The Report Card: Part 1


With so much action happening this past weekend, we decided to take a different approach with our weekend recap. Below, you'll find our "grades" for many of the conference championships. We've graded each set of results based on excitement of the storylines, indications for the future, how fast the times were, upsets, and so much more.


Today, we have the Power 5 conferences. More to come later on!


ACC

If you're looking for interesting headlines, look no further than the ACC Championships. The 800 held most of the drama after Robert Heppenstall was DQ'd in the prelim for impeding Virginia Tech's Vincent Ciattei on the final straight. Although Heppenstall's DQ left the door open for Avery Bartlett to take the title, you can't help but feel a little underwhelmed with the result. Bartlett is talented, but the Wake Forest star was the favorite. Bartlett may not have had a chance to upset Heppenstall, but he was able to outrun Clemson's All-American John Lewis.


Knight was favored to win the 1500, but just seemed gassed in the final straightaway after being overtaken by the Virginia Tech duo of Ciattei and Zarate. Not only was Knight out-kicked by Virginia Tech's 1-2 punch, but he also fell to Notre Dame's star freshman, Yared Nuguse. I originally thought that Knight may pursue the 1500 at Nationals, but now I'm beginning to second guess that idea.


The 5000 just showed how absolutely dominant Syracuse is. They took spots 1-2-3-4-6-7 to score a total of 32 points in a single event. Of those six scorers, three of them will return to the squad next year. That's good news for a Syracuse squad that is set to lose Knight, Bennie, and Germano. The 10k, although not as dominant, was still all about the Syracuse Orangemen. Coach Fox's squad took spots 2-3-5-6-7. Virginia Tech's Peter Seufer may have defended his title, but Syracuse was the real winner here.


Syracuse continued their excellence with the steeplechase with Affolder and Tooker going 1-2 while Virginia Tech sophomore Fitsum Seyoum was 3rd in 8:49. For both Syracuse and Virginia Tech, these are two huge results. Neither program has had a focus on the steeplechase, but now they're beginning to show some real promise in the event.


Overall, the storylines were exciting, the depth of results were strong, and the upset of Knight was not expected. Still, you have to wonder how the rest of the ACC just let Syracuse walk all over them in the distance events and ask if Bartlett would still be the 800 champion if Heppenstall wasn't DQ'd...


FINAL GRADE: A-


BIG 10: C+

The BIG 10 was (for the most part) predictable. As mentioned on our Twitter page, we correctly predicted spots 1-2-3-4-7 for the 800 and correctly named every individual who finished inside the top eight for the steeplechase. The 5k and 10k showed a little more variability, but most of the finishes lacked upsets.


The 800 was an exciting one and with Isaiah Harris running 1:45, you can't be upset with the results. Having three men under 1:47 (Harris, Kuhn, Williams) and sophomore Alex Lomong under 1:48 is a great display of depth for the conference. In total, seven men left the finals with times under 1:49.


Although the 800 was exciting, the 1500 lacked the same thrill in terms of results. As expected, Oliver Hoare won the title. Justine Kiprotich ran well, but settled for 2nd. After the top two, most of the established BIG 10 milers took the next few spots. There weren't too many surprises and the race being tactical meant slow times.


Michigan's Aaron Baumgarten walked away as the title winner in the 5000 after breaking away from the field with a barrage of strong splits during the final few laps. He was able to break Wisconsin veteran Joe Hardy and get far enough ahead of Indiana's Ben Veatch so that his kick didn't matter. It was a nice result and it shows that Baumgarten may have a shot at sticking with the top group at the East Regional Championships.


That said, how about Morgan McDonald? Just when you thought that we wouldn't see him this year, he enters one race and has a terrible performance (10th overall). What happened to the guy who ran 13:15 last year? It's unclear whether or not he could have maintained his eligibility this season, but if he could, then this was a bad call by Mick Byrne to give him only one chance at qualifying for Regionals.


Jump to the 10,000 and not a whole lot was happening here. Ben Flanagan regained his title from 2016, Ben Veatch did better than I expected him to in his first career 10k, and the rest of the field was just fighting not to get dropped.


Admittedly, I was a bit disappointed by Purdue's Jaret Carpeneter this weekend. I had big expectations for the Boilermaker sophomore, but he placed 11th in both the 5k and 10k. Not the best pair of results for a guy who ran 13:44 earlier this season.


The steeplechase was the most predictable race as Obsa Ali won it all in a time of 8:44. His fast pace was enough to bring Max Benoit (Michigan State) and Nathan Mylenek (Iowa) under the 8:50 barrier as well.


The fast times in the 800 and steeplechase were entertaining and fast, but there weren't any results that stood out other than Morgan McDonald and Jaret Carpenter.


FINAL GRADE: C+


PAC 12

We could start with the 800, but there isn't a whole to talk about. As expected, Robert Ford (USC) won the title with a 1:49 and finished as the only man under 1:50. The rest of field didn't have an established 800 star that could truly compete with Ford.


The 1500 brought a little more drama, but only because it was filled with so many big-name stars. The Oregon men continued to display their dominance with a 1-2 finish by Sam Prakel and James West. The Duck duo ran 3:40 and 3:41, respectively. Following the Oregon duo was Stanford's Grant Fisher and Sean McGorty who ran 3:41 and 3:43. Garrett Corcoran (California), Colby Gilbert (Washington), and Carlos Villarreal (Arizona) took the next three spots and finished with times of 3:45 or above.


Overall, you have to be pretty happy with these results. Oregon showed that they are simply the better 1500 runners and they have been all season. The results also leave us with an interesting question: Are Fisher and McGorty more likely to run the 5000 at Regionals now? Their 1500's have been solid this season, but nothing special.


In a field as crowded and as elite as this, someone had to struggle. Carlos Villarreal is a lot better than what his 7th place finish indicates and I'm sure he knows that. I'd also like to point out that freshmen Eduardo Herrera (Colorado) and Reed Brown (Oregon) struggled in their first outdoor championship race after placing 9th and 10th overall. That just goes to show how difficult the big stage can be for some of these younger guys.


It was tactical and crowded in the 5000 meters, but the Colorado duo of Ben Saarel and Zach Perrin came out on top running 14:11 and 14:12. Fisher (14:12) and McGorty (14:13) replicated their 1500 finishes by placing 3rd and 4th. Ryan Forsyth (Colorado), Cooper Teare (Oregon), and Steven Fahy (Stanford) took the final few spots and all ended with times of 14:13. Altogether, seven men crossed the line within nearly two seconds of each other.


Although the race was tactical, we did get to learn a lot. Colorado can survive and thrive even without Dressel and Klecker. Fisher isn't in the same form that he was in last year. McGorty is improving, but he'll need to find another gear to get him into an All-American position.


As we move to the 10k, we can see that the field didn't have the same firepower that the 5k did. That left us with Stanford's Jack Keelan earning his first PAC 12 title with a 29:38. Tanner Anderson (Oregon) and Ryan Forsyth (Colorado) rounded out the top three while Robert Brandt (California) and Zach Perrin (Colorado) capped off the top five. There's not a whole to talk about here. Most of these finishers are considered 5k runners, although Anderson and Brandt have a strong history in this event. The times were solid, but nothing crazy fast.


The steeplechase gave us a little more to talk about, although no one should be surprised to see that Stanford's Steven Fahy walked away with the title in a time of 8:50. He barely edged out Washington's Andrew Gardner who also ran 8:50, but settled for silver. However, one of the more pleasant surprises of the weekend was California junior Takeshi Okada replicating his 8:53 from a year ago to finish 3rd. He's now put his name into the very deep field of steeplechasers looking to qualify for Nationals out of the West Regional Championships.


Arizona's Bailey Roth has struggled all season and this past weekend was no exception. He finished 4th overall with a 9:00. In the four times that he's run that event this season, he has finished with times of 8:56, 9:08, 8:55, and now 9:00. It's tough to say what's going on with him, but he's not nearly the same guy who ran 8:37 in 2016 and 8:39 in 2017.


However, it would be unfair to call out just Bailey Roth. I was also expecting a little bit more from Adam Peterman (Colorado), Kai Benedict (California), and Reed Brown (Oregon). But hey, everyone's human and we're allowed to have off days.


The 1500, steeplechase, and 5k left us with a lot to talk about and analyze. The 800 and 10k, not so much. Most of the races were relatively slower and a bit more tactical than usual. There may be a lot to discuss, but races like the BIG 10 800 or the ACC 5k were far more interesting.


FINAL GRADE: C


BIG 12

As we begin our discussion about the BIG 12 performances, we get off to a strong start with the 800. Between Iowa State, Texas Tech, and Kansas' Bryce Hoppel, the results were bound to be fast. Sure enough, that was the case as Texas Tech ace Vincent Crisp put together another all-out effort to earn the conference title in 1:47. That was enough to fend off Iowa State's Jaymes Dennison who ran 1:48 for 2nd. Finishing in 3rd was Texas Tech's Charles Jones, also in 1:48.


The last man under the 1:50 barrier (and placing 4th overall) was Bryce Hoppel from Kansas. After such a phenomenal indoor season where he entered Nationals undefeated in open events, Hoppel has struggled to regain form. Despite running 1:47 (twice) during indoors, he has yet to break 1:48 this season. In addition to the time barrier, he only has two wins this season compared to the seven wins he had during indoors. Will he be able to rebound for the West Reigional Championships?


Moving away from the 800 and into the 1500, we got to see a nice result from the Texas duo of Sam Worley and Alex Rogers. We've seen that freshmen don't fare too well during championship races, but Worley had enough poise to get himself a win in a time of 3:44 while Rogers ran 3:45. Festus Lagat (Iowa State) ran 3:46 for 3rd. I would have liked to see how Lagat would have performed in the 800 after running 1:48 earlier this season.


Neither the 5k nor the 10k provided much of a thrill. Iowa State's Edwin Kurgat took the victory in both events in relatively slower times (14:33 and 30:56). With Hassan Abdi nowhere to be seen and the Oklahoma State roster beginning to dwindle, these races were Kurgat's to lose. There wasn't much competition or anyone who could have really helped make these races fast.


The steeplechase wasn't much different. Texas sophomore John Rice was the favorite coming into this one after running 8:46 earlier this spring. Sure enough, he took care of business with a pedestrian time of 9:02 to defeat Dylan Hodgson (Kansas) by five seconds.


Other than the 800, the races lacked excitement. The performances were rather predictable and the field just wasn't fit enough to make these races fast. Hassan Abdi not running kept things rather quiet in terms of results.


FINAL GRADE: D+


SEC

The SEC was one of my favorite set of results from the weekend to look over. The times were a bit faster than some of the other conferences from around the nation. As we start with the 800, we can't be too surprised about studs like Dixon and Arop taking the first two spots (in 1:46 and 1:47, respectively). However, Otis Jones (South Carolina) finishing 3rd was a nice result to see. The Gamecock junior ran 1:47 for a new personal best.


Speaking of new PR's, Florida junior Kyren Hollis also had an excellent weekend running 1:48 for 4th. The Florida Gators may not have Andres Arroyo or Ryan Schnulle anymore, but they have continued to develop strong talent in this event.


Missouri's Chris Conrad ran 1:48 for 5th while Ole Miss freshman Waleed Suliman struggled on the big stage and settled for 6th running 1:49. Ian Jones (Kentucky) and freshman Cade Bethmann (Ole Miss) ran a pair of 1:50's to settle for the final two spots.


As we review the results, my biggest takeaway is that Suliman and Bethmann are still young and inexperienced on the big stage. That's important to keep in mind as we transition to the Regional and National Championships.


The 1500 didn't have the flashy times that the 800 had, but we did get to see Robert Domanic (Ole Miss) thrive in a tactical race to take the title. His winning time of 3:45 shows that he can win slower races and that he's not just a time-trial kind of runner. Arkansas' Cameron Griffith settled for 2nd while Tennessee's Zach Long placed 3rd.


From established milers like Florida's Jack Guyton (4th), Kentucky's Ben Young (7th), Georgia's Bryan Kamau (9th), and Texas A&M's Alex Riba (10th), I expected better performances. Cameron Griffith, Jack Bruce, and Zach Long were all dropping down in distance, but still placed higher than most of the guys I just named.


The 5k and 10k gave us what we saw all winter. The battle between the Alabama Crimson Tide trio and Kentucky ace Jacob Thomson was just as exciting as expected. However, it was Alabama's Vincent Kiprop winning both matchups with times of 13:48 and 29:16. In fact, Alabama took the top three spots in the 10k (where Thomson finished 4th) and then three of the top four spots in the 5k (where Thomson finished less than a second behind Kiprop). Love 'em or hate 'em, you have to admit that the Alabama men bring a hard and honest effort each time they toe the line. They are top-notch competitors who will make their opponents work.


Before we move on, I just thought that it was interesting to note that Arkansas took spots 5-6-7-8-9 in the 10k. Two were freshmen, one was a sophomore, and two were juniors. Talk about depth.


Admittedly, the steeplechase lacked the star-power that you saw in the other distance events. Arkansas' Kyle Hosting walked away as the champion with his 8:57 effort while freshmen Raymond Gonzales (Texas A&M) and Alex Crigger (Tennessee) also dipped under 9 minutes running 8:57 and 8:58.


Far back in 7th overall was the Ole Miss veteran Sean Tobin. He didn't have his best day and had to settle for a 9:07. People are allowed to have poor performances, but does this mean he'll opt to focus on the 1500 rather than the steeplechase at the East Regional Championships?


For the most part, the SEC gave us a little bit of everything. We got upsets, breakout performances, fast times, and multiple topics to discuss.


FINAL GRADE: A