Fisher/McDonald Pt. III, Can Dixon Get His First 800m Title?

Workout With NCAA Champ Morgan McDonald

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The men's distance events at this week's NCAA Indoor Championships feature the latest chapter in the Morgan McDonald/Grant Fisher rivalry, Devin Dixon trying to back up his fast 800m time from January and Oliver Hoare going for his second mid-distance title. If that wasn't enough, there's the prospect of Wisconsin winning a team championships with virtually only distance runners. To do it, they will need big points in four of the five distance events this weekend. 

Here is a breakdown of the men's distance races on Friday and Saturday in Birmingham, Alabama. 

Men’s 5000m: Friday, 8:27 PM CT

Morgan McDonald is here, Grant Fisher is not. We will have to wait for the 3000m at the end of the meet for that. But even without Fisher, this race brings back many of the big stars from November’s cross country championships. McDonald is the favorite, both because of his victory this fall, and his lifetime best of 13:15 at the distance is far and away the best in the field. 

The truncated nature of the indoor season means he had to get a qualifier at the last minute in this event, but he cruised a 13:37 at the Big Ten Championships to ensure his place in both the 3000m and 5000m in this meet. 


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McDonald’s close second to Fisher in the Millrose Games 3000m was his highest profile race this year and showed that he was still sharp. The 5000m is probably more in his wheelhouse and when you add in the absence of Fisher, McDonald is a sizeable favorite.

That’s not to say it will be easy. This field features seven of the top 10 finishers from the NCAA Cross Country Championships. Tyler Day of Northern Arizona has the fastest seed time with a 13:31 that was converted down for altitude and track size from a 14:02. He’s a perennial All-American but will need to be well clear of McDonald in the final 400 to have a chance.

Iowa State’s Edwin Kurgat was third behind McDonald and Fisher on the cross country course and possess a sharp kick. Kurgat, along BYU’s Clayton Young (who beat Kurgat at the Iowa State Classic), Amon Kemboi of Campbell and Joe Klecker of Colorado are the only four men in this field who have run under 13:36 this season.

Even though it is a championship race, don’t expect a conservative early mile. Frontrunners Robert Brandt of UCLA and Conner Mantz of BYU are pre-programmed to grind from the front. 

Men’s Distance Medley Relay: Friday, 9:02 PM CT

Last season, Virginia Tech bucked the trend of tactical DMRs and ran from the front for the NCAA title. Their aggressive running across all four legs, neutralized New Mexico’s Josh Kerr and winnowed the field with each passing leg. It’s anyone’s guess if this year’s race will unfold in the same manner, or if it will revert to essentially a mile race prefaced by 12 laps of futile commotion. 

Wisconsin’s Oliver Hoare has the fastest mile personal best of the field and makes the Badgers the team to beat. Even without Morgan McDonald (who is running the 5000m the same night), Wisconsin should have enough from Olin Hacker and Eric Brown in their early legs to keep Hoare in contention. 

Notre Dame, last year’s surprise runner-up, are dark horses no more. The Irish, headlined by 3:57 miler Yared Nuguse, beat Wisconsin earlier this season and turned in the top time in the nation. Nuguse scratched the mile, an event where he had the eighth best time in the country, to be at full-strength. 

Ole Miss sits third on the yearly list and could use both Waleed Suliman (3:56.78) and Derrick Gutierrez (3:58.55), though both men are entered in the mile prelim earlier in the day. Texas finished second to Ole Miss to earn their qualifier and has one of the best closers in the race in Sam Worley. The sophomore is qualified in the mile and was fifth in the 1500m at the NCAA Outdoor Championships last June. 

Grant Fisher of Stanford isn’t known as a miler, but he has a 3:41 1500m personal best and closed in 3:56 when Stanford ran their 9:29.35 in January. 


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Men’s Mile: Saturday, 4:20 PM CT

After Oliver Hoare’s 3:54 mile at Millrose, the only thing that can stop him is fatigue. The mile will most likely be his third race of the weekend. But that situation applies to many of the men in this field and Hoare has presumably been prepping for the mile/DMR double this entire season. 

Beginning with his surprise 1500m outdoor title last June, the junior hasn’t shown any weaknesses. Hoare was 17th at the NCAA Cross Country Championships in November, a performance that showed he had the best range of any men’s distance runner in the nation. In the winter, he ran 7:48.81 for 3000m good for fifth-best in the country. Last week, he tuned up at the Big Ten Championships, comfortably winning the mile and running the 1200m leg on Wisconsin’s victorious DMR team.

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On time, Ole Miss’ Waleed Suliman is the next best in the field this weekend. His 3:56.78 puts him atop a large pile of challengers that includes Carlos Villarreal, Kyle Mau, Charlie Hunter and Sam Worley. It’s a tightly packed group with 14 runners owning seed times from 3:56.78 to 3:58.79. If Hoare stumbles, it’s a free for all.  

Men’s 800m: Saturday, 5:40 PM CT

Devin Dixon has been the class of this event all season. He enters with the fastest time (1:45.27) and wins in both of his 800m races this year. The junior also possesses the most top-end speed, evidenced by his preposterous sub-44-second 4x400m splits. If you’re looking for a vulnerability with Dixon, it’s his championship history. Last year in this meet he failed to make the final and his two outdoor appearances at NCAA Championships he’s finished no higher than fifth.  

He’s been candid about fixing the psychological side of his racing and there’s plenty of reasons to believe he can put it together this year. 

It also helps that he’s operating on a completely different level this winter. His 1:45.27 is the fourth fastest time in NCAA history and his ability to get out quickly will allow him to run the race on his terms. 

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The latter could be key. 

Michael Saruni and Isaiah Harris, runners who were able to dictate the style of the race, are no longer in the NCAA. Both went pro after championship season, Saruni outdoors and Harris indoors. That leaves Mississippi State’s Marco Arop as the main challenger to Dixon, at least according to time. Arop, second last year outdoors, ran 1:45.90 this year. The two met at the SEC Championships two weeks ago with Dixon winning in a restrained 1:47.47 to Arop’s 1:47.86. 

If Dixon goes out under 51 seconds for the first 400m, he will be by himself for the duration. A late race slowdown does open up the opportunity for fast closers Bryce Hoppel of Kansas and Robert Heppenstall of Wake Forest. Heppenstall has made six different NCAA finals in the 800m, with his best finish coming at last year’s NCAA Indoor Championships when he took third. Hoppel isn’t as experienced as Heppenstall, but did place fourth outdoors and eighth indoors in 2018. 

Joseph White of Georgetown is back after redshirting in 2018. During his last collegiate season in 2017 he was third indoors and outdoors in the event. 

Men’s 3000m: Saturday, 6:25 PM CT

Ok, now we get Fisher/McDonald Part 3. And depending on how Wisconsin has performed in the rest of their events, this one could help decide the men’s team title. By itself, it should be a fantastic race. Fisher exacted a bit of revenge at the Millrose Games, outkicking McDonald to win 7:42.62 to 7:42.76. 

But this race doesn’t have much in common from their 3000m in February. Both men will be sharper (that was McDonald’s debut and Fisher second race), and the race will won’t have the presence of a rabbit to keep the early pace moving along. If all goes to form, McDonald is coming off a 5000m victory, while Fisher will anchor Stanford’s DMR on Friday night. 

All that considered, this race is a true toss-up. It’s easy to say that the team race will give McDonald an extra boost, but this is an NCAA Championships with two men who have already won an NCAA title. There doesn’t need to be more motivation. 

McDonald’s teammate, Oliver Hoare, will try to get as many points as possible in what will be his fourth race of the weekend. If he were racing fresh, his closing speed might be enough to beat Fisher and McDonald, but he will only have two hours rest since the mile. 

Amon Kemboi of Campbell and Colorado’s Joe Klecker are seeded fourth and fifth and are both capable of running in the 7:40s. Kemboi was left behind by Fisher and McDonald at Millrose when the kicking began, but he still managed to run 7:44.77. It’s easy to see a similar situation unfolding in Birmingham, with Fisher and McDonald winding up the pace in the last mile until, like Madison in November and New York in February, it’s just the two of them in the homestretch. 

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

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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