Good weather and deep fields will once again make the Bryan Clay Invitational fast. Here are four events to watch on Thursday and Friday at Azusa Pacific University.
Men’s 1500m: Friday, 7:50 PM PT
Last year, this race played host to a collegiate record when Josh Kerr ran 3:35.01 to break Sydney Maree’s mark that stood since 1981. Behind Kerr, it was a parade of personal bests as Justyn Knight, Robert Domanic and Sam Prakel all ran under 3:37. Knight and Domanic’s marks put them seventh and ninth on the all-time list.
The preponderance of fast times is what draws people to this meet, and while a collegiate record doesn’t look to be in reach this year, the fast heat has brought together the absolute best of the NCAA in the men’s 1500m.
Let’s start with the national champions. Before he upset Kerr and won the outdoor 1500m title, Oliver Hoare finished eighth at the 2018 edition of this meet. His time in that race, 3:37.84, is still his personal best.
This will be Hoare’s outdoor opener after finishing third in the mile at the indoor championships in March--a meet where Hoare ran four races over two days. Geordie Beamish of NAU got the better of him in the mile, kicking hard over the final 200 meters to shock himself and the rest of the country. Though he competes for one of the most successful programs in the country, Beamish himself has gone mostly unnoticed during his career--the result of consistent injury issues and being on a team filled with All-Americans. He is inconspicuous no more. This race, a pure time trial, will play differently than a championship so it’s hard to sort out how he will fare in the field. At the very least, his 3:41 personal best is on borrowed time.
Yared Nuguse of Notre Dame has done his best work in distance medley relays. His final 50 meters from March’s NCAA Indoor Championships was one of the highlights of the meet as he chased down Grant Fisher to give the Fighting Irish a win. Friday night will be an opportunity to shine individually and he looks poised to take advantage. At the end of March, he ran 1:48.29 in the 800m at the Stanford Invitational, again taking the race in the final meters. If he can stick with pace in the early stages of the race, his close is one of the best in the field.
Waleed Suliman ran a 1500m just a week ago at a home meet in Ole Miss. His time of 3:40.49 was just off his 3:39.76 that he set at, you guessed it, the 2018 Bryan Clay Invitational. Suliman has shown proficiency with paced races. Indoors he ran a 3:56.78 in the mile, a personal best. At the NCAA Indoor Championships, he placed ninth.
Several other men from that final are in this race, including Carlos Villarreal, Sam Worley and William Paulson. Worley and Paulson will be looking to break 3:40 for the first time.
Hassan Mead of OTC Elite along with his teammates Drew Piazza and Tom Farrell are also slated to go in the 1500m. Mead is known more for in the longer distances but has a personal best of 3:37.65.
Women’s 1500m: Friday, 8:35 PM PT
This doesn’t have the star power of the men’s race, but it does offer a chance to see several big names. Pro Alexa Efraimson owns a personal best of 4:03.39 and will be making her 2019 debut. Fellow pros Shea Collinsworth and Hanna Green are also entered and provide depth in this fast heat.
On the collegiate side, Erica Brik, Ednah Kurgat, Allie Ostrander, Taryn Rawlings and Carina Viljoen will be hunting for personal bests. Birk (steeplechase) and Ostrander (5000m) will be doubling back from big events on Thursday. Kurgat will be working on her top end speed that can help her add a bit of pop to the end of her 5000m and 10,000 races.
Rawlings and Viljoen are at home in the 1500m and will be looking to continue their indoor momentum. Rawlings placed fourth in the indoor mile, while Viljoen took fifth.
Men’s 5000m: Thursday, 8:20 PM PT
An Alabama trio and a BYU quartet should ensure that there’s plenty of red and white up front. Vincent Kiprop will be making his outdoor season debut, just over a month after finishing fifth at the NCAA Indoor Championships in the 5000m. His usual running mates, Alfred Chelanga and Gilbert Kigen will join him. Kigen looked good at the Stanford Invitational, setting a personal best in the 10,000m with a 28:20. BYU’s Clayton Young finished one spot ahead of him in that race in 28:18, also a lifetime best. Young’s Cougar teammates, Daniel Carney, Rory Linkletter and Connor McMillan, are also set to race on Thursday evening. Young and McMillian went 3-4 indoors in the 5000m.
The favorite, however, comes from outside of BYU and Alabama. Colorado junior Joe Klecker has strung together back-to-back seasons of strong showings. He placed eighth at the NCAA Cross Country Championships. Indoors, he was second in the 5000m and third in the 3000m. He’s only run one race outdoors, a 3:45 1500m at altitude and this will be his first at his preferred distance.
Morgan McDonald of Wisconsin, the winner of the last three NCAA distance titles between cross country and indoor track, is on the start list, but will not race in the fast heat.
Women’s 5000m: Thursday, 8:40 PM PT
It’s the latest chapter of Boise State’s Allie Ostrander vs. New Mexico. The Mountain West rivals can’t escape each other regardless of the season. The Lobos have three entrants in this race, Weini Kelati, Charlotte Prouse and Adva Cohen. Kelati is the favorite and placed ahead of Ostrander in both the 3000m and 5000m at the NCAA Indoor Championships. But this is Kelati’s opener and perhaps Ostrander can take advantage if there is a little rust. Ostrander ran a solid 32:06 10,000m at Stanford three weeks ago and has a lifetime best of 15:16.38.
Caroline Kurgat of Alaska Anchorage ran two seconds behind Ostrander at Stanford and is one to watch here. She currently holds the DII record in the 5000m of 15:28.46 and has experience running against DI fields. This race also marks the first 5000m of Lauren Gregory’s college career. The Arkansas freshman had a stellar indoor season placing seventh in the 3000m and 10th in the mile.