Every time championship season rolls around, the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference always seems to give us some kind of min-national meet before the actual NCAA meet. This year is no different as we will see multiple NCAA qualifiers facing off against each other in marquee events.
So without further ado, let’s begin.
*Note: Our titles for each section are Women's specific // Men's specific
Anyone's Title to Take // Western vs Mines
We’ll start with the women, as they will compete in all of their races first over the course of the weekend. That being said, this is one of the only races that actually isn’t as highly contested as the rest of the events.
The top seed is Kaylee Bogina (Adams State) with her 16:55 and that’s enough to give her a 15-second gap on the next best seed time owned by Morgan Molesworth (Colorado Mines) who enters the meet with a time of 17:10. There is only one other woman entered with a seed time faster than 18:00 and that is Colorado Christian’s Kayla Hanson.
I highly doubt this race goes out fast which would leave the title up for grabs, theoretically. Even so, I like Bogina's experience and I think she has shown encouraging signs of development and improved fitness this winter. I'll stick with her taking the win.
As for the men, it’s a highly contested race with five of the top 20 runners in the country squaring off against each other. The names include: Charlie Sweeney (Western Colorado), Taylor Stack (Western Colorado), Dylan Ko (Colorado Mines), Max Sevcik (Colorado Mines) and Kyle Moran (Colorado Mines). Sweeney and Stack come into the race with the top two seed times at 14:05 and 14:07 while the Colorado Mines trio are all under the 14:20 threshold.
Like the women’s race, I expect this to go out slow. No one mentioned above needs a time to get into the NCAA meet in a couple of weeks, but it’s worth mentioning that of the five Colorado Mines athletes entered in the fast heat of the 5000 meters, only one is doubling back in the 3000 the next day (Derek Steele). It wouldn’t come as a shock if Mines’ strategy was to try and take the legs out from under the rest of the field with aggressive pacing.
An interesting omission from the field is CSU-Pueblo’s Marcelo Laguera. He’s currently the leader in the NCAA at 5000 meters and it’s odd that he’s not part of this field. Instead, we may find an answer that comes in the form of the DMR as he was part of the Thunderwolves team that was DQ’d earlier in the season, but have since posted a mark without him in the lineup.
This race is really anyones to take given the talent level in the field. Ko took down the WSCU duo at the RMAC Cross Country Championships which could give him a leg up here.
However, that was on grass and I think we’ll see a different story this time around. I don’t know which story it’ll be, but I think a Mountaineer takes home the conference title this weekend.
Cotter vs The Field // Day vs Workman Rematch
The women’s mile could play out as one of the most interesting races of the weekend. Adams State's Stephanie Cotter is entered as the heavy favorite. Her 4:38 seed time (converted) is 14 seconds better than the next competitor. The duo of Kayla Wooten and Maia Austin have seed times of 4:52 and 4:53, respectively while Hailey Streff of CSU-Pueblo boasts a time of 4:52 as well. Joining those three is Black Hills State senior Abbie Frederick with a time of 4:53.
I don’t think it’s out of the question to say that Cotter should win this race and do so rather easily given her talent level. Like every race, there’s always a chance that someone can out-kick her, but I don’t think that she will let it get to that point.
The race for 2nd place, however, could be interesting.
Seven of the women entered in the fast heat have broken 5:00 and if Cotter pushes the pace, we could see some women dip under that mark again. Hailey Streff is someone who is due for a breakout performance given her recent progress. Keep an eye on her this weekend.
The men’s race is definitely more wide-open in terms of who could win this weekend. Vincent Workman of Colorado Mines comes in with the top seed time of 4:05.26 while CSU-Pueblo’s Dylan Day is right behind him at 4:05.29. Funny enough, those times came from the same meet where Workman and Day went head-to-head in a thrilling matchup that gave Workman the win by 0.03 seconds. Both of those times are converted marks from the first weekend in December.
The rest of the field with a seed time under 4:10 is as follows: Paddy Robb (Adams State), Jonathen Specht (Western Colorado), Evan Sutherland (Western Colorado) and Tony Torres (Colorado Mesa).
It’s hard to pick a winner here because everyone seems to be so equal. Day went to sea-level and ran a personal best of 4:12 which isn't really close to his seed time of 4:05. Meanwhile, Workman has run as a leg for a DMR team before running 8:15 for 3000 meters. Out of those two, I give the edge to Workman once again.
Meanwhile, Paddy Robb and Tony Torres both threw down personal bests in the mile at New Mexico a few weeks back while WSCU’s Specht ran 4:09 at Grand Valley two weeks ago and took down Day in the process.
With Day, Workman, Robb and Specht all safe (and likely declaring) in the mile, it’ll be interesting to see if anyone takes the lead from the gun and tries to make it honest. You get 11 seconds in a conversion at UCCS (where the conference meet is hosted). Everyone in the field can run 4:20, even at altitude, but is that worth sacrificing a chance at an RMAC mile crown? Who knows.
Also, keep an eye on the slow heat with Ross Husch in it. He’s been recovering from an injury, but he’s qualified for the mile before and is certainly capable of running a mark that would get him into the NCAA meet.
Sharon vs Hernandez // Hood Leads Incentivized Field
This is a two-woman race for the most part when it all unfolds. Bailey Sharon of Western Colorado and Yasmine Hernandez of CSU-Pueblo have the only two seed times that fall under 2:10 this year for the RMAC. Sharon just recently ran 2:08 at the Husky Invite while Hernandez ran 2:09 at GVSU the same weekend. Both will be looking for their first conference title of their collegiate careers.
We could also see Maia Austin (doubling back from the mile) sneak her way onto the podium as she’s run 2:12 this season. Adams State’s freshman Jessica Simon also has a mark of 2:12 and those two are three seconds clear of the next runner.
While we don’t know how hard this race will go out, it’s likely safe to say that there will be at least four runners who will be in contention for the top spot this weekend. I still think Sharon comes away with the victory as she just has more championship experience than Hernandez does. That, and her ability to peak in the postseason is something that shouldn't be overlooked.
On the men’s side of things, Nathan Hood of CSU-Pueblo has the top seed time entering the weekend by almost a full second at 1:50.15. It’s a converted time from early December (the same track as this weekend’s meet), but it’s still ranked at NCAA #7.
Giving chase will be Gage Mayo of Western Colorado, the duos of Aiden Urban and Tony Nickerson from Westminster and the Adams State duo of Alec Hall and Godfrey Chama. There’s a chance that this race goes out hard in an effort to get someone into NCAA's as Hood and Urban are the only ones who have qualifying marks at the moment.
Personally, I think that Hood will take home the win. What they’ve been doing at CSU-Pueblo for the last couple of years in the 800 meters is phenomenal. He’s got a chance to give Pueblo three of the last four indoor titles (Devundrick Walker won in 2017 and 2018).
Can Anyone Topple Adams State? // Insane 3k Depth
The women’s 3000 meters has seven of the nine runners in the fast heat under the 10:00 barrier. Leading the way are the women from Adams State in Haleigh Hunter-Galvan and Kaylee Bogina. They both have marks under 9:40 (both converted) this season and are six seconds clear of the next few runners.
Nicole Bouma (CSU-Pueblo) and Brianna Robles (Adams State) should also be in the hunt for at least a podium spot. The pair are both seeded at 9:43 and are clear of the next group by nine seconds.
All four of these women have set personal bests this season and are currently qualified for NCAA's. This race should be competitive, to say the least. I expect Hunter-Galvan to take home the victory. She’s got some of the best strength in the country and much like Bogina, has made some really impressive jumps up in fitness this year. That should pay dividends for her this weekend.
After her, I think the race for spots 2-3-4 will also be pretty close between Bogina, Bouma and Robles. Not to be forgotten is Western Colorado freshman Katie Doucette and Adam State’s Piper Meuwissen who could run with that second group and steal a podium spot. Doing so would likely ensure an NCAA qualifier as well.
Lastly, the Colorado Mines athletes consist of Morgan Molesworth (sophomore), Zoe Baker (freshman) and Brin Strouse (freshman) which bodes well for their future. We’ll see if they’re up for the task this weekend, but at the very least, they'll be gaining some valuable championship experience.
Moving to the men’s side, this is likely the event of the weekend. Why? Well, in order to make the fast heat, you needed to have a seed time of 8:20. However, if you take away that lone 8:20 mark, then you would need to have a time of 8:12!
There are eight of the top-22 runners in the country at 3000 meters racing each other at the RMAC Championships this weekend. Carson Bix is atop that list with his 8:03 mark from Husky. Taylor Stack ran 8:06 in the same heat. Joining them is Charlie Sweeney and Marcelo Laguera who both have seed times under the 8:10 barrier. Sweeney was second in this event last year and would like to avenge that loss this time around. Taking down the group in front of him isn’t going to be easy though.
Like the women’s side, Colorado Mines has plenty to offer in this 3000 meter race. Grant Colligan (8:09), Vincent Workman (8:09), Jake Mitchem (8:11) and Luc Hagen (8:20) are all entered as well. Colligan is a proven stud over 3000 meters while Workman and Mitchem are well on their way to leading yet another strong Mines contingent. All four have the capability of taking home this crown over the weekend.
The last guy in this heat is Isaiah Rodarte from Adams State. He has a seed time of 8:12 and has run 8:15 straight up. He needs to likely improve upon that 8:12 and this is the perfect race to do so. He can be in the mix and if his training has been trending the right way, he could end up on the podium as well.
This is a tough race to pick, but it’s also really hard to pick against Bix. He’s excelled in his first indoor season and I don’t think it stops anytime soon. Laguera and Sweeney might need to take this race out fast in order to try and take the legs out from the rest of the field, but with how well-rounded the field is, I don’t think it would help them all that much.
I’d prefer to see a race that is hot from the gun, but my guess is that we will get more of the championship style race and I’ll take the 4:02 (converted) miler over the field.