oregon junior finally had a solid performance and ran a strong time of 3:42 at Bryan Clay. But does this one race mean that he’s officially “back”?

Call me a pessimist, but I’m not completely sold on one race being the sole indicator of someone’s consistency and momentum as we head into the later portion of the season. I’d like to see Haney improve on that 3:42 and get closer to his PR of 3:40. A higher finish would help his case as well.

Regardless of what he does in the coming weeks, I think we can all agree that this race is a huge positive for Haney and Oregon.

In a Flotrack interview, Engels explains that he’d like to pursue the 1500 at NCAA’s. Is that the right choice?

This past indoor season, a broken collarbone delayed the start of Engels’ competition and it eventually led to him barely getting into nationals and struggling in his 800 preliminary (although he was on the winning DMR).

Fast forward to now and Engels is on fire after running 1:46 at Florida Relays and then coming back to run 3:37 this past weekend at Bryan Clay. With two quick times so far this season, it begs the question of which event he should pursue at NCAA’s.

Most would be quick to say that his 3:37 puts him in the national championship conversation and I would agree with that. He’s willing to take out the pace hard (as evident by his performance at Bryan Clay) and has the speed to kick in a tactical race.

Still, we have to consider that Engels rarely runs the 1500 and is much more experienced in the 800. Qualifying for last year's NCAA 1500 came with multiple surprises proving that a lot can happen in multiple rounds of the 1500.

The 800, at least for the past few years, has been pretty consistent in regards to the talent it sends to nationals.

Is there a favorite to win the steeplechase at nationals? And why has no one broken 8:40 yet?

Last year, everyone saw and assumed Mason Ferlic would be the NCAA steeplechase champion…and they were right. He was simply that dominant. But now we are in a state of uncertainty when it comes to who the favorite may be for the NCAA title. So far this season, no one has yet to truly separate themselves from the rest of the NCAA.

MJ Erb is a personal favorite of mine. He impressed me during this past indoor season and has proven to be one of the more experienced guys in the NCAA. Then there is Furman’s Troy Reeder who unleashed a time of 8:40 at the Stanford Invite and has held the number one spot in the NCAA since then.

Others like Edwin Kibichiy, Bailey Roth, and Jakob Abrahamsen are all potential candidates to take the title, but have yet to display anything that really sets them apart from other steeplechasers in the NCAA.

But how does this season stack up to other seasons in the steeple? According to TFRRS, in the last eight years, only 2011 did not have a sub 8:40 steeplechaser by this point in the season. Is it a slow year for the steeplechase in 2017? For the front-runners it apparently is.

Could Vincent Kiprop transfer after this season?

At Mnt. SAC, we saw division two star Vincent Kiprop (Missouri Southern) crush the 10k field and bring home the win in a time of 28:19. The next closest time in the current division two NCAA standings comes from James Ngandu (Tiffin) at 29:50.

It seems pretty clear that Kiprop is the favorite to win another national title…as a sophomore. With so much potential and dominance at such an early age, it’s not crazy to think that he could transfer to a division one program for his last two years of eligibility. We’ve seen guys like Alfred Chelanga and Dylan Lafond do well at the division one level and it would make a lot of sense if that’s the route Kiprop decided to take.

But where would he go? If I had to guess, it would be Arkansas or Alabama. Both are competitive southern programs that would be relatively close to where he is now. With both programs losing some of their best seniors, there would be plenty of room (and scholarship money) for another talented distance star in their program.

Keep in mind that this is far from fact. Only a thought/prediction for the future.

Should we be concerned about Jonah Koech?

During his freshman year at UTEP, Jonah Koech was a star who continually improved and beat some of the most talented runners in the nation. It seemed as though he would be the face of UTEP distance running for years to come.

Unfortunately, his sophomore year has not been as exciting. In cross country, he had a terrible day at nationals finishing 122nd overall. During indoors, he failed to make the NCAA mile final and eventually got burned on the 1200 leg of UTEP’s DMR (where they finished second to last). This spring season isn’t looking much better after running a 4:03 for 6th place at the Texas Relays and then barely breaking 1:50 (1:49.99) this past weekend at Jim Busch.

And for those who argue that time isn’t as important as wins, I would be quick to point out that Jonah Koech secured a total of nine individual wins during all three seasons of his freshman year. With five(ish) weeks left to go in his sophomore year, Koech only has two. He could run and win one event per week for the rest of the season and STILL not have as many as he did last year.

The clock is ticking for Koech to run a faster time and secure his spot at regionals. Will he do it? Yes, I think so. But can he make it to nationals and be competitive? That’s a question I wouldn’t be too thrilled about answering…

#questions #ncaa #gzatlin #cheserek #bryanclay #mntsac