The first major meet of the outdoor season is finally here! As always, the Stanford Invite will feature some of the biggest and best names in the NCAA and provide us with one of the more exciting meets of the outdoor season. Below, Sam and Garrett teamed up to discuss the entries and the performances that could highlight the weekend...
Which event are you most excited to see?
The women’s Invite 5000 is absolutely loaded. Jessica Hull will be the (obvious?) favorite after going undefeated during the indoor season, including dominant wins in the 3000 and DMR. She won’t get the win easily though, as both Allie Ostrander and Erica Birk should make things interesting.
Ostrander is more known for the steeplechase outdoors, but this race should give her a chance to chase a fast time. It doesn’t make sense for her to run the 5000 at NCAA's (given the high level of competition) so this may be one of the few times we see her in this event during outdoors. Still, let's not forget that she did run 15:16 indoors at BU, which is her lifetime personal best.
I could also see Erica Birk running a big personal best this weekend. Somehow, her fastest 5000 meter time on TFRRS is a 17:05 which isn’t even relevant at this point. I think Hull will probably win this one, but I could see Birk finishing ahead of Ostrander.
The field also includes Makena Morley, Katherine Receveur, Aubrey Roberts and Callie Logue… it’s crazy deep for this early in the season.
I'm going with the men's Invite 1500 on this one. There are a slew of sub-four guys in this race that are dynamic athletes who can make this race exciting. For the most part, everyone in this field is evenly matched and I think it's a great chance for a handful of underrated studs like George Kusche, Jack Anstey, Sam Ritz, Kieran Wood, and Talon Hull to get some attention on a big stage.
Don't be surprised if we see someone flirt around the 3:40 mark. With Arizona State's William Paulson and Kasey Knevelbaard headlining the field, things could get very fast. I'm a really big fan of all of these guys, so I'm excited to see them toe the line.
Which athlete who didn’t run indoors are you most excited to see on the outdoor track?
Hassan Abdi of Oklahoma State is someone we haven’t seen on the NCAA stage for awhile. If you don’t count the 1500 he just ran at Arkansas, he hasn’t raced against collegiate competition since this meet a year ago, in which he ended up dropping out.
Abdi was a big name a couple years back when he was raking in top 10 finishes nationally, but with his extended absence, I almost forgot he still had eligibility left. He owns a personal best of 28:54 in the 10k and I think he has the potential to be in the mix this weekend based on his credentials.
I'll go with Paige Duca of Boston College. I wrote about how she was one of the more underrated names in the NCAA entering this past indoor season, but she never toed the line. If she's completely healthy, I think she is someone who is sneaky good. Duca is a respectable tactical miler who can also post an array of strong times (at a variety of distances). She made the invite section of the 1500, so expect her to run something close (or under) her personal best time of 4:18.
How will Brodey Hasty fare in his outdoor track collegiate debut for NAU? (Second heat of the 5000)
This heat of the 5000 is a great field for Hasty and it sets him up for his first collegiate win if everything goes to plan. He is going to see strong competition from guys like Carlos Villarreal of Arizona and Brody Smith of Purdue, but I think Hasty is definitely capable of winning this race now that he’s under the guidance of Mike Smith at NAU. The biggest question will be how he handles the collegiate scene versus high school racing, but I think he got in enough big meets in during the indoor season to hold his own.
He'll do...ok, I guess? It's tough to say. I'll be honest, I wasn't really blown away by Hasty this past indoor season. He held his own, but I wasn't overly impressed. That said, I think the Stanford Invite will be the perfect opportunity for him to get a nice mark under his belt. I don't think he'll win (given his lack of experience), but I could see him running under 14:10.
Which athlete will break through and make a name for themselves this weekend?
Normally, I don’t like to write about teammates, but I’m going to break that rule because I think Rachel King could have a huge showing in the steeplechase at this meet. I realize her personal best is 9:57 and she qualified for NCAA's last year, but I think she could really break through as a contender on the national scene this weekend.
King has been steadily improving since her freshman year and made a big jump to reach the national meet for the first time last season. The field for this meet features a few other women who made NCAA's including Ciera Simmons of Utah State. While Simmons should come in as the favorite, King will have a great chance to get the win and make a name for herself on a national level.
I'm going bold here and saying that Devin Meyrer from Michigan is going to have a huge day in the 10,000 meters. The transfer from Baylor now has a few seasons at Ann Arbor under his belt and I think that will benefit him as he moves to the longer distance. His personal best is "only" 31:09, but keep in mind that he's only run one 10k on the track in his entire collegiate career. With Coach Sullivan now overseeing his training, I expect to see a breakout performance from Meyrer.
How many athletes entered in the steeplechase will we see at NCAA's?
King, Simmons, Wayment, Owens, Roth, Rotich and Shumway.
Three of the women, four of the men. Total of seven.
I really like what we saw from Briana Ilarda of Providence this past winter. She was kept in the shadow of Millie Paladino, but had a slew of impressive performances. I think you're going to see her, Courtney Wayment (BYU), Rachel King (South Dakota State), and Cierra Simmons (Utah State) make it to the NCAA meet in June. After that, I don't feel super confident picking too many others. In the end, that's four total women.
As for the men, I feel like I could pick this entire field (and that's only the invite heat I'm talking about). Shumway is a lock. Owens is a lock. Heslington is...not quite a lock, but a heavy favorite to qualify. It would also be shocking if neither Rotich nor Roth qualified. Overall, I think those five are very strong candidates to qualify for the outdoor national meet.
Then there are other guys like Absacal, Mylenek, Manley, Schutte, and Ewing who could all find a spot to Austin, Texas if they have a great day. If I have to choose a number, I'm going with seven total men. Don't ask me which ones.
That gives us a (very shaky) grand total of 11.
What will be the biggest takeaway from this meet?
We’re going to see someone emerge in the steeplechase on the men’s side who could be a real contender for the win at the national meet. I don’t know who, although I like Shumway’s chances, but someone is going to come up big this weekend in the steeplechase. I think the same thing is less likely to happen for the women given there are a lot of big names who are running other events or not racing at all.
We haven't really talked much about the 10k yet, but that is always the premier event of this meet (or at least one of them). In fact, there's a good chance we could see the fastest time of the entire season posted at Stanford this weekend.
However, let's keep in mind that no man since 2012 has run the fastest 10k in the country and won the 10k national title in the same year. As for the women, that trend only lasts until 2016.
Basically, get excited to watch a bunch of fast times, but let's not automatically declare the top collegiate finisher as the NCAA title favorite after this weekend. History advises against that.