NCAA Mile & 800 Finals Set – Josh Thompson Wants To Take Down Cheserek- “I respect the man, but I’m not afraid of him”

March 10, 2017

COLLEGE STATION, Texas — The men’s and women’s miles were the first track events at the NCAA Track and Field Championships and we recap them below, followed by the 800s.

Women’s mile: Favorites advance, but it wasn’t easy

The top five seeds all made it through to the final, including last year’s top two returners in Oklahoma State’s Kaela Edwards (first) and New Hampshire’s Elinor Purrier (third), but none of them had an easy go of it. The fastest woman to go home was Villanova’s Nicole Hutchinson (4:33.46 this year), who could only manage seventh in heat 2. Meanwhile Arkansas’ Therese Haiss, who was the second-to-last woman into the field, looked the best of anyone in winning the second heat in 4:38.53.

But they do not award style points or, more importantly, team points in the prelims. The women we highlighted in our preview — Edwards and Purrier along with Penn State freshman Danae Rivers and Villanova’s Siofra Cleirigh Buttner — are through and will run for an NCAA title on Saturday.

Heat 1

This one was fast throughout, with NC State’s Megan Moye and Samford’s Karisa Nelson pushing the pace, and both time qualifiers would wind up coming from this heat. Moye, however, ran out of steam late and would fall off on the final lap, leaving six women for four auto spots. Edwards was not well-positioned as she was shuffled back and only fifth at the bell, but she swung way wide on the final turn and came on strong to lock up the third auto spot behind Nelson and Washington’s Amy-Eloise Neale. Providence’s Millie Paladino outleaned Clemson’s Grace Barnett for the final auto spot, and Buttner (the #4 seed on paper) could only manage sixth, but it didn’t wind up mattering as both advanced on time. Nelson looked strong during the second half of the race and her 4:35.31 winning time was actually a three-second PR.

Heat 2

By 600 meters (1:52, compared to 1:44 in heat 1) it was clear that this was going to be the slow heat. The racing began in earnest with three laps to go when Arkansas’ Haiss took off and pushed the pace and at the bell, it looked to be five women battling for four spots — Haiss, Purrier, Rivers, Arkansas’ Nikki Hiltz and Notre Dame’s Jessica Harris. Harris wound up dropping back and it looked like the four remaining women would make it through, but Yale’s Frances Schmiede, who was sixth at the bell, about five meters off the lead group, was coming on very strong and threatening to run down Rivers for the final spot. It was not to be, however, as Rivers advanced to the final.

*NCAA Women’s mile results

Quick Take #1: Don’t read too much into the prelims

We picked Edwards for the win in our preview, and we stand by that prediction. She may not have cruised through, but her kick was there when she needed it and running for top four is very different than running to win. With that said, however, we were impressed by heat winners Haiss — who was only fifth at SECs — and Nelson, who both made strong moves and held them. One of them could surprise in tomorrow’s final, though after winning their heats today, they won’t be sneaking up on anyone.

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Men’s mile: Oregon Ducks Edward Cheserek & Matthew Maton look great to lead the qualifiers

If Oregon is going to win a fourth straight men’s team title, it needs to upset the form charts. One place for improvement is the men’s mile, where Matthew Maton was seeded 12th, and based on the way he ran today, he should score some points in tomorrow’s final. Edward Cheserek led all qualifiers with one of the easier 3:59.30’s you’ll ever see, but Maton had the second-fastest time in 3:59.73, controlling the second half of his heat before giving way to Cheserek on the bell lap.

Unlike the women’s prelims, some top seeds were eliminated as #3 Zach Perrin (3:56.36 seed, converted from altitude) and #5 seed Jonah Koech (3:57.30 seed, converted from altitude), the top returner from last year’s final (6th) both went home.

Heat 1

With three guys in this heat, Oregon wanted to make it fast and maximize its time qualifiers, so Tim Gorman went to the front early before giving way to Cheserek, who split 59.56 for the first 409. At halfway, Maton had taken over and the Ducks were running 1-2-3. But while Maton and Cheserek would hold those positions, Gorman fell back and would have to fight if he were to make the final. In the end, the auto qualifiers (Cheserek, Maton, OK State’s Josh Thompson and Virginia Tech’s Neil Gourley) broke away, leaving three guys to battle for fifth and sixth. Gorman, Koech and Cal’s Thomas Joyce were the three guys in question, and came across in a blanket finish. Joyce, who was only seventh at the bell, closed the best over the last lap and beat out Koech by an eyelash, 4:01.012 to 4:01.019, with Gorman just behind in 4:01.19.

With only two time qualifiers, it looked as if the order between Joyce and Koech wouldn’t matter — if the second heat went slow, they’d both make it on time, whereas if the second heat went fast, only one of them would. But in actuality, that wasn’t the case; each heat wound up producing one time qualifier, so Joyce’s lean wound up being decisive.

Heat 2

Just as Oregon did in heat 1, Colorado’s Ben Saarel and Zach Perrin got out hard early to chase the time qualifiers. But the pace slipped during the second half (the fifth lap was run in 31.38), meaning that it would come down to the wire to see if the heat would produce any time qualifiers. Perrin was third with 400 to go but he’d fade to last as Saarel and New Mexico’s Josh Kerr broke away up front. That left three guys kicking for the final two spots — Syracuse’s Adam Palamar — who had moved into position thanks to a bold inside pass on the backstretch — Middle Tennessee State’s Sampson Laari and Iona’s Liam Dee, who was charging hard on the outside of the homestretch. All three crossed within .02 of each other, Palamar and Dee grabbing the auto spots, but in the end it was irrelevant as Laari made it in on time.

Matthew Maton making the final was big for Oregon

Every point matters for Oregon, and getting Maton through to the final — where eight of 10 guys score — was huge. Cheserek will be expected to deliver 10 points, but if Maton, who looked smooth today, can finish in the top half of the field (which would net him four points at worst), that would be huge for Oregon. Though Maton was only the 12th seed on paper, it’s not like his making the final was some huge shock. After all, he was a sub-4:00 miler in high school.

*NCAA Men’s mile results

QT #2: Josh Thompson Going for the Win- “I respect the man, but I’m not afraid of him.”

Even though Oklahoma State’s Josh Thompson is facing off against King Cheserek, the OSU camp all week has made it known that Thompson has come to NCAAs to compete for the win. (See OSU coach Dave Smith: It’s no fun to lay up.”)

Thompson reiterated that’s the plan after the mile prelim, saying of the final, “I’m focused on winning and trying to run my race instead of theirs.” Asked what it would take to beat Cheserek he said, “Heart” and then added, “I respect the man, but I’m not afraid of him.”

As for his prelim, Thompson said, “It was pretty good. Felt smooth. I stayed relaxed.”

Cal’s Thomas Joyce


800s: The women’s race should be a classic, while Emmanuel Korir leads men’s qualifiers after not running for 3 weeks

Men’s 800

There were several notable casualties on the men’s side, but with nine sub-1:47 guys in the field, some studs were bound to be going home today. Virginia Tech’s Patrick Joseph had the #2 time in the country this year at 1:46.23 but fell during heat 1, ending his meet. Last year’s runner-up Eliud Rutto of Middle Tennessee State and Olympic Trials 4th placer Craig Engels of Ole Miss also went out, though Engels did come back to help Ole Miss win the DMR. Florida also lost a chance to raise its score in the team race as Andres Arroyo failed to advance. Arroyo, an Olympic semifinalist for Puerto Rico last year, has qualified for NCAA Indoors in the 800 four times but never advanced to the the final.

Heat 1 results

Pl Ln Athlete Affiliation Time 200m 400m 600m 800m
1 6 Joseph WHITE JR Georgetown 1:48.29 Q 26.03 [26.03] 54.09 [28.06] 1:21.96 [27.87] 1:48.29 [26.33]
2 3 Michael SARUNI FR UTEP 1:48.44 Q 26.27 [26.27] 54.44 [28.17] 1:22.30 [27.87] 1:48.44 [26.15]
3 4 Isaiah HARRIS SO Penn State 1:48.47 Q 26.32 [26.32] 54.13 [27.82] 1:22.13 [28.00] 1:48.47 [26.34]
4 8 Andres ARROYO SR Florida 1:48.57 26.22 [26.22] 54.22 [28.01] 1:22.18 [27.97] 1:48.57 [26.39]
5 1 Abraham ALVARADO SR BYU 1:49.25 26.12 [26.12] 54.10 [27.98] 1:22.03 [27.94] 1:49.25 [27.22]
6 5 Craig ENGELS SR Ole Miss 1:49.26 26.54 [26.54] 54.57 [28.04] 1:22.62 [28.05] 1:49.26 [26.65]
7 7 Avery BARTLETT SO Georgia Tech 1:49.58 26.78 [26.78] 54.78 [28.01] 1:22.33 [27.56] 1:49.58 [27.26]
8 2 Patrick JOSEPH JR Virginia Tech 1:59.76 30.65 [30.65] 57.10 [26.46] 1:27.20 [30.11] 1:59.76 [32.57]

Heat 2 results

Pl Ln Athlete Affiliation Time 200m 400m 600m 800m
1 1 Emmanuel KORIR FR UTEP 1:47.62 Q 25.47 [25.47] 52.35 [26.89] 1:20.17 [27.82] 1:47.62 [27.45]
2 6 Drew PIAZZA SR Virginia Tech 1:47.91 Q 25.37 [25.37] 52.28 [26.92] 1:19.96 [27.69] 1:47.91 [27.95]
3 7 Daniel KUHN JR Indiana 1:47.92 Q 25.60 [25.60] 52.77 [27.17] 1:20.41 [27.65] 1:47.92 [27.51]
4 5 Robert HEPPENSTALL SO Wake Forest 1:47.96 25.74 [25.74] 53.04 [27.30] 1:20.64 [27.60] 1:47.96 [27.33]
5 4 Blair HENDERSON SR LSU 1:48.23 25.50 [25.50] 52.46 [26.96] 1:20.22 [27.76] 1:48.23 [28.01]
6 3 Eliud RUTTO SR Mid. Tenn. State 1:48.41 25.95 [25.95] 52.05 [26.11] 1:19.92 [27.88] 1:48.41 [28.49]
7 8 Ryan MANAHAN SR Ole Miss 1:48.79 25.83 [25.83] 53.01 [27.19] 1:20.74 [27.73] 1:48.79 [28.06]
8 2 Carter LILLY JR Iowa 1:48.97 25.32 [25.32] 52.16 [26.85] 1:20.07 [27.91] 1:48.97 [28.91]

This was Emmanuel Korir’s first time on a track in three weeks

Korir picked up an ankle injury last month and as a result he’s been working out in the pool since then. We asked him when he was able to get back to working out on the track.

“I didn’t actually train on the land,” Korir said. “I was just training in the pool.”

That’s right. His first time on a track in three weeks was the NCAA Championships. And he won his prelim.

Korir said that his ankle felt “okay” but said that he’s still in a small amount of pain. He added that while he was a bit worried about today’s race, he had to be courageous. He was, and it paid off.


Women’s 800

The women’s 800 prelims were not as dramatic as six of the top eight seeds advanced to the final, including all of the favorites. LSU’s Morgan Schuetz (2:03.01 sb, #5 seed) was the fastest woman to go home.

Not only did the top four seeds — Jazmine Fray, Shea Collinsworth, Raevyn Rogers and Hanna Green — advance, but they all looked good doing it, going 1-2 in the two heats. Fray, Rogers and Collinsworth are all in the top five on the NCAA all-time indoor 800 list, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Fray’s 2:00.69 collegiate record go down tomorrow.

Heat 1 results

Pl Ln Athlete Affiliation Time 200m 400m 600m 800m
1 6 Hanna GREEN SR Virginia Tech 2:04.06 Q 29.05 [29.05] 1:01.73 [32.69] 1:33.67 [31.94] 2:04.06 [30.39]
2 3 Jazmine FRAY SO Texas A&M 2:04.40 Q 29.10 [29.10] 1:01.69 [32.59] 1:33.58 [31.90] 2:04.40 [30.82]
3 7 Ruby STAUBER FR LSU 2:04.59 Q 29.40 [29.40] 1:02.03 [32.64] 1:34.04 [32.01] 2:04.59 [30.56]
4 8 Abike EGBENIYI SO Mid. Tenn. State 2:04.78 29.23 [29.23] 1:01.82 [32.59] 1:33.74 [31.93] 2:04.78 [31.05]
5 4 Olivia BAKER JR Stanford 2:05.65 29.33 [29.33] 1:02.29 [32.97] 1:33.82 [31.54] 2:05.65 [31.83]
6 5 Morgan SCHUETZ SR LSU 2:05.82 29.58 [29.58] 1:02.11 [32.54] 1:34.16 [32.06] 2:05.82 [31.66]
7 2 Madeline KOPP SR Duke 2:07.28 29.43 [29.43] 1:01.97 [32.55] 1:34.74 [32.77] 2:07.28 [32.55]
8 1 Michelle HOWELL JR Jacksonville 2:08.27 29.68 [29.68] 1:02.58 [32.90] 1:35.03 [32.45] 2:08.27 [33.24]

Heat 2 results

Pl Ln Athlete Affiliation Time 200m 400m 600m 800m
1 2 Raevyn ROGERS JR Oregon 2:05.36 Q 28.54 [28.54] 1:00.60 [32.06] 1:33.70 [33.11] 2:05.36 [31.66]
2 4 Shea COLLINSWORTH SR BYU 2:05.57 Q 28.70 [28.70] 1:00.74 [32.05] 1:33.63 [32.89] 2:05.57 [31.94]
3 1 Jasmine STAEBLER SO Iowa State 2:05.63 Q 28.83 [28.83] 1:00.81 [31.99] 1:33.91 [33.10] 2:05.63 [31.72]
4 8 Kaylee DODD JR Oklahoma State 2:05.82 29.18 [29.18] 1:01.14 [31.97] 1:34.49 [33.36] 2:05.82 [31.33]
5 6 Agnes ABU JR Mid. Tenn. State 2:06.16 29.00 [29.00] 1:01.03 [32.04] 1:33.84 [32.82] 2:06.16 [32.32]
6 7 Courtney CLAYTON JR Vanderbilt 2:06.96 29.25 [29.25] 1:01.26 [32.02] 1:34.08 [32.83] 2:06.96 [32.88]
7 5 Sadi HENDERSON JR Boise State 2:07.40 28.94 [28.94] 1:00.86 [31.93] 1:33.81 [32.95] 2:07.40 [33.59]
8 3 Rachel WEBER SR Ohio State 2:10.76 28.80 [28.80] 1:01.55 [32.76] 1:35.39 [33.85] 2:10.76 [35.37]

It took a while to set in, but Jazmine Fray now draws confidence from her collegiate record

Fray came out of nowhere earlier this year to set the collegiate record, going from 2:03.25 to 2:00.69 in one race.

“When I did my 2:00 it really surprised me…when I first [ran] it, yeah it took a little bit [of time to get used to it],” Fray said. “I kind of didn’t even really believe it at first.”

But Fray said that the achievement has sunk in now, and she looked comfortable today, getting to the front just after 200 and holding it until the home straight, at which point Hanna Green moved by her.

Tomorrow’s final will have three of the five fastest collegians ever indoors, and Fray, who said she likes to run from the front, expects a fast race.

“I feel like everybody’s always hoping to PR,” Fray said. “I think that’s the thing I want to do.”

Of course, every PR Fray sets from here on out will be the collegiate record — assuming someone else doesn’t beat her time.

“Right, right, so that’s amazing,” Fray said. “That’s really amazing. It took me a while to think about that and have that set in.”

BYU’s Shea Collinsworth was very tired after her prelim

Collinsworth was kind enough to speak to us despite being very out of breath after taking second behind Rogers in heat 2. Collinsworth has a new coach this year in Diljeet Taylor and said that the two have clicked very well as Taylor has really worked on her strength. Prior to this year, Collinsworth barely raced anything longer than 800 but she ran 4:35 for the mile two weeks ago (her best 1500 was 4:21 and her best mile 5:03).


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