UW Invitational Preview: Grace, Wheating, Efraimson, And More

NorCal's O'Connor, Grace, and Felnagle mid-3K.jpg
It's Round 2 of the annual indoor festivities at the University of Washington, as the Dempsey Indoor hosts the 2017 UW Invitational this Friday and Saturday in Seattle. U.S. Olympians and top collegians dot the fields as the pros look to sharpen up while their NCAA counterparts seek qualifying marks. 2017 World and collegiate leads could tumble as a result, and you can watch it go down live this weekend on FloTrack. Here are the top five races to watch.

Men's Mile


Who
: Andrew Wheating, Brannon Kidder, Thomas Riva
When: 12:10 pm PT Saturday
Why: It's 2017 season debut time for OTC teammates and Olympians Hassan Mead and Andrew Wheating. Each had nice indoor highlights a year ago-- Mead nearly won the Millrose 3k in 7:38, Wheating ran 3:39 in January-- and even without a domestic World Indoor meet on the horizon expect them to put on a good show Saturday. The 25-year-old Mead, an Olympic finalist in the 5K, will run the Millrose two-mile in two weeks against guys like Matt Centrowitz and Ryan Hill; he's entered in this weekend's 3K as well in preparation. The oft-injured Wheating missed out on making a third straight Olympic team last summer and hasn't raced since the Trials, but that 3:39 last year was in a season opener.

​UPDATE: ​Justyn Knight of Syracuse is a last-minute addition to the field. We're working to confirm that he's competing in Seattle. Additionally, Hassan Mead is not on the new heat sheets.



Former Penn State stud and current Brooks Beast Brannon Kidder will also be in this race. The mid-distance whiz historically has run really well this time of year, including a 1k collegiate record of 2:18.26 last January. Like Wheating, his 3:57.13 indoor mile PB comes from the Dempsey two years ago.

Women's Mile


Who
: Kate Grace, Alexa Efraimson, Brie Felnagle, Dana Mecke, Ella Donaghu
When: 11:55am PT Saturday
Why: Two weeks back at the Dempsey, free agent speedster Kate Grace mowed down world champ Sifan Hassan in epic fashion:



That effort broke the Dempsey 3K record (8:47.26), and now we'll get to see the U.S. 800m champ drop down to the mile and 800 this weekend. She'll be the favorite in both, but her best challenge should come in the mile, which features still-only-19-year-old Alexa Efraimson. The 1500m U.S. junior record holder was a bit rusty in her rust-buster at the UW Preview, but she normally runs well in Seattle. This should be a fun one-- both women have 4:28 PBs.

​Update: ​Grace is rabbiting Felnagle in the mile, not racing.

Men's 3K


Who
: Hassan Mead, Nate Brannen, Colby Gilbert, Thomas Ratcliffe, Charles Philibert-Thiboutot
When: 2:30pm PT Saturday
Why: Two Olympic finalists are the headliners here. Hassan Mead will be doubling back from the mile two hours prior, which could make things a little more interesting against 1500m specialist Nate Brannen. The Canadian Brannen is 34 and hasn't run an indoor 3K in six years, but his wheels are too good to be ignored.

​UPDATE: ​Mead isn't in the most recent entries.

Washington's own Colby Gilbert should also make noise in this one. He lost a close one to Eric Jenkins in the UW Preview mile in 3:58.



Women's 800m


Who
: Kate Grace, Claudia Saunders, Kendra Chambers
When: 1:40pm PT Saturday
Why: Even despite pacing the mile less than two hours beforehand, Kate Grace should obliterate her 2:03 indoor PB on Saturday. She'll have two 2:00-flat performers alongside to help her do just that-- former Stanford Cardinal, now Brooks Beast Claudia Saunders, and Kendra Chambers.

Women's 3K


Who
: Mel Lawrence, Christina Aragon, Brenna Peloquin, Fiona O'Keeffe, Lauren Larocco
When: 2:15pm PT Saturday
Why: The defending champ in this event, Mel Lawrence, will have to topple four of the brightest young stars in the NCAA if she wants to repeat. The quartet of Peloquin (6th), Larocco (29th), O'Keeffe (37th), and Aragon (38th) were all cross country All-Americans in the fall, and each have excellent track chops as well.

WATCH THE 2017 UW INVITATIONAL LIVE ON FRIDAY JANUARY 27th - SATURDAY JANUARY 28th!

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