We are back! This time it’s with another exciting race: the 800 meters. Last year, the half-mile was taken by storm by the UTEP freshmen Emmanuel Korir and Michael Saruni. Korir won the event, and then went pro this summer after he finished 1st at the Kenyan World Championships. Saruni, however, has stuck around to come back and redeem himself after last year’s disqualification.
Let’s take a look at last year’s top 16 from NCAA’s:
1. Emmanuel Korir, 1:47.48
2. Drew Piazza, 1:47.62
3. Joseph White, 1:47.79
4. Isaiah Harris, 1:47.94
5. Robert Heppenstall, 1:47.98
6. Daniel Kuhn, 1:48.72
7. Blair Henderson, 1:49.69
8. Michael Saruni, DQ (heat time of 1:48.44)
9. Eliud Rutto, 1:48.41
10. Andres Arroyo, 1:48.57
11. Ryan Manahan, 1:48.79
12. Carter Lilly, 1:48.97
13. Abraham Alvarado, 1:49.25
14. Craig Engels, 1:49.26
15. Avery Bartlett, 1:49.58
16. Patrick Joseph, 1:59.76
Korir has recently gone pro and has left his teammates at UTEP giving another athlete a chance to win it all in 2018.
Piazza, Henderson, Rutto, Arroyo, Manahan, Alvarado, and Engels will join Korir on the list of athletes who won’t be back for the 2017-2018 season.
Let’s begin with the first returner on that list in Joe White (Georgetown). Last year, White ran 1:46.44 at the Iowa State Classic to put himself as one of the top ranked performers in the nation. White’s 800 PR times have all progressed since his freshman year. He continued his success during the outdoor season where he ran 1:45 and placed 3rd at NCAA’s. White is returning for his senior year and will look to finish atop the NCAA for the first time in his career.
Harris ran 1:46.65 during last year’s indoor season and found himself at 7th in the national rankings. He would later go on to finish 4th at the national meet. Harris transitioned to the outdoor season and lower his PR to 1:45 and grab runner-up honors to Korir at NCAA's. He later competed at the USATF Championships where he ran 1:44 and saw himself move on to the IAAF World Championships to face some of the best middle distance runners in the world. Harris will no doubt be back towards the top of the leader boards once again this winter. An NCAA title is certainly within his grasp.
Heppenstall ran his fastest time of the year at the ACC Championships last indoor season which means that he peaked at the right time. He proceeded to finish 5th at the national meet. His success continued in the spring as he lowered his 800 PR by .3 of a second and finished 4th in the nation. He also set PR’s in the mile (4:08) and the 1500 (3:43) during the two track seasons, another display that Heppnestall is more than capable of continuing his success.
Kuhn clocked the 4th fastest time during indoor season last year. He also ran 1:15 for 600 meters this past weekend which is very impressive for any athlete. His fitness was on full display last winter as he recorded his PR of 1:46.42 which ultimately led him to finishing 6th at the national meet. Kuhn only competed in one outdoor meet last season which left us with questions about his health.
Saruni was the other big name at UTEP. After being left off the Kenyan World roster (despite finishing 3rd), Saruni has returned for his sophomore year at UTEP where he looks to be one of the favorites. Despite being DQ’d at last year’s indoor championships, Saruni’s PR’s speak for themselves. He ran 1:46.90 during the indoor season and then followed that up with a 1:45.82 during the outdoor season where we also saw him run 45.69 for 400 meters.
Carter Lilly is the next man on the list. The Iowa senior has basically replicated his 800 meter times over the last three seasons. His PR officially stands at 1:47.32 and he ran 1:47.33 during indoor last year and 1:47.51 during the outdoor season. This seems like the year where Lilly will break out and get through that 1:47 barrier.
Bartlett is the most curious returner of the top 16 from last year. Bartlett has a PR of 1:47.32 that helped him get into the national meet, but he also boasts PR’s of 4:08 for the mile and 8:30 for 3000 meters. He also dabbled in the 5000 meters during outdoor season. What’s it all mean? It most likely means that Bartlett will build on that strength and get back on the national stage once again, but this time with a PR somewhere near 1:45-46 instead of 1:47. Bold? Yes. Unrealistic? No.
Our last returner is Joseph. He posted the 2nd fastest time of the year last winter with his 1:46.23 at the ACC Championships where he bested Heppenstall. Unfortunately for him, the conference success didn’t follow suit at Nationals. While that’s mostly because of a trip causing him to stumble, it was a disappointment for Joseph without a doubt. Back for his senior year, Joseph will look to better his time from last year. He has a mile PR of 4:00 (flat track) and a 5k PR of 14:19 which speaks to his ability to combine both speed and strength.
One of the biggest transfers of the summer was Carlton Orange who left Arkansas to join Texas A&M. The former Razorback was ranked 17th in the nation last year, but ended up as the first one out of Nationals during last year’s indoor season. His times of 1:47.78 and 4:11 in the mile were the main highlights of his strong winter campaign. However, Orange does have a PR of 1:46 from the 2016 outdoor season and qualified for the outdoor championships in 2017. Orange has a strong resume and could be someone who can make some noise in the coming months.
Devin Dixon (Texas A&M) was only a freshman last year, and he missed out on the indoor championships last year despite clocking a 1:47.85. That, of course, didn’t stop him from running a 1:45 during the outdoor season to enable his qualification for the big dance. Dixon has wheels to burn as he has also run 47.99 during indoor. He was also a part of the Aggies national qualifying 4x400 team. Dixon only has room to improve as he has three more years on the collegiate circuit. We expect to see his name towards the top upcoming results.
Robert Ford (USC) comes into his senior year looking to improve upon his PR that he set in 2016. He missed out on the indoor championships last year despite flirting with the 1:48 barrier. He qualified for the outdoor championships where he ran a season best of 1:47.58 in the second round of the prelims. Ford should make the jump to the top 16 during the indoor season.
Myles Marshall (Harvard) had a strong sophomore season where he recorded his then PR of 1:48.17 that put him inside the top 25 on the national list. He then moved to the outdoor season and improved on that time by running 1:47.79. He also runs 1000 meters in under 2:30 showing us that he can maintain elite speed for more than just half-mile race length.
Domenic Perretta (Penn State) joins the long list of 800 runners that keep coming through Penn State. His freshman year consisted of a 1:48.17 during indoors and then a 1:47.29 during the outdoor season that helped prime him for the outdoor championships and USATF’s. Expect Perretta to make the leap and break the 1:48 barrier and even flirt with the 1:47 mark during indoor season.
Brennan Munley (Michigan) ran 1:48.24 during the 2017 indoor season. He didn’t quite reach that mark during the outdoor season but he was a part of a Michigan 4x800 team that ran 7:23 at the Penn Relays for the 4x800. In his final year, he’ll look to run under the 1:48 mark and qualify for the national meet this upcoming March.
The Clemson trio of John Lewis, Terrell Jackson and Mpho Makofane came on strong last year with all three going under the 1:49 barrier last year. Lewis then ran 1:47 during the outdoor season and continues to progress very well with each track season of experience under his belt. Lewis’ teammate Jackson competed at the USATF Junior Championships where he placed 3rd overall to give him more big meet experience. Meanwhile, Makofane also broke the 1:48 barrier during the outdoor season giving the Tigers three returners who should turn some heads.
Clay Lambourne (Utah State) broke out last year beginning with a 1:49.20 at his Conference meet. The success continued into the outdoor season where he shaved two seconds off of that and ran 1:47.09 to get him into the national meet. Despite being knocked out in the prelims of the 800, the time was quick enough to give him a shot at the USATF Championships where he gained some much needed experience.
Charles Jones and Vincent Crisp (Texas Tech) are another pair of teammates who have the ability to take a leap forward this upcoming season. Jones ran 1:48 during indoor and then burst on the scene when he ran 1:46 in his first meet of the outdoor season. He also ran at the USATF Championships where he was eliminated in the first round, but again, earned some valuable experience. As for his teammate Crisp, he also ran 1:48 during the indoor season and saw success when he ran 1:47 at the same meet as Jones.
JaQwae Ellison (Texas A&M) joins his teammate Dixon as an athlete with success on the horizon. While he’s not quite as fast as Dixon, he ran 1:48 on both the indoor and outdoor ovals. The consistency is nice, but this looks to be the prime year where he has a chance to dip under 1:48 and even take a bigger step.
Dipping under the 1:49 mark is anticipated in order to be part of the conversation come March. However, in order to be in the big meet, times will be closer to low-1:48 or high 1:47’s. With strong returners, it’ll be interesting to see if any noise is made when March rolls around. We’ll be anticipating yet another strong showing for the 800 meters.