2016 NCAA Outdoor Women’s Mid-D/Steeple Preview: Can Raevyn Rogers (800), Marta Freitas (1,500) & Courtney Frerichs (3,000 SC) Deliver As Favorites?

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By LetsRun.com
June 7, 2016

The 2016 NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships start on Wednesday in Eugene, Oregon, with the men’s competition taking place on Wednesday and Friday and the women’s on Thursday and Saturday. We’ll be previewing all the mid-d/distance events before the meet. Below you’ll find our previews of the women’s 800 (Oregon’s Raevyn Rogers goes for the repeat) 1500 (Mississippi State’s Marta Freitas vs. indoor mile champ Kaela Edwards) and steeple (New Mexico’s Courtney Frerichs is the overwhelming favorite).

Schedule *TV/Streaming Information *Men’s Mid-D/Steeple Preview *Men’s 5k/10k Preview

Women’s 1,500 (prelims Thursday, 7:46 p.m. ET; final Saturday, 6:41 p.m. ET): NCAA Leader Marta Freitas of Mississippi State vs. Indoor Mile Champ Kaela Edwards

Entries (2015 finish in parentheses)

Marta Freitas (12)SRMiss. St.4:09.804:09.80Has run top 2 times in NCAA in ’16; SB is almost 3 secs better than anyone else
Shannon OsikaSRMichigan4:13.434:13.43Big 10 champ
Karisa NelsonSOSamford4:15.124:15.12 Won 1500 and was 2nd in 5k at Southern Conf Champs.
Devon HoppeSRMichigan4:15.234:15.23Big 10 800 champ
Stephanie Van PeltSRSt. John’s4:15.684:15.68 Big East runner-up.
Dani JonesFRColorado4:15.294:15.2949th at NCAA XC. 7th at Pac 12s in 1500.
Molly McNamaraSRStanford4:15.224:15.22 13th at Pac 12s.
Annie LeblancSROregon4:15.674:17.363rd at Pac-12s; also entered in 800
Katherine DelaneySRVanderbilt4:17.964:17.96 6th at SECs
Anna MaxwellSOWashington4:12.624:12.62 4th at Pac 12s in 1500, 5th in 5000.
Kaela EdwardsSOOkla. St.4:17.074:17.07NCAA indoor mile champ is not 100% — held out of Big 12s for “precautionary rest”
Emily Hosker-ThornhillSRNew Mexico4:18.554:18.55 3rd at Mountain West Champs.
Maddie AlmSRColorado4:17.834:17.83 11th at Pac 12s.
Amy-Eloise NealeSOWashington4:18.674:18.67 5th at Pac 12s.
Jaimie PhelanJRMichigan4:19.224:19.22Big 10 runner-up
Dana GiordanoSRDartmouth4:18.244:18.24Heps 1500/5k champ
Andrea KeklakJRGeorgetown4:17.634:18.414th indoors
Ffion PriceJRMiss. St.4:17.474:17.47Twin sister of ’15 NCAA champ Rhianwedd dind’t make the final of SECS.
Madison GrangerJRDuke4:18.674:18.67 4th in ACC 1500.
Alexandra LuckiSOMaryland4:20.164:20.16 8th at Big 10s.
Sophie ConnorSRNew Mexico4:14.034:14.03Mountain West 800 champ was 5th in NCAA indoor mile
Lilli BurdonFROregon4:18.334:18.33 6th at Pac 12s.
Annemarie SchwanzJRFresno St.4:14.894:14.89Mountain West champ
Elise Cranny (10)SOStanford4:10.954:16.37Pac-12 champ is top returner from ’15 (10th)

Returners from NCAA indoor mile final:
1. Kaela Edwards, Oklahoma State 4:35.62
4. Andrea Keklak, Georgetown 4:38.44
5. Sophie Connor, New Mexico 4:38.83

One woman has owned the NCAA in the 1,500 this spring, and it’s Mississippi State’s Marta Freitas. Freitas, a 22-year-old senior from Portugal, will be looking to become the second straight Bulldog to claim the title in this event, following Rhianwedd Price‘s victory a year ago (Price still has eligibility but redshirted this spring; her twin sister Ffion is in the field, however). Freitas, who was last in the 2015 NCAA final, broke out with a 2+ second PR of 4:10.98 last July to take 6th at the Euro U-23 Champs and after a low-key indoor season (she won SECs in the mile but didn’t qualify for NCAAs), she announced her presence with an NCAA-leading 4:11.52 at the Virginia Challenge on April 23. She then proceeded to win the SEC 1500 over Dominique Scott (a 4:08 1,500 performer) before running an NCAA leader (by over two seconds) of 4:09.80 at regionals.

Unlike the men’s side, where NCAA finals (particularly outdoor finals) tend to be super-tactical affairs, women’s 1500/mile finals are much more likely to go fast. The winning time indoors (4:35) this year wasn’t blazing, but last year’s outdoor (4:09.56) and indoor (4:27.18) finals were extremely quick. That doesn’t guarantee that Saturday’s final will be won in the 4:09-4:11 range, but considering Freitas has the two fastest times in the country this year and her SB is almost three seconds better than anyone else’s in the field, it may be in her best interest to make it quick.

Freitas has a solid 800 pb (2:03.42) but if she doesn’t take it out, she risks a repeat of the NCAA indoor final, where UNH’s Elinor Purrier (the top seed going in) led from the front but kept it slow enough for kickers Kaela Edwards of Oklahoma State and Angel Piccirillo of Villanova to blow by her at the end. Piccirillo isn’t running this spring, but Edwards is and she might be the top threat to Freitas.

Edwards won the mile indoors in March

Edwards won the mile indoors in March.

We say “might” because Edwards isn’t 100% healthy. Edwards began the outdoor season well, taking down Oregon’s NCAA 800 champ Raevyn Rogers at Mt. SAC on April 16 (the day after running 4:17 for 1500) and she split 2:00.83 on the 4 x 800 at Penn Relays on April 30. But she didn’t race again until regionals, as OK State coach Dave Smith held her out of Big 12s for “precautionary rest.”

However, if anyone in the field was prepared for an injury, it’s Edwards. As a former 800 runner, she doesn’t run much mileage anyway (40-45 mpw) and, as she told us after winning her NCAA mile title indoors, would often supplement that with up to 150 minutes of cross training per week — even while healthy. When we asked Smith for a comment on her health for this meet, he quipped, “”She’s a cross training world champion.”

Other women worth watching include Georgetown’s Andrea Keklak and New Mexico’s Sophie Connor, who were 4th and 5th indoors. Stanford’s Elise Cranny ran 4:10 as a high schooler two years ago, taking 4th at World Juniors, but her best time in two years at Stanford is only 4:14. She was hurt last fall in XC and has done all right in 2016 (she ran leadoff for Stanford’s 3rd place DMR at NCAA indoors and won Pac-12s in the 1500) but hasn’t done anything to suggest she’ll win this race.

LRC Prediction: Edwards remains dangerous, even if she’s missed some time, as she has serious wheels. No other collegian has come close to beating Raevyn Rogers at 800 this year yet Edwards managed to do it on tired legs. But Freitas is our pick. If she could run 4:09 at regionals, how much faster can she go when it actually matters in Eugene?

Women’s 800 (prelims Thursday, 9:14 p.m. ET; final Saturday, 7:47 p.m. ET): Oregon’s Raevyn Rogers Goes For The Repeat

Entries (2015 finish in parentheses)

Anima BanksSRDuke2:02.492:02.498th at NCAA indoors
Hanna Green (3)JRVa. Tech2:01.172:02.45ACC champ was 3rd last year, runner-up indoors
Emma KeenanSOGeorgetown2:03.332:03.33 4th placer at Big East 800 ran on NCAA winning DMR team indoors.
Cecilia BarowskiSRPrinceton2:02.142:02.626th indoors
Siofra Cleirigh ButtnerSOVillanova2:03.522:03.52Big East champ anchored Nova to victory in Penn 4×1500
Sabrina SoutherlandJRGeorgetown2:03.742:03.74 Qualifier indoors was a DNS in Big East 800 final.
Sarah SchmidtFRGeorgetown2:01.442:03.78German didn’t run Big East champs but ran sb to make it as time qualifier to Eugene.
Ariah GrahamJRKentucky2:03.242:03.24SEC champ
Aubrey WilberdingJRMich. St.2:04.082:04.08 Failed to score individually at Big 10 indoors or outdoors.
Shea CollinsworthJRBYU2:03.212:03.215th indoors
Morgan SchuetzJRLSU2:02.292:02.29#2 time in ’16 among entrants but only 3rd at SECs
Ce’aira BrownSRHampton2:02.822:02.827th indoors
Claire MooneySRSt. John’s2:05.082:05.08 3rd in 400 at Big East.
Raevyn Rogers (1)SOOregon1:59.712:02.41Reigning NCAA indoor/outdoor champ is favored here again
Claudia Saunders (2)SRStanford2:00.632:03.73Runner-up last 2 years but didn’t make it out of prelims indoors + only 4th at Pac-12s
Annie LeblancSROregon2:01.872:03.62Pac-12 runner-up didn’t make it out of prelims indoors; also entered in 1500
Baylee MiresSRWashington2:03.912:03.913rd Pac-12s
Olicia WilliamsSRBaylor2:02.262:04.12Big 12 champ was 3rd indoors in ’15 but didn’t make final outdoors in ’15 or indoor in ’16
Brooke FeldmeierSOOregon2:03.132:06.22 SEC champion last year in 2:03 for Ole Miss; failed to make final at Pac 12s this year for Oregon.
Savannah Camacho (8)JROkla. St.2:02.842:05.73 Scorer last year was 4th at NCAA indoors but only 7th at Big 12s outdoors.
Olivia BakerSOStanford2:01.022:01.02NCAA leader by almost 1 second; 3rd indoors, won 400 at Pac-12s
Katie WillardJRTexas A&M2:05.792:06.23 8th at SECs.
Jazmine FrayFRTexas A&M2:03.252:03.252nd at SECs
Mary Beth HamiltonJRTexas2:06.262:06.26 4th at Big 12s.

Returners from NCAA indoor final:
1. Raevyn Rogers, Oregon 2:04.68
2. Hanna Green, Virginia Tech 2:05.90
3. Olivia Baker, Stanford 2:06.08
4. Savannah Camacho, Oklahoma St. 2:06.47
5. Shea Collinsworth, BYU 2:06.57
6. Cecilia Barowski, Princeton 2:06.81
7. Ce’aira Brown, Hampton 2:06.87
8. Anima Banks, Duke 2:15.09

Rogers will go for NCAA title #3 this week

Rogers will go for NCAA title #3 this week.

Oregon sophomore Raevyn Rogers has won the past two NCAA titles in dominant fashion. Expect that to continue this week in Eugene. Though Rogers’ SB of 2:02.41 is only fourth in the country this year, her pb of 1:59.71 is almost a second faster than everyone else’s. Though she did lose to OK State’s Kaela Edwards at Mt. SAC, Rogers won NCAA indoors by over a second and showed similar form at Pac-12s last month, winning by 1.21 seconds in 2:02.41. With Rogers fully unleashed at NCAAs, it would be a surprise to see her lose.

But this is a deep field and the fight for first will be fierce should Rogers falter. All eight women from the NCAA indoor final return, led by Virginia Tech’s Hanna Green. Green has gradually improved her NCAA finish, going from 5th indoors in ’15 to 3rd outdoors to 2nd indoors this year, but she lost to NAIA runner Hannah Segrave and NC State’s Megan Moye back in April. Though she got back on track at ACCs, running 2:02.45 for the win, she may wind up just short at NCAAs again.

The biggest threats to Rogers are a pair of Stanford runners, sophomore Olivia Baker and senior Claudia Saunders. Baker, like Rogers, was an age-group phenom, taking silver at the World Youth Champs in the 400 in 2013 and bronze at the World Junior champs in the 400 in 2014. She’s made a very nice transition to the 800 as a collegian (though she still sprints — she ran a wind-aided 11.89 100 earlier this year), running 2:01.02 at Payton Jordan, the fastest time in this field by over a second. Baker didn’t race Rogers at Pac-12s (she won the 400 instead), so we don’t know how she stacks up against the champ. But like Rogers, Baker has excellent 400 speed (52.46 pb; Rogers’ best is 52.30) and could be primed for the same sort of breakout that Rogers enjoyed when she won NCAAs last June.

Saunders, based on her 2016 results, doesn’t seem like much of a threat; she was only 4th at Pac-12s and her SB of 2:03.73 ranks her 14th in the country. She didn’t even make it out of the prelims at NCAA indoors. But check out her last three seasons in the table below:

Indoor SB2:05.072:06.112:04.43
NCAA indoors800 leg of DMR (team 2nd)800 leg of DMR (team 2nd)800 (last in heat)
Outdoor SB (entering NCAAs)2:03.442:01.792:03.73
PAC-12 result4th, 2:08.894th, 2:05.174th, 2:04.88
Outdoor NCAA result2nd, 2:02.922nd, 2:00.63???

As you’ll notice, Saunders has a knack for performing her best at the NCAA outdoor championships as she’s PR’d in the final in this meet two years in a row. And just as in those two years, Saunders enters the meet off a fourth-place finish at Pac-12s. Given Saunders’ knack for coming up big when it matters most, it wouldn’t surprise us if she took second again (or even first), but we wouldn’t count on it. She was almost a second behind the top three women at Pac-12s (Rogers, Oregon’s Annie Leblanc and Washington’s Baylee Mires) and all three of those runners are entered in the 800 at NCAAs. Leblanc, a 2:01.87 performer, is a strong runner but doesn’t have much chance to win here as she’s also entered in the 1500 (Oregon is trying to wring every point out of her in order to defend its team title). She performed that double admirably at Pac-12s (2nd 800, 3rd 1500), but it will be tougher in Eugene. Even if she makes both finals, she could be spent by the 800 final (66 minutes after the 1500 final) as it would be her fourth race in three days.

Georgetown’s Sarah Schmidt, a freshman from Germany, was the European junior silver medallist last year and has the 5th best pb at 2:01.44. However, Schmidt didn’t even run Big East this spring and was only a time qualifier for Eugene.

LRC Prediction: Baker is a rising star (her 2:01 at Payton Jordan was a three-second PR) but Rogers has been dominant for the past year and we’re not betting against her on her home track. Perhaps the bigger question is can Rogers return to her sub-2:00 form of 2015 and challenge for a spot on this summer’s Olympic team?

Women’s 3,000 steeplechase (prelims Thursday, 8:02 p.m. ET; final Saturday, 6:54 p.m. ET): New Mexico’s Courtney Frerichs is The Overwhelming Favorite

Entries (2015 finish in parentheses)

Courtney Frerichs (2)SRNew Mexico9:29.319:29.31Only J. Simpson + E. Coburn have run faster as collegians
Elinor Purrier (7)SOUNH9:47.179:47.177th last year; 3rd in NCAA indoor mile
Cornelia GriescheSRMiss. St.9:51.669:51.66 SEC runnerup was 125th at NCAA xc.
Sofie GalleinSRE. Michigan9:52.669:58.61 Mid-American con runner-up made NCAAs last year as well.
Paige KoubaSRHarvard9:50.219:50.21Heps champ
Katie LandwehrSRMich. St.9:58.879:58.87Big 10 champ
Laura Rose Donegan (10)JRUNH9:58.959:59.2210th last year
Antonia HehrFRMiss. St.9:59.329:59.32 5th placer at SECs.
Danielle WinslowSRBoston College9:48.819:48.81ACC champ
Liz WeilerSRToledo9:59.739:59.73 4th at Mid-American conference
Brianna IlardaSOProvidence10:00.1210:00.12 Big East champ
Erin Teschuk (5)SRND St.9:40.0710:02.26Ran at Worlds in ’15 for Canada; 5th last year, 4th in NCAA indoor 3k
Ingeborg LoevnesJROkla. St.9:48.899:50.67 Big 12 champ, also 3rd in 1500.
Erin ClarkSOColorado9:48.729:48.72Pac-12 champ
Madelin TalbertSRLipscomb9:50.579:55.79 Just missed making final last year (13th).
Jessica KamilosSRArkansas9:48.169:48.16SEC champ
Bridget BlakeSOFla. St.10:07.8710:07.87 ACC runner-up.
Devin ClarkFRArkansas9:54.839:54.83 3rd at SECs
Charlotte ProuseFRWashington10:00.6710:00.67 3rd at Pac 12s
Shelby MillsJRGonzaga9:56.179:56.17 82nd at NCAA xc
Val ConstienSOColorado10:05.6510:05.65 4th at Pac 12s.
Erika BarrSRUC Davis10:08.6410:08.64 Big West Champ.
Minttu HukkaFRBoise St.9:56.5110:13.48 Mountain West runner-up
Kaila UrickSRMinnesota10:11.5410:11.54 6th at Big 10s

Frerichs, the runner-up a year ago behind Colleen Quigley, is the biggest favorite in any distance event at NCAAs this year. Here’s why:

  • She was second last year in a time that made her the fourth-fastest collegian of all time.
  • She ran great in cross country, finishing as the top runner (4th at NCAAs) on the greatest NCAA women’s XC team ever.
  • After skipping indoors (the UMKC transfer was out of eligibility) she opened her season with a 4:18.92 1500, a four-second pb.
  • She won the steeple at Payton Jordan in 9:29.31, making her the third-fastest collegiate steepler ever, behind only Jenny Simpson and Emma Coburn.
  • She’s the NCAA leader by 18 seconds.
  • She won her heat at regionals by 18 seconds.
After a stellar XC campaign, Frerichs will aim to close out her collegiate career with her first individual title

After a stellar XC campaign, Frerichs will aim to close out her collegiate career with her first individual title.

Frerichs looks unbeatable and has a real chance to break Simpson’s collegiate record of 9:25.54 if she goes after it — and we think she will as NCAA finals have produced five of the nine fastest performances in NCAA history.

The only bad news for Frerichs is that we haven’t been very good at forecasting this event in recent years. In 2014, we predicted Colorado’s Shalaya Kipp as the champion, only for her to finish 5th at Michigan State’s Leah O’Connor to pull the upset. The next year, we pegged O’Connor as the favorite to repeat but she was only third, losing to Quigley and Frerichs.

However, we feel very confident about Frerichs’ chances. She’s a bigger favorite than either Kipp or O’Connor was as the gap between her and the rest of the country this year (18 seconds) is massive. And even when Frerichs ran her 9:29, she wasn’t pushed at all as she won Payton Jordan by nine seconds. PRs are common at NCAAs as there are very few fast steeples during the regular season. So women like Elinor Purrier (9:47 pb, 3rd at NCAAs in the mile), Erin Teschuk (9:42/15:41 pbs, 4th at NCAAs in the 3k indoors, ran at Worlds last year for Canada in the steeple) and Erin Clark (won Pac-12s by 8 secs in 9:48, 5th in the 3k at NCAA indoors) all have the chance to notch big PRs in Eugene. But even if they do, it will be a huge task to catch Frerichs, and that’s before you factor in that Frerichs has a great chance to lower her PR as well and break the collegiate record.

LRC Prediction: The steeple has been tough to predict the past two years, but we see Frerichs doing what Coburn did in 2013 — running in the 9:20s at Payton Jordan and capping her collegiate career off with an NCAA title. Frerichs has a better chance of breaking the CR than losing this race.

Talk about the meet on our world famous fan forum / messageboard: MB: Official 2016 NCAA Women’s Outdoor Track and Field Discussion Thread.