Conference championships have finally finished up and regional rankings are now locked. However, there are some notable names who must make a decision as to which events they want to pursue at the National Championships. Below, we highlighted some of those names and gave our thoughts on what they will (and should) run at the regional meets...
Cade Bethman (Ole Miss)
Let's start with Cade Bethmann, the Ole Miss sophomore who has had a breakout spring track season. Much like teammate Waleed Suliman last year, Bethmann has the convenient conflict of being highly ranked in both the 1500 and 800. His 3:41 currently ranks him #5 in the East Region 1500 while his 1:47 ranks him at #7 in the East Region 800.
This is a unique debate as there doesn't seem to be a clear-cut answer in regards to which event he should choose. At the national level, the men's 1500 is absolutely stacked with a total of 15 men having run under the 3:40 barrier this season. If Bethmann were to run that event at NCAA's, he would likely have to face one of the most talented 1500 fields that the NCAA has ever seen. However, only three of those 15 sub-3:40 runners can be found in the East Region.
In other words, if Bethmann is more worried about qualifying, the 1500 may be the better choice. However, if he's more focused on a potential All-American finish, he may want to look into the 800, an event where experience plays less of a role on the national stage.
The other factor that we need to consider is that Bethmann has a ton of other teammates who are expected to toe the line in the 1500 at Regionals. Suliman, Hengst, Garcia Romo, Smulders, and Gutierrez have all ended the regular season inside the East Region's top 48 spots for the 1500 (and none of them are qualified in any other event).
With so many teammates crowding one event, the Ole Miss coaching staff may be incentivized to move Bethmann down in distance to the 800 in order to improve the national qualifying odds of their other athletes.
In the end, there is no "right" answer for Bethmann. While most of our logic points to him running the 800, the 1500 seems like his sweet spot.
What He Should Run: 800 meters
What We Think He Will Run: 1500 meters
Lotte Black (Rhode Island)
One of the top middle distance runners in the East Region this year hasn't captured much attention despite running personal bests of 2:04 ad 4:17. The sophomore from Rhode Island has had a fantastic breakout season, but has an interesting dilemma on her hands as she is currently ranked #10 in the 800 and #15 in the 1500 (in the East Region).
Deciding on which event she is going to run will be a delicate balance. Most would agree that Black is a better 800 runner, but the East Region field for the half-mile is absolutely stacked. Let's not forget that the top seven women in the 800 at Indoor Nationals this past winter were all from the East Region. Does Black really want to enter a field that is stacked with recent All-Americans who are still dominating the leaderboard?
Although the 1500 may be a slight move up in distance, I don't think it's a terrible idea for Black to consider the event. Her 4:17 PR doesn't necessarily jump off the page, but in tactical racing, her 800 speed is huge. You can also make the assumption that top women like Rivers, Wilson, and Akins will be scratching the 1500 in favor of the 800. That could open up even more qualifying opportunities for Black.
Much like Bethmann, I don't think there is a "wrong" answer here and it all depends on what Black and her coaches want to accomplish. The 1500 may not yield an All-American finish, but I don't totally dislike her chances of qualifying for the national meet in this event. Most may not agree with that and instead suggest that her strength in the 800 outweighs anything in the 1500. Still, I would take a second look at her options.
What She Should Run: 1500 meters
What We Think She Will Run: 800 meters
Kyle Mau (Indiana)
The Indiana star has a difficult decision on his hands. Should he run the 1500 or 5000 at the East Regional Championships? I think you could (maybe) make the argument that the 1500/mile distance is his best event, but his long distance accolades are still incredibly strong.
With the 1500 being so stacked this year, I can't help but think that Mau should pursue the 5000 at the National Championships. Mau has the turnover and middle distance finishing speed that most distance-oriented athletes do not. In a championship race that often becomes tactical, that speed becomes immensely more valuable and it could very easily put him in an All-American spot.
With a 13:44 personal best (which was run earlier this season at the Stanford Invite), I struggle to believe that Mau couldn't make it out of an East Region where only nine other men have broken 13:50. In fact, that number actually dwindles down to eight if you take out Aidan Tooker who was seen on crutches at the ACC Championships.
From a qualifying standpoint, the 1500 may be the better option, but it isn't better by much. In the grand scheme of things, Mau is likely more concerned with finishing as an All-American than he is qualifying for another national meet.
That said, Mau has only run the 5k a total of five times throughout his college career. One of those of times was during indoors. Will the Indiana ace enter the event that he is the most comfortable with? Or will he enter the 5000 which is best suited for his racing style?
What He Should Run: 5000 meters
What We Think He Will Run: 1500 meters
Paige Stoner (Syracuse)
In the East Region, Paige Stoner is currently ranked #1 in the 5000, #1 in the 10,000, and #2 in the 3000 steeplechase. Wow.
The Syracuse star has dominated the East Region this year, throwing down performances that put her among the elites in the NCAA. Not knowing what you're going to run at Regionals because you're qualified in so many events is a good problem to have, but it's still a problem.
I think it's fair to suggest that Stoner should attempt some sort of double. The combination of events, however, is where the uncertainty lies. To make matters even more complicated, each event combination between the 5k, 10k, and steeplechase are all somewhat realistic doubles so the scenarios are endless.
The most common and reasonable double is the 10k/5k double due to the spacing between the events and the lack of prelims. However, if Stoner were to attempt that double, she would have to scratch out of the steeplechase - an event that she's had tons of success in.
If we assume that Stoner decides to run the steeplechase, then we must now consider the fact that she will have to battle through prelims and finals at the national meet. That makes things tricky for the steeplechase/10k double. On the first day of competition for the women, Stoner would have to run the steeplechase prelims and then come back to run the 10k two hours later. In other words, Stoner wouldn't be fresh for the 10k and would have six extra miles of racing under her legs for the steeplechase final.
From a scheduling perspective, it's not an ideal double.
However, the steeplechase/5k double seems entirely more realistic and it actually seems to suit Stoner's strengths. If she were to qualify for both events, Stoner would finish the prelims and finals of her primary event (the steeplechase) and end her weekend with the 5000 meters which would come a little under two hours after her steeplechase final.
The problem with all of these scenarios is that Stoner had the same opportunity to double last year, but opted to focus on just the steeplechase.
Personally, I don't see a problem with tacking on the 5000 meters to her racing schedule since it comes after her preferred event. If anything, it would be another great opportunity to secure an All-American finish in addition to wherever she finishes in the steeplechase.
What She Should Run: 3000 Steeple + 5000 meters
What We Think She Will Run: 3000 Steeple
Not Super Clear, But Still Relatively Predictable
Zach Long (Tennessee)
The Volunteer long distance star has had most of his success at the national level in the 5000 meters. However, his recent success in the 1500 this season (where he produced a personal best of 3:43) has me thinking that he could drop down in distance this year. The 1500 would be far stronger at the national meet, but Long can matchup very well at the regional level in this event. Still, I think he'll end up choosing the 5000 meters given his experience at that distance in championship settings.
What He Should Run: 5000
What We Think He Will Run: 5000
Josette Norris (Georgetown)
The breakout star of the year has been Josette Norris. The Georgetown stud has produced top times in both the 5000 meters (15:45) and 1500 meters (4:13). While some may see this as a difficult decision, it seems pretty clear that the 1500 is her best choice. Norris recently walked away from the BIG East Championships with a pair of titles in the 1500 and the 4x800, two middle distance events that suggest she will stay on the lower end of racing distance. Plus, inexperience in a long distance event where tactical racing is expected is not a great combination.
What She Should Run: 1500
What We Think She Will Run: 1500
Torpy Twins (Miami (Ohio))
The Torpy twins did not make our lives easy when predicting regional qualifiers. Sean is qualified for the East Regional Championships in the 800 with a 1:48 (East #15), the 1500 with a 3:44 (East #16), and the 5k with a 14:01 (East #30). Teammate and brother Chris Torpy is qualified for the 1500 with a 3:44 (East #22) and the steeplechase with an 8:56 (East #28).
It feels like Chris has a relatively easy decision. He qualified for Nationals in the 1500 last year, so it's fair to suggest that he may gravitate back towards the event that he is the most familiar and comfortable with.
With Chris likely entered in the 1500, Sean may opt to stay away from that event to avoid taking up a qualifying spot from his brother. Instead, I could see Sean going all-in on the 800 meters. He barely missed qualifying for the indoor national meet in the 800 this past winter and has shown that he can consistently be a top performer at the half-mile distance. I like his chances in the two-lap affair where top seeds like Bethmann and Nuguse could scratch.
What Chris Should Run: 1500
What We Think Chris Will Run: 1500
What Sean Should Run: 800
What We Think Sean Will Run: 800
Jessica Harris (Notre Dame) + Rachel Pocratsky (Virginia Tech)
Harris really made a splash this outdoor season with seasonal bests of 2:04 (East #11) and 4:13 (East #1). Meanwhile, Pocratsky is coming off of double gold at ACC's and owns seasonal bests of 2:04 (East #8) and 4:18 (East #18).
Either woman could enter either event and qualify for Nationals without too much trouble. Still, I think it's relatively clear that Harris will drop the 800 for the 1500 and that Pocratsky will opt out of the 1500 for the 800.
However, if either of them were to pursue a potential double, I truly believe that Pocratsky could do it (don't worry, she probably won't). The Virginia Tech ace has shown time and time again that she can double better than any other woman in the country. The turnaround time between events isn't easy (roughly three hours for the prelims and a full day for the finals), but I think she could pull it off. I'm not saying she will do the double, I just think it's something to keep in the back of your mind.
What Harris Should Run: 1500
What We Think Harris Will Run: 1500
What Pocratsky Should Run: 800
What We Think Pocratsky Will Run: 800
Other Quick Thoughts
Euan Makepeace (Butler): 1500 vs 5000
What He Should Run: 5000
What We Think He Will Run: 1500
Savannah Carnahan (Furman): 1500 vs 5000 vs 10,000
What She Should Run: 5000 + 10,000
What We Think She Will Run: 5000 + 10,000
Bashir Mosavel-Lo (Virginia Tech): 800 vs 1500
What He Should Run: 800
What We Think He Will Run: 800
Hannah Steelman (Wofford): 1500 vs 5000 vs 3000 Steeple
What She Should Run: 3000 Steeple + 5000
What We Think She Will Run: 3000 Steeple
Kigen Chemadi (Middle Tennessee State): 5000 vs 3000 Steeple
What He Should Run: 3000 Steeple
What We Think He Will Run: 3000 Steeple
Egle Morenaite (Iona): 1500 vs 5000
What She Should Run: 5000
What We Think She Will Run: 5000