By Lincoln Shryack
The 2018 Bryan Clay Invitational is absolutely loaded with the best professional and NCAA distance talent that the United States has to offer. With the Bowerman Track Club bringing a big portion of their roster to Azusa, California, for this weekend’s meet, plus several recent NCAA champions lining up as well, world leads and even collegiate records appear to be in danger.
You can watch the 2018 Bryan Clay Invitational LIVE on FloTrack on Thursday and Friday, April 19 and 20. Below are the top five races to watch at the meet.
When: Friday 7:50 PM PT
Who: Josh Kerr, Ryan Hill, Justyn Knight, Andy Trouard, Sam Prakel, David Ribich, Robert Domanic, Mick Stanovsek, Oliver Hoare
Analysis: Three-time NCAA champion Josh Kerr of New Mexico will face a spectacular field as he returns to the site of his breakout 3:35.99 win last year. That time slotted Kerr into the sixth-fastest 1500m in NCAA history, and with another year of dominance under his belt the Brit could take aim at Sydney Maree’s 3:35.30 collegiate record from 1981.
The pacers are slated to bring the field through 800m in 1:55 and 1200m in 2:53, the latter time being a hair faster than what Kerr split last year. Lopez Lomong will be tasked with taking the race this far, and if successful, would put the record on watch.
Here’s what New Mexico coach Joe Franklin had to say to FloTrack about his star’s chances of breaking the record on Friday:
“When people try to run fast in the 1500 it rarely happens, but if you create a great race that sets up fast, the sky is the limit."
Create a great race they have, as world indoor silver medalist Ryan Hill of the Bowerman Track Club will join two 2018 NCAA DI champions in Justyn Knight of Syracuse and Andy Trouard of Northern Arizona to turn the heat up on Kerr. Trouard—who out-kicked Knight in the thrilling NCAA 3K in March—will be making his outdoor debut, as will Hill, who was third in the race last year in 3:37.95. Knight is surely ready to lower his 3:39 PR here, as he showed tremendous finishing speed—he closed in 55 seconds—last weekend in winning the Bison Classic 1500m.
The big names keep coming, however. Kerr’s pursuit of the collegiate record will get a lot of the attention, but Western Oregon’s David Ribich will be searching for one of his own in this race. Ribich, the reigning NCAA DII 1500m champion and a 2017 USATF outdoor finalist, has an excellent chance to break the DII record of 3:38.91. The senior has a 3:39.56 PR from last season and will be coming off a 1:48.09 800m PR three weeks ago at Stanford.
Lastly, don’t sleep on Peter Callahan. The former Princeton and New Mexico All-American has continuously shown a lethal kick over the years, and he’ll enter Bryan Clay on a high after winning the Stanford 1500m in 3:38 on March 30.
When: Friday 9:05 PM PT
Who: Shelby Houlihan, Colleen Quigley, Courtney Frerichs, Kate Grace, Amy-Eloise Neale, Allie Ostrander
Analysis: It’s a Bowerman Babes show in the women’s 1500m at Bryan Clay, as each of Shelby Houlihan, Colleen Quigley, Courtney Frerichs, and Kate Grace will make their 2018 outdoor debuts.
Coming off a stellar indoor season in which she recorded PRs in both the 1500m and 3,000m and notched top-five finishes in both events at the World Indoor Championships, Shelby Houlihan should be considered the big favorite here. Her 4:03 outdoor PR might be a bit out of reach for this early in the season, but certainly the 4:14 meet record should be easily surpassed by Houlihan and Co.
Quigley is also returning to the track after a solid indoor season—she was ninth in the world indoor 1500m—and despite being a step behind Houlihan, when they’ve matched up in 2018, she has an identical 4:03 outdoor PR.
It will be especially interesting to see how Grace and Frerichs perform on Friday. The Bowerman newcomer Grace had a bumpy end to her indoor campaign—she was just 10th at USAs—and said afterward that she was still adapting to Jerry Schumacher’s training. We’ll get another progress report on Friday.
Frerichs did not run indoors and hasn’t finished a track race since her stunning steeple silver medal at worlds last August; she doesn’t have near the 1500m wheels of her teammates but it’ll be fun to see how she hangs in this one.
When: Thursday 7:40 PM PT
Who: Evan Jager, Lopez Lomong, Futsum Zienasellassie, Suguru Osako, Tyler Day, Matthew Baxter, Colby Gilbert, Sydney Gidabuday
Analysis: The Bowerman hits keep coming in the men’s 5,000m as world and Olympic medalist Evan Jager makes his 2018 outdoor debut at Bryan Clay. Thursday’s race will be the 29-year-old’s first 5K since 2016, but given his 13:02 PR and massive success in the steeple over the years, Jager seems to be a cut above this field.
Still, the challenges will be plenty.
Teammate Lopez Lomong ran his 13:12 indoor PR in 2017 and is coming off a solid 10,000m debut of 28:21 at Stanford. The 33-year-old has had an up-and-down last few years but has looked more like the Lopez of old since the beginning of 2017; he was fifth in the USA 5,000m final last summer.
NAZ Elite’s Futsum Zienasellassie will make his outdoor debut just a month after finishing 10th in New York City Half (63:39). His PRs lag behind those of Jager and Lomong, but Zienasellassie still owns the meet record at Bryan Clay of 13:37, so he’s clearly comfortable on the Azusa track. Don’t count him out.
The sleeper here is Adams State’s Sydney Gidabuday. It’s always tempting to overlook DII athletes, but Gidabuday has elite wheels to go along with his 13:36 PR. The junior swept the NCAA DII indoor 3K and 5K last month.
When: Thursday 8:00 PM PT
Who: Marielle Hall, Amy Cragg, Samantha Nadel, Amy Davis, Sarah Disanza,
Analysis: Yes, more Bowerman Track Club. Marielle Hall wrapped up her first indoor season with Jerry’s group by finishing fifth in the USA 3,000m, and she’ll make her outdoor debut at Bryan Clay. Her 15:06 PR makes her the favorite here, but it will be quite something to see what teammate Amy Cragg is capable of coming off her PR at the Tokyo Marathon in February. She’s not a track runner anymore, but as Shalane Flanagan showed this past winter, marathoning and track speed aren’t always mutually exclusive.
Cragg’s last two marathons have each been home runs, as she won the bronze medal last August at the World Championships before running more than a five minute PR of 2:21:42 in Tokyo. The fitness is there, and especially this early in the season, her marathon strength could be a big advantage. Cragg’s 15:09 PR is from 2013.
Others names to watch: Oregon’s Samantha Nadel was an All-American in the 5,000m last spring and owns a 15:37 PR, while Wisconsin’s Amy Davis seems primed for a breakout after running 15:44 indoors. Davis, a junior, had never broken 16:00 before 2018.
Her teammate Sarah Disanza has struggled throughout her career with injuries, but she had an All-American outdoor season in 2017, and, of course, owns a 15:20 PR from way back in 2014. The senior didn’t finish her last track race on March 31 and didn’t compete indoors, so it’s tough to discern how fit she’ll be in this one.
When: Friday 1:50 PM PT
Who: Collins Kibet, Thomas Staines
Analysis: Arizona’s Kibet owns the fastest PR in the field with his 1:46 from 2015, but the favorite should be CSU-Pueblo’s Thomas Staines. Staines, a sophomore, was the DII indoor champ back in March and there he set the championship record of 1:47.23. With just a 1:48 outdoor PR— a time that was run at 4,700 feet— Staines seems primed to knock out a big one on Friday at Bryan Clay.
Ironically, the facility record at APU Stadium—Khadevis Robinson’s 1:45.24 from 2005—is identical to the DII 800m record. It’ll be fun to see if Staines can sniff that mark this weekend in California.