NCAA DMR Previews: Edward Cheserek Leads The Oregon Men; Can The Arkansas Women Repeat At Home?

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By LetsRun.com
March 12, 2015

The 2015 NCAA Indoor Track & Field Championships will be held on Friday and Saturday at the University of Arkansas’ Randal Tyson Track Center.

To get you ready for the action, this week we’re 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 distance medley relays.

Other links are here:

*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

TV/Streaming: The meet will be streamed live on ESPN3.com

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NCAA distance predictions

Men’s DMR (Friday 10:20 p.m. ET)

     School                                                  Seed           
===============================================================================
  1  Georgetown                                           9:28.22 
     1) 186 Cole Williams JR            2) 185 Joseph White FR            
     3) 184 Ryan Manahan SO             4) 180 Amos Bartelsmeyer SO       
  2  Penn State                                           9:28.36 
     1) 435 Brannon Kidder JR           2) 438 Robert Rhodes JR           
     3) 440 Za'Von Watkins JR           4) 433 Robby Creese SR            
  3  Arkansas                                             9:28.37 
     1) 60 Austen Dalquist FR           2) 68 Jamarco Stephen FR          
     3) 67 Patrick Rono SR              4) 58 Kemoy Campbell SR           
  4  Virginia Tech                                        9:28.84 
     1) 600 Neil Gourley FR             2) 603 Prince Owusu-Mensah SR     
     3) 601 Patrick Joseph FR           4) 599 Thomas Curtin JR           
  5  Duke                                                 9:29.28 
     1) 132 Brian Schoepfer SR          2) 127 Brett Bofinger FR          
     3) 128 Henry Farley SR             4) 131 Nate McClafferty SR        
  6  Stanford                                             9:29.34 
     1) 476 Thomas Coyle SO             2) 480 Jackson Shumway SO         
     3) 477 Luke Lefebure JR            4) 478 Sean McGorty FR            
  7  Alabama                                              9:29.93 
     1) 23 Robbie Farnham-Rose SO       2) 25 Steven Gayle JR             
     3) 30 Jacopo Lahbi SO              4) 20 Matt Airola SR              
  8  Oklahoma State                                       9:30.65 
     1) 399 Fabian Clarkson JR          2) 405 Brandon Singleton FR       
     3) 400 Matthew Fayers FR           4) 403 Chad Noelle JR             
  9  Villanova  'B'                                       9:31.36 
     1) 589 Jordan Williamsz JR         2) 588 Donald Urschel JR          
     3) 586 Elliot Slade FR             4) 587 Dusty Solis SR             
 10  Iowa State                                           9:31.85 
     1) 231 Edward Kemboi SR            2) 230 Derek Jones SO             
     3) 233 Patrick Peterson SR         4) 228 Brian Biekert SR           
 11  Virginia                                             9:32.36 
     1) 593 Mike Marsella SO            2) 590 Payton Hazzard SR          
     3) 591 Nathan Kiley SO             4) 592 Kyle King JR               
 12  Oregon  'B'                                          9:32.61 
     1) 422 Johnny Gregorek SR          2) 417 Marcus Chambers SO         
     3) 420 Niki Franzmair FR           4) 418 Edward Cheserek SO         

One (rather large) caveat about this preview: while the teams entered above are fixed, their lineups are not. According to NCAA rules, each school may switch out up to two athletes from the team that ran the qualifying time. As we pointed out in our earlier event previews, right now Kemoy Campbell (Arkansas) and Thomas Curtin (Virginia Tech) are both entered in the 3000, 5000 and DMR. With the DMR taking place just 35 minutes after the start of the 5000, it’s unlikely that Campbell or Curtin returns from that race to anchor the DMR and as a result, we doubt the Razorbacks or Hokies will contend for the win despite breaking 9:29 earlier in the season. So there will be some conjecture as to which teams run which athletes in this race as nothing is set in stone right now.

Cheserek is the only returner from Oregon's Penn Relays-winning DMR squad last year, but that should be enough for an NCAA title

Cheserek is the only returner from Oregon’s Penn Relays-winning DMR squad last year, but that should be enough for an NCAA title (courtesy Penn Relays)

Despite being seeded last, Oregon is the favorite. The Ducks ran the fifth-fastest NCAA DMR ever (9:27.02) — and the fastest this in the NCAA this season — at the MPSF Championships, but for qualifying purposes, they used the 9:32.61 the team ran at the Rod McCravy Memorial on January 23. Oregon’s decision to enter that specific squad — Johnny Gregorek at 1200, Marcus Chambers at 400, Niki Franzmair at 800 and Edward Cheserek at 1600 — suggests that is the team that will line up at NCAAs (as opposed to the MPSF squad, which had Cheserek at 1200, Chambers at 400, Gregorek at 800 and Eric Jenkins at 1600).

Gregorek was sixth in the mile last year indoors (side note: it’s very impressive that Columbia was able to get fifth in the DMR last year without running Gregorek, their top miler) and has knocked four seconds off his mile pb since then to get down to 3:57.47. Chambers has run 47.29 (converted to 47.40 since that mark came at altitude; he’s 68th on the NCAA list) and should be one of the better 400 legs in this race — only Arkansas, Virginia and Alabama have 400 runners who have run faster this season.

20-year-old freshman Nikolaus “Niki” Franzmair of Austria showed up in Oregon in at the end of December/beginning of January with a 1:46.78 outdoor pb. He ran 2:20.16 for 1k way back in 2012. He hasn’t lived up to those times – yet – but it should be pointed out he was running European junior xc in December. Nonetheless, he has had a very respectable season. He was second at the MPSF Championships and his 1:48.79 sb puts him fifth among prospective 800 legs in this race. Those are three above-average legs, and really that’s all you need when you’ve got Cheserek on the anchor. Cheserek has run 3:56.43 for the mile (faster than anyone in the NCAA this year save for Cristian Soratos, who is not in this race) and he’s shown time and again if he’s close to the lead at the end of the race, he’s almost impossible to beat. Last year at the Penn Relays, Cheserek got the baton a second off the lead and sat in second for the first 1300m of the anchor leg before destroying some great milers (Stanford’s Michael Atchoo, Kentucky’s Matt Hillenbrand and Villanova’s Jordy Williamsz) with a 53.9-second last 400 (LRC Edward Cheserek Wows The Penn Relays Crowd – Turns On Jets In Final 300 And Gives Oregon A Resounding Victory In Men’s DMR). That’s likely how this race is going to play out as well.

So is there any scenario in which Oregon loses? It’s unlikely that any team is good enough to open up an insurmountable lead, as Stanford did last year. But if we were drawing up a scenario to beat the Ducks, we’d try to get as big a lead as possible and put a fresh guy on the anchor leg with the hope that a slightly-fatigued Cheserek won’t be able to kick as well after overcoming the gap (Cheserek has the mile prelims three hours earlier). The key runner may be Gregorek (the likely 1200 leg for Oregon). If the leadoff leg goes fast and Gregorek is still feeling the mile prelims in his legs, Oregon could fall behind early, opening the door for some other teams. It will still be very hard to defeat Oregon, but there are a few schools that could theoretically do it:

Villanova
The Wildcats’ 9:27.04 at the Valentine Invitational is just .02 off the Ducks’ best this year, and with Jordan Williamsz, they have a very formidable potential anchor leg who isn’t entered in an individual event.Williamsz ran 3:36 before even enrolling at Nova (he ran 3:56 indoors last year (but has done only done relay duty this year except for winning the 3000 at Big East),  Assuming Villanova puts Williamsz on anchor, they can go with 4:01 man Dusty Solis or 3:58 miler Rob Denault at the 1200 and 1:48 man Elliot Slade on the 800. The problem is that their 400 leg, Donald Urschel, has an indoor pb of 48.74 (from two years ago) and it’s hard to see him gaining any ground on Oregon’s Chambers. Add in that Solis/Denault/Slade are essentially equal to Gregorek/Franzmair and the Wildcats probably won’t be able to put much ground on the Ducks through the first three legs. Thus it will likely be up to a fresh Williamsz to outkick Cheserek — a tough ask.

Georgetown
#1 on the seed list but only third based on fastest time run this season, it’s clear that the Hoyas believe they have a chance to win this race. They scratched their fastest miler this season, Amos Bartelsmeyer, from the open mile to keep him fresh for the anchor leg of this one and they’ve got a plethora of options to fill the other three spots. Cole Williams (1200), Joseph White (400) and Ryan Manahan (800) were the three other members of the qualifying team. Williams isn’t entered in an individual event at NCAAs, while White and Manahan are both in the open 800. White is likely locked in; he’s their fastest 400 man by far this year (48.11; #2 Daniel Anderson has run 49.28). Manahan, as their top 800 runner (1:47.34, #8 in the nation), is almost certain to run that leg for them as well, even with the 800 prelims coming 85 minutes earlier.

Williams’ spot is vulnerable, though. He’s run 1:48.62 for 800, but that’s just fourth-best on the team behind Manahan, White and Billy Ledder (1:48.20), who isn’t entered in an individual event. Williams’ best 1500/mile (he hasn’t run one this year) is just 3:46 in the 1500, so if Georgetown is looking for a miler to take the 1200 leg, it could go to 3:58 man Ahmed Bile (also in the open mile, the son of 1997 World Champion Abdi Bile) or 3:59 man Michael Lederhouse. And yes, if you’re following at home, Georgetown has four guys sub-4:00 in the mile this year and four guys sub-1:49 in the 800 (with Manahan as the only one who accomplished both). That kind of depth is great for a meet like the Penn Relays, where there is a 4×800, a 4xmile and a DMR. At NCAAs, it’s less important. DMRs normally come down to who has the best miler.

Given that Bartelsmeyer scratched from the open mile and Ledder scratched from the open 800, the Hoyas’ lineup seems likely to be Ledder-White-Manahan-Bartelsmeyer. That squad has a better chance to open up ground on Oregon than Villanova (the Ducks still have an advantage at 400, but Manahan could provide a nice gap with a big 800 leg) but Bartelsmeyer’s potential isn’t as great as Williamsz on the anchor leg.

Penn State
The Nittany Lions once again bring a stacked team to NCAAs and the most likely outcome is that they line up the same team that qualified them for this meet — Brannon Kidder at 1200, Robert Rhodes at 400, Za’Von Watkins at 800 and Robby Creese at 1600. There’s a debate as to whether Kidder (3:57.13, #3 NCAA) or Creese 3:57.86, #11 NCAA) should anchor, but the fact that Creese is doing the 3000 while Kidder is entered in the mile (with prelims on Friday) should keep Creese on the 1600 leg. Kidder (1:47.23/3:38.82) and Watkins (1:48.11) have the pbs to suggest they could create some room for Creese, and Rhodes (47.81 for 400 outdoors last year) should hold up better versus Oregon’s Chambers than the 400 legs of Villanova and Georgetown. Creese is a top-notch anchor (he won the mile and 3k at Big 10s last week) and if he has a gap of a few seconds on Cheserek, it’s not inconceivable to imagine him holding off King Ches.

Two years ago on this track, Kidder, Watkins and Creese took second in the DMR behind Princeton after Peter Callahan dusted the field over the final 200 (Brandon Bennett-Green, not Rhodes, was on the 400 leg). Penn State led through all three exchanges, but in the end Creese didn’t have enough to hold off Callahan. Now, the big difference between 2013 and 2015 is Creese was tired (he’d run the mile prelims) and Callahan was fresh. Here Cheserek will be tired and Creese fresh.

Will the motivation of that defeat and the fresh legs propel Penn State to its first-ever DMR win? Or will the Nittany Lions come up short?

LRC prediction: This race almost always comes down to the anchor leg. Cheserek is the best anchor but he’ll be tired and others fresh. A Duck loss would not shock us but we think Oregon is the pick.

 Women’s DMR (Friday 10:05 p.m. ET)

     School                                                  Seed           
===============================================================================
  1  Georgetown                                          10:57.71 
     1) 178 Hannah Neczypor JR          2) 176 Piper Donaghu FR           
     3) 179 Sabrina Southerland SO      4) 174 Katrina Coogan JR          
  2  Michigan State                                      10:57.80 
     1) 309 Katie Landwehr JR           2) 308 Tori Franklin SR           
     3) 313 Aubrey Wilberding SO        4) 310 Leah O'Connor SR           
  3  Baylor                                              10:58.52 
     1) 79 Mariah Kelly SR              2) 77 Kiana Hawn FR               
     3) 84 Olicia Williams JR           4) 80 Maggie Montoya SO           
  4  New Mexico                                          11:01.44 
     1) 347 Calli Thackery SO           2) 348 Holly VanGrinsven JR       
     3) 345 Sophie Connor JR            4) 346 Sammy Silva SR             
  5  Notre Dame                                          11:01.59 
     1) 382 Jessica Harris FR           2) 379 Margaret Bamgbose JR       
     3) 383 Samantha Murray FR          4) 378 Danielle Aragon JR         
  6  Arkansas                                            11:02.80 
     1) 51 Diane Robison SR             2) 48 Sparkle McKnight SR         
     3) 55 Chrishuna Williams SR        4) 52 Dominique Scott SR          
  7  Stanford                                            11:02.98 
     1) 472 Jessica Tonn SR             2) 468 Olivia Baker FR            
     3) 471 Claudia Saunders SO         4) 469 Elise Cranny FR            
  8  Michigan  'B'                                       11:03.23 
     1) 303 Shannon Osika JR            2) 300 Maya Long JR               
     3) 304 Danielle Pfeifer JR         4) 298 Brook Handler SR           
  9  North Carolina St.                                  11:04.12 
     1) 371 Megan Rempel FR             2) 369 Tiana Patillo SO           
     3) 366 Kenyetta Iyevbele SR        4) 365 Samantha George SO         
 10  Villanova                                           11:04.29 
     1) 581 Angel Piccirillo JR         2) 579 Sidney Hayes FR            
     3) 580 Kelsey Margey JR            4) 582 Stephanie Schappert SR     
 11  Florida State                                       11:04.53 
     1) 164 Chelsea Jarvis FR           2) 168 Helene Swanepoel FR        
     3) 165 Sydnee Over SO              4) 167 Colleen Quigley SR         
 12  Washington                                          11:05.38 
     1) 608 Eleanor Fulton JR           2) 613 Gianna Woodruff SR         
     3) 610 Baylee Mires JR             4) 609 Maddie Meyers SO

While we can’t base our predictions solely on seed times, it’s generally a good thing to sit atop the NCAA list. That’s especially true in the women’s DMR, as three of the past four champions have entered seeded #1 (none of the past four champs have been seeded #1 on the men’s side). So Georgetown, thanks to its 10:57.71 at the Penn State National on January 30, appears to be in good position.

On paper, the Hoyas, along with Michigan State and Baylor, are a cut above the rest of the field (all three have run 10:58.52 or faster; #4 New Mexico is almost three seconds back at 11:01.44). Georgetown and Michigan State each have one athlete doubling back; Baylor has two (assuming they run the same squads that qualified): 1200 leg Mariah Kelly for Baylor (mile), 800 legs Sabrina Southerland for Georgetown (800) and Olicia Williams for Baylor (800), and 1600 leg Leah O’Connor for Michigan State (mile). That presents a problem for the Bears as Kelly and Williams are the strength of their team — anchor Maggie Montoya has a mile pb of 4:40, not good enough to run away from Georgetown’s Katrina Coogan or O’Connor (even if she is tired).

Scott and Arkansas are trying to become the first team since Tennessee in 2009-10 to repeat

Scott and Arkansas are trying to become the first team since Tennessee in 2009-10 to repeat in the DMR

In reality, there are three teams with a chance to win it, but the third isn’t Baylor; it’s Arkansas. The defending champs have only run 11:02.80 this year, over five seconds slower than they did in 2014. But that 11:02 came from the Rod McCravy Memorial on January 23 (a race Arkansas won by over five seconds) and it was good enough to get Arkansas into the NCAA meet, which, in this case, is really all that matters.

Though half the title-winning squad (Grace Heymsfield and Stephanie Brown) is gone, this Razorbacks team is might be even better. Dominique Scott remains the anchor and she’s a faster miler than she was a year ago (4:32 vs. 4:36). Chrishuna Williams theoretically should move from the 400 leg to the 800 leg — which will help since she’s currently second in the NCAA at 2:02.95. But how the Razorbacks handled their entries in the mile suggests that Williams — or one of Arkansas’ three other sub-54 women — might be actually be handling 400 duties. Therese Haiss (4:36.31 mile, #11 NCAA) and Jessica Kamilos (4:36.56, #13) both scratched from consideration from the open mile (despite running qualifying times). That means that either one or both are injured (unlikely since both competed at SECs) or Arkansas is planning on using them both in the DMR. With Scott not slated to run until Saturday’s 3000, it would seem likely she will still anchor the DMR, and if that’s the case, the 800 and 1200 legs are the only logical places for Kamilos and Haiss. It’s possible Scott won’t run the DMR so she can run the 3000 fresh but that seems unlikely. If Haiss and Kamilos both wind up running the DMR, it’s likely to reduce the strain on Williams, who only moved up to the 800 full-time this year and would be faced with the task of three 800s in two days (800 prelims, DMR, 800 final).

The simple truth is this: whoever lines up for Arkansas in this race will be very good and the Hogs should be capable of much better than the 11:02 they ran in January.

O’Connor is the most important athlete in this race. If she was fresh, we’d probably pick the Spartans, given that she split a reported 4:26 at Big 10s to propel the Spartans to a 10:57.80 clocking, well ahead of runner-up Michigan (11:02.57). But O’Connor has the mile prelims earlier in the day (the mile starts at 7 p.m. ET, the DMR at 10:05) whereas Coogan and Scott will be fresh. In a vacuum, O’Connor is probably the best miler of the three, but she may be vulnerable after the mile prelims as Coogan (4:13 1500 p; 4:36 this year indoors) and Scott (4:32 this year) are both very strong anchors. It may be especially tough if she has to make up significant ground, and that’s a possibility. Take a look at the prospective first three legs for Georgetown, MSU and Arkansas:

Leg Georgetown Arkansas Michigan St.
1200 Hannah Neczypor (2:08/2:47 1k/4:21 1500) Therese Haiss (2:07/4:36) Katie Landwehr (2:54 1k/4:45 mile)
400 Piper Donaghu (1:15.20 500) Taylor Ellis-Watson (51.72) Tori Franklin (53.47 outdoors)
800 Sabrina Southerland (2:03) Chrishuna Williams (2:02) Aubrey Wilberding (2:06)

That’s an ideal team for Arkansas — if they shift Williams to the 400 and bring in Kamilos, they likely wind up somewhere between Georgetown and Michigan State. But the point is, it’s more likely that O’Connor inherits deficit of a second or two than a lead of a second or two.

One more thing: if Michigan State takes home the DMR, the Spartans will become just the second women’s school to win NCAAs in cross country and the DMR in the same academic year, joining Villanova in 2010-11 and 1994-95. (Bonus fact: in each of those years, Villanova also had the individual XC champ as the anchor of its DMR — Sheila Reid in 2010-11 and Jen Rhines in 1994-95). Four men’s schools have accomplished the feat: Oregon in 2008-09 (Galen Rupp won the individual XC title and anchored the DMR), Arkansas in 1993-94, UTEP in 1976-77 and 1975-76 and Villanova in 1967-68.

Apart from Georgetown, MSU and Arkansas, Florida State and Stanford could also threaten in a slow race because of Colleen Quigley (4:29 mile, NCAA leader) and Elise Cranny (4:10 1500 pb), their terrific anchor legs. Quigley will be coming back from the mile prelims while Cranny is fresh. Stanford is seeded seventh and FSU (which lost its coach, Karen Harvey, after ACCs) 11th, so the strategy from the top teams should just be to make the first three legs honest, keeping Stanford and FSU out of it. Generally the women’s DMR goes pretty fast at NCAAs (if you throw out last year’s race at altitude, the previous five editions averaged a 10:65.71 winning time) so it would be a surprise to see the Cardinal and Seminoles in contention at the final exchange. But if they are, Quigley and Cranny are both capable of winning this thing for their schools.

LRC prediction: Overall, it’s very difficult to project this race. You can make a compelling case for Georgetown, Michigan State and Arkansas. Since the race figures to be tight, it comes down to the best anchor leg, and given that O’Connor will have already raced that day, we think that hands the advantage to Scott, who will be running on her home track. Hogs FTW.

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