June 8, 2015
The women’s long-distance races at the 2015 NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships are full of past champions — the women’s 5,000 alone has five former NCAA champs in the field. Two of them — 2014 10,000 champ Emma Bates and 2015 indoor 3,000 champ Dominique Scott — will be going for the 5,000/10,000 double, a feat only achieved by four women in history (most recently by Lisa Koll in 2010). Of the two races, the 5,000 is certainly the marquee women’s distance event as NCAA indoor champ/indoor collegiate record holder Emily Sisson takes on Bates, Scott, NCAA XC champ Kate Avery, NCAA 1500 champ Shelby Houlihan and NCAA leader Jessica Tonn. That’s a fitting field for the final individual event of the meet on Saturday afternoon.
Below, we give you the start lists and preview each event in detail.
Women’s 10,000 (Thursday, 9:38 p.m. ET): NCAA Champs Dominique Scott and Kate Avery Will Clash
Entries (2014 finish in parentheses)
|Molly Seidel||JR||Notre Dame||33:38.48||33:38.48|
|Emily Stites (10)||JR||William & Mary||33:47.27||32:41.55|
|Margo Malone (19)||JR||Syracuse||33:49.45||32:29.89|
|Katie Gillespie||SR||West Virginia||33:56.69||33:45.56|
|Megan Curham (11)||SO||Princeton||34:14.85||33:24.79|
|Joanna Thompson||SR||NC State||34:19.72||33:07.27|
|Hannah Everson||JR||Air Force||34:23.52||34:23.52|
|Alice Wright||FR||New Mexico||34:25.04||32:56.33|
|Emma Bates (1)||SR||Boise State||34:29.05||32:13.28|
|Amber Eichkorn||JR||South Dakota||34:32.12||34:12.98|
|Elvin Kibet (4)||SR||Arizona||34:25.26||32:40.22|
|Hillary Montgomery||SR||Texas A&M||34:37.62||33:34.58|
|Katy Moen (12)||SR||Iowa State||34:41.92||33:09.63|
Barring an upset, this race is going to come down to Dominique Scott of Arkansas, the top seed and eighth-fastest woman all-time in the NCAA, and defending champ Emma Bates of Boise State, the #2 seed and tenth-fastest woman all-time in the NCAA. Just five other women in the field have broken 33:00, and none are within 15 seconds of Scott/Bates. Tennessee’s Chelsea Blaase (10th at NCAA XC) has a shot to challenge them if everything goes perfectly, as does ACC champ Margo Malone of Syracuse, but in reality Scott and Bates are on a different level than the rest of the field.
If that’s the case, which of the two big guns is the favorite?
The Case for Bates
1) She’s the defending champ — and she’s better in 2015 than she was in 2014
Bates’ PRs in 2014: 15:33.42 and 32:20.83
Bates’ PRs in 2015: 15:32.46 and 32:13.28
2) Strength is her strength
The longer the race, the better Bates gets. She’s finished second and third at the last two NCAA XC Championships, was third in the 10,000 in 2013 and the 10,000 champ last year.
3) She’s very consistent at NCAAs
Bates, who didn’t run indoors (out of eligibility), hasn’t finished lower than fourth at any NCAA Championships since 2013 outdoors, when she wasn’t yet at the level she’s at now (and she still managed third in the 10,000 and seventh in the 5,000).
The Case for Scott
1) She has the speed advantage
Scott and Bates’ seasons have played out very similarly. Look what they did at the two Stanford meets:
Scott: 32:11.60 for 10,000 at Stanford Invitational; 15:32.55 for 5,000 at Payton Jordan
Bates: 32:13.28 for 10,000 at Payton Jordan; 15:32.45 for 5,000 at Stanford Invitational
However, they also raced head-to-head in the 1500 at Mt. SAC on April 17 and Scott beat Bates convincingly in that race, 4:12.16 to 4:16.37. More evidence of Scott’s superior speed: she won the SEC 1500 title, defeating Mississippi State’s Rhianwedd Price, who has run 4:10.95 this year (#1 in the NCAA). Bates also ran the 1500 at her conference meet, but she was only fourth at the Mountain West Championships in San Diego, losing to New Mexico’s Calli Thackery (4:15.41 this year, #18 in the NCAA), Fresno State’s Annemarie Schwanz (4:20.33, #56) and New Mexico’s Tamara Armoush (4:22.85, #112). Bates was over three seconds back of the winner in a slow race (Thackery ran 4:29.97 to Bates’ 4:33.08) and she wasn’t entered in any other event at the meet.
In the 10,000 at NCAA last year, Bates was able to outkick UAB’s Elinor Kirk for the title, but that came in a fast race and Kirk is no Dominique Scott. Kirk never won an NCAA title and she is over three seconds slower than Scott at 1500. Scott anchored Arkansas’ winning DMR at NCAAs in each of the past two years; there’s no way Bates could have done that.
2) Scott is on fire in 2015
Scott has run PRs at every distance from 1500 to 10,000 this year, including a sparkling 8:55.19 to win NCAAs in the 3,000 indoors and that 32:11 in the 10,000 at Stanford, knocking 1:40 off her previous best. She was the star of the meet at NCAA indoors, pulling off the DMR/3k double to lead Arkansas to its first NCAA title on her home track (to top it off, she also got engaged that weekend) and she’s carried over her spectacular form to outdoors. Normally a strength-based runner like Bates would try to run the kick out of Scott, and while she could try that strategy, it’s less effective when the woman you’re trying to drop has a faster 10,000 pb than you.
Bates always brings it at NCAAs, but one of the biggest rules when picking races is, all else being equal, go with the runner with the better kick. That’s most definitely Dominique Scott.
Two other runners to watch out for: Oregon’s Waverly Neer and Molly Grabill. The Ducks figure to be in a dogfight for their first outdoor title in 30 years; every point is valuable for them. Neer, in particular, is a wild card. The Columbia transfer ran her first-ever 10,000 at Pac-12s and came through with a huge performance, finishing second behind only Stanford’s Jessica Tonn (who isn’t running the 10,000 at NCAAs). Grabill was fourth. Neer is certainly better than her 34:03 PR indicates and will be counted on here to generate points for the Ducks. If she and Grabill can both finish in the top 8, that will boost Oregon’s chances at the team title.
Likewise, Scott will have extra incentive for victory. Arkansas is one of the teams projected to be in the battle with Oregon for the team title and an extra two points (the difference between first and second) could be huge.
LRC prediction: 1. Scott 2. Bates 3. Blaase
Women’s 5,000 (Saturday, 7:00 p.m. ET): Five NCAA Champs Will Face Off In SIngle Race
Entries (2014 finish in parentheses)
|Kate Avery (8)||JR||Iona||15:45.59||15:25.63|
|Liv Westphal||JR||Boston College||15:48.65||15:31.62|
|Dominique Scott (6)||JR||Arkansas||15:50.07||15:32.55|
|Emma Bates (4)||SR||Boise State||15:52.74||15:32.46|
|Calli Thackery||JR||New Mexico||15:53.26||15:42.57|
|Rachele Schulist (9)||SO||Michigan State||15:53.29||15:36.33|
|Shelby Houlihan||SR||Arizona State||15:54.21||15:54.21|
|Tori Gerlach||JR||Penn State||15:58.79||15:58.79|
|Dana Giordano (22)||JR||Dartmouth||16:01.57||15:53.96|
|Tessa Murray||SR||Boise State||16:02.04||16:02.04|
|Jessica Tonn (13)||SR||Stanford||16:04.31||15:18.85|
|Erika Kemp||SO||NC State||16:05.66||15:57.84|
|Annie LeHardy||SR||North Carolina||16:08.88||15:52.65|
|Elizabeth Chikotas||FR||Penn State||16:09.26||16:05.46|
|Maria McDaniel||FR||Western Michigan||16:13.99||16:13.95|
Returners from NCAA indoors:
1. Emily Sisson, Providence 15:32.15
8. Sandie Raines, Texas 15:55.59
9. Liv Westphal, Boston College 16:00.56
14. Tansey Lystad, Portland 16:19.50
15. Molly Grabill, Oregon 16:26.38
This is the distance race of the meet on the women’s side. The field contains five women who have won NCAA titles — at five different distances! And yet it’s possible that none of those women will be your champion as Stanford’s Jessica Tonn is the NCAA outdoor leader by over six seconds after her 15:18.85 clocking at Payton Jordan. Obviously our 5,000 predictions would be more accurate if we made them after the 10,000, as we’d have a better read on where exactly Scott and Bates stand. But we’ve still got plenty to go off, so let’s dig into the analysis.
Emily Sisson, senior, Providence
Sisson didn’t run XC last fall, but she’s still put together an all-time great senior season and can give it the perfect ending with an NCAA title in Eugene. Between indoors and outdoors, she’s written her name into the NCAA’s all-time top 10 at three different distances (3k, 5k and 10k), including an indoor collegiate record (non-oversize tracks) at 5,000. She destroyed everyone at NCAA indoors in the 5,000 (though that race was against a much weaker field — Tonn, Scott, Bates, Kate Avery and Shelby Houlihan all skipped that race) and that, coupled with her collegiate record, made her the favorite heading into the outdoor season.
She’s done nothing to lose that status. At Payton Jordan, Sisson ran the fourth-fastest NCAA 10,000 ever (31:38.03). One week later, she lapped all but one runner in the field to win the Big East 5,000 in 15:40.64. Her 15:12.22 pb is over 12 seconds better than anyone else in the field, save Tonn, and she’s still got her by 6+ seconds.
Sisson is no lock. We confidently predicted a win by Abbey D’Agostino in this race last year and she didn’t even finish in the top two. Sisson hasn’t raced most of her rivals in this race so far and her mile pb (4:38.49) isn’t terrific for a stud 5k runner. But Sisson can answer those concerns: she’s 2-0 against Avery this year (defeating her in the 3k at Millrose in February and the 10k at Payton Jordan) and her mile pb is two years old because she just doesn’t race the 1500/mile very often. The biggest threat to Sisson is a kicker like Scott (who is the only woman in this field to beat her in 2015, defeating her in the 3k at NCAA indoors) but Scott will be coming off the 10k two days earlier while Sisson will be fresh.
The Top Challengers
Kate Avery, junior, Iona
After a dominant win at NCAA XC, many expected Avery to roll through the competition on the track in 2015, but that has not been the case. She has still run very well this season — it’s hard to complain about PRs at 3k, 5k and 10k (like Sisson, the 3k and 10k marks were top-10 all-time NCAA) — but Avery has been beatable, losing to Sisson at 3,000 indoors and 10,000 outdoors.
But that’s the worst you can say about Avery — that she’s lost to a total stud twice. Other than that, she’s undefeated against collegiate competition dating back to June 2014 and her 15:25.63 sb at Payton Jordan ranks second in the NCAA outdoors behind only Tonn. Avery skipped NCAA indoors to run the European Indoor Championships, so we didn’t get to see her take on the Sisson with a title on the line, but we’ll get that showdown on Saturday. She also has 4:15 1500 speed, though like Sisson she’s more of a strength-oriented runner (that 4:15 is from three years ago).
To this point in her career, Avery’s track performances (best finish of 8th at NCAAs) don’t quite stack up to her cross country accomplishments (3rd in ’13, 1st in ’14). She can change that this weekend, and based on her results so far in 2015, a top-four finish — and perhaps better — appears likely for the 23-year-old Brit.
Dominique Scott, junior, Arkansas
On paper, Sisson is 20 seconds faster than Scott over 5,000 meters, but Scott has much better closing speed and her chances to win grow the slower the pace gets. Scott also had no problem dropping Sisson at NCAA indoors in the 3k (she won in 8:55.19; Sisson was third in 9:01.16) and though Sisson was doubling back from the 5k, Scott was doubling back from the DMR so the two were on even footing, more or less.
If Sisson decides to hammer from the gun, Scott may be in trouble, especially if she has to work hard in the 10,000 on Thursday. But if Scott wins the 10,000 easily and the 5,000 goes tactical, she may be the one to bet on.
Jessica Tonn, senior, Stanford
At the end of the 2014 season, many expected a woman from Stanford to be in contention for the 2015 NCAA 5,000 title. Aisling Cuffe, who set the Stanford school record at 15:11.13, was last year’s NCAA runner-up and the presumptive favorite after ’14 champ Marielle Hall‘s graduation. Cuffe went down with an injury at the start of the cross country season and hasn’t raced at all this year, but Tonn has filled her shoes ably, running an NCAA-leading 15:18.85 at Payton Jordan and winning the 10,000 at Pac-12s. Though she’s the only one of the main contenders without an NCAA title (she was fifth in the 3k indoors), 15:18 is very quick; at the very least, she’ll be tough to drop.
Slightly Longer Shots
Emma Bates, senior, Boise State
Bates falls into this category for the same reason we favor Scott over her in the 10,000 — her speed just isn’t quite as good as Scott’s, plus she’ll be tired. 4:16 isn’t slow for a 1500 PR — it’s better than Sisson and Tonn’s PRs — but factor in that Bates is doubling back from the 10k while Sisson and Tonn are fresh and we give them the edge. If Bates does managed to win the 10,000 though, she could be a threat here. After all, she is the top returner (fourth last year).
Shelby Houlihan, senior, Arizona State
Houlihan is better-known as a 1500 runner, and as the defending NCAA 1500 champ, that’s definitely where her strength lies. But she’s also won the last two Pac-12 titles in the 5,000, and last year she defeated Cuffe in that race less than a month before Cuffe took second at NCAAs.
The issue working against Houlihan is that she’ll be doubling back from the 1500. Good luck pulling that off – Sheila Reid is the only woman in NCAA history to win both events at the same meet. It’s worth noting that the it’s actually interesting to pull of this year than last even though this year only the women will be competing on Saturday. Last year, the women’s 5000 final was 1:05 after the start of the 1500 final. This year, they are 1:45 apart.
That kind of same-day double has proved too much for Houlihan in the past. In 2014, she was third at NCAA indoors in the mile but was just 14th in the 3,000 a few hours later. This year, she was second in the mile at NCAA indoors but just eighth in the 3,000. Houlihan has a non-zero chance of winning this race, but to do it will require a heroic effort.
LRC prediction: 1. Sisson 2. Scott 3. Tonn
Discuss this meet in our world famous messageboard: Official 2015 NCAA Outdoor T&F Live Discussion Thread.