Wyoming's Paul Roberts Is The Cross Country Star You've Never Heard Of


Back in June, the University of Wyoming men’s cross country team received an unexpected gift that immediately improved their outlook for the 2018 season.

The gift was an email from Colorado State University-Pueblo to Wyoming distance coach Scott Dahlberg, indicating that Paul Roberts, an athlete Dahlberg had recruited three years before while he was coaching at another school, was interested in transferring from CSU-Pueblo to Wyoming.

That email prompted Dahlberg to act fast in response, and not merely because he recognized the name. Paul Roberts had been the top prep distance runner in the state of Colorado in 2015, and his addition to the Wyoming squad could potentially help the Cowboys accomplish something they haven’t done since 1986: qualify for the NCAA Cross Country Championships.

So Dahlberg quickly picked up the phone and called Roberts to express his own interest in coaching the mega-talented athlete that had slipped through his fingers previously. 

The pair had formed a solid bond back in 2015, when Dahlberg was an assistant at Colorado State and Roberts was one the top high school recruits in the country. The Lyons, Colorado-native surprised many when he ultimately chose Division II CSU-Pueblo over Dahlberg’s Colorado State, as the 2015 Foot Locker Nationals fifth-place finisher was easily accomplished enough to run for a top-flight Division I program. 

Dahlberg thought he had missed his chance at coaching the superstar who attended high school just an hour away from Colorado State’s campus. But then that email came across Dahlberg’s desk in Wyoming this summer, some three years after he struck out on Roberts at Colorado State, and Dahlberg realized the good fortune he had received.

“At the time (back in 2015) I was a little bummed that I wouldn’t be able to work with him, but a couple years later, I’m pretty happy that he made that decision (choosing CSU-Pueblo) because now I get to work with him,” Dahlberg said.

It’s not everyday that a coach gets a shot at signing a top-five Foot Locker finisher like Roberts, and it’s virtually never that the same coach gets a second opportunity at that athlete years later at a different program.

But Roberts’ dissatisfaction after his second year at Pueblo led to that rare opportunity. 

Despite an All-American finish in cross country last season-- he placed 35th at DII nationals in 2017-- the sophomore expected more from himself, and that trend continued after a mediocre track season in the spring. It also didn’t help that Roberts wasn’t jelling with the coaching staff, and those factors precipitated his exit.

“Sophomore year I wasn’t quite as happy with just because I thought I kind of had college and everything figured out,” said Roberts. 

“I just wasn’t quite performing as well as I wanted to, a little bit because of me and probably a little bit just because of the coach-athlete communication and everything. Definitely a little disappointed with my performances last year.”

Roberts back in high school, on the way to one of his four Colorado state XC titles:

Dahlberg had no way to know that Roberts would suddenly fall in his lap, but on the few occasions he saw the former high school star run at college meets, he noticed something was off. According to Dahlberg, Roberts just didn’t look like the same athlete that had won four consecutive state titles in cross country back in high school.

“I watched him run a handful of times obviously over the last couple years of being at some similar meets,” said Dahlberg. “It just looked like there was maybe something missing. It just didn’t look like himself from his high school form.”

Once Roberts’ transfer to Wyoming was official, the coach and athlete developed a more individualized training plan-- including running doubles, and a bigger focus on the long run-- that both agreed could help Roberts find his form again. There were some philosophical differences between Roberts and his previous coaches regarding his training, and so Dahlberg knew that an agreement had to be made for their relationship to work.

“Him and I had some really good conversations once we confirmed he was going to transfer. Kind of just honed in on what he thought works best,” Dahlberg said.

Whether it’s the subtle tweaks to his training, or simply a much-needed change of scenery, or both, Roberts has gotten results thus far in his first two races as a Cowboy. 

The newcomer won his Wyoming debut on August 31 at the Wyoming Invite, beating Colorado State All-American Cole Rockhold in the process. Then a month later at the Notre Dame Invitational, Roberts finished just a second behind BYU’s Connor McMillan and Daniel Carney to take third overall.

With that result at Notre Dame, Roberts could feel-- and even see-- his old self returning. In the top pack, Roberts recognized athletes he had competed against in high school who had seemingly left him behind while he was struggling at Pueblo.

“It’s been really exciting to kind of get back to where I’m racing a lot of these guys I was running against in high school and who have kept improving since they got to college.”

His run at Notre Dame led the Cowboys to a runner-up finish in South Bend, an encouraging sign for a team that hopes to ride a rejuvenated Roberts to their first NCAA bid in more than 30 years this season. Wyoming knows that an automatic bid coming out of the brutal Mountain Region is highly unlikely, so success at regular season meets like this weekend’s Wisconsin XC Pre-Nationals Invitational in Madison, Wisconsin, where at-large points are there for the taking, are critical for them to finally break through.

Watch the Wisconsin XC Pre-Nationals Live On FloTrack

For that to happen, Roberts will need to bring his “A” game, which he’s hoping will be a top 10 finish for himself on Saturday in the Cardinal race against the likes of NAU, Wisconsin, and Stanford. It’s a tall order for a man running just the third Division I race of this life, but Roberts feels that his unique path back to the highest level has made him better for it.

“It wasn’t exactly the path I was hoping to take, but at the same time, I think it put me in the same spot and I think I learned a lot from the whole process,” he said.

Craig Engels Is Off And Running In 2020 As Only He Can


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By itself, Craig Engels’ weekend in Boston was routine enough— the 2019 U.S. 1500m champion was tasked with pacing the men’s 5,000m on Friday night before racing the mile the next day. His training partners Paul Tanui and Eric Jenkins ultimately missed the 13:13.50 standard as Engels strained to get through 2600m— “I definitely underestimated what 4:12 pace felt like”, he said— and yet he came back on Saturday to win the mile in 3:56.85 on tired legs.

Nico Young To Chase American Junior 3k Record At Millrose Games

Nico Young will begin his final track and field season with quite the record attempt. 

Five Takeaways From The Weekend: Jessica Hull On The Rise

The 2020 track season got started in earnest over the weekend as droves of top professionals debuted and many impressive collegiate performances took place. Here were the takeaways from Boston, Albuquerque and New York:

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The 2020 track season got started in earnest over the weekend as droves of top professionals debuted and many impressive collegiate performances took place. Here were the takeaways from Boston, Albuquerque and New York:

Donavan Brazier Is Still In Monster Shape

At the risk of overanalyzing a season opener in an off distance, Donavan Brazier’s 1:14.39 600m in Boston on Saturday was further proof that the 2019 world champion remains in a league of his own among 800m runners. Although his competition at the New Balance Indoor Grand Prix was overmatched as expected, Brazier hammered away alone to the second-fastest indoor 600m ever, behind only his 1:13.77 world best from 2019. And it was easy. So easy that the 22-year-old managed a shrug across the line as if to say sorry, not my best but it will have to do.

Just look at this gear change as he assumes control of the lead:

Word is that Brazier isn’t planning to run World Indoors this year, but his brief indoor campaign could still bring more fireworks as he next targets the Millrose Games 800m on Feb. 8. A lowering of his 1:44.41 indoor American record will be the expectation given his dazzling season opener.

A New Name Emerges In The NCAA Women’s 60m

Texas sophomore Julien Alfred wasn’t expected to be a contender in the women’s 60m dash this season after posting just a 7.36 best as freshman. But after running 7.10 (#6 NCAA all-time) over the weekend in Albuquerque, the St. Lucia native is in the thick of the title hunt. Just 18 years old, Alfred had a modest freshman season highlighted by a second place finish in the Big 12 100m. That’s why her defeat of reigning NCAA 60m champion Twanisha Terry is such a surprise.

Tyler Day Puts Edwin Kurgat On Notice With 13:16 5k In Boston

The race featuring Olympic silver medalist Paul Tanui and 13:05 man Eric Jenkins disappointed in that no one hit the 13:13.50 Olympic standard (Tanui won in 13:15), but the silver lining was the performance of Northern Arizona senior Tyler Day, who ran 13:16.95 to surpass Galen Rupp as the third-fastest collegiate all-time indoors. It’s not like the time was a total shock— Day ran 13:25 in May— but eclipsing arguably the greatest distance runner in U.S. history carries significantly more weight than simply a nine-second PB.

Naturally, the question now becomes whether Day can translate his stellar performance into an NCAA title in March. Although he’s a standout cross country and 10k runner, Day was just 13th in the 5,000m at NCAA indoors last year and then failed to qualify for nationals outdoors despite his 13:25 being the fastest mark of the season. A great time-trialer, but it remains to be seen if he can thrive in a championship 5k setting.

That, and the presence of 2019 NCAA XC champion Edwin Kurgat, will make winning in Albuquerque a tough task come March, but this just might be a different version of Day than we’ve seen before. He did push a 12:58 man to the line, after all. Add in NCAAs being held at 5300 ft. above sea level (he trains at 6900 ft.), and it would seem that Day has a real chance to avenge past shortcomings in the 5,000m this March.

BYU’s Whittni Orton Remains On A Tear

It will be interesting to see which events BYU star distance runner Whittni Orton competes in at NCAAs, as Orton secured another outstanding mark on Saturday (4:29.76 mile at Dr. Sander Invite) to go along with her 15:22.98 5k from December. Orton, who placed seventh at NCAA XC in November, continued her ascent over the weekend from solid collegiate runner to stud collegiate runner by finishing just a step behind 2019 World Championship finalist Nikki Hiltz and breaking the Cougar school record.

Orton has previously been a miler, so her running the mile-DMR double at NCAAs seems most likely. The 5k is also stacked with Katie Izzo (15:13 PB), Weini Kelati (15:14 PB) and defending champion Alicia Monson representing significant roadblocks. All three beat Orton at nationals in cross country. The mile could ultimately feature four-time NCAA champion Dani Jones, so it’s not like any path to the top will be easy. But Orton’s continued rise should make her a threat in any event that she chooses, and whichever route she takes will have a significant impact on the distance races at nationals.

Jessica Hull Might Be On The Cusp Of A Breakout

No performance at the New Balance Indoor Grand Prix on Saturday was more expertly crafted than Jessica Hull’s 4:04.14 1500m win, as the former NCAA champion let training partner Konstanze Klosterhalfen do all the work before cutting her down in the final 10 meters.

It is just one race, of course, but beating someone of the caliber of Klosterhalfen-- the 2019 World Championship 5k bronze medalist and 4:19 miler-- proves that Hull’s finishing speed is elite. The 23-year-old missed the 1500m World Championship final last October, but only after she ran a 4:01.80 PB. The type of form she showed in Boston indicates she could be a medal threat at March’s World Indoor Championships. 

Beyond that, it’s going to be tough to make serious noise in an event as deep as the women’s 1500m outdoors in just year two as a pro, but Saturday suggests that the best of Hull is yet to come.

Brazier Solos #2 All-Time 600m, Hull Kicks Down Klosterhalfen At NBIGP

(c) 2020 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved

Three Events To Watch At BU: Jenkins/Tanui/NAU 5k, Engels In The Mile


The 2020 BU John Thomas Terrier Classic is this Friday and Saturday (Jan 24-25) in Boston and will be Live on FloTrack. A fast men's 5k and the season debut of Craig Engels in the mile are among the top events to watch this weekend:

Weekend Watch Guide: Fast Boston 5k, Elite Sprints In New Mexico

Several of the top distance runners and sprinters in the country will be on display this weekend on FloTrack as we stream two days of action at the BU John Thomas Terrier Classic in Boston and the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Collegiate Invitational in Albuquerque this Friday and Saturday. U.S. Olympic hopeful Eric Jenkins and training partner Paul Tanui will chase the 13:13.50 Olympic 5k standard along with several NAU stars on Friday at BU, while reigning 60m hurdles world champion Keni Harrison will face 2019 NCAA champion Chanel Brissett in the hurdles at New Mexico on Saturday. That, and so much more, can be seen on our live slate Jan. 24 - 25:

As Trials Approach, Three Contenders Speak On State Of Shoes

As the 2020 U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials rapidly draw near, tensions surrounding the fate of Nike’s controversial Vaporfly shoes are at an all-time high. Reports in recent weeks that World Athletics is set to ban the shoe have led to speculation of when a potential rule change would be made and what specifically the governing body seeks to outlaw. With less than 40 days until Atlanta, both action or inaction by World Athletics will be a major storyline in the race for Tokyo. 

Eight Sub-2:21 Women Set To Contest 2020 Boston Marathon

(c) 2020 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved

Houston Organizers Award 'Top U.S. Male' Prize Money To Two Runners


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The Houston Half Marathon organizers decided to award their "top U.S. male finisher" prize money ($2,000) to two athletes this year.

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The Houston Half Marathon organizers decided to award their "top U.S. male finisher" prize money ($2,000) to two athletes this year.

At first glance, the top American at the 2020 Houston Half Marathon appeared to be Jared Ward, who crossed the finish line first in 1:01:36. Finishing less than two seconds behind him was former BYU runner Nico Montanez, who currently trains with the Mammoth Track Club under Andrew Kastor.

Heading into this race, Montanez's resume (1:04:29 PB) wasn't enough for the elite field; therefore, he was relegated to the American Development Program field. As a result, Montanez had to start in the second corral behind the elites.

The initial results recorded Montanez's chip time as four seconds faster than his gun time. Nico confirmed in his post-race interview that he took about five seconds to get to the starting chip mat. 

Here's a screenshot of Montanez's splits after the race—his start time is set to 7:01 a.m. and 3 seconds (the time of day when he crossed the starting mat).

Because Montanez's chip time of 1:01:34 was faster than Ward's chip time of 1:01:36, the Houston organizers took a page out of the Boston Marathon's book and decided to award the 'top U.S. male' prize money to both Ward and Montanez.

Niiya Sets Japanese Record In Dominant Houston Half Performance

(c) 2020 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved