12. Will Jonathan Davis return to competition?
13. Will James Sugira return to competition?
Initial Analysis: We're combining these two because they both have the same talking points. Neither Davis nor Sugira have competed since last winter. They both ran at the Indoor National Championships in 2019 (where Sugira was a DNF), but have since been absent from competition over the past two seasons. Will that change in 2020?
Reflection: Sugira remained absent this winter, making it now a full year since we've seen him toe the line for competition. In a lot of ways, that just leaves us with more questions. Luckily, we did get to see Jonathan Davis return, although his performances didn't quite match what we had grown to expect from him (4:06 mile, 8:19 3k). It'll be interesting to see what the future holds for these two...
14. Will Emily Venters return from injury?
Initial Analysis: One of the biggest transfers of the summer was Emily Venters taking her talents from Boise State to Colorado. She would have made the Buffaloes a podium team this past fall, but an injury kept her sidelined. Now that she has (assumedly) recovered, can we expect to see her toe the line this winter? After missing qualifying for NCAA's by a few spots in the 5k last winter (despite running 15:45), Venters will likely be hungry to get to the national stage in March.
Reflection: Unfortunately not. In fact, Venters sustained yet another injury which kept her out for even longer. A star at Boise State, the summer transfer has struggled to stay healthy while in Boulder. However, with the spring season cancelled, Venters can now take the necessary time to get healthy while still preserving eligibility for outdoor track.
15. Will Katrina Robinson return from injury?
Initial Analysis: Robinson has supposedly dealt with injuries non-stop over the past year. In fact, she hasn't competed since the end of the 2018 cross country season. Despite being one of the better distance running talents in the country, she has been unable to stay healthy. Arkansas took precautionary measures by redshirting her this past fall with Coach Harter putting an emphasis on not rushing her back. Does that mean she'll be ready to go for this winter? Fingers crossed...
Reflection: Turns out that any hopes of a Katrina Robinson return were never going to be a reality. The young Razorback star had been out of commission for over a year after sustaining injury after injury. She has since opted to return to Australia in an effort to continue her running career.
16. Will Robert Brandt return from injury?
17. Will Aidan Tooker return from (an assumed) injury?
Initial Analysis: Both of these top-tier talents were absent in the postseason this past cross country season. Brandt and Tooker could be potential All-Americans this fall, especially in the 5000 meters which (as mentioned above) doesn't seem to be quite as deep as last year.
Reflection: Neither of these men returned to the track this past winter which, in retrospect, seemed to be a fine decision when you consider that they weren't going to be able to compete at the National Championships anyway. Plus, the 5000 meters turned out to be much deeper than we expected it to be.
Brandt would have been a major factor in what was already a loaded 3k field and a very top-heavy 5k field. However, for Tooker, this is interesting. Mainly a steeplechaser, getting an additional season of outdoor track to pair with his additional indoor track eligibility is actually pretty convenient if/when he returns next year.
18. Does Yared Nuguse anchor Notre Dame's DMR again? Or does he pursue a national title in the mile? Does he try both?
Initial Analysis: It's impossible to say. Notre Dame is a team-oriented program that has recently thrived in the DMR. Having Nuguse fresh for an anchor leg would seem to mimic what they have done over the past two years which makes plenty of sense.
However, Nuguse has already done his job by helping Notre Dame win a national title. With a 1500 meter gold medal and a DMR gold medal, the open mile is the only event in his 1500/mile/DMR wheelhouse that he has not yet won.
Will Nuguse and the coaching staff want to change that this winter?
Reflection: Looks like the DMR was going to be the priority once again. The Notre Dame ace scratched out of the mile and opted for the DMR/3k double. The 3000 meters made this decision much easier as we didn't expect him to be such a strong contender in the event this year. Notre Dame is building a brand around dominating the DMR and they didn't want to change that this year.
19. Can Wilson-Perteete replicate her success from outdoors this winter?
Initial Analysis: One of the best talents in the NCAA last spring was Avi Wilson-Perteete who ran 2:02 on multiple occasions and finished 3rd at NCAA's. Her personal best of 2:01 is from the spring of 2018. However, the UNLV middle distance ace has only ever qualified for one national meet during indoors (2018). At that national meet, she failed to make it out of the prelims. Last winter, she didn't even qualify for NCAA's.
Wilson-Perteete is clearly one of the more talented 800 meter runners in the NCAA this year. However, she'll need to find a way to replicate her success from the spring seasons on the indoor oval if she wants to be competitive with other top talents
Reflection: For whatever reason, Wilson-Perteete can't seem to translate her outdoor success to the indoor oval. The UNLV ace ran a converted 2:06.10 this year which was a few spots out from her earning a qualifying spot to Nationals. Unfortunately, with the spring season now terminated, she won't get that chance to show off her true talent until she returns next year.
20. Will Devin Dixon run a new collegiate record in the 800 meters this season?
Initial Analysis: I think people are dismissing this question far too quickly. Dixon already has the American Collegiate Record of 1:45.27 (non-converted) and his aggressive racing style almost always puts him in a favorable position to run fast. With a personal best of 1:44.84 from last spring and a converted time of 1:44.97 from last winter, all signs are pointing to a potential record attempt for Dixon over the next couple months.
Reflection: Dixon didn't contest the 800 meters all that often this season and when he did, it didn't always result in fireworks. His 1:47 season best was respectable, but the Texas A&M ace was known for his absurdly fast regular season times and willingness to assert aggressive paces. That, however, didn't seem to happen in 2020.
21. Who attempts to triple at NCAA's this year?
Initial Analysis: Last year, we saw Oliver Hoare and Kyle Mau attempt the mile/3k/DMR triple at NCAA's last year (which is the only reasonable triple that a distance runner could attempt). For the most part, it didn't go that well, which leads us to believe that they won't attempt that triple again.
Based off of last year's results, we could see James West or Cooper Teare go for the triple and maybe even Alex Ostberg as well. Washington's Talon Hull and Arkansas' Cameron Griffith seem like other solid candidates for the triple given their success in the mile and 3k distances and their team's history of qualifying for Nationals in the DMR.
As for the women, it seems less likely that we will see someone try a triple. In fact, no one attempted the triple last winter (that we could find). Dani Jones could try the triple. Katie Rainsberger could try the triple. Lauren Gregory could try the triple. But unless their respective teams are desperate for points, we don't think they'll take on the unnecessary workload.
Reflection: We never actually got to see who was going to attempt the triple, although it seemed extremely possible that James West (Oregon) and Carina Viljoen (Arkansas) were going to try the mile/DMR/3k triple. West proved on numerous occasions this season that he could effectively run multiple events over the course of a weekend. If anyone could have successfully pulled off the triple, it was him.
Dani Jones could have tried the triple, but the DMR in conjunction with the mile and the 800 meter prelims would have been asking for a lot on the first day of competition at Nationals.
22. What does Dani Jones run at Nationals?
Initial Analysis: As we just mentioned, we don't think Dani Jones will try the triple at NCAA's. Instead, running both the mile and DMR seems like a very realistic double. The mile will be wide-open this year and it would be Jones' to lose. Meanwhile, the 3k and 5k will likely be crowded at the top with Weini Kelati and Alicia Monson headlining the events. As for the DMR, the potential to see a Hurta/McArthur/Jones relay just sounds too good to pass up.
Reflection: The 3k seemed to be an option in a lot of scenarios for Jones coming into this season. This was mainly because the 3k was the last distance event of the national meet and it makes a lot of sense for someone like Jones to contest an event that is the perfect balance of middle distance speed and endurance.
However, when Jones didn't contest the 3000 meters this year, we automatically assumed that she would be running the mile/DMR double. That, however, wasn't at all the case as Jones shocked everyone by entering the mile/800 double at Nationals.
It was a mystery trying to figure out what Jones was going to run at NCAA's before this season even began and it stayed that way leading into the National Championships.