Rise & Conquer

By: Quenten Lasseter & John Cusick

With many of the nation's fastest meets just around the corner, we thought it would be nice to talk about some of the athletes who have made a names for themselves in 2019. We’re talking about some of the breakout performers who are having the best season of their careers...so far. Below, we’ve found three women and three men who have seemingly made a big enough splash based off of their races this season.

Of course, by no means are these the only athletes who have taken a big leap in fitness, either. That’s the beauty of this sport, hard work does (eventually) pay off and you’re seeing it first hand with these six athletes...

Casey Monoszlay, Cal Poly Pomona

It is safe to say that Casey Monoszlay from Cal Poly Pomona has put herself back on the distance running map. Let me start by telling you that Monoszlay has not competed in a race since the 2017 NCAA DII Cross Country Championships.

Yes, 2017.

Her two-year hiatus, however, was no problem as she PR’d by four seconds in the 800 this past weekend, giving her a provisional time of 2:10.19 at the 2019 Triton Invitational (#11 in NCAA). Of course, that was not her only PR this season as she has dropped her 1500 time to the #8 fastest mark in the country with a 4:27.68 at the PLNU Track and Field Classic.

Monoszlay can do it all. Prior to this season, her fastest 5k was 17:20.05 back in 2017, but her old PR is no more as she dropped almost 26 seconds off her time to break the 17 minute barrier in a mark of 16:54.12, the #6 time in the NCAA.

Monoszlay is clearly a triple threat in terms of the events she can run. While she’ll likely just pick one or two events in May, make no doubt about it, she’ll be an All-American contender in whichever event she decides.

Derek Noll, Indiana (PA)

Entering this season, Noll had never broken the 1:53 barrier in his first three years of collegiate competition. That all changed three weeks ago at the Oliver Nikoloff Invitational. Noll was the winner at the meet and dropped his personal best from 1:53.10 to 1:51.85. Looking back at his indoor season, there was no real indication that he would break out in his first meet of the outdoor season.

Naturally, Noll didn't stopped there as just last week at the Bison Outdoor Classic, he was the 2nd overall finisher behind Buffalo’s Leon Atkins. In the process, Noll lowered his best by almost another full second to 1:50.90. Noll now has the #10 fastest time in Division 2 and is staring at his first-ever National Championship appearance right in the face.

Mackenzie Kelly, Augustana (S.D.)

Mackenzie Kelly from Augustana is off to a very hot start this outdoor track season by posting two huge PR’s in the 5000 and 3000 steeple. Having never broken 17 minutes in the 5000 during her career, Kelly had no problem doing just that at the UW-Platteville Invitational by winning the meet in 16:50.66. That win gives Kelly a provisional top five time in the NCAA.

Let’s transition to Kelly’s 3000 steeplechase time of 10:44.66 which was run at the 2019 Jim Duncan Invitational. Her result is impressive because it was her first ever time running the event. For a first timer, running a provisional mark and posting the #11 time in the NCAA is wildly impressive. Kelly's outdoor success was prefaced by strong marks during the indoor season where she set personal bests in both the mile and 3000 meters.

There's a strong possibility that you’ll see Kelly at her first national track meet later this May. She is rapidly picking up momentum at the right the time of the year which can be dangerous for whoever she ends up facing in the postseason. Kelly's versatility and notable progression makes her a big name to watch.

Victor Moreau, Academy of Art

We’ve mentioned Moreau throughout the entire season this year and for good reason. After all, the senior did earn his first All-American honor in the 3000 meters this past winter. However, there has been more to his breakout season than just the All-American bid.

Dating back to the indoor season, Moreau posted personal bests in the mile and 3000 with times of 4:07.36 and 8:11.88. He qualified for Nationals in both events and was two seconds off of his PR when he finished 4th in the 3000 meters. Moving to outdoors, Moreau has only competed in one meet so far, but he’s made the most of it. He dropped his 1500 meter time by four seconds from 3:50.82 down to 3:46.65 on his way to a two second victory. It’s the #3 fastest raw time in the country right now and it locks him into his first-ever Outdoor National Championship. Later that day, Moreau continued to establish new personal bests as he ran the 800 in 1:53.38. That’s a two second improvement and a testament to the work that he has put in over the last few years.

Emily Byrd, Michigan Tech

Emily Byrd had never run the 10,000 meters during her three year career at Michigan Tech. That, however, changed just a couple of weeks ago at the Raleigh Relays where Byrd made her career debut in the event and crossed the line in an impressive time of 35:29.30. Not only is this time fast for it being her first 10,000 meter performance, but it also gives her a provisional mark and the #7 time in the NCAA. Not only that, but Byrd was able to post back-to-back PR's at the Bison Outdoor Classic this past weekend. Her marks of 5:09 (mile) and 17:05 (5000) are extremely encouraging marks.

Right now, Byrd is making tremendous progress with three PR's in two meets. Frankly, it shows that she has yet to hit her true ceiling. With so much improvement in just a short timeframe, this may be just the beginning of Byrd's true potential. Those performances could make her an interesting name to watch come NCAA's.

Tyler Jones, Western Oregon

The Western Oregon product continues to help bring the university into the limelight. Beginning with the indoor season, Jones saw his 3000 meter time drop four seconds from 8:21.20 down to 8:17.20. That time put him at #23 in the country, but he missed the national meet by six spots. The week prior to Nationals, Jones was apart of the DMR team that ran 9:50 and snuck into the national meet at the #11 spot.

Given what he had done during the winter months, it’s no surprise that we are talking about what Jones has done so far this outdoor season.

In three meets, Jones has essentially matched or bettered his personal bests in three events. A month ago, he ran the 800 where he posted a time of 1:56.03, less than a second off of his personal best of 1:55.34. Jones then traveled to the Mike Fanelli Classic in Northern California where he dropped his 5k PR from 14:40 to 14:32 (which is the #20 time in the country so far). Just recently, he run at the John Knight Twilight meet where he posted a time of 3:55.82 in the 1500 which is just seven-tenths off of his personal best, signaling that bigger things should be coming from the senior in the second half of the season.

While his times don't necessarily jump off the page like many of nation's most elite runners, Jones has proven that he can be a consistent, top-tier talent capable of producing results when it matters the most. It also helps that he has some respectable range. If all goes smoothly this spring, you should see Jones continue to build upon his recent success.