The men's indoor team crown has swapped hands between NJCAA track and field mainstays Iowa Central and South Plains for the last five years. In fact, only twice over the last decade has neither of those schools won the meet. It's a run of dominance that doesn't figure to end this weekend in Pittsburg-- not surprisingly, Iowa Central and South Plains enter as the top two ranked schools.
The Tritons of Iowa Central should feel pretty good about their chances of repeating. A quick combing of the entries gives them a projected 152 points, enough to win each of the last three championships. But both South Plains and Cloud County are threats, as the former will rely on the field events and excellent relays to bridge the gap, while the latter will bring a balanced attack of mid-distance, relays, and field events to counter the juggernaut that is Iowa Central. They'll have their work cut out for them--the defending champs project to score in 15 of 20 events.
Below, I take a look at the track events that will go the furthest in deciding a team champion. I also break down some entertaining head-to-head races as well.
Big Team Points Up For Grabs
1,000m and 3,000m
Who: Iowa Central and Cloud County
When: 1,000m: Prelims 9:40 pm Friday, Final 3:45 pm Saturday; 3,000m 9:10 pm Friday
Why: The Tritons could wind up with a third of their total points from the distance races alone if things break right. I have them projected to tally a monstrous 48 points in the 1k-mile-3k-5k, with the 1k and 3k combining for 27 of that total. Ashenafi Hatte (2:29.85) and Esu Alemseged (2:30.29) of Iowa Central are the top two seeds in the 1k and could bring an avalanche of points here; their Cloud County counterparts, Moses Dirane and Thobile Mosito, aren't too far off and will look to slow the Tritons mid-d guns.
Dirane and Mosito are back for more in the 3k-- an event which will surely be dominated by Central Arizona's distance maven Gilbert Kigen-- but Iowa Central has studs here as well. With two men in the season's top four 3k times, the rich should keep getting richer once again.
Who: Iowa Central and Cloud County
When: 3:20 pm Friday
Why: The distance medley relay doesn't require any extra incentive to watch, but here you get one anyway as Iowa Central and Cloud County will square up with the top two seed times. Each school's top names from the 1k, Moses Dirane (Cloud County) and Ashenafi Hatte (Iowa Central), will anchor, setting up a spicy duel between two of the NJCAA's best mid-distance stars. A win in the DMR on early Friday afternoon could set the tone for the rest of the weekend's distance action between the two schools.
Who: Cloud County and South Plains
When: Prelims 6:05 pm Friday, Finals 1:55 pm Saturday
Why: There aren't many events where Iowa Central seems likely to come up empty, but the 600m is one of them. South Plains and Cloud County need to take care of business here. Cloud has the top seed in Stephen Marindich (1:19.29), while South Plains' Montel Hood, Okeen Williams, and Rayan Holmes are all within a second and a half of that. These teams both desperately need double-digit to keep pace with Iowa Central.
Three Match-Up Races To Watch
Who: Gilbert Kigen, Karim Achengli
When: 4:45 pm Friday
Why: Central Arizona's Gilbert Kigen has been Mr. Everything in his just over a year in the NJCAA. The Kenyan has won six NJCAA titles in that time -- including the 5k-10k outdoor double crown last spring-- and he'll be favored to take down a similar trifecta in Pittsburg. His first shot will come in the 5k, where he'll battle 14:25 man Karim Achengli of Iowa Central. While Kigen has won almost every championship he's been faced with, he just might have a real test in Achengli-- Kigen's indoor PR lags four seconds back in 14:29.
Who: Gilbert Kigen, Elias Gedyon
When: 2:20 pm Saturday
Why: This will be Kigen's third event of the weekend and he'll look to collect the only distance crown missing from his mantle. There's no doubt who the favorite is, but an interesting foil presents itself in Trinidad State's Elias Gedyon. That name may ring a bell-- Gedyon was once a 4:02 high school miler and an Oregon signee. It never worked out with the Ducks, but here he enters the weekend with the top seed time (a converted 4:11.02). Kigen and his 4:04 PR will be tough to topple, but Gedyon did run a 3:48 1500m last spring, and he presents an interesting wrinkle to the Kenyan's seemingly inevitable triple.
Who: Keitavious Walter, Andre Ewers
When: Prelims 6:40 pm Friday, Final 1:35 pm Saturday
Why: NJCAA sprints are known for producing top flight NCAA stars-- say, Andre De Grasse and Vernon Norwood-- and two men with potentially bright D1 futures will battle in the 60. Defending champ Keitavious Walter of Hinds owns a 6.59 PR and will run for Arkansas next year. Butler CC's Andre Ewers shared the season's top mark of 6.65 with Walter and has been a little sharper of late than his speedy counterpart. Both men will double back in 200m this weekend, so we'll get plenty of chances to check out their skills.
Watch the 2017 NJCAA Indoor Championships LIVE on FloTrack on Friday March 3, 10:30AM CT - Saturday March 4, 12:30PM CT!
How To Watch
ON TV: Now available on Roku and Apple TV 4 -- download the FloSports app today!
STREAMING: Available only on FloTrack. SIGN UP HERE
- A yearly FloPro subscription provides access to ALL FloSports sites
Join The Conversation On Social
• Follow us on Twitter @FloTrack
• Follow us on Instagram @FloTrack_TrackIsBack
• Follow us on Facebook
Archived Competition Footage
Video footage from the competition will be archived and stored in a video library for FloPRO subscribers to watch for the duration of their subscription.