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The men’s meet promises to entertain, with incredible fields and individuals ready to toe the line for one final NCAA meet. I’ve previewed all of the middle and long distance races, but due to the depth of this year’s fields, I tried to limit my commentary to those that I considered to be major contenders. That being said, I’m sure there are plenty of athletes that are hoping to win that I have left unmentioned. If you would rather look at the full entry lists, you can just click here.
Also, if you’re looking for the women’s preview, click here, and if you are looking for this past weekend’s recap, click here.
Finals: Thursday 8:15 PM
Indoor 5k champ and top seed Mike Spain of North Central comes in as a clear favorite. Though his top end speed is a bit questionable, I expect to see a repeat of last year’s performance where he and teammate Kyle Brady went out easy but brought the hammer down over the final four laps, with both closing in under 4:30. I think second seed Thomas Breitbach of Eau Claire will be the closest challenger, and though I can’t see Mike Heymann of Plattsburgh closing too well, I can see him being hard to shake off. Tim Nelson of Stout will certainly be in the final group, and I would say the same for David Spandorfer of Wash U and the other North Central guys (Dan Kerley and Neal Klein). Seb Schwelm of NYU, Jason Garvens of Platteville, and Anders Hulleberg of Haverford are question marks in my mind, though. Schwelm has not raced in over a month and has likely been nursing some injuries. Meanwhile, Garvens is clearly capable of high end performances, but he has not impressed as of late, and the same can be said for cross country champion Hulleberg, who also had trouble indoors at nationals.
Predictions: Spain, Breitbach, Spandorfer
Finals: Friday 8:30 PM
This event is completely loaded, and I expect to see one of the fastest races in Division 3 history, with a ton of guys rolling to sub 9 clockings. Brian Lang of Rochester comes in as the top seed and the top returner from last year, but it’s hard for me to call him the favorite as there are so many potential winners. The other two members of the current sub-9 club are Alden Black of Wash U and Kevin McCarthy of Wabash. Black had a huge breakthrough a little over a week ago to win the Dr. Keeler Invitational, and it will be interesting to see if he can reproduce that performance. Unlike the other two top seeds, McCarthy is not a steeple specialist. He posted solid qualifiers in both the 800 and the 1500, but has elected to focus exclusively on this event. In addition, it would be foolish to forget returning All-Americans Nick Kramer of Calvin and Jack Davies of Middlebury. Kramer won his heat at the Dr. Keeler Invitational and has the best 5k provisional mark of this field. Davies, on the other hand, has a 1500 provisional mark to go along with his steeple qualifier, and he will be dangerous if he is around on the final lap. The list of competitors does not stop there, though, as Fredonia’s Josh Guarino, twin of 1500 meter favorite Nick Guarino, also has some solid wheels to his credit, along with a 9:03 steeple qualifier from Penn Relays. If you think his time is a bit too slow to consider him amongst the favorites, I should point out that he ran the final 800 of his qualifier with only one shoe. However, despite all these big names already mentioned, I have yet to list the man whom I am picking for the win: Kent Pecora of Dickinson. Pecora comes in with strong qualifiers in both the 1500 and the 5k, and he has looked very fit in recent weeks. That being said, if I had to bet, I would bet the field.
Predictions: Pecora, Lang, Davies
Prelims: Thursday 6:45 PM
Finals: Saturday 1:50 PM
Let me first say that I cannot envision a scenario where Nick Guarino of Fredonia doesn’t win. He has the top seed, the best wheels of all the competitors, and he has proven himself time and time again (three time mile/1500 champion). I know Matt Turlip of NYU ran an incredible time at Swarthmore, but I can’t see him winning. In fact, I think he could have trouble even getting second—his 800 personal best is only 1:54.55, meaning that he gives up about four seconds over the same distance to fellow auto qualifiers Tim Schoch of Haverford and Drew Clark of Principia (who both did not declare in the 800 in order to be fresh for this race). Thus, I think Turlip would benefit from a fast race, but unfortunately, I can’t see it being one unless he takes it out hard himself. It’s not Guarino’s style to push the pace—especially when he’s doubling—and as already noted, Schoch and Clark would likely benefit from a kicker’s race, too. As for the other competitors, Patrick Klein of Platteville seems to be back with a vengeance after a rocky indoor postseason and early outdoor season, while Willamette’s Stefan Redfield seems to be in fine form as well. If you’re looking for lower seed to do well, you would be wise to consider freshman Dan Sullivan of Stevens Point or Parker Thompson of Wheaton. Sullivan showed he could handle a tough racing schedule at the WIAC meet and Thompson did the same at the CCIW meet.
Predictions: Guarino, Clark, Schoch
Prelims: Friday 8 PM
Finals: Saturday 3:20 PM
Up until a few weeks ago, it looked as though it was a down year for the 800. However, the event has exploded with automatic qualifiers in the past few weeks, and thus it has become pretty hard to predict. That being said, the class of the field is still indoor champ Ben Scheetz of Amherst. Scheetz has opted out of the open 400 after he barely escaped from fast-closing Jake Waterman of Wabash indoors, and though Scheetz will be fresh, he will again have his hands full. This time his main competition figures to be Guarino, who is stepping down in distance at nationals for the first time. However, I can’t see Guarino winning, as he will have only an hour and a half to recover from his 1500 final, and I don’t think he has the 400 speed to compete with Scheetz. Jeremie Bogard of Whitewater is the third seed, though his time was a huge breakthrough, and I am not convinced he can replicate it, let alone do so twice in the span of three days. Of course, Waterman will also attempt to challenge Scheetz, and I’m sure he’ll have revenge on his mind after losing by .06 indoors, but I can’t see him getting any closer this time around. However, I think it will be a very tight battle for second or third, depending on how well Guarino can double back (I expect him to be fine—he handled a tough racing schedule very well at SUNYACS). Any one of the automatic qualifiers I haven’t mentioned could obviously do well, too (Hoffman, Litsheim, Winkler, Zimmerman, or Wells-Qu), but if you’re looking for someone not among the top seeds, keep an eye on freshman Sean Royer of La Crosse and veteran Frank Redmond of Misericordia. Royer has continued to improve and impress over the course of the season, while Redmond, an All-American last outdoor season, appears to have rounded into shape at just the right time, as he just recently squeezed into the nationals field. The same can be said for indoor third-placer Tyler Newhook of Messiah, who could also be a factor. I could see this race being similar to last year’s, where the two favorites (Max Hanson of Gustavus Adolphus and Emmanuel Bofa of Whitworth) finished 1-2, while the third place finisher, Adam Lang of Stevens Point, came in as one of the last seeds.
Predictions: Scheetz, Guarino, Redmond
This, along with the men’s steeplechase, is the most unpredictable event of the meet. Mike Spain of North Central comes in as the top seed, but after running the 10k on Thursday, I could see him fading a bit if the race plays out like last year, where Brady and Spain lost to the speedier Connor Kamm of Williams and Nick Karwoski of Dickinson. I just can’t see Spain getting enough distance from guys like Dee Salukombo from Denison, Nate Stymiest of Oshkosh, or Nate Petesch of Platteville, all of whom are automatic qualifiers as well and have shown dangerous wheels in recent weeks. However, there is a big difference between running a fast 800 or 1500 and kicking off a hard pace for 5k, so it’s hard to tell who is the biggest threat of this bunch. Despite the fact that the other two beat him in their qualifying race, I would have to go with Stymiest since he is the only proven competitor at nationals. He anchored Oshkosh to second place indoors, while Salukombo underperformed and Petesch was not there. However, my pick to win the race is indoor 5k runner-up Brian Butzler of Whitewater, who has been among the division’s elite for a long, long time but has yet to win the big one. He actually closed his last thousand faster than Spain did indoors, and he has elected not to run the 10k in order to be fresh for this final distance race of the season. Plus, Butzler has won both of the 5k's that he has raced this outdoor season. Of course, it would be a bad idea to forget about Nick Kramer of Calvin, even though he is doubling back from the steeple. If you’re looking for a lower seed to make a splash, check out Lee Berube of Geneseo, who is undefeated in three 5k’s this year, and though he hasn’t run faster than 14:30, he certainly has some speed if he’s there over the final laps.
Predictions: Butzler, Stymiest, Spain
North Central will be attempting to defend its title, though top seed McMurry will certainly try to make amends for last year, where they came in as a contender yet finished back in eighth. Also factoring into the title hunt will be Oshkosh, and though they’re seeded to score less points than the two frontrunners, there’s also a lot of places for the Titans to pick up points. I could easily see them winning if they catch a few breaks. Also, if any of the big three slip up, the WIAC champs from La Crosse will almost certainly be there to capitalize. The other thing to look out for is a repeat performance from Central College, who almost stole the indoor title, courtesy of multi stars Ethan Miller and Kurtis Brondyke. However, I think they will have trouble doing the same outdoor since they will need to score more points to win this meet (since there are more events), and I don’t think they have the depth to do so.
Predictions: North Central, Oshkosh, McMurry
Click here to continue to the women's preview.