Last Chance College Elite
It’s that time of year where many college runners are scrambling to run last second qualifying times for NCAA's, knowing that many conference meets will feature more tactics than time-trialing.
As has been the case all season, the University of Washington once again played host to a handful of fast races at the Last Chance College Elite meet this past weekend. Four events saw qualifying marks posted, including five men in the mile and potentially four men’s DMR squads. Any mark posted this weekend still has the chance to be surpassed in the next week or so, but there is a good chance you will see many of these runners at NCAA's in two weeks.
The biggest event of the meet was easily the men’s mile. The race saw six collegiates break the 4:00 barrier, five of whom are now in NCAA qualifying positions. Carlos Villarreal of Arizona was back for redemption after being tripped up a week ago at the Dempsey. He posted a time of 3:57.27 which currently sits at #3 in the NCAA, only behind Oliver Hoare of Wisconsin and Waleed Suliman of Ole Miss. Behind Villarreal was a slew of Oregon Ducks with Charlie Hunter, James West, and Blake Haney all running qualifying times as well. Between West and Haney was former Oregon star Mick Stanovsek (now of Washington) who now also sits in qualifying position.
Right now, both Stanovsek and Haney are in a bit of a dangerous position, sitting at #14 and #15 in the NCAA. There is a chance they could fall out of qualification if two or three men run fast at conference meets, but they will more than likely both move through to NCAA's. At this point in the season, most of the men who would be in contention for a spot have already claimed one. Luis Grijalva of Northern Arizona currently sits in 17th, but would bump Alex Rogers of Texas out before either Stanovsek or Haney.
Oregon's Jackson Mestler also earned a sub-four performance of 3:59 to complement his impressive 13:46 for 5000 meters last week.
The other men’s race which featured national qualifying times was the distance medley relay (DMR). Both Washington and Oregon broke into the top 10 by running 9:28.14 and 9:28.62, respectively. The two teams sit at #7 and #8 and should be considered locks for the national meet. Oregon’s roster featured West on the 1200 leg with Cooper Teare as the anchor for the 1600 meter distance. Teare just missed out on qualifying for NCAA's in the mile this weekend, but is already qualified in the 3000. Washington had Stanovsek anchor their team and relied on his huge 3:55 split to beat the Ducks.
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Indiana's Cooper Williams had a strong start to his indoor season, but had yet to really throw down a big performance prior to this past weekend. The Hoosier senior ran 1:47.24 (NCAA #8) to hold off Ohio State's Frank Hayes who ran 1:47.90 (NCAA #10). For Hayes, this is a huge result. After a few quiet seasons at Iowa State, the mid-distance ace transferred to Ohio State and has clearly flourished since going there.
Behind those two were another pair of big performances. Miami-Ohio's Sean Torpy had one of the best races of his career, running 1:48.44 to earn what is now the #16 spot in the NCAA (TFRRS has incorrectly omitted Torpy from their rankings). Close behind Torpy was Kevin White from Loyola (Ill.) who ran a big 1:48.53 of his own. He currently sits at the #17 spot, but is in serious danger of not qualifying for Nationals since no one in the top 16 is expected to scratch.
Rounding out the sub-1:50 performers was Indiana freshman Jalen Royal (1:49.65) and Butler's Johnny Leverenz (1:49.87).
Last Chance College Elite
On the women’s side, Kristie Schoffield of Boise State was able to capitalize on an 800 meter heat of mostly professionals who pulled her to a 2:04.34, currently #6 in the NCAA. The time not only broke her outdoor personal best of 2:05.18, but it completely destroyed her previous indoor mark of 2:12.47 from 2018.
Not too far behind Schoffield was Bronco teammate Alexis Fuller, clocking a 2:05.93 to move into #17 on the NCAA leaderboard. Fuller currently sits on the outside looking in, but has a good chance to make the national meet with Danae Rivers likely opting to focus on the mile. The biggest concern for Fuller will be the chance for someone to clock a faster time at one of the conference meets next weekend. The 800 meter is an event that can produce qualifiers more readily than a longer, rabbitted distance (think 3k or 5k), and as such leaves Fuller’s mark vulnerable to contention in the next week.
The hometown Washington Huskies got their second individual qualifier on the women’s side this weekend when Katie Rainsberger ran 4:35.15 to jump to #13 in the NCAA for the mile. Rainsberger has struggled a bit at Washington compared to her past performances while at Oregon, but is now slated to compete in two events come NCAA's (the DMR is the other).
Another Husky to watch at the MPSF Championships next weekend will be Lilli Burdon. After sitting out much of the fall, Burdon made a strong comeback to earn All-American honors in cross country but has since underwhelmed a bit on the track. Like Rainsberger, she transferred from Oregon and will also be competing in the DMR at Nationals.
After Rainsberger was BYU's Whittni Orton who ran 4:36.14 to finish as the 2nd overall collegiate. Orton was likely trying to better her qualifying position for Nationals and might have done enough after running a time that puts her at #19 on the NCAA leaderboard.
Roughly two seconds behind Orton was Washington's Allie Schadler who ran a strong time of 4:38 to finish as the 3rd overall collegiate collegiate on the day.
Fastrack Last Chance
The Ocean Breeze facility offered a handful of east coast talents the chance to run another fast time before they began their championship seasons. Nia Atkins was one of those athlete's who took full advantage of the opportunity, running a big personal best of 2:04 to earn the #8 time in the NCAA. The Penn junior has kept her name relevant among the top ranks this year and has now done enough to race at the Big Dance in March.
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Western Michigan's Sarah Anderson had the biggest race of her life, running a personal best of 2:05.74 to earn the #15 spot in the NCAA. It was arguably one of the most clutch performances of the weekend and it's a result that could easily send her to Nationals.
Ohio State's Aziza Ayoub ran a respectable 2:06 for 2nd overall.