The Report Card: Part Two for all the conference week action is now here! You can read Part One by clicking on the link below...
The Mountain West Championship was filled with thrilling results and a variety of strong performances. Yet, sometimes, the best names in the field can't be beaten.
That was the case with Clay Lambourne who simply outran the field with a strong 1:47 result. Finishing 2nd was his teammate Jordan Beutler who ran 1:49. In a field that was highlighted by the New Mexico entries, the Aggies stepped up to the plate and showed that they were just as good (if not better). The Lobos took spots 3, 4, and 5 with Kristian Hanson and Michael Wilson both going under 1:50. Josh Kerr, the defending conference 800 champion from last year, finished in 5th with a slightly underwhelming time of 1:50.
The 800 may not have gone according to plan for New Mexico, but the 1500 was a different story and a bit more predictable. Josh Kerr and Ian Crowe-Wright cruised to a 1-2 finish with Kerr securing a time of 3:44 while Crowe-Wright ran 3:45. Colorado State's Cole Rockhold was the only legitimate threat to this duo in the race, but he finished 3rd with a 3:45.
With the mid-distance events behind us, we can now transition to the longer races and that is where we get to see a lot more excitement. The 5000 was an absolute thriller as Cole Rockhold came from behind to upset Dillon Maggard, 13:55.36 to 13:55.85. After settling for bronze in the 1500, Rockhold came up huge in this event and showed once again that he deserves the respect of being an elite distance runner in the NCAA.
After the top two, we saw a few other solid performances. The Air Force men had a decent showing by placing 3rd (Bilvado), 5th (Johnston), and 7th (Davey). All three men recorded times under 14:10. Yet, as impressive as those string of results were, how about Ian Crowe-Wright? The New Mexico junior doubled back from the 1500 to place 4th overall and run a 14:07 in his first collegiate track 5k ever. Congrats to Crowe-Wright on one heck of a weekend.
As we move to the 10k, it's hard for me to not feel a bit stupid. We saw the Colorado State men dominate the distance events during the indoor season, so it shouldn't have been any surprise that they did it again during outdoors. That's precisely what happened as Coach Siemers squad went to work this past weekend by taking the top four spots in this field. The even crazier part is that the four men all ran 29:41 or faster. Jerrell Mock and Grant Fischer led the way with times of 29:24 and 29:35. The veteran duo has been such a vital part of this team for years now and they will be missed as we move into next season. Teammates Eric Hamer and Luke Giugliano rounded out the top four running 29:38 and 29:41.
Why do I continue to sleep on this CSU? Honestly, I'm not sure, but I think I've learned my lesson.
Air Force's Mickey Davey (29:56) and Utah State's Luke Beattie (29:59) were the last men to go under the 30 minute barrier.
Despite all of the action-packed races I mentioned above, I expected the steeplechase to be the race of the weekend. That, however, was not the case. The race became a bit tactical with Yusuke Uchikoshi running 9:02 to take the win over Utah State's Spencer Fehlberg who also ran 9:02. Wyoming freshman Harry Ewing and Air Force senior Andrew Milliron both ran 9:03 to round out the top four.
Overall, you have to be pretty satisfied with the results that we got from the Mountain West. We got to see Utah State and New Mexico battle it out in the 800, Cole Rockhold pull off the upset win over Dillon Maggard, and Colorado State absolutely dominate the 10k. Admittedly, the 1500 was a bit predictable and the steeplechase lacked flare. Still, the other results were strong enough to give us something exciting to talk about. That was enough to make the Mountain West one of the better conference meets from this past weekend.
FINAL GRADE: B+
One of the more underrated conferences in the nation is the BIG East. The east coast programs bring a lot to the table, but are often not given the attention they deserve. However, if you have reviewed any of the performances from Georgetown, Butler, or Villanova this past season, you'd be pleasantly surprised.
The 800 may not be the deepest event in the conference, but having the Georgetown Hoyas in this race keeps things honest. Senior Amos Bartelsmeyer and freshman Ruach Padhal went 1-2 both running a pair of 1:49's. The times may not mean a lot to the average spectator, but between Padhal and Rey Rivera (both under 1:50), Georgetown has an exceptionally bright future ahead in the mid-distances.
With Bartelsmeyer contesting the 800, that left the 1500 open to a few names chasing the conference title. That also mean't that the race would be incredibly tactical. The winning time may have been 4:02, but Butler's Johnny Leverenez is now a BIG East champion. He was able to nip Villanova's Ben Malone and Georgetown's Spencer Brown who ran a pair of 4:03's for 2nd and 3rd. Leverenz has been an absolute monster this season. In fact, he has not yet lost a single open event this entire season. His TFRRS profile may read that he finished 28th at Bryan Clay, but he actually won his heat at that meet. This guy is the real deal and has done enough in my eyes to be viewed as a legitimate national contender.
Fast forward to the 5000 and the Villanova sophomore duo of Casey Comber and Andrew Marston quietly put together another 1-2 finish. Comber took the win with a 14:23 while Marston was a stride behind in 14:24. There's a bright future for these two over the next few years. If they can find a way to elevate their fitness to a new level, they could be scary good.
In terms of times, the 10k was a bit underwhelming. Georgetown's Nick Golebiowski was the conference winner in 30:10 while the Butler duo of Matt Lumbar and Bobby Johnson took the next two spots in 30:11 and 30:31. Unfortunately, the steeplechase wasn't much more exciting as Villanova freshman Nick Steele put together a 9:10 win over Providence sophomore Liam Harris (who ran 9:13 for 2nd).
With many of the BIG East heavyweights opting to run events like the 800, 1500, and 5000, it's understandable to see the 10k and steeplechase lack a bit of thrill. Between the Georgetown duo taking over the 800, the Villanova duo taking over the 5k, and Leverenez continuing his undefeated season, I would say this was a solid showing for the BIG East. That said, many of the finishes had potential to be faster and the competition wasn't as deep as it could have been.
FINAL GRADE: C+
CUSA has slowly grown into one of the more competitive conferences in the nation when it comes to distance running. The never-ending battle for supremacy between Middle Tennessee State and UTEP has led to a heavy influx of high-level African runners who have grown into some of the best talents in the nation. Not only that, but the growth in competition within the conference has forced other teams (i.e. UTSA, Charlotte) to elevate their fitness in order to stay competitive.
The 800 is a good place to start as we recap the conference action. UTEP's Jonah Koech and Michael Saruni cruised to an easy 1-2 finish as expected. Koech posted a solid winning time of 1:48 while Saruni was more than content to sit back and run 1:49. Rounding out the top three was UTSA's Luca Chatham who was also able to dip under 1:50 with a 1:49 of his own. That's a personal best for the UTSA junior who had never broken 1:50 before this weekend.
It was deja vu in the 1500 as Koech and Saruni did the same thing by running 1-2. Their times of 3:49 and 3:50 was enough to hold off the Rice underclassmen of Matthew Murray and Alex Topini who ran 3:51 and 3:52 for 3rd and 4th.
As we move to the 5000 meters, we got to see far less UTEP athletes and far more Charlotte athletes. The UNCC 49ers had a perfect 1-2-3 sweep in the event with Tom Nobles taking the win in 14:29. Teammate Mihret Coulter also ran 14:29 in 2nd while sophomore Alex Cronwell was 14:41 for 3rd. Keep in mind that these are just three of the seven varsity cross country runners that Charlotte returns in the fall. The 49ers were 6th in the Southeast region last year and could be primed to do something special five to six months from now...
Although the 5k gave us a lot to discuss, the 10k underwhelmed with UTEP's Antony Kosgei taking the win in a time of 31:13. As slow as the winning time is, does it really surprise anyone that the none of the competition wanted to make this fast? Who can blame them?
We got to see even more of the Charlotte men in the steeplechase as they once again took a clean 1-2-3 sweep of the event. Mihret Coulter ran his third steeplechase PR of the season in a phenomenal time of 8:49 to win the conference title. He was followed by teammate Tom Nobles who ran 8:56 for 2nd, a second off his personal best. Rounding out the top three was sophomore Aaron Gebhart who ran 9:05 to earn the bronze medal.
Considering the depth of competition that the CUSA has to offer, you have to be pretty happy with the results that we got. Keep in mind that Middle Tennessee didn't even have their top two runners Jacob Choge and Kigen Chemadi this past weekend. Choge recorded a DNF in the 10k after only racing once earlier this season while Chemadi is most likely redshirting this spring. Even with those two out, we got some strong times in the 800 and steeplechase along with a few big statement races by the Charlotte men.
With that in mind, the 10k was rough (to say the least) and the 1500 showed us that the conference doesn't have much to offer in that event. The CUSA is beginning to grow and mature, but it still has a long way to go.
FINAL GRADE: B-
Ivy League (Heps)
The Ivy League Championships took place about a week earlier than most conference championships (during Bryan Clay), but I still think it's important to go back and review some of the performances.
The 800 meters may have been the most exciting event of the entire championship. Princeton senior Josh Ingalls not only ran a new personal best in the prelims, but he came back and ran a new personal best in the finals as well. Ingalls led wire-to-wire to defeat an incredibly deep field of strong mid-distance talent with a 1:47.
Columbia's Josiah Langstaff took 2nd with a 1:48 while a slew of names crossed the line in 1:49. In order, those names were Zach Emrich (Brown), Myles Marshall (Harvard), Zach Lanigan (Brown), and Tim Zepf (Dartmouth).
This race had it all. It had a breakout performance, an upset title victory, back-to-back personal bests, an accomplished field of entrants, fast times, and a lot of depth. You can't ask for much more.
As we move to the 1500, we didn't get to see many upsets or fast times. Still, it was interesting to see Princeton's William Paulson and Garrett O'Toole at the top of the podium. As they prepare to transfer to Arizona State next year, they're showing us just how valuable they can be. After going 1-2 at Heps, they went to Swarthmore where Paulson ran 3:39 while O'Toole ran 3:40. They ran unattached since the times were past the qualifying deadline for NCAA Regional qualifying.
The 5000 held a few interesting results. Despite Ivy League favorites like Conor Lundy (Princeton) and Martin Martinez (Brown) entered in the field, it was the Columbia duo of Ryan Thomas and Lucky Schreiner taking the top two spots. Thomas and Schreiner finished 1-2 with times of 14:09 and 14:10, respectively. Lundy and Martinez placed 3rd and 4th running 14:11 and 14:12.
The 10,000 held more of the same as Columbia once again had a 1-2 finish, this time with Brian Zabilski and Kasey Vasbinder running 30:20 and 30:24. Those performances were enough to edge out the Princeton duo of Gannon Willcutts and Conor Lundy who ran 30:25 and 30:26 for 3rd and 4th, respectively. I was hoping that we would get to see a fast 10k, but the Ivy League is almost always tactical when it comes to the longer distances. I'm also left wondering when/if Lundy will begin to show signs of being the next Ivy League superstar like Thomas Awad that the conference is craving for.
The steeplechase was a bit on the slower side, but we did get to see Penn brothers Will and Connor Daly go 1-2 with times of 9:00 and 9:01. It's nothing special, but for a pair of sophomores, it's exciting to see that they are able to take the top two spots in the conference with two years of eligibility left.
Overall, the Ivy League Championships were about how I expected them to go. One fast race and an array of average (but decent) performances with interesting storylines. Unlike a few other conferences, there wasn't a "bad" race in this meet, although some events left something to be desired. There were plenty of finishes that could have been faster, but the incredible performances that we got in the 800 just goes to show how deep some areas of the conference really are.