800 Prelims: Wow – Michael Saruni Only Qualifies on Time As Women’s Co-#1 Seed Goes Home Early

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By LetsRun.com
March 9, 2018

COLLEGE STATION, Texas — The 800 heats at the 2018 NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships were certainly full of more drama than the mile heats, where 9 of the 10 fastest seeds made tomorrow’s finals. In the 800, the co-#1 seed in the meet — Agnes Abu of Middle Tennessee State — was eliminated from the women’s competition, which saw only 4 of the top 9 seeds advance. In the men’s competition, the heavy favorite, #1 seed Michael Saruni of UTEP, did advance but just as a time qualifier as the top 4 seeds and 5 of the top 6 moved on to the finals.

How did Saruni only advance on time? By running a tactically poor race and also not looking good. Saruni went out in the back of heat #2 and was last at 400 (54.36 for Saruni). Fair enough: we always say the best place to be in an 800 if you are way better than everyone else is first or last. But then when it was time to move up, he did so very gradually which really hurt him as he was running way wide, out in lane 2, running a ton of extra ground. Regardless, Saruni had moved himself up to 4th by 600 (1:20.95 for Saruni). However, he then ran an atrocious last lap by his lofty standards. He stayed wide throughout, never looked good and never moved up into one of the 3 auto qualifying spots, but his 1:47.95 time was good enough to get him the first of two time qualifiers.

If Saruni runs like that tomorrow, there is no chance he’ll win.

Abu’s elimination (she was last in heat #1) was less shocking as up until a last chance meet where she ran 2:02.30 her seasonal best was 2:05.31.

Most were surprised when Saruni (orange top in lane 2) barely moved up in the final 50

Most were surprised when Saruni (orange top in lane 2) barely moved up in the final 50

Results and a few quick takes/interviews appear below.

Mens’s Heat 1

15Isaiah HARRISJRPenn State1:47.87 Q26.15 [26.15]52.75 [26.60]1:20.19 [27.44]1:47.87 [27.68]
23John LEWISJRClemson1:47.90 Q25.61 [25.61]52.34 [26.74]1:19.77 [27.43]1:47.90 [28.13]
31Bryce HOPPELSOKansas1:47.96 Q25.93 [25.93]52.81 [26.88]1:20.02 [27.22]1:47.96 [27.94]
44Avery BARTLETTJRGeorgia Tech1:48.2426.11 [26.11]52.98 [26.88]1:20.33 [27.35]1:48.24 [27.92]
58Clay LAMBOURNESRUtah State1:48.3026.27 [26.27]53.47 [27.20]1:20.68 [27.21]1:48.30 [27.62]
62Myles MARSHALLJRHarvard1:48.5825.64 [25.64]52.67 [27.04]1:20.43 [27.76]1:48.58 [28.15]
76Dylan CAPWELLSRMonmouth1:49.0525.75 [25.75]52.58 [26.83]1:19.92 [27.34]1:49.05 [29.14]
87Michael RHOADSSOAir Force1:49.7324.32 [24.32]51.09 [26.77]1:20.10 [29.02]1:49.73 [29.63]


Men’s Heat 2


16Daniel KUHNSRIndiana1:47.48 Q26.28 [26.28]53.41 [27.13]1:20.54 [27.14]1:47.48 [26.94]
23Robert HEPPENSTALLJRWake Forest1:47.74 Q26.87 [26.87]53.94 [27.08]1:20.83 [26.89]1:47.74 [26.91]
31Abraham ALVARADOSRBYU1:47.75 Q27.03 [27.03]54.20 [27.18]1:21.22 [27.02]1:47.75 [26.53]
44Michael SARUNISOUTEP1:47.95 q27.28 [27.28]54.36 [27.08]1:20.95 [26.60]1:47.95 [27.00]
52Dejon DEVROEJRMiss State1:48.17 q26.73 [26.73]53.67 [26.94]1:21.06 [27.39]1:48.17 [27.12]
68Marco AROPFRMiss State1:48.5526.56 [26.56]53.70 [27.15]1:20.28 [26.58]1:48.55 [28.28]
77Devin DIXONSOTexas A&M1:48.7226.35 [26.35]53.57 [27.23]1:21.03 [27.46]1:48.72 [27.70]
85Vincent CRISPJRTexas Tech1:50.5526.90 [26.90]54.14 [27.24]1:21.66 [27.52]1:50.55 [28.90]

Women’s Heat 1

17Sammy WATSONFRTexas A&M2:03.55 Q29.44 [29.44]1:00.33 [30.90]1:31.91 [31.59]2:03.55 [31.65]
28Siofra CLEIRIGH BUTTNERSRVillanova2:03.55 Q29.80 [29.80]1:00.73 [30.94]1:32.05 [31.32]2:03.55 [31.51]
36Sabrina SOUTHERLANDSROregon2:03.57 Q29.56 [29.56]1:00.47 [30.91]1:32.02 [31.56]2:03.57 [31.56]
42Olivia BAKERSRStanford2:03.60 q29.27 [29.27]1:00.11 [30.85]1:31.77 [31.66]2:03.60 [31.83]
51Danae RIVERSSOPenn State2:04.75 q29.63 [29.63]1:00.56 [30.94]1:32.22 [31.66]2:04.75 [32.53]
63Jasmine STAEBLERJRIowa State2:05.0229.71 [29.71]1:00.85 [31.15]1:32.29 [31.44]2:05.02 [32.74]
74Kaylee DODDJROklahoma State2:05.5729.94 [29.94]1:00.99 [31.05]1:33.04 [32.06]2:05.57 [32.54]
85Agnes ABUSRMid. Tenn. State2:07.3629.53 [29.53]1:00.69 [31.17]1:32.39 [31.70]2:07.36 [34.98]

Women’s Heat 2

16Ashley TAYLORSRNorthern Arizona2:04.50 Q29.30 [29.30]59.88 [30.58]1:32.38 [32.51]2:04.50 [32.12]
22Jazmine FRAYJRTexas A&M2:04.71 Q28.15 [28.15]59.38 [31.23]1:32.50 [33.12]2:04.71 [32.21]
34Rachel POCRATSKYJRVirginia Tech2:04.74 Q28.29 [28.29]59.42 [31.13]1:32.23 [32.82]2:04.74 [32.51]
47Kamryn MCINTOSHFRClemson2:05.7829.12 [29.12]59.66 [30.55]1:32.70 [33.05]2:05.78 [33.08]
51Abike EGBENIYIJRMid. Tenn. State2:05.9127.76 [27.76]59.15 [31.39]1:32.42 [33.27]2:05.91 [33.50]
63Fellan FERGUSONSRClemson2:06.5929.02 [29.02]59.99 [30.98]1:32.83 [32.84]2:06.59 [33.76]
78Avi’ Tal PERTEETEFRUNLV2:10.0729.42 [29.42]1:00.44 [31.02]1:34.93 [34.50]2:10.07 [35.14]
85Sadi HENDERSONSRBoise State2:17.5028.72 [28.72]59.82 [31.10]1:37.73 [37.92]2:17.50 [39.77]

Quick Take: Sammy Watson is loving life as an Aggie, wants to break 2:00 this year

Sammy Watson was one of the biggest 800 talents to come out of a U.S. high school when she graduated last year with a World Youth title, World U20 title and a sparkling 2:00.65 personal best. Watson had the same credentials (and faster PRs) than Ajee Wilson, who went pro out of high school in 2012, but said that she didn’t get any offers last summer.

“No one has pursued me,” Watson said. “I’m not really worried about that, I guess. Once the times come, that will take care of itself.”

Indeed, if Watson accomplishes her goal this year (breaking 2:00), she will likely receive some offers, but right now she’s loving the college life. Watson is an avid fan of math and science and is pursuing both by studying engineering at A&M. She’s also been tweaking her form, working on her knee drive under Aggies coach Alleyne Francique.

Watson hasn’t raced much this year (this is her fourth meet of the year), but Watson said that’s by design as the coaches wanted her to gain the strength to make it through two big end-of-season meets (SECs and NCAAs). Part I (her 800 win at SECs) went very well. Part II? We’ll see tomorrow.

Quick Take: Michael Saruni says he wasn’t worried about not advancing, tried to play it safe by running on the outside

Saruni ran the #2 time in collegiate history earlier this year, but he was hardly convincing today, having to rely on a time qualifier to advance to Saturday’s final. Saruni said he wasn’t worried about that, however.

“I knew top four, top four’s going to be safe,” Saruni said.

When pressed to explain that (there were only three auto spots in each heat), Saruni said he knew his heat would go fast enough for him to make it on time if he needed to.

“Our heat was pretty fast, so obviously I knew top four was going to make it, top five at least,” Saruni said.

Even so, Saruni did not run a great tactical race, but he explained that he wanted to stay out of trouble after being DQ’d at NCAA indoors and falling at NCAA outdoors last year.

“Last year was rough for me so I was trying to play it safe, just be in my own lane, not get into contact. Last year, man, it was hell, so I’m just trying to stay out of those troubles.”

Isaiah Harris after his heat

Harris knows that Saruni has been running well but is looking forward to letting his legs do the talking in tomorrow’s final.

Air Force’s Michael Rhoads took out heat 1 in 24.32/51.09 but paid for it


Isaiah Harris wins heat 1

Isaiah Harris wins heat 1

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