Ajee Wilson Back In Front, Cheserek At Altitude, & Other Pro Standouts

Sounds crazy, but it's true: we've already reached the unofficial midway point of the professional indoor track season. 

With just over 30 days until the 2018 World Indoor Championships kick off in Birmingham, England, there are some indicators of who will factor into the medal hunt at the beginning of March. Since there's only a month of results to draw from, it’s difficult to come to any solid conclusions; however, each week the picture gets a little clearer. 

As always, Jojo has your college recap. Here are a few of the professional storylines from last week:

Mid-Distance Madness

The women’s 800m has no shortage of subplots, particularly in the United States. Outdoors, there’s a logjam of women within two seconds in either direction of 1:57. This has made the U.S. championships and Olympic Trials fascinating in recent years, as there are more than five women fighting for the three spots on the national team. Indoors, it’s even tighter. The fields may not be as strong outdoors, but there are only two spaces on the U.S. team that make the world indoor championships. 

Ajee Wilson’s American outdoor record last season gained her some separation from the rest of the Americans. At the outset of 2018, she looks to be holding on to that position. On Saturday, Wilson won the Dr. Sander Invitational at the Armory in 2:00.90, beating Natoya Goule of Jamaica. 

Entering the weekend, Goule was the only woman to break two minutes this season (Laura Muir ran 1:59.69 on Sunday to edge Goule for the yearly lead). Wilson has two qualities that make her tough to beat indoors: she doesn’t take a long time to get into race shape (especially useful in a season that lasts eight weeks), and she's comfortable running from the front. 

Outdoors, the 800m is rarely tactical. Indoors, it’s a rarity to see a race go out slow. The tight spacing and the sharp turns reward someone like Wilson who can get ahead early and hold her position. 

The men’s 800m at the Armory provided more of a surprise. Erik Sowinski won the race in 1:46.98, while Robby Andrews finished fifth and Clayton Murphy took seventh. 

We shouldn’t be too confused by Sowinski winning the race in 1:46.98 — he’s an indoor ace and has thrived during the winter months throughout his career. Andrews and Murphy running 1:50 was a bit tougher to predict. But the benefit of the truncated indoor season is that both men won’t have to wait long to bounce back. Andrews is entered in the Wanamaker Mile at this Saturday’s Millrose Games.

Murphy’s Nike Oregon Project teammate Craig Engels fared well in the mile at the Armory. Engels ran 3:57.35 in his second pro race to finish ahead of Julian Oakley, who posted a 3:57.45. 

The women’s mile grabbed headlines with Missouri star Karissa Schweizer’s excellent performance to take third, but the pros ran pretty fast as well. Kate Van Buskirk ran 4:26.92 to win the race and Rachel Schneider took second in 4:27.30. 

Doubles & Altitude

Every race in 2018 has looked like a manageable workout for Yomif Kejelcha. In Seattle at the UW Invitational, Kejelcha teamed up with Galen Rupp to run 13:34 on Friday night. The two traded off the lead and ran comfortably across the line together. The next day, Kejelcha came back to win the mile in 3:56.95. The mark was quite a bit quicker than his 4:02.70 debut in Seattle two weeks ago, but it looked just as easy. 

Shadrack Kipchirchir ran personal bests in back-to-back days at the Terrier Classic in Boston. On Friday evening he ran 7:42, smashing his personal best and taking the world lead. The plan entering the race was for the pacer to set Kipchirchir up for a time under 7:40. The early pace was quick, but Kipchirchir had to run the last seven laps all by himself once the pacer stepped off. A world lead and a enormous personal best are good consolation prizes.

Watch the Terrier Classic Men's Mile featuring Shadrack Kipchirchir:

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Men's Mile, Heat 1 - Kipchirchir runs 3:55, Bor 500th American under 4

The next day, Kipchirchir took the mile in 3:55. Again it's a personal best, and again it's evidence that Kipchirchir is developing the speed necessary to make him even more dangerous when he runs the 5000m and 10,000m outdoors. The mile race in Boston was deep with seven men breaking four minutes. The seventh, Emmanuel Bor, became the 500th American to break four minutes in the mile. 

However, the best mile performance of the weekend came from Edward Cheserek. Cheserek ran 3:54.73 in Albuquerque to easily win the New Mexico Team Invitational. Using NCAA conversion charts for altitude, the time converts to a 3:49. 3:50 has only been broken three times indoors. 

Marathoners On The Track 

Speaking of conversions: what is Shalane Flanagan’s 8:43 worth in the midst of a 110-mile week? Sure, Sifan Hassan put serious distance on her in the last lap at the Dempsey, but Hassan is one of the best in the world at that distance. Flanagan hung tough and ran 12 seconds faster than she did two weeks ago in Seattle. Hassan’s 8:34 was a facility record and puts her right on track to compete for gold in either the 1500m or 3000m at the world indoor championships. 

Watch the UW Invitational 3000m with Sifan Hassan and Shalane Flanagan:

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Women's 3k, Heat 4 - Hassan 8:34, Flanagan 8:43

Another marathoner prepping for Boston took to the track this weekend. Kellyn Taylor ran the mile in 4:33.40 at the Terrier Classic to finish second to Natalja Piliusina. Taylor beat her personal best in the distance from 2009 in a race that probably felt very, very short for her. 

Obscure Records & Other Odds & Ends

The quartet of Kyra Jefferson, Deajah Stevens, Asha Ruth, and Daina Harper set the American indoor record in the 4x200m. The group ran 1:32.67 at the Armory beating the old record was from 1994.

Not nearly as obscure — but worth a mention — was Laura Muir’s 1:59.69 800m on Sunday. The time is a Scottish record. The mid-distance runner announced early this year that she isn’t racing Commonwealth Games, but she is running the 2018 World Indoor Championships. She could have a chance to medal in any of three events: the 800m, 1500m, or 3000m.

Mariya Lasistkene high jumped 2.04 meters on Saturday. That is two centimeters off her personal best and five centimeters from the world record. 

Lasistkene was one of the 18 Russian athletes who had their status as “authorized neutral athletes” renewed last week by the IAAF. She won the world championships last year competing as a neutral athlete as Russian continues to be banned by the sport's governing body. 

NCAA DIII XC Recap: North Central Wins No. 19 In Rout, WashU. Scores Upset

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Race Replay: 2018 DIII NCAA XC Championship Men's 8k

A shocking upset in the women’s race and a dominant performance by the winningest men’s program in NCAA cross country history told the story on Saturday at the 2018 DIII NCAA XC Championships in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, as the Washington U. women beat two-time defending champs Johns Hopkins by one point, while the North Central men won their 19th DIII title with their lowest point total since 1993.

Morgan McDonald Reigns, NAU Three-Peats At NCAA XC Championships

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Race Replay: 2018 DI NCAA XC Championship Men's 10k

MADISON, WI. — The men's NCAA DI XC Championships made history on Saturday morning as Wisconsin senior Morgan McDonald became the first man to win the individual title on his home course since 1992, and Northern Arizona became the first team to win three consecutive team titles since 1998.

Champion Dani Jones Leads Colorado To NCAA XC Team Title

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Race Replay: 2018 DI NCAA XC Championship Women's 6k

MADISON, WI. — You couldn't write a better story for Colorado senior Dani Jones, who captured her first individual cross country national title while leading the Buffs to their first team championship in 14 years.

Coast Guard's Kaitlyn Mooney Eyes NCAA History At DIII XC

When Coast Guard sophomore Kaitlyn Mooney crosses the finish line Saturday at the 2018 DIII NCAA XC Championships in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, there’s a very good chance she’ll have accomplished a feat that no other woman has in NCAA history.

Loyalty To Team Is The Driving Force At NCAA Cross Country Championships

(c) 2018 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved

MADISON, Wisc. (16-Nov) -- Morgan McDonald has worn the Australian colors in five global championships, and placed eighth at last April's Commonwealth Games in the 5000m on home soil.  But the 22 year-old senior from Sydney, who will be running his final cross country race tomorrow for the University of Wisconsin, said those championships don't compare to tomorrow's NCAA Division I Cross Country Championships here when it comes to his drive to succeed as a member of a team.

2018 DIII NCAA XC All-American Projections

NCAA XC: Dynasties On The Line

Below are FloTrack's 2018 projections for the men's and women's DIII NCAA XC All-Americans:

Former NCAA Stars Make Their XC Predictions

NCAA XC: Dynasties On The Line

Watch the 2018 DI NCAA XC Championships LIVE on FloTrack, Saturday Nov. 17th!

DIII NCAA XC Women's Preview: Hopkins Hones In On Dynasty

Workout Wednesday: Johns Hopkins Men & Women

The 2018 DIII NCAA women’s cross country championships will feature a favorite in Johns Hopkins looking to expand on their recent dynasty, and a slew of challengers seeking to put an end to the Blue Jays’ dominance. Hopkins will race for their sixth title since 2012 on Saturday in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, a run that only one other DIII women’s program in history has accomplished. It should be fascinating to watch it all unfold in brutal cross country conditions this weekend.

Deep Field Tries To Take Down New Mexico, Kelati Goes For First Title

NCAA XC: Dynasties On The Line

It didn’t take long for the narrative of the women’s NCAA cross country season to shift. New Mexico entered the fall with three of the nation’s best runners, high profile transfers, and a clear line to their third team title in four years. 

NCAA XC Champs Confidence Picks: NAU Three-Peats, McDonald Edges Fisher

The stakes are clear and the storylines are well established.