By Lincoln Shryack
The 2018 Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference (RMAC) Outdoor Track and Field Championships are this Friday through Sunday, April 27-29 in Golden, Colorado. The RMAC is one of the premier conferences for Division II, with perennial powers Adams State, Western State, and Colorado Mines among the top programs in the country each year.
The distance races figure to be particularly intriguing as always in the RMAC, and FloTrack has LIVE coverage all three days from the event. Check out the events to watch this weekend below.
Team Battle: Men
The host Colorado School of Mines is chasing the program’s first-ever conference “triple crown” this weekend, as the Orediggers previously won the RMAC cross country and indoor track titles this school year. With five-time RMAC outdoor champion Adams State (No. 4 in the coaches poll) choosing to divert some of their best distance resources to the Penn Relays this weekend, the door certainly appears to be open for Mines to take the conference title on their home track.
Standing in their way most prominently, however, is CSU-Pueblo. The Thunderwolves could pick up big points in the middle distances with NCAA 800m champion Thomas Staines leading the way, and with Adams State’s top runners absent from the 1500m, Pueblo could add even more to their total.
Men’s RMAC Ranked Teams (Coaches Poll)
No. 4 Adams State, No. 8 CSU-Pueblo, No. 11 Colorado Mines, No. 24 Colorado Mesa
Team Battle: Women
The Adams State women are the top-ranked team in the conference and the defending RMAC outdoor champions, but their selective entries for this meet leave the door open for Western State to gun for the throne.
The Lady Mountaineers are led by point machine Alicja Konieczek, a seven-time NCAA champion, who should bring 20 points to Western in the 1500m and 5K. Her sister, Aneta, is the top seed in the steeple, and WSU also has the top two entries in the 10,000m. It looks like Western State could really clean up in the distance races.
The team to watch is UC-Colorado Springs. The Mountain Lions won the 2018 RMAC Indoor title by one point over Western State, and they’ll attempt to thwart their competition’s distance prowess with top sprint and field athletes. In the field events alone, UCCS has loaded up, with 32 athletes set to compete in the jumps and throws. UC-Colorado Springs is gunning for their first-ever women’s outdoor conference title.
Women’s RMAC Ranked Teams (Coaches Poll)
No. 4 Adams State, No. 11 Western State, No. 16 UC-Colorado Springs, No. 20 New Mexico Highlands
Earning this week's #RMACtf Men's Track Athlete of the Week is @ASUGrizzlies' Sydney Gidabuday! Gidabuday ran the second fastest 5,000m in Division II history and is the collegiate leader regardless of division! #EverythingElevated 🏃♂️ pic.twitter.com/QCdc17XaF2— RMAC Sports (@RMAC_SPORTS) April 23, 2018
When: Sunday 2:30 PM MT
Who: Sydney Gidabuday, George Kelly, Derrick Williams
Analysis: Adams State’s Sydney Gidabuday has the top NCAA 5,000m time in the country this season (13:29), and he’ll be favored as such in this race. However, Gidabuday is scheduled to compete in the Penn Relays 4xMile on Saturday afternoon, so if he jets back across the country for the RMAC 5,000m on Sunday, he will do so on tired legs.
With Gidabuday and his teammate George Kelly both running at Penn, one of CSU-Pueblo’s Derrick Williams or Colorado Mines’ Josh Hoskinson and Matthew Kade could steal the conference crown. Williams broke 14 minutes for the first time last weekend at Bryan Clay with his 13:55, and he owns the fastest time in the field aside from Gidabuday and Kelly.
Hoskinson and Kade both have the advantage of running on their home track as they try to help the Orediggers win the conference triple crown. Hoskinson enters with the fourth-fastest seed time (14:05), and, crucially, will be completely fresh for this race. Every other contender will have at least one other race on their legs.
When: Sunday 12:30 PM MT (Final)
Who: Alicja Konieczek, Molly Klotz
Analysis: Seven-time NCAA title winner and defending 1500m conference champion Alicja Konieczek of Western State headlines what should be a spectacular women’s 1500m.
A junior from Poland, Konieczek has torched her Division II track competition for the last two years—she hasn’t lost an NCAA final since 2016— winning seven titles in the last two years. She also owns DII records in both the indoor mile (4:37) and 3,000m steeplechase (9:49).
Despite that status, Konieczek should face a significant challenge from Molly Klotz of U.C. Colorado Springs.
The senior Klotz only started running the 1500/mile this season, but she’s shown an incredible knack for the distance by placing fifth at NCAA indoors and running 4:24 for 1500m.
When: Sunday 1:30 PM MT (Final)
Who: Thomas Staines, Devundrick Walker, Patrick Weaver
Analysis: This one has the potential to bring a slew of points to CSU-Pueblo’s total, as NCAA indoor 800m champion Thomas Staines and fellow All-American Devundrick Walker enter with the two fastest times in the conference.
Staines broke the NCAA Division II championship record with his 1:47.23 on March 10, and his altitude-converted 1:47.96 from March 30 is the fastest time outdoors in 2018. He has yet to lose an 800m in 2018, and after gliding away to an easy 1:48.29 win last Friday at Bryan Clay, he seems on the cusp of a really fast time.
Perhaps just as pertinent to this weekend’s competition—which is situated at 5,675 feet of elevation—Staines ran a 1:47.82 in Boulder, Colorado, in February at 5,430 feet. Since he grew up in Colorado Springs (6,000 feet), racing at high altitudes doesn’t seem to bother him at all.
Walker won the 2018 RMAC indoor 800m in a Staines-less race, and the junior is clearly fit after running a 1:48.59 PR last weekend at Bryan Clay. He’s not quite on his teammate’s level, but could certainly get pulled to a fast time chasing Staines.
Men’s 3,000m Steeplechase
When: Saturday 3:55 PM MT
Who: Kale Adams, Evan Verbal
Analysis: Two All-Americans match up to determine the men’s RMAC steeple champion.
Adams State sophomore Kale Adams has had a spectacular year in Alamosa, finishing third in November’s NCAA cross country championships and more recently notching an eighth-place showing in the NCAA indoor 3,000m. His 8:45.23 steeple best from last weekend’s Mt. SAC Relays is currently second-best in Division II this season.
Not too far off is the senior Verbal of Colorado Christian, who ran his 8:51.06 best last Thursday at the Bryan Clay Invitational. Verbal won the RMAC indoor mile title in February before placing fourth in the same distance at NCAAs. Verbal will be looking for revenge against Adams after finishing just 0.12 behind him in last year’s RMAC steeple.
This one should be an awfully close finish, and whoever comes out on top will have a strong case as an NCAA title contender next month.
Don’t forget to watch the RMAC outdoor championships LIVE on FloTrack April 27-29!