DIII XC Recap: Five Takeaways From Conference Weekend

DIII FloXC Show: Nov. 5

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DIII cross country conference weekend has come and gone, and with it we have the clearest view yet of what is to be expected at nationals on Nov. 23.

Here are my five takeaways from Saturday in Division III:

North Central (Ill.) Wins 46th Straight Conference Crown With Perfect Score

As expected, the top-ranked North Central (Ill.) men romped their way to their 46th (yes, 46) consecutive College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin (CCIW) title on Saturday by not only dropping a perfect 15-point score but also sweeping the first eight places. (Their spread 1-5 was just 14 seconds.) For the Cardinals, it was their fourth straight perfect performance at the meet.

Senior All-American Matt Osmulski (#5 FloXC) led the charge with a nine second win in 25:04 for the 8k course in Rock Island, Illinois. Osmulski, 11th at nationals last fall, is a fringe individual title contender for NCC. His team will go for their fourth straight— and 20th overall— NCAA cross country title later this month.

Paige Lawler On Her Way To Back-To-Back DIII Titles

No. 1-ranked Paige Lawler of Washington U. is barreling towards a second straight NCAA title, her latest exploit an easy 22-second win at the UAA Championships in 21:49 for 6k. In a race that featured four women who finished top ten at the Kollege Town Invitational— DIII’s midseason showcase— the senior Lawler crushed everyone while leading No. 2 WashU to their sixth straight UAA crown.

Her best competition this fall should come from SUNY Geneseo's Genny Corcoran, who is undefeated in 2019 with three wins by 18 seconds or more. She was 20th at NCAAs last year.

Johns Hopkins vs. WashU. Should Be Another Classic

After both No. 1 Johns Hopkins and No. 2 Washington U. laid waste to their respective conferences by 27 and 29 points, respectively, the table is set for another classic NCAA matchup come Nov. 23. Remember, WashU beat Hopkins by a mere point last fall, and the two teams closely resemble their 2018 versions. 

The defending champs have an advantage up front with individual champ Lawler and their No. 2 Sophie Watterson, who was 13th at nationals last fall. Hopkins has a top ten finisher from 2018 in Caelyn Reilly, but she hasn’t been on form this season and was just 21st at the Centennial conference, 11th on the team. This could be a problem.

Without a super low stick, the Blue Jays will have to rely on their depth to counter WashU’s star power. Hopkins had five women in the top eight at the Rowan Inter-regional Border Battle on Oct. 19, just a smidge better than the Bears’ five in the top 11 at Kollege Town on the same weekend. No Reilly for JHU means their best NCAA finisher from last year is Therese Olshanski (35th), so the five-time NCAA champions will need multiple runners to have career races in order to win. Fortunately for them, that has happened more often than not for Hopkins in recent years.

These teams are super close, and don’t be surprised if the national title comes down to just a couple points— or maybe even one again— in Louisville.

Williams Is The Team That Can Dethrone North Central

North Central has a sort of mythical hold over Division III that makes them seem like an insurmountable force. That remains the case even after graduating six seniors from the 2018 team. But if any squad can topple them in 2019, it’s the Williams men. Just eighth at nationals a year ago, the Ephs have been propelled by the undefeated Aidan Ryan and a tight pack behind him; they won the NESCAC Championships by 75 points on Saturday— with a 25-second spread— after losing by 26 the year before. Their spread in 2018 was 57 seconds.

The candy stripes of North Central bring an intimidation factor to the national meet, but Williams should be confident knowing that their best day will give the Cardinals all they can handle in Louisville.

Men’s Individual Race Shaping Up To Be Josh Schraeder-Aidan Ryan Duel

The top returner from 2018, UW-La Crosse’s Josh Schraeder, and DIII’s most improved individual, Aidan Ryan of Williams, are on a collision course that will see them collide in Louisville in a fight for the national title. Schraeder, who was fourth last November, won the WIAC title on Saturday by 28 seconds, while Ryan— who was 12th at his conference meet in 2018— won by 14 seconds over the weekend.

Despite finishing just 42nd at NCAAs last year, Ryan’s ascent began in earnest in the spring when he won the outdoor 1500m title. Even still, an undefeated run through conference— with a 14-second average margin of victory— has exceeded expectations. Barring anything unforeseen happening at regionals, Schraeder will enter NCAAs as the favorite, but Ryan has the speed and momentum to beat him.

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