The Group Chat: The State of D2 (Part Two)

We talked about this on the women’s side, but it’s worth discussing on the men’s side as well. We saw Ezra Mutai and Titus Winders run non-converted times of 8:02 and 8:10 for 3000 meters, whereas Taylor Stack and Isaiah Rodarte ran (converted) times of 8:05 and 8:12, respectively. What takeaways do you have from these performances?

Quenten: My takeaway is that these four men can each win the 3000 meter title outright. Along with my statement for the women, I believe the conversions are accurate and that each individual is very fit. There still is a lot of racing left in the season, but as of now, all four can be viewed as top contenders in this event, conversions or not.

Grace: I agree with Quenten in regards to these four men being contenders for the title in the 3000 meters, but I stand on what I said previously about altitude converted marks. I’ll believe those 8:05 and 8:12 marks when they run those times without the altitude conversion. I respect the altitude and agree that over 7,000 feet of elevation is no joke, but I’m not 100% on board with the conversions.

Sam: Regardless of where the time was run, I think all of this just points to the fact that the 3000 meters will be one of the most competitive races at Indoor Nationals this year. These guys are all running within 10 seconds of one another and we know that there are a handful of others who could (and will) run in that range. At this point in the year, it’s not worth splitting hairs over an 8:02 versus an 8:10. All of these guys are proving that they are fit and it’s going to lead to some great racing over the next six to seven weeks.

John: This will probably feel redundant, but I don’t think there’s anything to worry about given the altitude conversions. We’ve seen Stack run well in this event before while Rodarte might be getting back into the same kind of shape that he was in a year ago. As for Mutai and Winders, it’s good to see fast times from them. This is going to lead into a very fast race at NCAA's most likely, especially given the fact that many of these athletes will want to enforce an aggressive pace in order to give themselves the best chance at winning it all.

Eric: I’m not as familiar with altitude conversions, but they have them for a reason, so there is no reason why Stack or Rodarte can’t come away with All-American status come March. It's just a matter of geography and funding for the schools out west. If they could afford to race at sea level more often, then I think they would consider it. This just makes the NCAA Championships must-see TV.

We saw Addy Townsend run 2:08 for 800 meters at Boston this past weekend while Bailey Sharon ran a converted 2:10 at the Power 5 meet. Both of these women have experience on the national stage. How serious of contenders are both of these women and are either of them the clear favorite to win the national title in the 800 right now?

Quenten: Between the two I think it’s a toss up. Both are veterans with multiple All-American honors to their names, and this will basically come down to how tactical this race will be in March. With all this being said, I think it’s hard for me to say either one can claim the label as "clear favorites". There are still many top contenders who have just as good times such as Yasmine Hernandez (2:09) and Berenice Cleyet-Merle (2:11). This will be a battle amongst the field.

Grace: Like Quenten said, both are experienced veterans with success in this event. It is quite possible that one of them wins the title at NCAA's, but I wouldn’t say that either of them are the clear favorite to win at the moment. The indoor 800 meters is unpredictable and strategic. This race at the national level can be a storm of chaos and there could be a dark horse who surprises us all in March. That being said, my gut feeling says that Townsend will beat Sharon.

Sam: Contrary to what Quenten and Grace said, I don’t think this should be a close race. In general, I think Townsend tends to be more consistent and just looks like the better runner right now. She has already run two seconds faster than Sharon this season and could widen that gap this weekend as she is entered in the 800, mile, and DMR at the UW Invitational. The biggest concern I have with labeling Townsend as the clear favorite is that she frequently competes in multiple events. At Nationals, that could hinder her chances of winning individually.

Eric: I agree with Sam referencing the fact that Townsend tries to score as much as possible for Simon Fraser, while Sharon is considered the “800 meter specialist” for Western Colorado. I see this race being as close as a National Championship race is supposed to be. Ultimately, if I had to choose one, it would be Townsend as she seems to be more fit. She has the top time for the 800 meters as well as the #3 best time in the mile.

John: I do think there are more contenders than just these two at this distance and that’s largely because Yasmine Hernandez and Bailey Sharon are the only two underclassmen that are back from last year's NCAA Championships, meaning that most of this entire 800 meter field is going to be new come Nationals. Townsend will also need to actually run the 800 at NCAA's which she hasn’t done since 2017.

Where does Jennifer Comastri rank inside your list of contenders for the 3000 and/or 5000 meters at this point in the season?

Quenten: Comastri has improved her times from the mile up to the 5k, not to mention over a minute PR improvement of 16:31 in the 5k. As of today, I believe she will definitely be an All-American in both events. Obviously, if this trend of PR’s continues, she could even put her name in the top three conversation and be the dark horse no one had their eyes on.

Grace: Jennifer Comastri has become a well-known name in the Division Two scene. Her progression is impressive, and I think she’s only just tapped into her full potential. I think she’ll be top five in both events at Nationals in March, but I don’t think I would bet on her to win one of these events over other talented runners such as Ida Narbuvoll and possibly Stephanie Cotter if she decides to run one of the longer events.

Sam: I’m going to say what I said a lot in the Division One Group Chat - let’s slow down here. Yes, Comastri has been off to a stellar start this indoor season. She currently sits at #8 in the 3k and #4 in the 5k on the NCAA performance list. But to think that she is suddenly a dark horse to win either event is a HUGE jump and not one, in my opinion, that should be made.

Let’s be real, Comastri is not going to beat Ludge (or Cotter) in the 3k and she won’t beat Narbuvoll (or Ludge) in the 5k. Could she be an All-American in both? Definitely, and I think she has great odds in the 5k. It’s just too much of a jump to say that she could realistically win either event.

John: Yeah, being in contention to win might be a bit of a stretch at the moment. However, I do believe that Comastri will likely improve upon those times again this season. I think she has a strong shot at being inside the top three over 5000 meters by seasons’ end. The 3000 meters is obviously the tougher of the two events given the competition already ahead of her. Winning either event will be challenging with the expected depth of this field, but as of right now, her chances have improved.

Eric: I like what Comastri is doing for the Screaming Eagles right now, earning lifetime bests in both the 3k and 5k. This shows that something is finally clicking in her training for the junior and she appears to be in the hunt for her first All-American certificates in the 3k and/or 5k. That said, I want to see how she races at the GLVC Conference Championships against the likes of Lauren Bailey (Indy) and the women of Grand Valley State.

Marcelo Laguera ran one of the fastest times of the season when he received an altitude conversion that put his time in the 5000 meters under 14:00 (13:53). Since then, he’s run a couple more races at altitude and has top marks in the 3000 meters and the mile. Are you at all surprised by some of the marks he’s put down this season?

Quenten: I’m not too surprised due to the fact that Laguera posted a 2nd place finish at the 2019 Outdoor National Championships in the 10k and won the national title 2018 NCAA XC Championships. He is a strong runner who benefits from competing in longer races. I think it’s safe to say that he is indeed one of the title favorites in the 5k right now next to Christian Noble (about eight seconds separate the two).

Grace: I think the fact that he has posted impressive times from the mile to the 10k shows the range that he has across all distances. He also shows versatility when it comes to running smart races and being strategic in the different events. Laguera been pretty darn impressive to say the least.

But am I surprised? Not really. I think his progression has been fantastic, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t expect fast times from him. He’s consistent, smooth, and seems to have a certain natural talent and work ethic that has allowed him to really cut his marks down from year to year. In terms of being a national champion, I would say he has a chance in the 5k. I’d be shocked if he falls outside of the top three.

Sam: With no disrespect to those who race at altitude, I’m very impressed with what Laguera has done, but I would like to see him back up those times with a race at sea level. This is not to say that his conversions are not legitimate, but rather it would be great for him to prove that he can run that fast outright - especially considering that the National Championships are held at sea level in March.

It’s kind of a Cristian Soratos situation (pardon my redundancy). He ran that fast mile conversion in Montana and people were skeptical. Then he ran one of the greatest races of all time and dropped a 3:55 at Dempsey to silence any doubters. Soratos ended up 2nd at Nationals that year, losing only to Cheserek. Let’s see if Laguera can come down in altitude for a race and do the same.

Eric: I am not surprised. Laguera is a seasoned veteran who has multiple All-American certificates (and a national title) to prove that he belongs at the top of the NCAA. I think he was gearing up for a strong senior campaign after not running cross country this past fall. The CSU-Pueblo ace has proven that people should learn his name, especially with the NCAA Championships fast approaching.

I’d like to see if Laguera is running at GVSU on February 14th and how he'll handle running at sea level compared to altitude. A big performance there would certainly help him silence the doubters (if there are any). If that doesn't happen, then the world will have to wait until NCAA's to watch him race at sea level for the first time this season.

John: I am surprised with what we’ve seen from Laguera already this season. It feels like he’s leveled up even after last year’s success. I agree that I would like to see him race at sea level, but we’ve already seen him be successful on the biggest stage at sea-level. He runs well in big meets which is evidenced by his NCAA XC title and his 2nd place 10k effort from last spring. While I don’t have any reason to be skeptical, it’s nice to see that he’s come into the indoor season in extremely good shape as that was the biggest question we had for him after he missed this past cross country season.