The Group Chat: Weekend Action (Part One)



The obvious race we need to talk about is the Boston University 5k where we saw Tyler Day run an NCAA #3 all-time mark of 13:16.95. What does this performance mean looking ahead to the Indoor and Outdoor National Championships? Is Day the new title favorite?


Sam: The exact message I sent to the group chat after seeing Day’s results was “And Day won’t even be top two at NCAA's”. Yes, his time is incredible and puts him into the discussion of favorites to win a title, but he is still more suited for the 10k during outdoors. An indoor 5k on the championship stage is likely to be tactical, especially when hosted at altitude, which means Day will have to be able to close fast if he wants to win.


Day has run 3:46 (1500 meters) and 8:01 (3000 meters). Both are respectable times, but neither indicate that he has the leg speed to close with guys like Klecker and Kurgat. So no, Day is not the new favorite and this race arguably has little impact looking at the near future. Long-term, it does bode well for Day in the 10k at the NCAA Outdoor Championships.


Maura: Like Sam, I agree that Day could win the indoor 5k, but the 5k just isn’t his race from a tactical point of view. His 13:16 is definitely a crazy time and makes him one of the best 5k athletes that the NCAA has ever seen. However, he would have to compete against the likes of Edwin Kurgat and Joe Klecker. I just wish we could see what the NAU senior could do over 10k right now.


Ben: I would agree with everything that has been said by Sam and Maura. I think the interesting question isn’t whether Day is the favorite, but if Day can run from the front at NCAA's in this race. If he can do that, then maybe he is the favorite. Otherwise, it is hard to see him finishing in the top three in a sit-and-kick style race.


Sean: We’ve been used to seeing the NAU men grab fast 5k times at altitude which makes this result even more special. The question facing Day is if he can replicate anything like this at a championship meet as Ben just said. While I certainly wouldn’t expect more from him at NCAA's, if he can force the pace down into the 13:20 to 13:25 range, then I think Day becomes the favorite.


Without this race on Friday, I would not have believed that Day would've been able to push the pace fast enough to drop Kurgat or Klecker at NCAA's. But now, I think this makes him a true contender since he’s run a quick time at sea level and just might be able to hurt his contenders’ legs before the final 800 meters of this race at Nationals.


Kathryn Gillespie (Texas) and Lotte Black (Rhode Island) ran 4:34 and 4:36, respectively in the mile at Boston University this past weekend. Are these two serious contenders for a national title this season?


Sam: Yes - although neither are likely good enough to actually win. Gillespie smashed her previous personal best of 4:42 that she ran while with Harvard and is coming off of a new personal best in the 800 meters as well. Black has looked very solid to start the year, dropping a 9:10 personal best in the 3000 meters at the BU Season Opener and has now chopped 12 seconds off of her former mile best.


Indoors is strange because anything can happen in the shorter events. Almost no one would have picked Julia Rizk or Geordie Beamish to win national titles in the mile last year. However, if Dani Jones, Whittni Orton, or Danae Rivers are in this field at Nationals, it’s hard seeing either Gillespie or Black eclipse them. Both should have a good shot at earning their highest NCAA finish yet, though.


Ben: I like Black’s chances as finishing in the top five in the mile. While she might not be as well-known as some of the other top names, she has proven to be just as talented. After her strong 3k in early December, this mile performance shows that she can hang with almost anyone in the NCAA. With the women’s mile field being as open as it is, I think she could even sneak into the top three.


Maura: I agree with Ben, Black has more potential of finishing in the top five at NCAA’s. A 4:36 mile and 9:10 3k prove to us that she has newfound endurance. Black dropped 12 seconds off of her mile PR in Boston. Gillespie’s six second PR is still worth mentioning, but I’ve got Black sitting on my indoor track fantasy team and I see her only improving after her BU mile.


Sean: Black’s result is far less surprising than Gillespie’s given Black’s success last outdoor season. That makes me want to pick Gillespie as the more likely to be a serious contender come March. Gillespie’s time is also much more likely to qualify her without any improvements which is not to be discounted. Neither of these women should be considered title favorites, but I’d want to keep my eyes on both if I were aiming for a NCAA mile title.


Coming into the weekend, the Dr. Sander women’s invitational 800 meters was maybe the biggest event for NCAA athletes. We got to see Danae Rivers, Carley Thomas and Nia Akins all battle for the title of national title favorite (with Thomas coming out on top). What are your overall thoughts on the race?


Maura: Washington’s Carley Thomas didn’t disappoint in her first collegiate race. Thomas placed 3rd amongst professionals and was the first collegiate across the line in the 800 meters at the Dr. Sander Columbia Challenge. Her time of 2:03 currently leads the NCAA and there are still plenty of weeks for Thomas to improve upon that mark.


Nia Akins (Penn) and Danae Rivers (Penn State) were also in the field and ran 2:04 and 2:05, respectively. These two finishing behind Thomas is no reason for concern as it is still relatively early-on in the season. The only thing I'm wondering after this race is, how many women are capable of winning the NCAA 800 meter title this season?


Sam: If it weren’t for her lack of collegiate experience, I would be all-in on Carley Thomas being the NCAA favorite in the 800 meters. Her time of 2:03.06 would have been the fourth-fastest 800 meter time last winter and she was almost 1.5 seconds faster than Nia Akins, the next collegiate finisher. Sure, Thomas has competed at a high level in plenty of championship meets before, but balancing elite racing while in school is a bit different. She will surely be one of the favorites, but it may be a touch too soon to hand her the crown.


As for the rest of the field, Akins and Danae Rivers both had solid showings, but nothing incredible. I would expect both to improve as the season goes on, although I imagine Rivers running only 2:05 will have her questioning whether she should focus on the 800 meter or the mile come March.


Although she was in a different heat, Anna Camp-Bennett of BYU also had a solid season debut, running 2:06.71 to set a new indoor personal best.

Ben: Huge performance by Thomas. This run vaults her into another tier in my opinion. We knew she could run fast, but it was beating Akins and Rivers that really impressed me. The 800 seems like a complete free-for-all now.


Sean: I’m feeling extremely vindicated with Thomas’ win. 2:03 is a huge opener and it confirms that Thomas is able to adjust to competing on an indoor track which was our biggest uncertainty with her heading into the season. Akins and Rivers losing isn’t a big deal to me except for what it means for Thomas.


All three likely punched their tickets to NCAA's with this race, completing what was surely the ultimate goal. A head-to-head(-to-head) matchup between these three at NCAA's (without the pros) will make this race even more interesting.


We're not really sure what the question should be here, but how about Ryan Adams' 7:49 3k performance???


Ben: 7:49 and taking home plenty of professional scalps for Ryan Adams is super impressive. Before we recorded our latest Blue Oval Podcast, I asked Garrett if Adams would consider running in any other event besides the mile after his 3:57 PR. The answer was a hard no. But, after running 7:49, I wonder if Adams will consider the 3000 meters. The men’s mile field is loaded, and while the 3k will also be strong, I think Adams’ speed would give him a significant advantage in the 3k.


Maura: I think Ben has said it all about Furman’s Adams. Adams has never qualified for an indoor national meet, but he is one track to toe the line in Albuquerque in March for two different events. He has already run 3:57 in the mile and now 7:49 in the 3k. For an athlete that has never raced the 3k, 7:49 makes him a legitimate contender.


Sam: As Maura noted, Ben really hit the nail on the head. If I’m Adams, I almost favor the 3000 meters because of how fast he ran the mile. His combination of speed and strength sets him up to be a major dark horse contender come Nationals and this weekend’s performance all but guarantees him a trip in the 3k.


Whittni Orton came up just short of the win in the mile at Dr. Sander’s, but ran a collegiate leading time of 4:29.76. Only Danae Rivers ran faster in 2019 and that was at the Millrose Games. After this performance, what event should Orton focus on at Nationals?


Sam: The fact Orton went sub-4:30 makes me believe she should focus on the mile at NCAA's. No one else has yet to run even remotely close to this mark and Orton can only get better as the season goes on. While she has shown incredible range, opening her season with a 15:22 for 5k, it’s hard to think that Orton does not run the mile. Plus, neither Rivers nor Jones, the other potential favorites, are locks to run the event. Rivers may opt for the 800 meters and Jones (like Orton) could be in the mile, 3k, 5k, and/or DMR.


Ben: She has to do the mile now, right? It is theoretically the weakest distance field and after that performance, it is clear that Orton would be clear the favorite if Dani Jones does not contest the event. The BYU runner has gone up another level in terms of her fitness in the past year, and seems like a lock to at least finish in the top three in almost whatever event she does.

Maura: Seeing that Sam and Ben have already discussed Orton’s 4:29 mile performance, there’s not much left to say. She ran a five second PR. Almost out-kicked professional Nikki Hiltz. She now leads the NCAA. Frankly, with her combination of speed and endurance, I think Orton should opt for the 3k at NCAA’s.


Sean: It is certainly tough to imagine Orton opting out of the mile with this performance, although it’s certainly possible. The conversation is definitely centering on Orton in the mile vs 3k, but I think the real debate is whether or not she also runs in a DMR. I don’t think Orton can pull off the mile/DMR double win and her chances at a win in each drastically decreases by running the other. So individually, Orton should aim toward the mile, but don’t be surprised if this turns toward a team conversation.