The Group Chat: Weekend Action (Part Two)

Read up on Part One here

The Iowa State trio of Festus Lagat (1:47), Roshon Roomes (1:47), and Daniel Nixon (1:48) are now ranked 1-2-5 in the NCAA for 800 meters. What were your major takeaways from their results this past weekend?

Sam: Iowa State appears to be the best middle distance group in the country right now, but you have to consider that the 800 meters is also one of, if not the, most unpredictable indoor track race of any meet. I think it’s probably too much to say that one of these three men is a clear favorite, but Lagat has looked incredible this season. If anything, this makes me excited for just how good the Cyclones' DMR team will be. Even if Roomes and Nixon take a combination of the 1200 and 800, Lagat can run the mile and I’m sure they have a 400 meter runner who is “good enough”. This weekend arguably makes Iowa State one the favorites to win the DMR in March.

Maura: In the 800 meters, anything can happen. Iowa State can use these three men to their advantage to score points at Nationals in both this race and the DMR. Although none of these men recorded new personal bests at the Iowa State Cyclone Open, we still can begin to wonder what could happen. If Lagat, Roomes, and Nixon all qualify for NCAA’s in the 800 meters, the race, which can often times be tactical, could result in three top five finishes in a perfect setting for the Cyclones.

Ben: The Cyclones have the potential to win the DMR if they want to. They had a big lead going into the final leg last year, but weren’t able to hold on for the win. With enough depth in the middle distances this year, Lagat can run the mile and that should seal the deal. The problem is that one (or more) of these men might skip the DMR to concentrate on the 800 meters. Still, with Lagat on the anchor, Iowa State will have a chance.

Conor: For Iowa State to have three guys already well under 1:50 at this time of the year is incredible. They have the ability to use these guys across several middle distance events as well as the 4x400 and DMR at the BIG 12 Championships. If they can continue to produce consistent results in this event throughout the season, they also run the possibility of dominating the 800 meters at NCAA’s and grabbing a heavy number of points in an effort to contend for the team title.

Michael: Iowa State is probably wishing that there was a 4x800 relay at NCAA's. While that wish will not come true, the DMR is looking like the next best thing. With what we’ve seen from the Cyclones so far, if they opt to stack the DMR, they might be able to run away with the field at NCAA's in the first three legs. I assume Festus Lagat would run the anchor leg, and even without the mile strength of guys like Yared Nuguse, he could seal the deal. Aside from the DMR potential, Iowa State may be able to rack up some serious points in the 800 meters at NCAA's. Their best chance on the national stage may be to run hard from the front and try to gap the field.

Brian: Iowa State having three men run 1:48 or faster is incredible, but not necessarily shocking considering what we already knew about them. I agree with Michael that they would dominate a 4x800 at NCAA's, but unfortunately it is not an NCAA sanctioned event. This is also an argument for another day, but a 4x800 at Nationals would be an awesome race. Going with that, it would be surprising if they don’t run a relay with this amount of talent. I agree that the DMR is their most likely event.

Toledo senior Petronela Simiuc ran 4:38 for the mile this past weekend (NCAA #6). That’s a four second PR for her and a new school record. With Coach Andrea Grove-McDonough now at the helm of this program, where do we see this women’s team five years from now?

Maura: In five years, Toledo should hopefully be ahead of where they are today. Coach Andrea Grove-McDonough is clearly a respected and successful coach, but Toledo is not exactly a powerhouse school. In 2018, Janelle Noe did run 4:10 in the 1500 meters and placed 11th at NCAA’s, but that was under a previous coach.

Fast forward to 2020 and we see Petronela Simiuc drop a 4:38 mile. Simiuc running a four second PR this past weekend is obviously promising for Toledo moving forward, but for a mid-major school, Toledo won’t be a school that athletes will flock to in the midwest. Coach Grove-McDonough has the ability to transform athletes into potential All-Americans and Simiuc might just be her first success story at Toledo.

Sam: Let’s slow down a bit here. When you look at Toledo’s performances so far this season, only this one stands out. Is it conceivable that we could see this program grow substantially over the next few years? Certainly. Will they get better? Guaranteed. However, there’s a lot to consider besides just the coach. Toledo is in an area where they are surrounded by plenty of big name Division One schools such as Indiana, Notre Dame, Michigan, Michigan State, etc. That’s not to say that they won’t get better, but are they going to transform into a powerhouse? No. I think over the next five years, Toledo will continue to produce some strong individuals, but as a whole, the program is not going to make a big splash on the national level.

Ben: In five years I think it is feasible that Coach Grove-McDonough has coached an All-American and her Toledo team is on the brink of qualifying for NCAA Cross Country Championships. I think Sam is right in that we can’t expect the program to gain national prominence, but I think five years will give Coach Grove-McDonough enough time to develop the program into a place where top recruits will at least consider. Even if she can’t bring in top recruits, she is great at developing runners and this leads me to believe that Toledo will be knocking on the door of national relevance very soon.

Brian: Petronela Simiuc is a standout athlete and her time was great, but I think it is too early to give all the credit to Coach Grove-McDonough. Simiuc is a 4:17 1500 meter runner from the 2018 outdoor season and has already proven to be an NCAA-caliber athlete. With that said, I do think Coach Grove-McDonough will drive some top high school athletes to Toledo. Five years is a good amount of time to create a successful culture, so I do believe the team will be in a better spot than its current state.

Michael: I have no doubt that Toledo will grow as a program over the next five years. I do not, however, see them becoming any sort of national powerhouse in that time frame. Grove-McDonough will certainly be able to draw high-level athletes to Toledo, and this can turn into a snowball effect. The more top athletes a program has, the easier it can be to recruit better talents. However, as a mid-major school, it can be difficult to match the resources that some bigger schools have, so I do not see Toledo becoming a powerhouse in the next five years. Nonetheless, I do think we will see the number of athletes that they are sending to the NCAA East Preliminaries (and possibly even NCAA’s) increase.

True freshman Crayton Carrozza (Texas) just ran 3:59.82 (NCAA #7) for the mile this past weekend in Boston. Is it fair to say that he’s the next Sam Worley?

Maura: Carrozza’s sub-four mile in Boston really caught my eye this past weekend. Running 3:59.82 as a true freshman reflects Carrozza’s poise in his first NCAA-sanctioned track race, trust in his coach, and strength in his training. Carrozza came out of high school with a 4:11 1600 meter PR and 9:15 3200 meter PR. Looking at those times, I wouldn’t have expected him to break four minutes in his first season as a Longhorn, let alone his first track meet of the season. As of right now, I can’t say if Carrozza will be the next Sam Worley. I will need to see how he competes throughout the rest of this indoor season and into the outdoor season.

Ben: I’m not sure if he is the next Sam Worley, but Carrozza’s run is a great sign for his future as well as the future of Texas’ overall distance program. The Longhorns lost Alex Rogers last year and Worley will be a senior next year. Texas needs a new star to emerge with their top talents expected to depart soon. Based on his sub-four result, Carrozza could be that star, but it is still very early. At the very least, he will be one to watch for the rest of the year.

Sam: Put me in the same boat as Maura and Ben. Carrozza had a great run this weekend and his sub-four performance indicates that he has a lot of potential. However, it was only one race, and assuming that he will be the next Worley based on one run is definitely a leap. As Maura noted, Carroza had run 4:11 in high school, but he also ran 3:46 for 1500 meters. That mark is roughly four seconds away from a sub-four conversion which puts this weekend’s race into a little more perspective. I think we need to wait and see how Carrozza does for the remainder of this season and next season before making too many snap judgements.

Conor: It may be a little tough to judge just how good Carrozza will be moving forward, but to go sub-four for the mile in your first collegiate indoor race is more than just a good start. With Worley as a teammate and training partner, Carrozza has the potential to post "Worley-like" results in the coming seasons. His race at Boston University also went out a bit slow, and he was able to showcase his speed over 400 meters, closing in 28 seconds for each of his final two laps.

Michael: This is no doubt a great performance for Carrozza. Where he differs from Worley is that he did not generate the same hype as a high schooler. Worley ran 4:00.61 for the full mile in high school. Carrozza ran 3:46.24 for 1500 meters. While that is still an elite time, it did not garner the same attention. From a collegiate performance perspective, Carrozza has the potential to be just as good as Worley. Some people may forget that Worley ran 3:58.04 during indoors as a true freshman, so Carrozza may need to drop some more time to truly fill Worley’s shoes.

Brian: It is interesting to compare the two considering their freshman Texas careers have been very similar (so far). Their freshman cross country seasons were similar in that Worley posted a DNF in his first regional race while Carrozza finished 187th at NCAA's this past fall. They both managed to come back strong during their first indoor seasons with fast mile times. It is still too early to make that strong of an argument, but I do believe that Carrozza has the necessary credentials for the argument to be made.

Which performance(s) from this past weekend will fly under the radar, but deserve more recognition?

Maura: For the second week in a row, Sarah Edwards of Virginia Tech raced the 1000 meters. Edwards threw down a 2:44 and won the race convincingly by four seconds. After two strong races, Edwards should step up in distance soon and compete in her signature event, the mile.

As for the men, Indiana’s Arjun Jha had the race of his life this past weekend in the mile at the Indiana Gladstein Invitational. Jha finished the race in 4:00.85, oh-so-close to breaking the four minute barrier. What makes this performance even more stellar is that Jha won the race by 10 seconds.

Sam: The 1000 meters is often overlooked because it is not run at the championship level, but three Virginia Tech men threw down some fast marks at the Hokie Invitational on Friday. Jack Joyce, Diego Zarate, and Bashir Mosavel-Lo went 1-2-3 with times of 2:22, 2:22 and 2:23. These three men could potentially be 800 meter qualifiers for the national meet and might be able to form a great DMR for Virginia Tech. Historically, the Hokies have done a great job at producing middle distance runners and these three could be key factors for VT in March.

At the same meet, North Carolina State sophomore Savannah Shaw ran a five second personal best in the mile to get the overall win in 4:42. Shaw has only ever run the mile during indoors, but her cross country times point to her having the range to find success in the 3000 meters as well. With her run this past weekend, she could form a solid DMR for NC State alongside Kelsey Chmiel, Julia Zachgo and Dominique Clairmonte.

Ben: Sam Voelz of Notre Dame ran 2:24 in the 1000 meters on his home track to beat Jack Anstey of Illinois State. While the time isn’t incredibly fast, it is still a good sign for Notre Dame’s DMR team. If Voelz can contribute in the 800 or 1200 meter legs, then that could really help the Irish as they look to defend their DMR crown.

Maudie Skyring’s 4:39 mile at Bob Pollock was also super impressive, especially since she beat Georgia Tech’s Nicole Fegans by four seconds. She might be one to watch in the mile this winter.

Sean: I think we overlooked the Texas milers and their DMR implications. Destiny Collins and Alex Cruz followed Gillespie with times of 4:46 and 4:48, respectively, at Boston University this past weekend. Texas was barely on the outside looking in at the DMR this season, but having three successful milers can only help. They also teamed up for a 4x800 relay which ended in a time of 8:46, which means that their speed over the shorter distances could be an overlooked aspect of their overall talent.

Michael: The men’s DMR at Clemson’s Bob Pollock Invitational yielded some fast times that have gone somewhat unnoticed. Florida State won the race in a time of 9:40 (with Knevelbaard dropping a 3:58 split on the anchor leg) while Wake Forest finished right behind them in 9:41. These times currently stand as the #1 and #2 times in the NCAA, and while they will likely not hold up in the top 12, these are two teams that are on the rise. These performances bode well for the future of both programs.

Brian: Jake Brophy finished his mile race on Saturday with a time of 3:59.98 at the John Thomas Terrier Classic and it seems to be going under the radar. The senior from Navy looks to be in great shape following his strong cross country campaign from this past fall. Brophy rarely gets the chance to time trial something this fast, but he just made a strong impression this early in the season. It will be interesting to see if he can lower this time going forward because it will take at least a second faster to qualify for NCAA's.

Conor: Joe Dragon of Syracuse won the "unseeded" (but still very competitive) 5k at the BU John Thomas Terrier Classic in a time of 13:59 which is a big indoor PR for him. After Friday night’s NAU-heavy invite 5k, which had times well under 13:30, it’s incredible to look at the amount of other athletes who can still run south of 14:00 and beyond. Dragon has been an underrated and consistent member of the Syracuse distance group, and he seems to be kicking off his indoor campaign on the right foot.

In one sentence, what was your biggest takeaway from this past weekend?

Maura: The east coast meets were wicked fast.

Sam: If you want to run fast, get in a field with the professionals.

Ben: Even at altitude, NCAA's this March is going to be quick.

Sean: We need more 5k's.

Conor: Athletes are already running REALLY fast.

Brian: Boston U. remains a fast track.

Michael: The results from this weekend were impressive, but I have a feeling that there will be even more to come in the next few weeks.