The East Region has been dominant this year when it comes to the half-mile. After Saruni was DQ’d from the NCAA Indoor Championships, six of the seven All-Americans came from the East Region. With so much fire power centered in the East, I figured we would more star names fall out of national qualifying.
That, however, was not the case. The biggest name to miss the national qualifying mark was Blair Henderson of LSU who was an All-American this past indoor season. Mississippi’s Ryan Manahan was also a big miss as he was the dreaded first man out of NCAA’s despite running 1:46 earlier this season.
Although Henderson and Manahan were big losses to the national championship, I was more interested in the little-known names that thrived throughout the rounds. Who would’ve thought that UNC-Asheville freshman Matthew Harding would run a full two-second PR in the final round to qualify for NCAA’s? It was a gutsy effort from Harding who was arguably the most clutch performer from this entire weekend.
Another freshman that caught my attention was Domenic Perretta of Penn State. A series of solid races throughout the past two seasons has made this guy looking like the future of mid-distance running at PSU (along with Isaiah Harris) and his national qualifying performance only solidifies that mindset.
Lastly, you have to be happy for Ethan Homan of Boston University. The Terrier senior has been painstakingly close to qualifying for NCAA’s the past few seasons and he finally got through in his final season of collegiate competition.
Before Saturday’s 1500 final, we had plenty of drama regarding BIG 10 conference champion Justine Kiprotich of Michigan State. The Spartan sophomore apparently forgot his bib number as he toed the line to race in his preliminary heat. He was reportedly pulled off of the track before the race began.
New NCAA race rules have established that athletes can not be disqualified from races they have not yet started. Therefore, Kiprotich was allowed entry to Saturday’s 1500 final due to a technicality despite multiple protests from other coaches.
Of course, there was plenty of other interesting news coming out of the preliminary round. How about 2016 indoor mile champion Henry Wynne failing to advance to the finals? He had such an up and down season and it’s a touch disappointing to see his season end the way it did.
2017 indoor mile All-Americans Adam Palamar and Sampson Laari also did not make it out of the preliminaries. Admittedly, they both seemed a bit off their game this season as neither athlete earned a personal best this season and had only one win between the both of them.
More surprises came during Saturday’s final as Ivy League stars James Randon (Yale) and Chris Hatler (Penn) both missed out on NCAA’s in two tactical races. On the flip side, we did see Napolitano (Columbia), Paulson (Princeton), Gowans (Cornell), and Reinhart (Yale) sneak into the top 12 qualifying spots.
Who would have thought that James Randon would be the first man out of Nationals, but his little known sophomore teammate would end up making the trip to Eugene? It’s great to see guys like Reinhart come out of nowhere and upset the big names of track and field (even if it is their own teammate).
Much like Ethan Homan in the 800, Andrew Dusing of Miami (Ohio) is a senior that will be making his first ever NCAA appearance. Dusing had a personal best of 3:45 this season and was ranked 91st in the nation entering East Regionals. In plenty of ways, he was an underdog to make it to Nationals. Dusing’s recent success could mean good things to come for the Torpy brothers who had strong freshmen years for this Miami (Ohio) program.
We finally had our first big steeplechase performance of the year! Edwin Kibichiy (Louisville) was not fooling around this past weekend as he unleashed a huge time of 8:32 which is just two seconds off of his personal best. This is now Kibichiy’s second steeplechase win in a row after securing the ACC title two weeks ago.
Behind Kibcihiy, we saw some huge personal bests from Jamaine Coleman (8:34), Emmanual Rotich (8:36), Scott Carpenter (8:36), and Aidan Tooker (8:39). In a separate heat, MJ Erb (Mississippi) threw down a solid time of his own in 8:36 to win his heat.
If it’s not already clear, the East Region steeplechase was the only distance event in either region to have significantly changed the NCAA leaderboard and title conversation.
Yet, even with all of the big performances, the surprise misses in this event were kept at a minimum. Guys like Nick Tuck (Penn), Jakob Abrahamsen (Eastern Kentucky), and Joseph Murphy (Indiana) were the most notable individuals that did not crack the top 12.
Finally, Robert Murphy is a name that deserves your attention. The IUPUI senior will be making his first ever NCAA championship appearance of his career after running an excellent personal best of 8:44 this past weekend.
Much like the steeplechase, there weren’t any major surprises. The big names like Justyn Knight, Jacob Choge, and Amon Terer got through the preliminary without too many problems.
Nonetheless, there were still a few notable misses such as the Virginia men. Coming into East Regionals, UVA had five men entered in this event. Unfortunately, they left with only three finishers and no national qualifiers. That’s a bit surprising for a program that had such a strong showing at the beginning of the season in the distance events.
Campbell freshman Amon Kemboi was another guy I had on my radar after his impressive performances throughout all of indoor and outdoor track. This kid consistently ran fast times and never really had an off day. I’m never a huge fan of freshman during championship season due to their inexperience, but I thought Kemboi had a very strong and legitimate chance of getting to Eugene.
Speaking of consistency, Euan Makepeace of Butler is making me look really smart. In an article posted back in April, we mentioned Makepeace as a future star in the longer distances. Sure enough, a huge kick gave this sophomore a well deserved spot to the NCAA championships.
Finally, we need to give some props to Emmanuel Rotich (Tulane) for running a personal best in the steeplechase (where he qualified for Nationals) and then coming back 24 hours later to qualify for Nationals in the 5k. That is an incredibly hard double when you consider the scheduling.
It seems like the longer in distance we get, the less surprises we have. That was certainly the case in the East Region 10k this past Thursday as many of the big names earned themselves a spot in the top 12 to qualify for Nationals.
However, one name that did stand out to me was Frank Lara of Furman. He may not have the track resume that some of the other qualifiers do, but he showed a tremendous amount of improvement this season in both the 5k and 10k. That improvement seemed to accumulate in one well-executed race which led to Lara qualifying for Nationals.
Colin Bennie was another notable name that I didn’t think would get through to Nationals, but did. Admittedly, Bennie hasn’t looked quite as strong as he did during 2016. His times aren’t nearly as fast as they once used to be and his placement at certain meets isn’t as impressive. Still, this is a guy who stepped up when he needed to and got himself the last qualifying spot to Eugene. I can sit here and type critiques all day, but Bennie came through when it mattered the most and you have to commend him for that.
On the flip side, Bennie’s teammate Philo Germano was a guy that I felt pretty confident would get through to NCAA’s. He improved upon his 1500 and 5k times this season which put to rest any concerns about how well he would rebound from an injury he sustained in the winter. Those times coupled with his close runner-up finish in the ACC 10k gave me the impression that he could make it into the top 12. He may not be advancing, but he had a very respectable season. The 10k requires a lot of base mileage and getting injured in the winter months does not help with that.