Now that school has resumed and temperatures have begun to drop, the official start of indoor track can begin. This weekend marks the first big weekend of 2019 and it will be headlined by the UW Indoor Preview. This meet is notoriously fast, often hosting names outside of collegiate running including members of the Bowerman Track Club and Nike Oregon Project. Not only are there deep fields, but the track at Washington is also oversized which makes it an ideal location for distance stars to run fast times with NCAA qualifiers on the line. Below, we breakdown each event for the women to give you an idea of who to watch this weekend.
The 600 is a strange event because it’s not raced at NCAA's and it isn’t even run in a large number of conference meets. It also makes for an intriguing race as it usually sees a mix of 400 and 800 meter athletes trying to bridge the gap of speed and strength. The meet at UW will also showcase an athlete making a big step down in distance in distance.
Washington's Katie Rainsberger is slated to race the 600, an entry which is undoubtedly turning heads. Historically, Rainsberger has focused on the 1500 meters during outdoors, but occasionally steps up to the 5000 as well. In her only NCAA indoor national meet, she finished 3rd in the 3000 and was a member of Oregon’s 3rd place DMR group.
Rainsberger stepping down to 600m is surprising given the meet also runs the 800m and 1000m. Given the race is likely being used to focus on speed (she is also entered in the mile), it appears Rainsberger may be focused on the mile this indoor season rather than the longer distances. While it’s too early to make too many predictions, Rainsberger will be one to watch as she debuts at this shorter distance.
Another intriguing indoor distance, this event is highlighted by a couple collegiate stars who will race alongside some talented professionals. Allie Schadler of Washington comes in with the fastest personal best of any collegiate, closely followed by Susan Ejore and Amanda Gehrich, both of Oregon. All three women are coming off strong cross country seasons and all three have only run this event once - one year ago at this same meet.
This was Schadler’s only indoor race of her freshman campaign, but she focused primarily on the 1500 in the spring. Likewise, Gehrich focused on both the mile and 150m during her past few track seasons. While both women could come away with the win, the distance favors Susan Ejore. Last indoor season, Ejore qualified for NCAA's in the mile before transitioning to the 800 for outdoors. Given that she ran 2:04 durring outdoors last year, she should be the favorite of the collegiate women.
One other name to watch will be professional Eleanor Fulton of High Performance West. Fulton, a former Washington Husky, has qualified for numerous U.S Championships in the mile and 1500 and will be one to watch in this race.
The mile features a mix of professional women and top-end collegiate talent and should be a thrilling race to watch. On the collegiate side, Katie Rainsberger is also entered and will likely be focusing on this event over the 600. Given her background as a 1500 meter runner during outdoors and the double entry into the 600, it might be fair to suggest that Rainsberger will focus on mile this indoor season. Although she has done well in the 3000 previously in her career, most of the NCAA field in that event will be back for 2019 whereas the mile loses a large number of competitors. This weekend will be Rainsberger’s first indoor showing since 2017, but she won’t walk away with a win easily.
Lilli Burdon, now of Washington, is making her Husky debut on the track and should provide strong competition for Rainsberger. Burdon’s personal best of 4:32 in the mile is three seconds faster than Rainsberger’s best time and Burdon has been on the rise since the PAC-12 XC Championships. Given she has faster times in every event from the mile to the 5000 during indoors, Burdon should enter the event as the collegiate favorite.
Another collegiate making their season debut will be Ella Donaghu of Stanford. While she was noticeably absent this fall, Donaghu is currently entered in the mile this weekend and will be racing for the first time since outdoors last April. Her personal best of 4:47 is substantially slower than either Burdon or Rainsberger, but her return to the track is intriguing nonetheless.
The race could be a fast one depending on how the pros approach it. Alongside the big collegiate names, the race also features World Championship qualifier and U.S XC Champion Katie Mackey of the Brooks Beasts, as well as steeplechaser Mel Lawrence of Oiselle and road miler Tori Tsolis. Mackey (also a former Husky) is the overall favorite in the race with an indoor mile best of 4:28. She could drag some collegians to fast times if she makes it an honest race.
Similar to the mile, this event features a load of professional women who are likely to dictate the pace for much of the race. Outside of these women, two collegiates will be looking to make a name for themselves early on.
Isobel Batt-Doyle comes in with the fastest mark of 9:25, but has not raced for Washington since the 2017 NCAA Cross Country Championships. She also holds a personal best of 4:21 over 1500 meters, indicating that she has great finishing speed if the pace slows early on. The biggest question is what kind of shape she will be in after not running a collegiate race for almost a year and a half.
Caroline Kurgat of Alaska Anchorage comes in with a personal best only slightly slower (9:27) than Batt-Doyle. While she did not race during cross country this past fall, Kurgat is the reigning D2 national champion in both the outdoor 5000 and 10,000 meters. She also is the 2017 D2 XC national champion. With all of these accolades, the one place she has not won a national title is the indoor track. Kurgat will be the undisputed favorite coming into this race (in regards to collegiates) and may be looking to run an NCAA provisional mark to qualify for the national meet.
On the professional side, there are quite a few women entered, but the biggest name is Allie Buchalski of the Brooks Beasts. The 2018 Furman graduate is coming off a strong showing at U.S Club XC and will be looking to post a fast mark to open the indoor season. While Buchalski enters as the favorite, she should still see heavy competition from Kurgat.