NCAA 800 Previews: Brandon McBride & Natoya Goule Shoot for Second Titles in Loaded Fields
March 8, 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. We’ll start with the 800 meters, which can be found below.
TV/Streaming: The meet will be streamed live on ESPN3.com
Discuss the meet on our messageboards: NCAA distance predictions
Men’s 800 (prelims Friday 8:55 p.m. ET, final Saturday 8:30 p.m. ET)
Name Year School Seed =============================================================================== 1 231 Edward Kemboi SR Iowa State 1:46.09 2 151 Andres Arroyo SO Florida 1:46.78 3 321 Brandon McBride JR Miss State 1:46.80 4 329 Dylan Capwell SO Monmouth 1:46.82 5 21 Alex Amankwah JR Alabama 1:46.86 6 86 Jesse Garn SR Binghamton 1:46.98 7 160 Ryan Schnulle JR Florida 1:47.29 8 184 Ryan Manahan SO Georgetown 1:47.34 9 212 Joe McAsey JR Illinois 1:47.38 10 93 Shaquille Walker SO BYU 1:47.44 11 17 Clayton Murphy SO Akron 1:47.82 12 374 Paul Duffey SO Northeastern 1:48.02 13 185 Joseph White FR Georgetown 1:48.05 14 204 Edose Ibadin SR Hampton 1:48.19 15 219 Tre'tez Kinnaird SO Indiana 1:48.20 16 30 Jacopo Lahbi SO Alabama 1:48.28
The men’s 800 has been one of the most competitive events in the NCAA this year. Check out the number of sub-1:47 guys over the past six years:
The NCAA leader is Iowa State senior Edward Kemboi, and though he has a gap of .69 seconds back to #2, sophomore Andres Arroyo of Florida, that’s a lot smaller than last year, when Kemboi’s 1:45.98 put him 1.47 seconds up on the next-fastest guy in the field. Kemboi wound up the runner-up at NCAAs last year indoors but surprisingly failed to make the final outdoors after running 1:46.14 earlier in the season. So far, his 2015 season has played out very similarly to his 2014 campaign: in both cases, he ran the nation’s leading time at the Iowa State Classic in the middle of February and followed that up by winning the 800 and 1000 at Big 12s – the finals of which were only 20 minutes apart!. He’s in great shape right now.
The problem for Kemboi is that being in great shape might not be enough. Kemboi is one of only two men in the field to have broken 1:46; the problem is that the other, Mississippi State’s Brandon McBride, has an even faster pb (1:45.35 outdoors last year) and hasn’t lost a collegiate 800 since May 2013. McBride swept the NCAA indoor and outdoor titles and in Fayetteville he’s looking to become the first man to repeat at 800 indoors since fellow Canadian Nate Brannen did it for Michigan in 2003 and 2004. He also has an advantage over Kemboi in that he will not have raced the DMR on Friday night (Kemboi is slated to run the 1200 leg for Iowa State).
The front-running McBride is very good, but he’s not unbeatable. He only won NCAAs by .03 seconds outdoors and the runner-up to him in that race — Florida’s Ryan Schnulle — is also in the 800 field here. Schnulle comes in after taking down Arroyo at SECs by .23. The other reason for optimism for the rest of the competitors is that McBride is planning on a long season this year (as he mentioned in this illuminating USTFCCCA podcast last month) so he won’t be peaking sharply for this race. Of course, McBride competed into late July last year and ran 1:46.80 in his only 800 so far this season, so that may not be that big of an issue (McBride did not run SECs last year as Mississippi State does not have an official indoor track team).
Based on past performance and this season’s results, a repeat of last year’s McBride-Kemboi 1-2 finish seems the most likely outcome. But this is the 800 — the indoor 800 — where anything can happen (recall unheralded Mason McHenry winning NCAAs in 2012 or Chanelle Price taking World Indoor gold last year). Breaking 1:47 indoors is a big accomplishment — only 14 men in the world have done it this year and 6 of them are in this race — so it wouldn’t be a surprise to see super sophomores Arroyo or Dylan Capwell of Monmouth break out as McBride did last year and win the title. Capwell broke the collegiate record at the Armory at his conference meet. Schnulle was second outdoors and also has a decent shot at the win considering he won SECs last week — the most competitive NCAA conference at 800 meters.
The Gators will be hoping Schnulle outperforms his seed and that Arroyo lives up to his as they could potentially pick up some big points in this event. The seeds project Florida scoring 60 points to Oregon’s 64, and those projections are based on Arroyo and Schnulle combining for 10 points in the 800. However, the #2 through #6 seeds are all tightly-bunched; Arroyo could just as easily finish sixth as second. If the Gators are to take down the Ducks, at a bare minimum both Arroyo and Schnulle have to make the final.
Tactically, the question in this one is whether the field lets McBride take the lead from the gun. That’s his preferred strategy (he used it in both NCAA finals in 2014) and in an indoor 800, leading can be very beneficial (if you’re strong enough) as you don’t have to run extra distance or worry about getting boxed in/passing people. Perhaps the other runners are confident enough in their own abilities to run their own race, but when there’s a favorite like McBride — again, he hasn’t lost an 800 to a collegian in 22 months — it might be worth it to try and throw him off his game.
LRC prediction: McBride and Kemboi go 1-2. Kemboi has been stuck at basically 1:46 flat forever. In 2011, he ran 1:46.06. In 2012, he ran 1:46.20. In 2014, he ran 1:45.98. This year, he’s run 1:46.14. As a 5th year senior, he’s never won an NCAA title and based on that plateau, he might not ever get one. But hey, hardly any NCAA fans root for Kenyans. His prolonged excellence deserves to be rewarded. We’ll pick him in the upset.
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Women’s 800 (prelims Friday 8:45 p.m. ET, final Saturday 8:20 p.m. ET)
Name Year School Seed =============================================================================== 1 103 Natoya Goule SR Clemson 2:02.78 2 55 Chrishuna Williams SR Arkansas 2:02.95 3 84 Olicia Williams JR Baylor 2:03.21 4 597 Hanna Green SO Virginia Tech 2:03.43 5 398 Kaela Edwards SO Oklahoma State 2:03.70 6 356 Elizabeth Whelan JR North Carolina 2:03.85 7 179 Sabrina Southerland SO Georgetown 2:03.89 8 386 Katie Borchers SR Ohio State 2:04.31 9 322 Brooke Feldmeier FR Mississippi 2:04.34 10 141 Claudia Francis JR Florida 2:04.39 11 598 Amanda Smith SR Virginia Tech 2:04.49 12 220 Alethia Marrero SO Indiana State 2:04.73 13 91 Shea Martinez SO BYU 2:04.79 14 201 Ce'aira Brown JR Hampton 2:04.80 15 175 Becca Deloache SR Georgetown 2:04.86 16 276 Morgan Schuetz JR LSU 2:04.87
Heading into 2015, it seemed as if Clemson’s Natoya Goule would have an easy run of it in the women’s 800. With NCAA indoor and outdoor titles in 2013 and a 1:59.93 outdoor pb, Goule was leaps and bounds ahead of the chase pack. Despite sitting out NCAAs in 2014 after transferring from LSU to Clemson (following coach Mark Elliott), she still ran 2:00.28 at the adidas Grand Prix in New York last June, making clear that she remained a dominant force.
Now, with the NCAA championships less than a week away, Goule is #1 on the seed list but the air of inevitability that accompanied Laura Roesler‘s two NCAA titles last year is gone. Goule may still be the favorite, but it’s easy to envision a scenario in which she loses, considering she didn’t even win her own conference meet – Virginia Tech’s Hanna Green beat her at ACCS, 2:03.43-2:03.57.
What’s interesting is that Goule’s 2015 season to this point has actually gone better than her 2013 season, when she won her first NCAA title. Apart from an extra 1000 at the Virginia Tech Invitational on January 16, her racing schedules in 2013 and 2015 are almost identical. We’ve compared them in the tables below:
|Crimson Tide Opener||1/12/2013||Mile||4:54.98||3rd|
|Texas A&M Triangular||1/19/2013||400||54.05||2nd|
|Armory Collegiate Invitational||2/1/2013||400||DNF||N/A|
|Orange & Purple Classic||1/10/2015||Mile||4:55.69||1st|
|Virginia Tech Invitational||1/16/2015||1000||2:43.03||1st|
|Virginia Tech Invitational||1/17/2015||400||53.68||1st|
|Armory Track Invitational||1/31/2015||800||2:02.78||6th|
That’s right: Goule didn’t win her conference meet the last time she won NCAA indoors, either. She wasn’t even the best 800 runner on her team heading into NCAAs in 2013 – Charlene Lipsey was.
That’s not to say that finishing second at conference again is an indicator that she’ll win NCAAs, merely that it’s not a disaster for Goule. Additionally, her 400 times in 2015 are substantially faster than in 2013, while her pre-NCAA season best of 2:02.78 is also better than it was two years ago. She will still be a formidable foe for anyone to topple this weekend.
But, just as it is on the men’s side, the women’s 800 is deep this year. Seven women have broken 2:04 in 2015, the most since in the past six years (the TFRRS stats database only goes back to 2010) and runners like Green and hometown favorite Chrishuna Williams of Arkansas — who commandingly won SECs by 1.39 seconds in 2:02.95 — are more than capable of taking down Goule.
Green, of course, already beat Goule at ACCs. But the woman with the best shot to do it on Saturday may be Williams, who has improved rapidly as a senior in 2015. This time last year, Williams had never run an 800 in college. She spent the first two and a half years of her career as a 400 runner (she went out in the prelims in the 400 at NCAA indoors and ran the 400 leg of Arkansas’ victorious DMR) before running 2:09.59 in her first crack at the 800 in a home meet last April. She tried it again at another home meet in May, chopping almost three seconds off her pb (to 2:06.48) but chose to run the 400 at the NCAA West Preliminary Round, failing to advance to nationals (she still ran the 4×400 at NCAAs).
This year, Williams has still run the 400 (her sb of 53.28 is better than Goule’s) but her best event is now clearly the 800. She opened up with a 2:07.76 on January 9, but got down to 2:05.00 by the end of the month before using a monster 2+ second PR (!) to win SECs in 2:02.95. Williams may be at a disadvantage tactically since she’s a relative newbie to the event, but if she can run 2:02.xx from the front at NCAAs, it may not matter as that will likely get rid of most of the field. The days of Williams PR’ing by 2+ seconds are likely over, but she’s got tremendous potential in this event.
Ole Miss freshman Brooke Feldmeier, whom we raved about in our weekly recap last week, is another woman with great potential as she improved by almost a second to take second behind Williams at SECs after competing as a multi-eventer in high school. Her pb is only 2:04.34 though, so she may be a year away from competing with the big dogs at NCAAs.
Of the other sub-2:04 women in the field, Kaela Edwards of Oklahoma State and Sabrina Southerland of Georgetown both bear watching as both won their conference meets in the 1000 last weekend. #6 seed Elizabeth Whelan of UNC was only third at ACCs — though that’s still a pretty solid performance considering Green and Goule went 1-2. The one sub-2:04 woman who may be worried is Baylor’s Olicia Williams, as she was only second at Big 12s in the 800, losing to Oklahoma State’s Clara Nichols, who didn’t even qualify for NCAAs.
Finally, it’s worth noting that Chrishuna Williams, Olicia Williams and Southerland are all listed on their teams’ DMR squads, so each will have an extra race in her legs before Saturday’s 800 final.
LRC Prediction: Goule FTW.
We’ll give the nod to Goule based on experience and the fact she’s a sub-2 performer, but if Chrishuna Williams can get her tactics right, she’s a major threat to win this race. Williams certainly seems like the real deal at 800 but she’s never run in an individual final at NCAAs before. And don’t forget the sophomore Green. Green beat Goule at ACCs and has improved a ton from her 2:16 pb in HS in PA.
More: Discuss the 800 in our fan forum: 2015 NCAA indoor 800s- who you got?