The Group Chat: April Anarchy (Part One)

The TSR gang got together to chat about the first two rounds of voting in our April Anarchy bracket challenge. Part Two is coming after the tournament is compete!

What was the biggest upset in the first two rounds of voting?

Maura: Even though Kara Goucher is a #4 seed and she was up against #12 seed Colleen Quigley, I thought that Quigley’s fanbase would help her get the win. Quigley was also in the NCAA more recently than Goucher, but Goucher’s three NCAA titles were too much for Quigley’s single gold medal.

For the men, seeing #8 Matt Centrowitz take down #1 Lawi Lalang was pretty surprising. Lalang was a stud for Arizona, but his name isn’t thrown around like Centrowitz’s is these days.

Ben: I’ll go with #14 Sinclaire Johnson taking down #3 Sheila Reid. Johnson put together an all-time performance to beat Jessica Hull in the outdoor 1500 meters in 2019 with a time of 4:05. Even then, Reid is a two-time NCAA champion in cross country and also owns 1500 meter and 5k national titles. It would have not surprised me to see Reid make it to the Elite 8, but she will have to watch from the sidelines as Johnson is poised for a Cinderella run through the bracket.

For the men, how about Grant Fisher beating #1 seed Leo Manzano? That was a pretty shocking upset when you look at the huge disparity in accomplishments. Although Fisher was a popular runner during his time in the NCAA, I thought that Manzano’s NCAA titles would carry the day.

Conor: #14 Alysia Montano defeating #3 Johanna Nilsson was a pretty solid shock. Nilsson was able to win three national titles in one academic year which included her dominant victory during cross country where she took off towards the end of the race and ended up winning by 12 seconds. Her double in the mile and 3000 meters at the indoor national meet that same year was impressive given that she ran each race just 90 minutes apart from each other.

For the men, another #14 vs #3 matchup proved to favor the weaker seed. #14 Miles Batty was able to take down #3 Kennedy Kithuka in the Blue region. This was surprising because of how well Kithuka was able to showcase his range during his college years at Wayland Baptist and Texas Tech. Kithuka was able to run sub-4:00, sub-8:00, sub-13:30, and sub-28:00 in the mile, 3k, 5k, and 10k, respectively. Range like that is hard to come by.

Eric: I’m going to agree with Maura and say Colleen Quigley. In the collegiate realm, it didn't seem like Quigley was going to have enough to topple Kelati. Still, due to Quigley being one of the most popular female distance runners of this generation and her recent emergence as a star runner after college, she got the win.

Nick Willis of Michigan destroyed Korir of UTEP even though they had very different collegiate experiences. Willis stayed all four years while Korir stayed one year and then turned pro. It was just surprising to see such an elite talent like Korir fall out of the first round so easily.

Michael: Seeing #14 seed Alysia Montano beat #3 seed Johanna Nilsson was surprising for sure. Nilsson’s range was very impressive and she won more titles than Montano, but I think it ultimately came down to name recognition. Montano is the more recent athlete which means that she probably did well in the voting with our high school and college readers. Her 800 meter performance in the middle of her pregnancy as well as the tragic fall that kept her off the 2016 Olympic team likely boosted her recognizability and gave her the edge in this round, even though those events occurred during her professional career.

I was also surprised to see #9 seed Grant Fisher take down #1 seed Leo Manzano. Grant Fisher had a very impressive career at Stanford, but Manzano’s accolades from his time at Texas are (in my opinion) far better. My guess is that the recency of Fisher’s NCAA career stood out in many people’s minds, but he still only won one title (although he came close many other times). I didn’t see Manzano facing a tight challenge until what I thought would be an Elite 8 matchup between him and Andrew Wheating.

Which runner would you like to reseed?

Maura: Michigan’s Erin Finn only received a #16 seed, but in my eyes she was definitely worth a top 10 seed. Finn was a 10-time All-American and four of those honors came from Finn finishing 2nd. It was going to be tough for Finn to compete against the resume of Colorado’s Jenny Simpson in the first round. If Finn were at least a #10 seed, she could’ve had a chance to make it to the Sweet 16.

I would’ve loved to see Patrick Tiernan of Villanova seeded in the top 10. His biggest accomplishment has to be dethroning Edward Cheserk at the 2016 NCAA Cross Country Championships. Although he only earned four All-American honors during his time in the NCAA, his consistency and resume could’ve landed him a top 8 seed.

Ben: I wish we could have pushed Emily Richards of Ohio Northern up from a #8 seed to a #6 or #7 seed. The D3 runner was an absolute star at her level and had the times to compete with any D1 800 meter runner in the country. Maybe a higher seeding could have gotten her past the first round instead of losing to Laura Roesler.

I like Maura’s pick of Patrick Tiernan, but I will go with Gabe Jennings of Stanford. A two-time NCAA champion who also ran 3:37 for 1500 meters probably deserved to be at least a top 10 seed. Many fans of today do not remember him as well as few other men, but he was one of the top middle distance runners for the United States as well as in the NCAA.

Eric: I wish Emmanuel Korir was seeded higher. I believe he got lost in the shuffle since he was only at UTEP for a single season. While at UTEP, he broke the 600 meter world record, and won the 800 meter national titles during both indoors and outdoors. Additionally, he ran sub-1:45 and sub 45 seconds for the 400 meters. I think a different matchup would have allowed him to advance past the first round.

As for Sinclaire Johnson, she should’ve been a 12 seed. Her 1500 meter victory in a time of 4:05 at the 2019 NCAA Championships was a legendary performance. Her rise to glory was very brief as she turned pro following her victory, but I would have liked to see her battling Weini Kelati in the #5 vs #12 matchup during the opening round.

Michael: I think Allie Ostrander could have been given a better seed (we had her at #6). She was a three-time top-six finisher at the cross country national meet and won three steeplechase titles in a row. The steeplechase three-peat stands out to me because in an event that can have so much chaos, it can be easy to get tripped up (literally or figuratively) and lose your composure. Allie O never faltered and proved that she is one of the best to ever run the event at the NCAA level.

As for the men, I think #13 seed Sydney Gidabuday was also due for a boost. He won seven NCAA titles at the D2 level and also ran 13:29 for 5k. While he may not have had the same success if he had chosen the division one level, there is something to be said about being competitive in your environment. Gidabuday had many other top finishes to go along with his seven titles, and always rose up to the challenges presented to him.

What will be the biggest upset in the Sweet 16?

Maura: #5 seed Coburn will outlast #1 seed Kipyego in the Sweet 16. Coburn’s popularity stands out when compared to Kipyego. Although Kipyego may have more NCAA titles to her name, Coburn’s steeplechase career at Colorado was dominant and headlined by a previous collegiate record.

On the men’s side, #15 seed Sean McGorty has been able to hold his own thus far and could challenge #3 seed Chris Solinsky in the Sweet 16. The recency of McGorty’s career and being a member of the prestigious Bowerman Track Club should help him take down a five-time NCAA champ in Solinsky.

Ben: For the women, there are a few options, but I think Emma Coburn will take down #1 seed Sally Kipyeo. Coburn has proven to be one of the most popular runners of the tournament, and even though Kipyego had a much more prolific collegiate career from a title standpoint, I think Coburn could pull the upset.

In what would be one of the biggest surprises of the tournament, I think that Dathan Ritzenhein will beat Galen Rupp. The former Colorado star already pulled off one upset when he beat Simon Bairu and I think he may have enough support to beat Rupp even though Rupp’s collegiate career was one of the best ever by an American.

Eric: I can see fan favorite #15 seed Sean McGorty upsetting Chris Solinsky in the Sweet 16. McGorty's popularity since high school has stayed with him through college and now the pros. Solinsky has plenty of name recognition of his own, but McGorty has recency on his side.

On the women's side, I'll also go with Coburn taking down Kipyego. As we have already mentioned, the name recognition and Colorado branding that Coburn holds is pretty hard to take down when it comes to voting.

Michael: Like many others have already mentioned, McGorty over Solinsky could be a reality. That said, there may not be a more memorable performance than when Solinsky broke the American record in the 10k (even though it wasn't during college). That alone may be enough to fend off the potential upset by McGorty.

On the women’s side, I think #5 seed Jordan Hasay could knock out #1 seed Raevyn Rogers. This battle between two former Ducks could be one of the most exciting of the tournament. Although Rogers is the top seed, Hasay had her fair share of dominant performances at Oregon and certainly has the name recognition.

How many #1 seeds will make it to the Final Four?

Note: Between the men and women, there are five #1 seeds left at the time of publication.

Ben: I believe we will see only one #1 seed win its region on the men’s side. I think Cheserek is the only one who will make it through the Sweet 16 and Elite 8 unscathed. For the women, I see two #1 seeds qualifying for the Final Four with Jenny Simpson and Raevyn Rogers edging out their competition.

Maura: I agree with Ben. Two #1 seeds in the Final Four should qualify for the women and one for the men. Simpson and Rogers have the best chances of qualifying based on popularity and credentials. As much as I would like to say two men could qualify for the Final Four, I’m going to say that Cheserek has the best shot and will be the only #1 seed to make it through.

Conor: I'm not super confident that Rogers will make it through, but Simpson is a given and so is Cheserek on the men's side. So overall, I'm guaranteeing one on the women's side and one on the men's side.

Eric: On the men’s side, I think only King Chez is going to make it to the Final Four. In my opinion, he is the G.O.A.T. of collegiate distance running. He won so much that it just got boring to watch some of his races. I think he'll see Centro in the Final Four.

For the women, I only see Jenny Simpson making it. She will have an interesting matchup with Karissa Schweizer in the Elite 8, but she should be able to make it through. I see Raevyn Rogers losing to either Jordan Hasay or the winner of the Allie Ostrander vs Dani Jones matchup. Abbey D’Agostino has already lost to Kara Goucher and Sally Kipyego will lose to Emma Coburn. We could see a lot of Buffs in the Final Four...

Michael: I think Jenny Simpson will be the only top-seeded woman to make it to the Final Four. In my mind, Simpson’s career at Colorado is undoubtedly better than any of the remaining competitors in her region (Dom Scott - who she faces in the Sweet 16 - plus Karissa Schweizer and Sinclaire Johnson). I will be shocked if she does not make the Final Four. Kipyego and Rogers will face significant challenges to get that far.

For the men, Edward Cheserek will be the only #1 seed to appear in the Final Four. With Manzano and Lalang already out, the only other possibility to make it is Sam Chelanga. Chelanga faces Clayton Murphy in the Sweet 16, and then either Dathan Ritzenhein or Galen Rupp in the Elite 8. If he gets past Clayton Murphy, I don’t think he will be able to beat Ritzenhein or Rupp to make it to the Final Four.