Sharon Colyear-Danville Season Opener Preview (Women)

Additional contributions by Sam Ivanecky and Brett Haffner

It is hard to believe that cross country is already in the rear view mirror and that indoor track is upon us.

Every year, one of the top meets in the country is the Boston University Sharon Colyear-Danville Opener. A myriad of forces combine to make this one of the most interesting meets of both the indoor and outdoor season. The major reason? Most of these athletes are coming straight into these races after running at the NCAA XC Championships.

In many cases, we get to see some cross country rematches. Additionally, this meet, specifically the women’s 5k, often includes a majority of the favorites to qualify for the indoor national meet in March.

Acting as the bridge that gets us from cross country to the indoor season, this meet will certainly be one to watch this Saturday.

Women’s 5k (paced for 15:10)

It isn’t hyperbole to say this might the best non-NCAA race in the country taking into account cross country, indoor, and outdoor races (we don't have the numbers on that officially, but just work with us here).

Eight, I repeat EIGHT, out of the top 10 finishers at the NCAA XC Championships from a few weeks ago are entered for Saturday's race. Throw in five more All-Americans, and this race is absolutely loaded. The race will be paced with a goal time of 15:10 which would end up being a collegiate record if accomplished. Of course, even if no one hits that time, the hot pace will string out the field while dragging everyone else to a handful of fast times.

This year’s race has the potential to be even deeper than last year’s race which was already incredible to begin with. Let's take a look at a few stats from last year’s women’s 5k...

In December of 2018, four women ran under 15:20. 10 out of the 16 women who qualified for the 5k at Indoor Nationals last year earned their qualifying time in this race. Adva Cohen of New Mexico ran in the second heat last year and came within a second of qualifying. In all, 10 collegiate women ran 15:34 or faster, and in my opinion, we could see the same (if not better) results in 2019.

The favorite for this race is the reigning NCAA cross country champion, Weini Kelati of New Mexico. The junior captured her first NCAA title last year in the 10k during outdoors and followed it up with her first cross country title a few weeks ago. In this race last year, Kelati finished 2nd to her New Mexico teammate Ednah Kurgat, but still ran a spectacular time of 15:15 (NCAA #5 All-Time). With her teammate pacing her through at least two kilometers at 15:10 pace, it is realistic that we could see her break the indoor 5k record of 15:12 which is currently held by Emily Sisson [1]. Breaking that record would also move her within the top 10 of fastest collegiate 5k times ever, regardless of season.

While most of her competitors will be competing for NCAA qualifying spots, Kelati will be competing for a spot in history.

Of course, Kelati isn’t the only star in the field. Teammate Kurgat - who ran 15:14 to win this meet last year - is back after finishing 9th at NCAA's in Terre Haute. She will put herself in the mix and run with Kelati for as long as she can, and who knows? Maybe she will pull off another upset and beat Kelati again.

It's important to note that the Lobo star is running unattached (she no longer has indoor eligibility), and may actually be an unofficial rabbit in this race. Nonetheless, Kurgat will still look to improve upon her performance from last year if she completes the race in it's entirety.

Continuing the theme of New Mexico women are Adva Cohen and Charlotte Prouse who have the next best PR's in this field. While Kelati is chasing the record book, Cohen and Prouse will be looking to get a qualifier to Indoor Nationals out of the way. Last year, it took at least 15:42 to qualify for NCAA's. Prouse and Cohen sport personal bests of 15:26 and 15:31 respectively, so they should be able to easily lock in their qualifying spot come Saturday. However, they will have plenty of competition...

The real names of interest outside of the New Mexico women are BYU's Whittni Orton and Arkansas' Katie Izzo.

Orton has never raced farther than a mile on an indoor track, but is coming off a 7th place finish at the NCAA XC Championships and is seeded at a time of 15:35 heading into Saturday (a seed time that seems plenty fair).

Izzo has run a 5k on the track before (running 16:08 during her time at Cal Poly), but she actually ran 15:50 this past cross country season as the Chile Pepper Festival. After finishing 3rd at the National Championships a few weeks ago, Izzo is expected to come away with a new personal best on Saturday.

Both Orton and Izzo will enter Saturday with plenty of unknowns when it comes to their potential on the indoor oval. They both had phenomenal cross country seasons and in theory, that fitness should translate to tomorrow's race incredibly well...but only time will tell.

There are a handful of other top-tier talents entered in this race, but most of them are unfortunately running unattached. The duo of Elly Henes and Taylor Werner enter the meet with personal bests of 15:31 and 15:38, respectively and are both capable of dipping under the 15:30 barrier.

We also can’t forget about the other two members of the BYU trio, Erica Birk-Jarvis and Courtney Wayment. These two ladies are also running unattached, with Wayment aiming to blow her 16:09 PR out of the water while Birk-Jarvis will try to replicate (or better) her 15:38 personal best from outdoors.

There are even more runners who should compete for national qualifying spots such as the Hasz twins from Minnesota (who redshirted the 2019 cross country season), Cailie Logue of Iowa State (who finally secured an All-American finish this past fall), and Joyce Kimeli of Auburn (who was quietly one of the best cross country runners of the 2019 season).

With such a loaded field, we could see over 10 women run under 15:40. With some of these women running unattached, we won’t see all of them qualify for Indoor Nationals, but we could be looking at the deepest non-NCAA field of the year.

Women’s 3000

The women’s 3k doesn’t boast the same level of depth or top-end talent as the 5k, but there are still very talented runners in this race. 9:03 is the time it took to qualify for the indoor national meet last year, and while we may not see anyone run that time this weekend, there are three women who could come close.

Lotte Black of Rhode Island was 44th at NCAA's a few weeks ago and comes into this race with the fastest seed time of 9:09 despite TFRRS not showing a 3000 meter result for her (at least not on the track). After a breakout spring track where she ran an 800 meter personal best of 2:04 and a 1500 meter PR of 4:13, Black has been able to seamlessly transition to the longer distances and is apparently not shying away from the challenge of running 15 laps.

Competing with Black will be one of the core four members of the Razorbacks, Carina Viljoen. Coming off of a 28th place finish in Terre Haute a weeks ago, Viljoen owns a very similar resume to Black. She also has a 4:13 PR in the 1500 and hasn't ventured into the 3000 meter distance all that often (despite owning a personal best of 9:30).

Like Black, the 3k should be the perfect race for a middle distance runner who is coming off of a big cross country season. We speculated in our preseason rankings that Viljoen would take a step up in distance to the 3000 meters this season, and that seems to be the case based on these meet entries alone.

Last up is Alondra Negron of New Mexico. The Lady Lobo only ran once this past cross country season at Joe Piane where she finished 36th and has a 10:15 PR in the steeplechase. It is hard to say what type of shape she is in right now, but with a seed time of 9:10, Coach Joe Franklin seems to think that she is in top fitness right now. She will likely mix it up with the top two as they all look to run under the 9:10 barrier, but don't be surprised if they only dip under 9:20.

Women’s Mile

As for the women’s mile, there is really only one top name in the field - Harvard’s Anna Juul. She is coming off a 94th place finish at NCAA's where she helped her team far surpass their expectations. She has a 4:20 PR in the 1500 and is seeded at 4:37 which seems a bit aggressive, but not totally unrealistic.

With hardly any top competition, it will be fascinating to see if Juul ends up racing this weekend. If she does and still throws down a top time, then she will certainly be one to watch this indoor season.

[1] Jenny Barringer (now Jenny Simpson) ran 15:01 her senior year, but it was on an oversized track which does not count as the official record according to the USTFCCCA.