Husky Classic Preview: Jager, Lomong and Hasay Lead the Way
As usual, the University of Washington's Husky Classic offers loaded fields, enticing fans from across the United States to focus much of the attention Friday evening and Saturday on Seattle, Washington. With Olympians, All-Americans and a bevy of collegiate standouts looking to knock substantial amounts of time off their PRs, the Husky Classic is sure to excite once again. Here's our event-by-event breakdown.
Olympian and U.S. record holder Evan Jager (OTC Elite) opens up his 2013 season looking for a new mile PR and facing some stiff competition. Jager, who broke the U.S. steeplechase record last summer and placed sixth in the Olympic Games, has to be eyeing OTC Elite teammate Chris Solinsky's fieldhouse record of 3:54.52 from 2011. With his combination of speed and strength, it wouldn't be surprising to see Jager break that mark by 2-3 seconds.
Jager enters as the pre-race favorite, but his teammate Andrew Bumbalough (OTC Elite) could earn the victory, too. Bumbalough has shown tremendous 1,500m/mile range since his days at Georgetown. He's been overlooked a bit over the past couple years, but Bumbalough remains one of the best distance runners in the United States, especially on the track.
One story line worth following is the return of Mac Fleet (Oregon). Fleet had wonderful freshman and early sophomore track seasons, but he's been dealing with injury for much of the past year and a half. Back running healthy, Oregon and middle distance fans should be hopeful that Fleet can return to form as one of the better milers at the collegiate level.
Another key athlete to watch is Kyle Merber. Merber, who is now competing for the University of Texas, was the US#10 1,500m runner in 2012, running 3:35.59. While he hasn't shown consistency at that level, his new training environment could be just the push he needs to take his talent to another level.
All fourteen athletes in the field are fully capable of breaking the four minute barrier, so a close race up front will make the race entertaining, but the backend of the pack pushing the four minute barrier should provide an additional layer of excitement.
It's a battle of some of the top collegiate runners in the women's 5,000m run. Jordan Hasay (Oregon), Megan Goethals (Washington), Jessica Tonn (Stanford) and Alexi Pappas (Oregon) square off for Pac-12 bragging rights, as each athlete is ready to run new best times. Hasay is the obvious favorite, especially after her strong mile effort two weeks back. Many have stated Hasay's future lies more in the longer 5k event, so this race gives fans even more of a reason to see how she handles the distance, especially against competition she is sure to see a few more times this season.
What happens when you put together numerous top ten NCAA Cross Country Championship finishers, two amazingly talented athletes in their final collegiate track seasons and the top collegiate miler in the country? We're all about to find out in the men's 3,000m race Saturday. Leading the charge are four top ten finishers at this past fall's NCAA Cross Country Championships, as Anthony Rotich (UTEP), Girma Mechso (Oklahoma State), Paul Chelimo (UNC-Greensboro) and Tom Farrell (Oklahoma State) all battle for early season bragging rights and hopeful sub-7:50 clockings.
While the four mentioned athletes are all top of mind based on their latest big-race performances, two more athletes will be right in the mix and very easily could pull off the victory. Ryan Hill (NC State) and Diego Estrada (Northern Arizona) are both eyeing strong starts to their track seasons. Hill should be lookig to build on his US#1 collegiate 5,000m performance of 13:43.52, while Estrada looks to build his 2013 season into a more successful one than his 2012 season, which saw him run in the Olympic Games.
While most of the heavy hitters in the field are more strength-based athletes, one speedster is entered who should shake things up a bit. Patrick Casey (Oklahoma) is having another fine indoor season, currently ranking a collegiate US#1 in the mile with a 3:56.28 effort. That speed, combined with the tremendous strength he's been building at Oklahoma, should bode well over the 3k distance.
The Husky Classic meet record is 7:47.52, while the Dempsey Fieldhouse record is 7:43.08, run by Hill in 2012. Both of those times should go down this weekend, it's just a question of who's name is going to be placed in the record books.
The need for speed. That's the best way to describe the men's 800m event set for Saturday. The top heat features many talented two-lappers, meaning Andrew Wheating's 2010 fieldhouse record of 1:46.36 could be in trouble.
Stepping up to the line, professional 800m runners Tyler Mulder (Oregon Track Club) and Mark Weiczorek (Brooks Beast) have to be considered the two pre-race favorites. Mulder had a strong 2012 season, ranking US#5, while Weiczorek ranked US#10. While both athletes have shown they have the top-end talent to pull off the victory, keep an eye on professional rabbit and Brooks Beast athlete Matt Scherer. Scherer may be known for his pacing duties, but he can still blaze quick times for full distances.
Two collegiate runners are entered who should challenge, too. Austin Mudd (Wisconsin) and Ricky West (Penn State) both have the talent to upset the field. Mudd recently broke the four minute mile barrier at the Meyo Invitational, while West has already run 1:48.92 this season.
Olympian Lopez Lomong (OTC Elite) is also in the field. While many consider Lomong more of a mile/5k talent, it must be remembered that Lomong has perhaps the greatest range for an American distance runner, as he ran 1:46.21 for 800m in 2012. Lomong, along with the rest of the talented field, make this a tight-knit race that should go all the way to the line.
A loaded women's mile race should make for a great race Saturday. Oregon Track Club standout and 2008 Olympian Jemma Simpson looks to start her 2013 season off on the right foot and enters the race as the favorite. Simpson's training has been going well, as she eyes a season of lowering her 1,500m and mile PRs.
On Simpson's heels are a quartet of collegiate athletes looking to prove they are the best at the college leve. Natalja Piliusina (Oklahoma State), Anne Kesselring (Oregon), Cory McGee (Florida) and Amanda Winslow (Florida State) all have caparable times, which should make it a very close race.
Winslow is having a great indoor season thus far, running the second fastest mile time at the collegiate level this indoor season. She seems poised to have a huge season. Meanwhile, Piliusina ranks US#3 at the collegiate level in the 800m with a 2:04.35 effort, coming into this season with a 4:09.51 1,500m PR.
Kesselring enters with 2:02 800m and 4:32 mile bests. She's fully capable of running a new PR and will be a driving force for Oregon as the indoor championship season approaches. Lastly, McGee, who's been overlooked a bit over the past two years, enters Saturday's race with a 4:12.61 1,500m best. With a healthy training base, a sub-4:34 effort at the Husky Classic isn't out of the question.
While the meet record of 2:02.91 is probably safe at this point, the women's 800m field has the talent entered to perhaps push a sub-2:04 effort. Jumping to the front of the field is Shelby Houlihan (Arizona State), who currently ranks US#7 among collegiate athletes with a 2:06.27. Houlihan will be challenged by Stanford freshman Amy Wiessenbach, who poised for a big race, while professional middle distance runner Katie Mackey (Brooks Beast) looks to impress.
While the top heat is stacked with talent, it shouldn't surprise if the fastest time of the day comes from the second heat of the Invitational 800m race. BYU's Kelsey Brown is the headliner of that field, currently ranking US#5 among collegians in 2:04.94.
Men's 5,000m & Women's 3,000m
While the men's mile, 800m and 3k get much of the attention heading into this weekend's action, the men's 5,000m is lined up to be very fast, too. Olympian Mo Ahmed (Wisconsin) leads the field, opening up his track season and shooting for an impressive early season mark. Ahmed's main competition will come from Anthony Rotich (UTEP), although Rotich is also entered in the top 3,000m heat. Rotich finished fourth at the NCAA Cross Country Championships this past fall, ten seconds up on Ahmed, so those two could battle to an extremely fast time.
Not to be overlooked, Ahmed's teammate Maverick Darling (Wisconsin) looks to close out his final collegiate season on a high note. After an 11th place finish at the NCAA Cross Country Championships, Darling should be looking to push for the victory in this race. With many other collegiate standouts in the field, including All-Americans David Rooney (McNeese State), Shadrack Kipchirchir (Oklahoma State), Jared Ward (BYU) and Lane Werley (UCLA), this race should be plenty of runners break the 14-minute barrier
Similar to the men's 5k, the women's 3k isn't as deep as the other races, but still offers a competitive field that should have a few athletes hitting qualifying marks. Leading the charge is Florida State University standout Colleen Quigley. Quigley had a strong cross country season and seems poised to take another big step forward this track season. She'll be followed closely by Francis Koons (New Balance), a trio of Georgetown athletes led by Madeline Chambers and a host of other athletes looking to run big PRs.