TSR Mailbag: Part 4

Have a question or comment? Feel free to go to our HOME page and fill out the form in the "TSR Mailbag" box. No email required!

"Last year G-Town shocked the field with a 3rd place finish, and did so without using their star 800m runner. Three of the four focused on the relay, (Fahy/Wilson/Brown/Carpenter) while Carpenter was the only one who ran an individual event. My question is this: Is there any team like this who doesn't have many runners chasing individual goals so they could focus on the DMR? (Brown, Green and Carpenter might qualify individually this year, so I wouldn't pick G-town as a sleeper again)" - EtrainFan

I love talking about the DMR mainly because there are so many pieces and different ways that teams could run the relay. You never know who is going to run it and who could surprise you with a big leg.

I think the best answer to this question may be found in an article that we posted a couple weeks ago, Destined For the D-Med?. In that article, we talked about six teams who could potentially surprise a lot of people in the DMR this season. Of those teams, I think Iowa State and Texas best fit the description you're looking for.

Iowa State certainly has a lot of strong pieces that could find a spot to Nationals individually (Jordan, Roomes, Dennison). However, I'm not convinced that any of them will be locks to make it. While some teams would be concerned about that, I like to think that this is actually a good thing for the Cyclones who won't be bogged down by individual commitments. Coach Smith will have plenty of options in Jaymes Dennison, Roshon Roomes, Dan Curts, Zach Black, Andrew Jordan, and Festus Lagat (the former JUCO star who got snubbed of a mention in our Destined For the D-Med? article). Overall, I think there are too many good pieces to ignore and that a focus on this relay would be more beneficial for a Cyclone squad that may not have anyone capable of becoming an All-American in an individual event (yet).

As for Texas, I definitely think Alex Rogers and Sam Worley could potentially dip under the 4 minute barrier this season, although I'm not convinced that either of those two could be fast enough to make it NCAA's individually. Together, these two could create a nasty 1-2 punch that is capable of putting them out front and keeping them in a medal position on the anchor. Admittedly, the Longhorns lack the same firepower at the 800 leg and they don't necessarily have the same depth that Iowa State does. Still, I like to think that Texas could dismiss their individual goals for this season and go all-in on the DMR.

Finally, I think there is one team that might surprise a few people: the Wisconsin Badgers. Historically, the Badgers haven't always the pursued the DMR during the winter track season. In fact, the Badgers tend to race less than most teams during the winter. Adding to that, it appears that Morgan McDonald will be focusing on the Australian Commonwealth Games this winter and taking his 2nd consecutive redshirt season. Still, with all of this in mind, I think the Badgers have enough pieces to put together something respectable in the D-Med.

Eric Brown is a stud 800 runner who just posted a converted time of 1:49 a few weekends ago. Unfortunately, Isaiah Harris has stolen much of the spotlight throughout Brown's time in the BIG 10, but he could certainly be an excellent piece for Wisconsin to rally around. In addition to Brown, Oliver Hoare is a sub 4 minute miler (when he ran unattached this past summer) who could very easily put this team into contention on the big stage. When you pair Hoare with veteran teammate Joe Hardy (3:43/4:04), you get a VERY strong relay throughout each leg. Hardy's tactical prowess combined with the untapped potential of Hoare's mile speed could be the perfect formula for an All-American relay.

"Which of the current NCAA #1's have the least likely chance of actually qualifying for Nationals? " - DezCaughtIt

I think it's important to note that this question was asked prior to the action that took place this past weekend. At that time, Saruni (800), Abert (Mile), Chemadi (3000), and Rotich (5000) were the NCAA leaders. For some reason, TFRRS does not have Emmanuel Rotich listed on the NCAA leaderboard despite him running 13:52 at the Boston Season Opener in December. For this article, we are assuming that Rotich is the NCAA leader in the 5k.

In addition to Rotich being the top runner in the 5k, we are also going to assume that this question is in regards to the current NCAA leaders and not the leaders from last week. The current NCAA leaders in the distance events are Saruni (800), Maggard (Mile), Thomson (3000), and Rotich (5000). For the sake of the argument, we will leave out the DMR...

When you look at the 800, it seems pretty clear that Michael Saruni is not only going to qualify for Nationals, but he is most likely going to finish the season with the fastest time in the country. With a time of 1:45, Saruni is an automatic lock to qualify for the Big Dance barring any dramatic circumstances such as injury.

In the mile, Dillon Maggard of Utah State currently leads the nation with a converted time of 4:00.03. Based on historical numbers from 2010, it seems pretty clear that his time will not be fast enough to qualify for NCAA's by the end of the season. However, Maggard is an experienced, high-level veteran who has made it to Nationals in this event before. I am struggling to believe that he couldn't run a 3:58 low in this event by the end of February. At the same time, even if he doesn't run a time like that, he still has enough talent and enough range to qualify for NCAA's in the 3000 or 5000 if he were to pursue those events. In my mind, Maggard is a safe bet to qualify for Nationals.

The current leader in the 3000 meters in Kentucky’s Jacob Thomson with a time of 7:53. He’s ahead of the rest of the NCAA by about five seconds. Most of the time, that 7:53 usually is enough to stay safe for NCAA’s. However, if we are in a year that is slightly faster than the average, that 7:53 may not be a guaranteed lock to Nationals. It will be extremely close for Thomson if he doesn’t run the 3k again, but I like to think that he’ll at least make one more big effort in this race before NCAA's. Plus, we still have to factor in the idea of athletes scratching from this event. So will Thomson get qualify? My gut says more likely than not...

The final event is the 5000 meters and Tulane star Emmanuel Rotich is at the top of the NCAA leaderboard with a time of 13:52. That time, although very impressive, is going to need to improve. Since 2010, it has taken approximately 13:48 to safely secure a qualifying spot to NCAA's. With scratches, Rotich could get in right now, but even then that might be a stretch. Rotich is super talented and to run 13:52 in December is an encouraging result. With that in mind, there is still a huge group of talented 5k runners that are waiting to unleash something fast. Rotich will need to jump into another fast race and bring down his time by a few seconds if he wants to earn on a spot on the starting line come March.

Do I think Rotich will still qualify for Nationals? Yes, I do. The season is still young and he has two solid wins under his belt so far this season. Nonetheless, when I compare him to these other NCAA leaders, I would say that he is in the toughest position to qualify for Nationals as of right now.

#analysis #indoortrack #mailbag #gzatlin #ncaa