With cross country National Championships concluding, it’s never too early to look forward to the indoor track and field season. Specifically, the distance events. For the first time in four years it feels wide open. This year, the title favorites look like Justyn Knight of Syracuse, Rory Linkletter of BYU and Grant Fisher of Stanford just to name a few.
Of course, those aren’t the only three individuals to watch. Colby Gilbert of Washington, who led the nation last with a 7:45, is back for his senior year and will be looking for revenge on the track after failing to match expectations last indoor season. The state of Colorado will also have its favorites in Buffaloes John Dressel (if he’s healthy) and Joe Klecker (Colorado) as well as Jerrell Mock, Cole Rockhold, Grant Fischer of Colorado State who are looking to build off of their strong cross-country seasons.
With Regionals and Nationals having been separated by eight days, it’s likely that we won’t see any of these guys debut before winter break comes. Until then, let’s take a look back at last year’s top finishers in the 3000m (at NCAA’s):
1. Edward Cheserek: 7:55.91
2. Justyn Knight: 7:56.21
3. Marc Scott: 7:57.19
4. Joe Klecker: 7:58.90
5. Colby Gilbert: 7:59.41
6. Cole Rockhold: 7.59.89
7. Brian Barraza: 8:00.69
8. John Dressel: 8:01.93
9. Clayton Young: 8:02.11
10. Scott Carpenter: 8:06.34
11. Jack Keelan: 8:10.03
12. Amon Terer: 8:12.28
13. Erik Peterson: 8:16.46
14. Garrett Corcoran: 8:20.31
15. Ben Saarel: 8:21.01
16. Matthew Maton: 8:21.45
The aforementioned Cheserek, Scott, Barraza, Terer, Peterson, and Saarel have all finished their indoor track eligibility and will leave us with 10 runners who are more than capable of coming back and competing once again.
So, what does that leave us with? One heck of a race that will be seen nationally come March.
Obviously, this is a rough idea of who we could potentially see when the Indoor Championships roll around, but it’s a start. It’s also very possible that a lot of these men will double up and/or run the 5k during the championship meet as well.
Knight looks to be the strongest out of this group as he didn’t lose a cross-country race all season. He’ll look to build off the strength that he has gained from his 10k training and use it to improve upon his 7:47 PR. While Knight remains the favorite, it’s easy to forget about Philo Germano (8:03) and Aidan Tooker (4:02 Mile) who could potentially post faster marks come February and March.
Fisher didn’t compete for Stanford last year during the indoor season, but with his 3:42 and 13:30 PR’s from outdoor, he would seem like a fit for someone trying to run fast for 3000 meters. We expect Fisher to throw his name in the hat. Steven Fahy returns after finishing 17th at XC Nationals and running 8:03 last year along with teammates Thomas who ran 7:50 unattached last indoor season and Alex Ostberg who finished one place ahead of Fahy at Nationals and has run 4:05 and 14:06. Jack Keelan wasn’t mentioned at cross country Nationals but ran at the regional race. He ran 3:59 and 7:51 last year and looks to be heading back to similar times.
Northern Arizona captured their second straight XC national title behind strong performances from Tyler Day, Matthew Baxter, and Peter Lomong. Both Day and Baxter have seen success at longer distances when it comes the track which could potentially mean we’ll see them in the 5k and beyond. Meanwhile, Lomong, who began his career as a 400/800 runner, has recently switched gears after a breakout finish at the National Championship and has clipped off decent times in both the 3k and 5k. His surprise finish speaks to his fitness and shows potential for a strong candidate at 3000 meters.
Linkletter isn’t the only runner from BYU who could create headlines during indoor season. Clayton Young returns after a 7:49 PR last season that saw him qualify. Despite a poor finish at cross country Nationals, we should see Young bounce back for track season. Joining Linkletter and Young will be junior Connor McMillan. Casey Clinger could have a been a big name to keep an eye on, but his mission trip is set to begin in January. He will most likely be prepping for that throughout December.
Alabama garnered national attention when they announced the transfers of Gilbert Kigen and Vincent Kiprop this summer. Both were studs at the JUCO and Division 2 levels and were expected to bring that level of dominance to the Crimson Tide. After a strong cross country season, and a 4th and 7th place finish at NCAA’s, it would be hard pressed to leave them out of the conversation of being 3K contenders. Kiprop brings in PR’s of 7:57 and 13:42 while Kigen posts PR’s of 8:20 and 13:53. Not to be forgotten is Alfred Chelanga who may have been the Tide’s third runner, but is more than capable of being in the national title conversation.
Kigen Chemadi and Jacob Choge from Middle Tennessee State are two more names that could find themselves competing in March. Both sophomores are coming off of stellar freshmen-year campaigns where they both went sub-14 in the 5k.
Dillon Maggard impressed this year with a 6th finish at Nationals and improved his placing by one spot from Regionals. He boasts PR’s of 4:01 and 8:21 along with a 3:42 1500 PR coming during outdoor season. Maggard finished 12th at last year’s cross-country championships and it led to PRs across the board. The same thing could be brewing this year as Maggard dropped 47 seconds off his 10k and has recently made news by running 4:11 in blue jeans, for what it’s worth.
We would also be hard pressed to forget about the Furman Paladins. Their depth has put them in the forefront of most cross-country discussions. Whether or not the 10k strength will translate to indoors, it is a near certainty we will see more of the Paladins during the outdoor season.
Matthew Maton did not run cross country for the Ducks this past fall, but if he competes, he will be someone worth noting. He ran 7:52 and 3:58 last year and found himself in both the final of the 3000 meters and Mile races at Nationals. Garrett Corcoran finished 130th at the National Championships, but looks to regain his form from last year where he ran 7:52 and 13:57 (outdoors). He’s yet another name to look for during the 2017-2018 season.
Once the season gets under way we will have a better impression on what to expect from these athletes. The 3k is one of the best races to watch during indoor season due to its perfect mix of tactics and variability. We can’t guarantee who will qualify, but we do know that there’s going to be a fast race between 16 athletes come March.