As some of the current readers know, in January of 2015, I began my writing career with a site called Etrain. During my time with Etrain, one of my more popular series of articles was my Show My The Money series where I used stock market terms to describe the trend among runners. Now, after a year hiatus without an article, we're bringing the series back for one more go.
For those who aren't familiar with the stock market, there are really only three terms that you need to know: Bullish, Bearish, and Neutral.
Bullish means that current data, trends, and speculation suggest that a stock (or in this case a runner) are moving in a positive upward manner. The value of that stock/runner is projected to be higher in the future.
Bearish means the exact opposite. A stock/runner is lacking growth, generating poor results, and simply not meeting expectations. The value of that stock/runner is projected be lower in the future.
Neutral is exactly what it sounds like. A certain stock or runner is hitting expectations, but they aren't surpassing them either. They are in the middle of the road in terms of speculation and therefore not expecting a lot of change in the future.
Using these terms, we've evaluated some key teams, fields, and runners throughout the NCAA and given our thoughts on whether they are Bullish, Bearish, or Neutral.
BULLISH: Mississippi State 800 Runners
Mississippi State half-milers have been on fire so far this season. When they debuted at the Vanderbilt Invite, the Bulldogs saw three of their men run 1:50 or faster. Fast forward two weeks and they continued to shatter expectations. Marco Arop proved that he was the real deal by defeating Harvard's Myles Marshall and securing a PR of 1:47.62. Dejon Devroe followed up his 1:49 at Vanderbilt with a 1:48 at Boston. Daniel Nixon also made a one second improvement by going from 1:50 to 1:49.
Overall, the Mississippi State men have shown that not only do they have depth, but they are making consistent improvements over time.
What makes this even better is that Arop is a freshman and Nixon is a sophomore. These guys have years left of terrorizing their NCAA opponents. With enough time develop, they become just as dangerous as Brandon McBride was in his final year with Mississippi State. The program does have a history of producing top talent in this event.
When you consider the depth, the youth, the development, and the history of this program, it's hard not to like where Mississippi State is at right now.
BEARISH: The 800 Field
Despite the positive things said about the 800 runners of Mississippi State, the overall 800 field around the NCAA simply doesn't appear to be as strong as it has been in the past. With only two to three weekends of legitimate competition left, a total of 28 men have broken the 1:50 barrier. At the end of the 2016 indoor season, we saw an incredible total of 85 men under that time. The 2017 season wasn't too far behind that number either with a total of 73 individuals under the 1:50 mark. You would have to triple the current number of men under the 1:50 mark so far this season just to match up the totals we've saw in 2016.
Aside from Saruni, there haven't been that many stand-out performers either. Isaiah Harris has only made one legitimate effort at a fast 800 (where he ran 1:47) while established stars like Daniel Kuhn, Robert Heppenstall, and Avery Bartlett have yet to even crack 1:49 this season. In fact, guys like Patrick Joseph and Joe White haven't even run an 800 yet! Where are the slew of elite athletes we expected to crowd this field?
BULLISH: Kyle Mau
How about Kyle Mau so far this season? The Indiana sophomore was on my radar entering this season after a strong collegiate debut during his freshman year last winter. So far, Mau has recorded four individual wins, a 3:59 personal best in the mile, and an 8:03 personal best in the 3k.
Yet, what really captured my attention was seeing Mau hold off Grant Fisher with a 3:58 mile split to upset Stanford's DMR at the Power 5 Invite.
The times may not be super flashy, but when you look at his development and ability to win, Mau is certainly trending in the right direction.
This weekend, the Hoosier star will be running the 3k at the ISU Classic where he hopes to lower to secure a NCAA qualifying spot. I imagine his next move would be racing a mile at BIG 10's to further improve that time. If that is the case, then Mau has two more solid and exciting chances to make it to Big Dance in March.
NEUTRAL: Converted Milers
Just a few days ago, we addressed a certain question in our TSR Mailbag in regards the validity of these converted mile times. Skepticism related to these conversions come up every year when someone runs a fast time. This past weekend, it was Kasey Knevelbaard running a 3:55 converted mile from altitude. Earlier this season, it was Jonathan Davis running a 3:55 converted mile from a flat-track.
Most of these times, a lot of these performances can be backed up with an equivalent time at sea-level or a impressive string of results that go into the postseason (i.e. becoming an All-American).
Yet, we still have to ask ourselves whether or not Jonathan Davis and Kasey Knevelbaard are REALLY 3:55 milers.
Don't get me wrong, both of these guys are incredible talents and I have let them go unnoticed before. Still, as a redshirt freshman, are we ready to say that Jonathan Davis could actually run a 3:55 mile? With a 1500 PR of 3:41, Knevelbaard's mile PR should be closer to something like 3:57.93.
Of course, we've seen this happen before in 2015 when Cristian Soratos came out of nowhere to run an altitude converted mile of 3:56 and later threw down a 3:55 mile at the Husky Classic. Still, you can't but be cautious of some of these times.
History says to trust these times, but the performances leading up to those results for Knevelbaard and Davis haven't given me the same confidence that those conversions say I should have.
BEARISH: Robert Domanic
Entering this season, I couldn't help but be excited about the potential of the Ole Miss mile star Robert Domanic. After a very quiet spring season, the Mississippi Rebel had a breakout performance in the mile this past summer with a huge 3:54 mile PR and a qualification for the USA Championships.
Unfortunately for Domanic, he has been unable to match that same excitement since. So far, in his two races this season, Domanic has run 1:50 for 800 and 4:06 for the mile...that 4:06 mile performance came at Millrose where he finished dead last.
With the season winding down, it's hard to think that a 3:54 miler may not even be in the conversation of qualifying for Nationals. Will Domanic continue to race in hopes that he can qualify for NCAA's? Or will his season be effectively cut short in an attempt to prepare for the outdoor track season?
Right now, there aren't a lot of positives to take away from his recent performances, but there is still time for Domanic to rebound and make some noise on the collegiate scene.
Entering this season, we knew that there would be a lot of talented young guys crowding the fields and fighting for favorable spots in the NCAA rankings. What most of us didn't expect was seeing so many of them at the top of the NCAA leaderboards.
Unsurprisingly, sophomore Michael Saruni is at the top of the NCAA in the 800. However, the 2nd spot is currently with a freshman from Mississippi State, Marco Arop.
The mile is no different as Josh Kerr has maintained sophomore eligibility and leads the NCAA with a 3:54 personal best. Much like Saruni in the 800, Kerr is currently being flanked by redshirt freshman Jonathan Davis in the mile with an NCAA #2 ranking and 3:55 mile. Not too far behind at NCAA #4 is redshirt sophomore Kasey Knevelbaard. He also owns a time of 3:55 in the NCAA rankings (as mentioned above).
How about Indiana's Ben Veatch in the 5k? We can almost guarantee to see 30+ guys under the 14 minute barrier after this weekend. Still, the Hoosier freshman has held the #2 spot in the NCAA (behind Emmanuel Rotich) since the beginning of December with a PR of 13:57.
I would also be failing as a writer if I didn't mention that three of Oregon's four sub-4 milers are underclassmen. Sophomore Mick Stanovsek was able to lead the legendary freshman duo of Reed Brown and Cooper Teare to sub-4 milers at the Armory while veteram Sam Prakel was the only upperclassman Duck to break the barrier.
Speaking of elite freshman milers, we can't ignore Texas frosh Sam Worley who just earned himself a 3:58 mile conversion this past weekend. He has suddenly entered the fray of potential NCAA qualifiers.
There are plenty of other underclassmen, mainly sophomores, that have some had big impacts on the NCAA leaderboard so far this season. Guys like Andrew Jordan, Oliver Hoare, Cameron Griffith, Bryce Hoppell, Kyle Mau, and Carlos Villareal have all run under the crucial barrier of either 1:50, 4:00, or 8:00.
When March rolls around, we could very easily see the freshmen and sophomores of 2018 control the All-American conversation at Nationals. The young guys, at all nearly every distance event, seem to be have the NCAA in their command.