Men’s Steeplechase Semifinals: Anthony Rotich and Henry Lelei Win Their Heats Easily

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June 5, 2013

Eugene, OR – The men’s steeplechase semifinals on Day 1 of the 2013 NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships had a couple surprises as six sub-8:40 men were entered and only four made it on to the finals.

The most notable casualty was Florida State’s 18-year old freshman Zac Seddon of Great Britain, who had run 8:34 this year and was 5th placer at the 2011 World Youths. Seeded #2 coming in, Seddon seemed well on his way to easy advancement in heat one as he was one of three guys well clear of everyone else until he went down on the third to last water jump,  and fell way back finishing last in his heat.

The other sub-8:40 runner not to make the final was Wisconsin’s Alex Brill who ran 8:39 at the Regional and has an 8:37 to his name from last year. But he only managed 8:52 here and was the second man out.

The rest of the sub-8:40 guys all made the final as Henry Lelei and Anthony Rotich looked pretty dominant in their heats.

Heat 1: Rotich Dominates As A Fall Sends Seddon Home Early

This heat became a three man race pretty early as Rotich, Arkansas’ Stanley Kebeni and Seddon separated themselves from the rest of the pack and had put 5 seconds on 4th place before they were even halfway.

Those three looked looked like they would qualify easily, but then disaster struck on the 3rd to last water jump where Seddon fell, hit his chest and had the wind knocked out of him, and lost contact with the other two. Even with the fall, he still had 6 seconds on 3rd place with two laps to go, but the fall clearly affected him and he ran his last two laps in 80 and 92.

Up front, Rotich was not satisfied with merely qualifying for the final or even just winning the heat. He dominated over the last lap putting 4 seconds on Kebeni winning in 8:32 which was a 5 second PR. Kebeni finished in 8:36, still 6 seconds clear of 3rd place.

Eastern Kentucky’s Ole Hesselbjerg, Portland’s Jared Bassett, and Wichita States Thomas Cotter were the other automatic qualifiers as Georgetown’s Max Darrah and Indiana’s Robby Nierman both qualified on time.

Quick Thought (QT) #1: Rotch looked damn good in this heat and is definitely a favorite, if not the favorite going into Friday’s final. That said, we’re not sure why he felt the need to run all out getting a 5 second PR here when the top five qualify. He could have just cruised the last lap and ran 8:36 with Kebenei, saving his legs a bit more. Of course, we don’t really buy into the theory that running five seconds slower really helps you 48 hours later either.

QT#2: Speaking after the race (interview below), Seddon told us that when he fell he was about to “reassess” where he was in the race and maybe slow down since the top 5 automatically made the final.

Stepping in on the interview, Seddon’s coach Bob Braman added that Seddon is “in sub-8:30 shape” and that an “8:35 shut-down prelim (is) well within his range.” Braman added “he executed fine, except one barrier.”

Heat  1 Preliminaries                                                           
  1 Anthony Rotich            SO UTEP                   8:32.50Q                
  2 Stanley Kebenei           SO Arkansas               8:36.54Q                
  3 Ole Hesselbjerg           SO Eastern Kentucky       8:42.70Q                
  4 Jared Bassett             SR Portland               8:43.23Q                
  5 Tomas Cotter              SR Wichita State          8:43.38Q                
  6 Max Darrah                SO Georgetown             8:43.71q                
  7 Robby Nierman             JR Indiana                8:46.58q                
  8 Alex Brill                JR Wisconsin              8:52.37                 
  9 Luis Orta                 SR Kentucky               8:59.33                 
 10 Mark Parrish              JR Florida                9:06.24                 
 11 Zak Seddon                FR Florida State          9:14.92                 
 -- Fabian Clarkson           SO Oklahoma State             DNF

Heat 2: The Henry Lelei Show

For most of the race it was the Henry Lelei show as he took it out hard and had more than four seconds on the rest of the field about 600 meters into the race. His lead would continue to grow as he had a 10 second lead with two laps to go and still held an almost nine second lead with less than 400m to go.

For most of the race his splits were actually almost exactly the same as Rotich as Lelei went through 2208m in 6:17.54 while Rotich was 6:16.14. You can see their splits below:

Place Name Affiliation Time 228m 624m 1020m 1416m 1812m 2208m 2604m 3000m
1 Henry Lelei TAMU 8:40.18 36.52 (36.52) 1:42.66 (1:06.15) 2:50.03 (1:07.37) 3:58.10 (1:08.07) 5:07.21 (1:09.12) 6:17.54 (1:10.33) 7:29.90 (1:12.37) 8:40.18 (1:10.29)
Place Name Affiliation Time 228m 624m 1020m 1416m 1812m 2208m 2604m 3000m
1 Anthony Rotich UTEP 8:32.50 36.81 (36.81) 1:43.11 (1:06.31) 2:50.11 (1:07.00) 3:58.16 (1:08.06) 5:06.60 (1:08.44) 6:16.14 (1:09.55) 7:26.59 (1:10.45) 8:32.50 (1:05.92)

The difference was Rotich kicked it in hard with a 65 last lap and five second PR while Lelei just cruised it in, not slowing down a lot, but not kicking either and won the heat in 8:40.18. Consequently, the rest of the field who were fighting for qualifying spots almost ran him down as BYU’s Curtis Carr grabbed second in 8:41.74.

Colorado’s Aric VanHalen, Louisville’s Mattias Wolter, and High Point’s Dakota Peachee took the other 3 qualifying spots as no one from this heat made it on time.

QT#1: Lelei’s hurdle form his pretty terrible. He stutters on most barriers and has to run faster in between to make up for it. Last year, his lack of hurdle ability cost him an NCAA championship as Donn Cabral used his superior technique to pull away from him in the last 200m and then a fall on the last barrier put Lelei back in fourth. We commented on his poor form then too and said he could dominate in 2013 if his form improved. Unfortunately for his sake, it’s still horrible and Rotich’s superior hurdling ability is likely to aid him in a kick.

That being said, Lelei has run 8:27 so hes hard to discount. There have been plenty of horrible hurdlers who have been great steeplers.

QT#2: Carr had the fastest last lap of the day with a 63.12 which was even better than Rotich’s 65.92. His 8:41.74 was very close to his 8:41.70 PR, but with such a fast last lap it would seem he has more in the tank. He only had an 8:50 PR before this year and didn’t even make NCAAs in 2012, but could be a dark horse in 2013. Lelei and Rotich better give themselves some room with 200 to go or they could find Carr blowing by.

QT#3: We have a quick interview with Bassett below. Bassett is racing close to home as he goes to Portland and grew up in Coos Bay, OR. He’ll be hoping some local fan support can spur him to his first All-American placing in his senior year.

Heat  2 Preliminaries      6                                                     
  1 Henry Lelei               SR Texas A&M              8:40.18Q                
  2 Curtis Carr               JR BYU                    8:41.74Q                
  3 Aric VanHalen             SR Colorado               8:44.70Q                
  4 Mattias Wolter            JR Louisville             8:45.00Q                
  5 Dakota Peachee            SR High Point             8:45.81Q                
  6 Mason Ferlic              FR Michigan               8:47.09                 
  7 Dylan Sorensen            JR Georgetown             8:53.51                 
  8 Trevor Van Ackeren        SR Texas                  9:01.72                 
  9 Isaac Spencer             SO Texas A&M              9:03.43                 
 10 Joshua Roche              FR Indiana                9:10.77                 
 11 John Coyle                SR Weber State            9:12.47                 
 12 Dustin Betz               SR Indiana State          9:20.79

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