Who Will Win The Women's NCAA Distance Medley Relay?

There's something about relay races that get us more hyped than any other event. Usually, it's just sprinters who can enjoy the action on the 4x4 or the 4x1, but at the 2018 NCAA Indoor Championships, distance fans get the distance medley relay. 

With legs of 1200m, 400m, 800m, and 1600m, the glory usually comes down to who has the strongest anchor leg — as long as the other three athletes are not too far off the average of the field — so, below, we're going to predict the outcome more or less based on PBs. We'll find out how the race shakes up this weekend in College Station, Texas.

NCAA Women's DMR Field Breakdown

 RANK
 SCHOOL
 SEED   TIME
 TOP MILER/PB
   NOTES
LAST YEAR
1
Boise State
10:55.32(A)
Alexis Fuller/4:45(A)
Allie Ostrander anchored the Lobos' DMR at MWC, but will likely be replaced by MWC mile champ Fuller at NCAAs.
DNS
2
Virginia Tech
10:57.60
Sarah Edwards/4:42
Edwards split 4:34 at ACCs.
DNS
3
New Mexico
10:57.77(A)
Ednah Kurgat/4:41(A)
Anchor Ednah Kurgat is entered in 3K/5K and will likely not run.
DNS
4
Clemson
10:58.83
Grace Barnett/4:33

DNS
5
Stanford
10:58.93
Elise Cranny/4:31
800 leg Olivia Baker will likely not run, according to the Stanford press release. Stanford has placed 2nd, 3rd, 2nd in past three years with Cranny on the anchor.
2nd
6
Oregon
11:00.13
Jessica Hull/4:31
Hull was second to Elise Cranny of Stanford at MPSF.
3rd
7
Eastern Michigan
11:00.51
Natalie Cizmas/4:39

DNS
8
Indiana
11:00.77
Katherine Receveur/4:41
Receveur split 4:36 at Alex Wilson.
9th
9
Kansas
11:01.19
Sharon Lokedi/4:45
Anchor Sharon Lokedi is entered in 3K/5K and will likely not run.
7th
10
Oklahoma State
11:01.55
Molly Sughroue/4:37

DNS
11
BYU
11:01.77
Whittni Orton/4:34

4th
12
Notre Dame
11:02.01
Jessica Harris/4:33

8th


All 12 women's teams have run within five seconds of each other this season, with Virginia Tech clocking the winter's fastest time of 10:57.60 and No. 12 Notre Dame at 11:02.01. 

(Note that Boise State and New Mexico's times above are converted from their marks of 11:05.39 and 11:07.88 recorded at altitude during the Mountain West Conference Championships.)

If all 12 teams come roaring down the homestretch at the same time, splayed out into lane six, who do you want on your anchor?

It's hard to bet against Elise Cranny of Stanford, who has anchored the Cardinal to two runner-up finishes and one third-place finish in the DMR in her three previous outings at the NCAA indoor championships.

Cranny is currently in top form and has the best mile PB in the field at 4:31.29, which she ran to win the MPSF Conference Championship last month over Jessica Hull of Oregon, who ran 4:31.76. Both women broke their respective school records.

Watch Elise Cranny and Jessica Hull race at the 2018 MPSF Championships — a foreshadowing of this weekend's NCAA DMR anchor leg, perhaps?

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If anyone is going to upset Cranny, it's probably Hull and the women of Oregon, who had to settle for third last year behind Stanford and Colorado. The Buffs will not be returning to defend their title in this event.

The one wrench in Stanford's plan is the 800m leg. According to a press release from the university, half-mile star Olivia Baker is not likely to race unless she does not advance to the 800m finals — something she's managed to do in each of her five qualifications to the NCAA championships.

If Oregon gets the baton first at the final exchange, it may be tough for even Cranny to run down a fellow 4:31 miler.

The women's NCAA DI DMR final is Friday at 9:00 PM CT.

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