The NCAA Regional Championship entries and scratches have been revealed! There are a lot of interesting decisions being made in terms of who is entered in what. With so much to discuss, we've decided to split our conversation up by region. West Region coming soon!
You can view all of the entries (for both regions) in the links below...
As we glance through the entries, you have your usual suspects. Isaiah Harris, Daniel Kuhn, Marco Arop, and John Lewis highlight the 800 (as expected), but there are a few notable scratches.
One of the more interesting scratch decisions was seeing Waleed Suliman (Ole Miss) opt out of the 800 to focus on the 1500. Either choice was a good option, but I would have thought that the 800 would be his best bet. Don't get me wrong, his 3:39 from Bryan is uber impressive, but younger guys typically fare better in shorter events like the 800. Not only that, but now Domanic and Suliman will be battling each other for a qualifying spot. I'm not saying they both can't get it, but wouldn't you like to open up one more spot for your teammate by running a different event? Regardless, Suliman will have a decent shot at qualifying for NCAA's when you consider his accomplishments this season. He just needs to be ready for a tactical race.
We also saw scratches in the 800 (in favor of the 1500) from the Virginia Tech duo of Vincent Ciattei and Diego Zarate. Neither of those scratches surprise me. These two are 1500/mile specialists and thrived in a tactical race at ACC's. Ciattei should be able to get through to Nationals while Zarate will at least have a chance.
North Florida's Nick Morken was a double qualifier in the 800 and 1500, but he has chosen to go all-in on the 1500. It's an interesting decision for Morken who has season bests of 1:48 and 3:43. He would have been seeded higher in the 800 if he decided to run that event and the depth of entries wouldn't have been nearly as strong as the 1500. Granted, Morken's best event is probably the 1500, but you have to look at the alternative to this scenario. You could argue the same thing with Liberty's Colin Schultz, although his seeding in the two events is a bit more equal.
Other notable, but unsurprising scratches include Johnny Leverenz (Butler), Amos Bartelsmeyer (Georgetown), and Jack Guyton (Florida).
Although some of those scratches are understandable, there are a few others that aren't. Myles Marshall (Harvard), Zach Emrich (Brown), and Nick Causey (Army) are all reported as scratches in every event they are qualified in. Although Emrich was only qualified in the 800, Marshall had spots in the 400 and 800 while Causey had spots in the 800 and 1500. Why did these guys scratch? Did they have relay duty? I'm struggling to understand these decisions unless they're injured. Of course, that wouldn't explain much since Emrich and Marshall just ran at Heps two weeks ago. Causey just ran at IC4A's not even a full week ago.
There's a lot to talk about in this event, especially when two of the four men under 3:40 decide to scratch.
Justyn Knight, who has the leading qualifying mark of 3:36, will not contest the 1500 at the East Regional Championships. When you consider his multiple attempts at the 1500 this year, I couldn't help but wonder if he would possibly make an attempt to qualify in the event. That, of course, was wishful thinking. Knight will be all-in for the 5000 meters.
The other sub-3:40 name who won't be racing the 1500 is Campbell Amon Kemboi. He erupted for a huge 3:39 PR at the Big South Championships last weekend. It was arguably the greatest race of his career, but he may have made the best choice by opting for the 5000 instead. With a seed time of 13:37 (2nd in the region), wins over Linkletter and Barraza, and an All-American finish from indoors, there are a lot of good signs for Kemboi in this event. Kemboi only ran the 1500 twice this season and that 3:39 was his first time ever going under the 3:43 mark.
Ole Miss Rebel Sean Tobin was someone I was really wasn't sure about. I thought it was possible that he would try the 1500/steeplechase double, but his decision to run just the steeple was probably the better choice. If he decided to run the 1500, he would have been seeded 10th overall. Instead, he'll be seeded 12th in the steeplechase.
Georgia's Bryan Kamau made the choice to run the 5000 over the 1500 which makes sense when you see Kamau's seed time of 13:44 in the 5k. While I do agree that the 5000 was the better choice, Kamau's experience and ability to run tactically could have had an impact in the 1500.
Robert Heppenstall (Wake Forest), Ben Veatch (Indiana), Avery Bartlett (Georgia Tech), Philo Germano (Syracuse), Nahom Solomon (Georgia Tech), Aidan Tooker (Syracuse), and many more opted out of the 1500 for events that they are far more experienced and comfortable.
As we glance through the entries for the 5000 meters, there doesn't appear to be too many scratches (at least not immediately). It isn't until the 10th seed that we see Kentucky's Jacob Thomson as the first scratch. That's definitely an interesting decision from the Wildcat senior who has had some strong performances in this event over the past seasons. Instead, Thomson will be going all-in for the 10,000 meters.
Personally, I don't see the reason behind scratching from the 5000 meters. The 10k is on day one of the Regional Championships while the 5k is on day three. Thomson would still be completely fresh for the 10k and would have a back-up plan in the 5k just in case things didn't work out with the 10,000. The NCAA does require that entrants race with an "honest effort", but it is impossible to establish what an "honest effort" is and the rule is almost never enforced.
This scenario reminds me a lot of Brian Barraza in 2016 when he decided to scratch from the 5k and focus on the 10k. Unfortunately, he failed to qualify for Nationals in the 10k and didn't have the 5k for insurance.
Seeded 24th in the 5k (and 16th in the 10k), Eastern Michigan's Hlynur Andresson has decided to scratch from those events and focus on the steeplechase. The steeplechase is actually the event that Andresson is seeded the lowest (30th), but there is a lot more that can happen in the steeplechase than the 5000 or 10,000. A couple trips and off-days from his competitors could put Andresson in qualifying position if he has a good day.
Eastern Kentucky's Jamaine Coleman, who has the 13th fastest qualifying mark in the 5000 meters with a 13:50, will be scratching this event in order to run the steeplechase. When you think about his history of success in this race, you have to admit that this was a good decision by Coleman.
Gilbert Kirui (Iona), Iliass Aouani (Syracuse), Clark Ruiz (Michigan State), Colin Bennie (Syracuse), and Elijah Moskowitz (NC State) will all drop the 5000 meters in favor of the 10,000 (which doesn't come as much of a surprise).
Furman's Troy Reeder is scratching from the 5000 and deciding to run the steeplechase.
Both Garrett O'Toole (Princeton) and Mike Marsella (Virginia) are scratching from the 5000 to pursue the 1500.
Much like the 5000, the 10k doesn't show many surprising scratches at the top of the qualifying sheet. Amon Kemboi, who would have been seeded 7th with a time of 28:55, has scratched from this event and will be completely fresh for the 5000.
Emmanuel Rotich (Tulane) would have been seeded 10th with a seed time of 29:09, but he'll be focusing all of his energy on the steeplechase where he'll be favored to qualify for Nationals.
As mentioned above, Hlynur Andresson (Eastern Michigan) will be going all in for the steeplechase as well by scratching for the 5000 and 10,000.
One interesting scratch is Jacob Choge (Mid. Tenn. State). His only race this season was at the Raleigh Relays where he ran a 29:25. Since then, he's been M.I.A. and recorded a DNF at the Conference USA Championships. All signs point to a season-ending injury, but it's tough to say.
Indiana's Bryce Millar and Oakland's Bryce Stroede have both scratched from this event. They will be focusing their efforts on the 5000 meters instead.
Fun Fact: The first scratch we see in this event doesn't come until the 45th qualifying spot with Chris Torpey (Miami-Ohio) who would have had a seed time of 9:02. The steeplechase is such a specialized event and is often the hardest to predict. With crowds of top-tier athletes fighting for national qualifying spots with barriers and water pits, it's not too surprising to see a few trips and falls during this event. That variability allows for slower qualifiers to have a greater chance of entering the top 12 than other events.
Joseph Murphy (Indiana) is the only other name inside the top 48 that is set to scratch from this event.