NCAA 3000 Previews: Sub-9:00 Women Dominique Scott & Emily Sisson Square Off; Can Edward Cheserek Complete the Triple?

March 10, 2015

The 2015 NCAA Indoor Track & Field Championships will be held on Friday and Saturday at the University of Arkansas’ Randal Tyson Track Center. This week, we’ll be previewing the mid-d and distance events (800, mile, 3000, 5000 and distance medley relay) one-by-one. Below, you can find the previews of the men’s and women’s 3000.

*800 Previews *Men’s Mile Preview *Women’s Mile Preview *3000 Previews *5000 Previews *DMRs *Men’s Team Projections *Women’s Team Projections

*Schedule * Men’s entries * LRC analysis * Women’s entries * LRC analysis

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Men’s 3000 (Saturday 9:15 p.m. ET)

           Name                        Year School                 Seed           
  1    423 Eric Jenkins                  SR Oregon              7:44.91 
  2    421 Will Geoghegan                SR Oregon              7:45.71 
  3     58 Kemoy Campbell                SR Arkansas            7:48.13 
  4    419 Jeramy Elkaim                 JR Oregon              7:48.48 
  5    614 Colby Gilbert                 FR Washington          7:49.25 
  6    418 Edward Cheserek               SO Oregon              7:49.56 
  7     62 Stanley Kebenei               SR Arkansas            7:49.74 
  8    433 Robby Creese                  SR Penn State          7:50.36 
  9    399 Fabian Clarkson               JR Oklahoma State      7:50.49 
 10    599 Thomas Curtin                 JR Virginia Tech       7:50.63 
 11    479 Erik Olson                    SR Stanford            7:51.26 
 12    112 Morgan Pearson                JR Colorado            7:51.93 
 13    425 Parker Stinson                SR Oregon              7:52.21 
 14    108 Jake Hurysz                   SR Colorado            7:53.06 
 15    483 Martin Hehir                  SR Syracuse            7:53.15 
 16    350 Adam Bitchell                 SR New Mexico          7:53.27

Previewing a race like this — the final men’s individual event of the meet — is tough because you never know quite where everyone will stand when the gun goes off. By our count, 10 of the athletes in the 16-person field are scheduled to compete in at least one other event. Oregon’s Edward Cheserek (mile, 3k, 5k), Arkansas’ Kemoy Campbell (3k, 5k, DMR) and Virginia Tech’s Thomas Curtin (3k, 5k, DMR) are in fact entered in two other events (though it’s likely that neither Campbell nor Curtin runs both the 5k and DMR considering the two events are just 35 minutes apart). The odds that every guy on the start list lines up for this race are low.

Obviously, the biggest name in this race is Cheserek, but Oregon head coach Robert Johnson has suggested that Cheserek won’t run this race if he doesn’t have to. “It will be team dependent,” Johnson told The Oregonian‘s Ken Goe last week. “When I say team dependent, the last part of that triple is one of the last events (Saturday night’s 3,000). If need be, and the points are needed, you’ll see him there.”

The implication is that if Oregon has the team title wrapped up before the 3k, the Ducks will scratch Cheserek. Don’t count on it. A huge chunk of Oregon’s points (26) are projected to come from the 3k, and their chief rivals, Florida, will still have the 4×400 to come afterwards. The chances of Oregon amassing enough points to clinch the title prior to the 3k are slim, considering that the Ducks only have athletes entered in four other events (mile, 5k, DMR, weight throw).

Cheserek delivered 20 points for the Ducks indoors last year and will be counted on for even more in 2015 Cheserek won the 3000 handily last year; it may not be so easy in 2015. *More 2014 NCAAs photos

That means Cheserek should be one of an astounding five Oregon Ducks to toe the line in Saturday night’s 3k. Thanks to the USTFCCCA’s superb new NCAA Indoor Championships database, we can tell you that’s only the fourth time a team of either gender has sent five athletes to NCAAs in the same event (Arkansas sent five guys in the 5k in 2003; Florida sent five women’s weight throwers that same year and a record six in 2004). If Oregon can sweep 1-2-3, the Ducks will be the first school of either gender to accomplish the feat in a distance event (the last time it happened was in 2004 when LSU went 1-2-3 in the men’s triple jump).

And that’s certainly on the table. It all depends on how the Ducks recover, because their top three 3k runners –Cheserek, Northeastern transfer Eric Jenkins and Dartmouth grad Will Geoghegan — will all be doubling back, Jenkins and Geoghegan from the 5k on Friday, Cheserek from the DMR on Friday and the mile final two hours earlier (yes, Jeramy Elkaim has run faster than Cheserek this season at 3k, but if you think he’s a better 3k runner than Cheserek, you should probably stop reading this preview right now). Of the three, Cheserek clearly has the highest upside, but, as we pointed out in our mile preview, he will likely be challenged in the mile final earlier on Saturday night. Add in his DMR leg from the night before and even a stud like Cheserek is going to be a little tired.

And that might be the difference considering the tear Jenkins has been on. Since taking second to Cheserek at NCAA XC last fall, Jenkins has run two races and they’ve both been spectacular. First, he closed his final kilometer in 2:32 to run 13:31 for 5000 on January 23; then, three weeks later, he ran 7:44.91 for 3000 at the Armory to move to #5 on the all-time collegiate list (#7 counting oversize). The men in front of him are pretty good: Alistair Cragg, Lawi LalangGalen Rupp and Nick Willis. Jenkins will have had the 5000 the night before, but that race shouldn’t be as tough to double back from as the DMR/mile double Cheserek is attempting. And since Oregon has three studs in the 5000 (Jenkins, Geoghegan and Parker Stinson), there’s a good chance the Ducks will be able to control the race and slow it down, limiting the impact on Jenkins’ legs. If Jenkins wins the 5k and Cheserek loses the mile, Jenkins becomes the favorite in the 3k. If Jenkins loses the 5k and Cheserek wins the mile, Cheserek is the favorite in the 3k. And if both men win both races, it probably won’t matter as they’ll be content to go 1-2 in the 3k in some order.

Then there’s Geoghegan, who with a 7:45.71 pb is by far the fastest #3 guy on any collegiate team in history (he’s #6 in the NCAA all-time at 3000 on standard tracks). His NCAA track record isn’t nearly as decorated as Jenkins’ (though Geoghegan did place fifth in the indoor mile last year while competing for Dartmouth), but Oregon coach Andy Powell was very successful last year in getting his top guys to run their best at the NCAA track championships. Check out how the Ducks fared at last year’s biggest meets:

NCAA XC: 1st (Cheserek), 2nd (Jenkins)
NCAA outdoors: 1500 1st (Mac Fleet); 5000 2nd (Cheserek), 3rd (Trevor Dunbar), 4th (Jenkins); 10,000 1st (Cheserek), 5th (Dunbar), 8th (Stinson)
NCAA indoors: mile 3rd (Fleet); 3000 1st (Cheserek), 5th (Dunbar); 5000 1st (Cheserek), 3rd (Stinson)

Yes, the rest of the Ducks struggled at NCAA XC, but Powell’s top talent usually delivers, and Geoghegan is certainly in the “top talent” category or close to it. He stalked Jenkins for 2900 meters when they ran their pbs in the Armory and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him do the same thing in this race.

Can anyone stop Oregon? With four of the top six entrants, including super-studs Jenkins and Cheserek, odds are that the winner of this race will be wearing green and gold (or whatever crazy color combination Oregon ends up wearing on Saturday).

On paper, the best bet to break up the Ducks should be Arkansas’ Kemoy Campbell, who recorded the third-fastest time in the country this year and was second in this race in 2013 (he crossed the line third but Jenkins was DQ’ed). How cool would it be to have an NCAA distance champion from Jamaica – talk about breaking stereotypes. But Campbell is also entered in the 5000 and the DMR on Friday night and coming back the next day to race again will be very tough if he does indeed run both events on Friday.

As a result, tealistically, the best bet to challenge the Men of Oregon might be Penn State’s Robby Creese. He’s got great speed (1:48 800, 2:20 1000, 3:57 mile) and if the race goes tactical, he could become a major threat (6th at NCAAs in the outdoor 1500 in ’13). Creese will be coming back from the DMR, but many of the athletes in this race are scheduled to double back. Two other men to watch: Thomas Curtin, the Virginia Tech junior who has gone from 8:07 and 13:58 to 7:52 and 13:38 this year; and Washington’s redshirt freshman Colby Gilbert, only 19 years old, who is the second freshman in the last six years to break 7:50 (Cheserek is the other). Gilbert, unlike almost everyone else mentioned in this preview, will be running fresh. Gilbert, whose parents both ran collegiately at Portland, has improved dramatically from the 8:58 3,200 he ran in HS but he was only 195th at NCAA XC. Gilbert might contend for an NCAA title in two or three years, but to go from 195th to 1st in four months is asking a bit much.

LRC Prediction: We’ll make it on the messageboard after we watch the Friday night action.

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Women’s 3000 (Saturday 9:00 p.m. ET)

           Name                        Year School                 Seed           
  1     52 Dominique Scott               SR Arkansas            8:52.57 
  2    443 Emily Sisson                  SR Providence          8:52.60 
  3    312 Rachele Schulist              SO Michigan State      9:01.25 
  4    469 Elise Cranny                  FR Stanford            9:02.36 
  5    373 Erin Teschuk                  JR North Dakota St     9:02.40 
  6    174 Katrina Coogan                JR Georgetown          9:02.75 
  7     35 Shelby Houlihan               SR Arizona State       9:03.71 
  8    472 Jessica Tonn                  SR Stanford            9:04.93 
  9    177 Samantha Nadel                SO Georgetown          9:05.97 
 10     90 Mara Olson                    SR Butler              9:06.04 
 11     78 Rachel Johnson                SR Baylor              9:06.42 
 12    119 Dana Giordano                 JR Dartmouth           9:07.28 
 13    347 Calli Thackery                SO New Mexico          9:07.31 
 14    609 Maddie Meyers                 SO Washington          9:07.53 
 15    226 Katy Moen                     SR Iowa State          9:08.69 
 16     80 Maggie Montoya                SO Baylor              9:08.91

The final women’s individual event of the meet should be a great one. There are a lot of big names in the women’s 3000, and like the men’s race, almost all of them are doubling back (12 of the 16 entrants, though some women are listed in the DMR and may not run that event). While the likes of Rachele SchulistElise Cranny and Katrina Coogan are terrific runners, what this race boils down to is two studs at the top of their games: Arkansas’ Dominique Scott and Providence’s Emily Sisson.

Both Scott and Sisson are redshirt seniors with extremely impressive resumes. Each played a big part in securing a team title for her school (Scott anchored Arkansas’ DMR to a win at NCAAs last year; Sisson was the top finisher on Providence’s 2013 XC title team) but neither has won an individual NCAA title. Of course, that may no longer be the case at the start of this race as Sisson is the heavy favorite in the 5000. They have the two fastest times times in the NCAA this year by over eight seconds (Iona’s Kate Avery ran 8:53 but she’s not running this race after doing European Indoors last week) and the only loss between them this season was Sisson’s defeat to Wisconsin’s Sarah Disanza way back on December 6, where she still ran 15:21. Historically, here’s how they stack up all-time in the NCAA at 3000 (marks include oversize tracks):

1. Jenny Barringer, Colorado 8:42.03 (3/14/09)
2. Sally Kipyego, Texas Tech 8:48.77 (2/7/09)
3. Kim Smith, Providence 8:49.18 (3/13/04)
4. Abbey D’Agostino, Dartmouth 8:51.91 (2/15/14)
5. Dominique Scott, Arkansas 8:52.57 (2/14/15)
6. Emily Sisson, Providence 8:52.60 (2/14/15)

The women above Scott and Sisson combined to win 24 individual NCAA championships. It’s a good bet Scott and Sisson combine for at least one this weekend. Both women will be doubling back (Scott from the DMR, Sisson from the 5000), though Scott may be slightly more tired (she’ll probably have to work hard in the DMR while Sisson shouldn’t have to go all-out to win the 5000).

Dominique Scott Celebrates Arkansas DMR win at 2014 NCAA Indoors (click for photo gallery) Scott delivered a DMR win last year; can she claim her first individual title on her home track? (click for photo gallery)

Scott, the runner-up last year behind D’Agostino, is the favorite because of her superior speed (2:07 for 800, 4:14 for 1500; Sisson’s mile pb is 4:38) and it will be interesting to see how Sisson elects to play this one. With a 32:31 10,000 pb and an NCAA record at 5000 indoors (15:12 at Big Easts), her best bet is likely to push the pace and break Scott. Her 15:12 at Big Easts was totally solo (no pacers) and Sisson had no problem metronomically grinding out laps to run a fast time. The issue, of course, is that Scott’s 3000 pb is actually faster than Sisson’s, which is going to make dropping her an exceedingly difficult task. Still, pushing it from the front is likely Sisson’s best shot at the win as a fast pace — coupled with the DMR from the night before — may sufficiently sap Scott’s speed and enable Sisson to break her over the final laps.

Of course, because it’s the final individual event, it’s possible the race becomes more than just a Scott-Sisson duel (heading into last year’s meet, many thought Lawi Lalang would win the 3000 to cap off a mile, 3k, 5k triple yet by the time Saturday night had rolled around, Lalang had scratched from the 3000).

Rachele Schulist of Michigan State has been in great form in 2014-15, taking fourth at NCAA XC and running 9:01 at Big 10s to win by 15 seconds. She’s one of the few women running this race fresh, so don’t be surprised to see her in contention. Stanford freshman Elise Cranny has the best wheels of anyone in the field (4:10 pb, fourth place at World Juniors in the 1500) and could be very dangerous in a kicker’s race — though she’ll also have the DMR the night before, not an easy double for a freshman. Rachel Johnson of Baylor (fifth at NCAA XC; impressive 9:06/16:00 double victory at Big 12s) and Shelby Houlihan (NCAA 1500 champ/4:30 miler) also have the pedigree to contend, though both will be doubling back (5000 for Johnson, mile for Houlihan). Houlihan struggled with the same-day double last year though (she was third in the mile and just 14th in the 3000), so her chances of taking down both Scott and Sisson appear slim.

Quick Thought #1: The 3000 is always a very compelling event at NCAAs

Most of the runners in the field are doubling back, and unlike outdoor NCAAs, indoor NCAAs is only a two-day meet, which can make for some very tired legs. That means that the 3000 can lead to some thrilling outcomes, whether it’s a surprising victory (who can forget Elliott Heath taking down Matthew CentrowitzRyan Hill and others with a ridiculous closing burst in 2011?) or a runner solidifying their place in NCAA lore by claiming their second championship of the meet.

In recent years, the latter outcome has been a big part of the storylines in the men’s and women’s 3000. Take a look at the last four years’ worth of champions. Runners who won multiple events at NCAAs that year are listed in bold (second title in parentheses).

Year Men’s winner Women’s winner
2014 Edward Cheserek (5k) Abbey D’Agostino (5k)
2013 Lawi Lalang (mile) Abbey D’Agostino (5k)
2012 Lawi Lalang (5k) Emily Infeld
2011 Elliott Heath Jordan Hasay (mile)

As you can see, it’s become a fairly common occurrence recently to claim double crowns, and between Cheserek/Jenkins and Sisson/Scott, there’s a very good chance it will happen in at least one gender for the fifth year in a row. Scott almost became an NCAA legend by pulling off the DMR/3k double in Albuquerque last year; can she do it on home soil in 2015?

LRC Prediction: We’ll go with Sisson. She’s the collegiate record holder for a reason – she’s very good. Choosing between Scott and Sisson isn’t easy, particularly given Scott’s superior speed, but Sisson’s coached by Ray Treacy – one of the greatest women’s coaches in history so that makes it a little easier.

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Discuss the meet on our messageboard or see our other previews below:

*800 Previews *MMile Preview *WMile Preview *3000 Previews *5000 Previews *Men’s Team Projections *Women’s Team Projections

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