TSR Mailbag: Part 3

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"After this weekend...Michael Saruni or Isaiah Harris?" - Jack L.


Ok, no, only kidding. This is a good question and I'm surprised it hasn't come up until now. For those who don't know, Michael Saruni popped off a monster 1:45.92 800 to demolish former teammate Emmanuel Korir's old meet record of 1:46.50. A time like that (especially this early) is otherworldly. To give you an idea of how good that time is, only two others have broken the 1:46 barrier since 2010: Edward Kemboi (2014) and Donavan Brazier (2016).

The time is certainly impressive and it gives Saruni the favorable nod in what will assuredly be a back and forth debate until NCAA's. However, what you don't know about Kemoi and Brazier is that in the year that they broke into the 1:45 range, they failed to win the indoor NCAA 800 meter title. We also have to keep in mind that Saruni has had some very bad luck at NCAA's the past two track seasons with a DQ during last indoor season and an unfortunate fall in the 800 final during NCAA's last outdoor season.

It's easy to get excited about a 1:45, but let's slow down and remember that Isaiah Harris still needs to have his turn. 1:45 is certainly not out of the realm of possibility for him. The Penn State junior ran 1:44 during the USA Championships this past summer and has been on some of the biggest stages in the world. In addition to that, let's also keep in mind that Saruni ran 1:45 on an oversized track. He'll most likely be slower on a crowded 200 meter track.

Then again, most of us know the resumes that each of these guys boast. If you forced me to pick a guy right now, I'm probably taking Isaiah Harris. Saruni's time, although incredibly fast, was not unexpected. Meanwhile, Isaiah Harris just ran a 4:07 mile which, for a 400/800 guy, is REALLY solid. Still, there is no event in the NCAA that is more 50/50 than this one.

"When are we going to see that first sub 4 minute mile and who will run it?" - iEatTidePods

You're all laughing, but you know there is definitely someone out there who is thinking "you know this Tide Pod doesn't taste too bad". I digress...

At this point in the season, with some big meets already taking place, I too have been anxious to see when we'll see the first set of sub-four milers enter the fray of the NCAA rankings. Yet, as history has shown, we need to patient. Last year, Brian Barraza (Houston) came out of nowhere to run 3:58 in December, but we never saw another sub 4 after that until January 27th at the John Thomas Terrier Invite. The same thing happened in 2016 when Patrick Corona (Air Force) was the first guy in the NCAA run under four minutes on January 21st (altitude converted). Sean McGorty (Stanford) was the first man to dip under four minutes in 2015 on January 17th.

Overall, history suggests that we won't see that sub-four minute mile until this upcoming weekend (January 20th). At the very latest, that sub-four minute mile will come no later than January 27th. At the moment, there doesn't appear to be any super fast meets for distance runners coming up this weekend. However, with UW Invitational and John Thomas Terrier Invite on the 26th and 27th, we can almost a guarantee that a handful of athletes will dip under the legendary barrier at those meets.

As for WHO will be the first to break the sub 4 mark, that question is a bit tougher. Syracuse is a team that has often sent some of their best guys to John Thomas, while the UW Invitational presents an excellent opportunity for teams like Oregon, Stanford, Washington, and Oklahoma State.

If I had to guess who would be the first few guys under four minutes this year, I would have to assume either Justyn Knight, Sean McGorty, Colby Gilbert, Matthew Fayers, or pretty much anyone from Oregon. Obviously, those aren't guarantees. We don't even know what these guys will run. Still, that group is the most likely to go under four minutes first based on previous meet entries over the years.

"How far can Campbell go in XC next year/how fast does their #5 runner need to be?" - DirtMonster

In a time that has been dominated by track speculation, I appreciate a cross country question to change up the tempo.

In order to project Campbell's future in 2018, we need to review their accomplishments in 2017. When we look the Panorama Farms Invite this past September, we saw a Campbell squad scare Virginia for a possible upset. The Cavaliers pulled away in that meet winning 55 to 59, but would continue to struggle throughout the regular season until they snuck into NCAA's and placed 16th overall. When you compare Campbell's top four runners to Virginia's top four at Panorama Farms, the Camels blow UVA out of the water with placements of 1, 2, 4, and 10 for a total score of 17 points. For Virginia, their top four went 5, 7, 12, and 14 for a score of 38, more than double of what Campbell had put up. However, that dreaded 5th man proved to be an issue for the Camels as he would go on to place 42nd in that meet while UVA's 5th man finished 17th.

Fast forward to Pre-Nats and we saw the trend continue. The Camels put together a very solid showing where they placed 8th overall with their top four finishing 3rd, 23rd, 26th, and 37th. That 5th man? 251st. Actually, considering there was over a 200 point drop-off after their 4th scorer, Campbell actually did extremely well.

The Southeastern Regional Championships was no different for Campbell as their top five finished 1, 2, 18, 24, and 143. They would finish 5th on the day. Although they had a couple of Kolas points and had their top two runners qualify for NCAA's, the rest of the team would have to head back home and cut their season short.

The good news for Campbell is that their ENTIRE squad from last year's team return in 2018. Another year of training and development will be key for the Camels if they want to thrive as national contenders. Still, their is only so much improvement that their top four can bring to the table. The real question will be whether or not they can find a secure and reliable 5th man. With an entire year to address that issue, it's very possible that they do find someone...

So what should the end goal for this Camels team be? Realistically, if they have a trustworthy 5th man, they can make it NCAA's and potentially place as high as top 15. In order to do that, they'll need to go to some big-time meets (like Pre-Nats) and earn enough Kolas points to get through a deep Southeast region.

Additionally, their 5th man doesn't need to be all that spectacular either. Let's take a look at Pre-Nats last year. The Camels were 8th with 340 points. If their 5th man is even 100 spots better and places 151st instead of 251st, then Campbell defeats two NCAA qualifying teams, Utah State and Texas. If their 5th man finishes 101st, the Camels finish 5th overall and defeat an established Ole Miss program.

Let's apply the same methodology to the Southeast Regional Championships where Campbell's 5th man finished 143rd overall. If he's just 23 spots better, they defeat NC State and kick them out of an NCAA qualifying spot and potentially direct the Kolas Calculator in their favor.

So how good can Campbell become? Pretty much as good as their 5th man wants to be. Again, he doesn't need to be spectacular, but he does need to make notable progress and improvement.

#analysis #ncaa #gzatlin #indoortrack #XC #mailbag