By: John Cusick
Once again, we will start with the 800 meters. With the current entries, Robert Ford (USC) is the fastest qualifier amongst the field at 1:49.16. Ford is the defending champion and will look to defend his title whilst qualifying for the national meet.
Carlos Villarreal (Arizona) sits 2nd in the MPSF rankings and is the only other competitor under 1:50 entered in the race. Villarreal will also look to improve upon his national position at this discipline. He is currently ranked 15th in the nation for the mile with a 3:57.
Justin Janke (Washington State), Riley Kelly (UCLA), Michael Merchan (CSUN) and Brandon McGorty (Stanford) are all under the 1:51 mark and round out the rest of the field. Hari Sathyamurthy (Stanford), David Graham (BYU), Collins Kibet (Arizona) and Brian Smith (Stanford) finish out the top ten of the entered athletes. Kibet of Arizona has a PR of 1:46, but has struggled to reach a mark like that in recent years.
Prediction: Robert Ford (USC)
-He’s run 1:47 before and he’s hungry for more than just a conference ring. Him and Villarreal will battle it out with Ford edging Villarreal at the finish line.
As we dive into the mile, when we look at the entry list and compare it to the performance list it’s a bit of a letdown. Ben Saarel (Colorado) comes in with the fastest entry with his 3:57.46. Two others join him under the 4:00 barrier with Jeff Thies (Portland) at 3:58.39 and Blake Haney (Oregon) at 3:59.01. Those two will most likely challenge Saarel for the title.
Eduardo Herrera (Colorado, 4:00.88), John Carter Blunt (UCLA, 4:02.89), and Thomas Coyle (Stanford, 4:03.77) are all under the 4:04 mark so far this season.
Six athletes follow all at the 4:04 mark giving the event a ton of depth when it comes to team title implications. One of those names include Abraham Alvarado from BYU. He’s foregone the 800 where he has ran 1:47 on the year. Look for Alvarado to try and mix it up in the front.
Prediction: Ben Saarel (Colorado)
-It feels like Saarel is always on the wrong side of the tape when it comes to championship season. This the race that Saarel finally captures the elusive title.
The 3000 meter race features a few names from my previous article where I previewed potential indoor national qualifiers. This includes Clayton Young (BYU, 7:49.76), Rory Linkletter (BYU, 7:55.10), Jack Keelan (Stanford, 7:58.68), Garrett Corcoran (California, 8:00.94) and Zach Perrin (Colorado, 8:01.66). Young has the fastest time of the athletes that are entered and is the only one with a PR under 7:50.
Oregon’s James West and Cooper Teare are the next two fastest with their respective 7:51.23 and 7:53.66. The Ducks will look to make a splash and aid in the team effort.
As we move deeper into this 3000-meter race, we see some familiar names from the earlier previews that I wrote before the season started. Those names include Grant Fisher (Stanford), Colby Gilbert (Washington), Saarel (Colorado), Teare (Oregon) and Linkletter (BYU). Fisher recorded his impressive 7:48.56 at Iowa State while Gilbert won the Husky Classic in 7:49.42.
Saarel, James West, and Teare have all eclipsed the 7:55 mark and will look to be in the mix. Linkletter has run 7:55 back in January but has since then ran 13:41 in the 5000. Expect Linkletter to find his way into the mix. Fred Huxham (Washington, 7:56.98), Ryan Forsyth (Colorado, 7:57.52) and Jack Keelan (Stanford, 7:58.68) round out the runners in the MPSF who have all run under 8:00. Names left off that list? Garret Corcoran (California, 8:00.94), Zach Perrin (Colorado, 8:01.66), and Daniel Carney (BYU, 8:01.82). It’s safe to say that the MPSF isn’t short on depth of talented runners.
Prediction: Grant Fisher (Stanford)
-Fisher has progressed very nicely this season. Despite getting kicked down by Andy Trouard at Iowa State, Fisher has the wheels to outrun nearly everyone else in this field. Watch him bide his time and blow the doors off the last 600 meters of the race.
The 5000 meters currently has ten athletes under the 14 minute barrier which is led by Linkletter’s 13:41.01. However, his teammate Daniel Carney is only .31 behind him giving BYU some punching power at the top.
Oregon’s Tanner Anderson sits 3rd with his 13:43.74 while Stanford’s Steven Fahy sits 4th (13:44.82). He is the last runner to dip under 13:45 heading into the weekend.
That leaves Connor McMillan (BYU, 13:48.00), Robert Brandt (UCLA, 13:53.18), Clason Shumway (BYU, 13:54.71), Ryan Forsyth (Colorado, 13:56.07), Emmanuel Roudolff-Levisse (Portland, 13:57.97) and Alek Parsons (Stanford, 13:58.87) to finish out the top ten.
Prediction: Rory Linkletter (BYU)
-He’s been looking to avenge a sub-par finish at XC Nationals last season. I believe this is the start of that revenge tour for The Link.
The last race we have to preview for the MPSF is the Distance Medley Relay. Stanford currently leads the field when they won their duel against Oregon at the Alex Wilson Invite. The times of 9:26.91 and 9:27.17 were previously the fastest two times in the country until yesterday’s affair at the Mountain West Conference meet. They’ll look to fend off BYU and Washington squads that may have relay qualification hopes in the back of their mind.
The DMR will certainly have an impact on the team standings as Stanford and Oregon will look to gain any advantage they can.
Prediction: Stanford Cardinal
-With Grant Fisher as the anchor of this team, I don’t see any reason why he shouldn’t be able to close any gap, if there even is one.