2018 NCAA Indoor 3K/5K Preview: Justyn Knight & Grant Fisher Renew Rivalry; Can Karissa Schweizer Avenge NCAA XC Defeat To Ednah Kurgat?

By LetsRun.com
March 7, 2018

The 2018 indoor track and field season culminates this weekend at the 2018 NCAA Indoor Track & Field Championships in College Station, Texas. We’ll be on-site in the Lone Star State starting Thursday, but before we get down there we’re previewing the mid-d/distance events so that you can know what to watch for at the meet. Below you’ll find our look at the men’s and women’s 3,000 and 5,000-meter races.

Be sure to enter the $200,018 Running Warehouse prediction contest.

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800 preview: 2018 NCAA Indoor 800 Preview: Sammy Watson Is Primed to Break Through; Can Isaiah Harris — Or Anyone Else — Hang With Michael Saruni?
Mile preview: 2018 NCAA Indoor Mile Preview: Josh Kerr Favored To Repeat As Elle Purrier Tries To End Her NCAA Title Drought
3k/5k preview: Justyn Knight & Grant Fisher Renew Rivalry; Can Karissa Schweizer Avenge NCAA XC Defeat To Ednah Kurgat?

*Schedule/start lists/broadcast information *All LRC coverage

TV/Streaming: The meet will be streamed live on Watch ESPN.

Men’s 5,000 (Friday, 9:05 p.m. ET)

Name Year School Qualifying mark Comment
Mike Tate SR So. Utah 13:37.33 Won 3k at Big Sky, 2nd in 5k to Trouard, 77th at NCAA XC
Justyn Knight JR Syracuse 13:39.59
NCAA XC champ has never won a track title (wasn’t easy with King Ches), but that could easily change this weekend
Vincent Kiprop JR Alabama 13:40.97 3rd at SECs in 3k and 5k, 7th at NCAA XC
Rory Linkletter JR BYU 13:41.01 Knight and Kiprop beat him when he ran 13:41
Lawrence Kipkoech JR Campbell 13:41.17 5th at Iowa State race, 9th NCAA XC
Daniel Carney JR BYU 13:41.32 6th at Iowa State, 6th at MPSF meet in 3k
Jacob Thomson SR Kentucky 13:41.33 7th at Iowa State, won SECs
Hassan Abdi SR OK State 13:41.91 Beaten by Tate in Washington, won Big 12 3k
Andy Trouard SR No. Arizona 13:42.16 Won Big Sky champs
Jack Bruce SR Arkansas 13:43.34 Gave Grant Fisher a run for his money in slow race outdoors last year
Tanner Anderson SO Oregon 13:43.74 13th in NCAA 10k last year
Amon Kemboi SO Campbell 13:43.78 8th at Iowa State, Big South mile/3k/5k champ
Grant Fischer SR CO State 13:44.24 Mountain West champ
Steven Fahy JR Stanford 13:44.82 9th at Iowa State, 17th at NCAA XC
Gilbert Kigen JR Alabama 13:46.28 4th in NCAA XC, 2nd at SECS to Thomson
Connor McMillan JR BYU 13:46.71 MPSF champ won B heat at Iowa State

Men’s 3,000 (Saturday, 7:10 p.m. ET)

Name Year School Qualifying mark Comment
Justyn Knight JR Syracuse 7:45.86 NCAA XC champ was runner-up to King Ches last year
Andy Trouard SR No. Arizona 7:48.21 Only 6th at conference meet in 3k where he tripled
Grant Fisher SO Stanford 7:48.56 Outdoor 5k champ last year, lost to Trouard in Iowa.
Colby Gilbert SR Washington 7:49.42 5th last year, 8th in 2016.
Cameron Griffith SO Arkansas 7:49.78 1st NCAA track appearance for SEC 3k champ
Jonathan Davis FR Illinois 7:49.92 2nd at Big 10s to Hoare
Cole Rockhold JR CO State 7:50.10 Mountain West runner-up in mile. Also: great name
Kyle Mau SO Indiana 7:50.85 Big 10 mile champ
Ben Saarel SR Colorado 7:50.93 Very good in HS and 3rd as true frosh way back in 2014, not much since 2014.
James West JR Oregon 7:51.23 Brit was MPSF runner-up in mile
Oliver Hoare SO Wisconsin 7:51.69 Aussie is unreal at Big 10 level – XC, 3k and 5k champ
Mike Tate SR So. Utah 7:51.71 Won Mountain West over Trouard and Baxter, 1st time at NCAAs in track
Lawrence Kipkoech JR Campbell 7:52.18 9th at NCAA XC
Kigen Chemadi JR Mid. Tenn. St 7:52.92 CUSA 5k champ
Dillon Maggard SR Utah State 7:52.99 6th at NCAA XC
Matthew Baxter SR No. Arizona 7:53.37 NCAA XC runner-up has never scored at NCAA in track

We’re looking at these events together because in each of the past four years on the men’s side — and five of the past six — the winner of Friday night’s 5,000 has successfully doubled back to win Saturday night’s 3,000. Let’s start with the 5,000.

Knight will try to add to the NCAA XC crown he won in November - photo by Mike Scott

Knight will try to add to the NCAA XC crown he won in November – photo by Mike Scott

In the longer race, there’s a clear favorite: NCAA XC champ Justyn Knight. Knight would have won the 3k at NCAA indoors last year handily had it not been for Edward Cheserek, and now Cheserek is gone and Knight has only gotten better. Since he was defeated in the outdoor 5,000 final last June, Knight has not lost to a collegian, and this year indoors he’s set PRs in the mile (3:55) and 3k (7:45), as well as an indoor PR at 5,000 (13:39), which came against an NCAA-caliber field at Iowa State on February 10.

We really can’t think of any way Knight loses this race other than a fall or illness/food poisoning. He’s clearly the strongest guy in the field, as shown by his outdoor PR (at 13:17, it’s 17 seconds faster than anyone else in the field) and his NCAA XC title. But with his 3:55, he’s also the fastest miler in this race as well. Fast or slow, it’s hard to envision him losing this race. We expect Knight to try to save his energy for the 3k on Saturday and let someone else dictate the pace before making his move with 200 to go.

Southern Utah’s Mike Tate is the only guy who’s run faster than Knight this year (13:37), but we’re not backing him for the win. Tate had the #3 time in the country last year outdoors (13:34) but couldn’t even make it out of regionals. And at his indoor conference meet, he got destroyed by Northern Arizona’s Andy Trouard, who won the 5k at Big Sky by 16 seconds. To be fair, Tate did get revenge by beating Trouard by 11 seconds in the 3k, but we value the 5k result more because a) both guys were totally fresh and b) the 3k was Trouard’s third race of the weekend as he had run the 5k the night before and the mile two hours earlier.

If we had to make an upset pick, Trouard is our guy. We love that he crushed a 13:37 guy at his conference meet, and we love that he beat Grant Fisher in the 3k at Iowa State on February 10. How rare is that? That race was Fisher’s first loss on the track since the 2016 Olympic Trials. If the race goes slow, maybe Trouard, a 3:38 guy, has a chance. One other guy to watch is Arkansas’ Jack Bruce. The towering Aussie used his powerful kick to beat Knight at NCAAs last year outdoors, so we know he’s got wheels. One problem with Bruce, though, is that he hasn’t won a race all year (he was 2nd in the 3k at SECs to teammate Cameron Griffith). Is his first victory of the year really going to come over Knight in the NCAA final?

Fisher relied on his kick to win the 5k last spring

Fisher relied on his kick to win the NCAA 5k last spring

If Knight is to lose this weekend, it’s far more likely to come in the 3k. That’s where he’ll face Fisher, and though Fisher did lose to Trouard at Iowa State, he’s still a stud. He’s the NCAA 5,000 champ — the only guy in either the 3k or the 5k to have won NCAAs on the track — and, he’s got the best speed of anyone in the field. Remember, he won the Pac-12 1500 title last year by closing his last 400 in 51.81. This season, he ran 3:55.8 on the anchor leg of Stanford’s 9:26.91 DMR (#1 in the NCAA this year) and that came with another big close (55.8 final 400). Knight will not want to leave the 3k final to a kick.

Trouard is also a potential threat in the 3k, but we’ll know more about his chances after Friday’s 5k. If he can keep it close in that race, he may have a chance to turn the tables in Saturday’s 3k. But we don’t expect him to keep it close.

We should also note that both Knight and Fisher will be doubling back in the 3k, Knight from the 5k and Fisher (almost certainly) from the DMR. Now there’s a chance Stanford pulls Fisher from the DMR — if New Mexico’s Josh Kerr gets the baton anywhere near the lead on the anchor leg, UNM is winning — but that chance is very small. Stanford has run the fastest time in the country this year and will (rightfully) think it has a shot at the DMR title. They’re probably not going to pull their star anchor from the relay just because another school has a better anchor. So those two races (5k for Knight, DMR for Fisher) basically cancel each other out in terms of who is more tired going into the 3k.

LRC prediction: We’re sure that Knight wins the 5k. The 3k should be a great race, just as the 5k was last year outdoors. If the winning time is under 8:00, we’re taking Knight. If it’s over 8:00, we’re taking Fisher and his kick. But we expect Knight will have learned from the 5k outdoors (where the winning time was 14:35) and will try to ensure an honest pace. Therefore we’re picking Knight to complete the double.

Women’s 5,000 (Friday, 9:25 p.m. ET)

Name Year School Qualifying mark Comment
Karissa Schweizer SR Missouri 15:17.31 Set NCAA record in 3k this year and beat Kurgat in 5k in December. Can she beat her here too?
Ednah Kurgat JR New Mexico 15:19.03 NCAA XC champ. This is her best chance to beat Schweizer
Elly Henes SO NC State 15:36.67 ACC 3k champ, won her 15:43 qualifying race by over a minute over Ryen Frazier.
Weini Kelati FR New Mexico 15:37.03 Very good but breaking into top 2 is a hard ask
Erin Clark SR Colorado 15:37.64 Has scored in NCAA 3k twice
Sharon Lokedi SR Kansas 15:39.05 Big 12 5k/3k champ
Clare O’Brien SO Boise State 15:42.60 2nd at Mountain West champs
Jessica Drop SO Georgia 15:43.28 Won Iowa State meet, 2nd at SEC 3k
Paige Stoner JR Syracuse 15:44.04 ACC XC champ
Grayson Murphy SR Utah 15:44.45 8th at NCAA XC. Finished well behind Schweizer/Kurgat in only indoor race in Boston.
Makena Morley SO Colorado 15:44.48 50th at NCAA XC
Amy Davis JR Wisconsin 15:44.65 4th in 5k at Big 10s, 2nd in 3k
Paige Gilchrist SR No. Arizona 15:45.76 4th at Iowa State meet
Bethan Knights SR California 15:45.94 4th in 3k at MPSF; won 5k at UW Invite
Alice Wright SR New Mexico 15:46.85 2nd in NCAA 10k last two years
Alicia Monson SO Wisconsin 15:47.23 7th in 5k at Big 10s, 3rd in 3k

Women’s 3,000 (Saturday, 7:25 p.m. ET)

Name Year School Qualifying mark Comment
Karissa Schweizer SR Missouri 8:41.60 Broke the collegiate record, attempting 5k-3k double. 5k is first
Elle Purrier SR New Hampshire 8:55.68 Attemping mile/3k double. 3k is 2hrs after mile final
Ednah Kurgat JR New Mexico 8:57.47 NCAA XC champ will have her hands full here with Schweizer, running 5k day before too.
Jessica Hull JR Oregon 8:58.50 1st year to make NCAAs but is running very well, ran 4:31 mile 2 weeks ago
Lilli Burdon JR Oregon 8:59.18 Has finished behind Hull in her last 2 races. 9th at NCAAs in 5k outdoors last year
Vanessa Fraser SR Stanford 8:59.23 Beaten by Kurgat, Hull, Burdon at Husky Invite
Sharon Lokedi SR Kansas 8:59.69 Won 3k/5k at Big 12s. 3rd in NCAA 10k last year
Weini Kelati FR New Mexico 8:59.77 Beat Allie O by over 3 seconds at Mountain West champs but at altitude
Allie Ostrander SO Boise State 8:59.98 Ran 8:54 last year. Also won NCAA steeple and has run 15:21 before.
Gina Sereno SR Michigan 9:01.62 Big 10 5k/10k champ last year but only 5th + 3rd in 3k/5k this year indoors
Christina Aragon FR Stanford 9:01.86
Ran 4:08 for 1500 as a high schooler for World Junior bronze in 2016. Has run two races this year: 4:34 mile and 9:01. Likely will do DMR/3k
Amy-Eloise Neale SR Washington 9:01.96 2nd at NCAA XC
Fiona O’Keeffe FR Stanford 9:04.77 13th at NCAA XC
Makena Morley SO Colorado 9:05.02 50th at NCAA XC
Erin Clark SR Colorado 9:05.72 Has scored in NCAA 3k twice
Schweizer's kick has carried her to three NCAA titles and counting

Schweizer’s kick has carried her to three NCAA titles and counting

Hopefully you like watching Missouri’s Karissa Schweizer and New Mexico’s Ednah Kurgat race each other as you’re going to get a double dose — 40 laps, total — this weekend in College Station. Part I takes place on Friday, and that figures to be a true showdown between the last two NCAA cross country champions. No one else in the 5,000 field has come within 17 seconds of the times Schweizer and Kurgat laid down in Boston back in December, and we don’t expect anyone else to challenge them at NCAAs.

It’s fairly easy to see how this race will play out. Schweizer is the NCAA record holder over 3,000 (8:41) and #5 all-time in the mile (4:27). She has won two of her three NCAA titles (2016 XC, 2017 indoor 5k) by relying on her kick. If she’s still there with 200 to go, she wins.

Kurgat, on the other hand, is a pure strength runner. She won NCAA XC by breaking open the race just over halfway and powering away to a 6km course record of 19:19.5. She has raced the mile twice this year, but she’s not nearly as good at it as Schweizer is — her PR is 4:41, and she was only third in the mile at the Mountain West meet.

Therefore the onus is on Kurgat to do exactly what she did at NCAA XC — run hard from a long way out to kill off anyone who might be able to outkick her at the end. The problem is, it’s really hard to drop Schweizer at her best. Yes, Kurgat dropped Schweizer at NCAA XC, and while Kurgat was brilliant in that race, Schweizer was clearly not at her best as she faded all the way back to 11th. There’s simply no way that Schweizer was the 11th-best cross country runner in America last year; she had a bad day at the wrong time. Remember, they raced again two weeks later in the 5k in Boston and Schweizer won by 1.72 seconds.

Ednah Kurgat crushed everyone at NCAA XC in November -photo by Mike Scott

Ednah Kurgat crushed everyone at NCAA XC in November -photo by Mike Scott

Dropping Schweizer in the 5k on Friday would require something truly ridiculous. Last year, Notre Dame’s Anna Rohrer tried her best to drop Schweizer, and though Rohrer wound up running 15:29, Schweizer still dropped her easily with just over two laps to go and wound up running 15:19 to win by eight seconds (Michigan’s Erin Finn was second in 15:27). Considering Schweizer has only improved since last year, it would take something very special — 15:10 or faster — to get rid of Schweizer, and as good as Kurgat is, we don’t think she can run that from the front.

That said, Kurgat has a better chance of beating Schweizer in the 5k than she does in the 3k the next day. Schweizer is the NCAA leader in that event by 14 seconds thanks to the 8:41 she ran to break Jenny Simpson‘s collegiate record at Millrose, and if you’re breaking a Jenny Simpson record, you’re running seriously fast. Kurgat might have a chance to win the 3k if she kicks Schweizer’s butt in the 5k, but we don’t see that happening.

(Editor’s note: We are assuming in this preview that Kurgat doesn’t try the crazy 5k/DMR anchor/3k triple like Edward Cheserek did in 2016 but if she does, her odds of a 3k win go down a little more).

The woman with the best chance beat Schweizer in the 3k might actually be New Hampshire’s Elle Purrier. Purrier is one of only four women in NCAA history to have run faster than Schweizer for the mile (her PR is 4:26.55) and she has outkicked Schweizer in the past — that’s how she won Pre-Nats in XC last fall.

That said, Purrier is at a big disadvantage in the 3k as she’ll have had to run the mile final two hours earlier. It’s unlikely that a woman who has never won a single NCAA title will be able to take down the NCAA record holder in what would be her third race in 25 hours.

Unlikely is not the same as impossible, however. Five women have successfully pulled off the same-day mile/3k double at NCAAs, and there is a precedent for a runner like Purrier: Jordan Hasay in 2011. Like Purrier, Hasay had several near-misses at NCAAs entering the 2011 NCAA indoor meet, and like Purrier, she was facing a woman who no one expected her to beat in Sheila Reid. Reid had beaten Hasay to win the NCAA XC title four months earlier and had even outkicked her in the DMR on day 1 of the NCAA indoor meet. But Hasay came back to win the mile the next day and, unbelievably, outkicked Reid to win the 3k less than two hours later. Maybe Purrier follows the Hasay script and goes from zero to two NCAA titles in one day.

One other woman we should mention is Boise State’s Allie Ostrander. Ostrander has the second-best PR in the field at 8:54, but she didn’t win her conference meet in either the 3000 (lost by three seconds to New Mexico’s Weini Kelati) or the mile (lost by .33 to teammate Alexis Fuller). Even at her best, Ostrander probably doesn’t beat Schweizer over 3,000, but considering Ostrander lost to four runners (including Kurgat) when she ran her SB of 8:59 this year, her chances of winning NCAAs — especially after doubling back from the DMR — are very slim.

LRC prediction: Schweizer may have been off her game at NCAA XC, but we don’t think she will be here. She’s a better track runner than Kurgat and she’ll prove it by winning the 3k/5k double.

Talk about these clashes on our world famous messageboard / fan forum: MB: 2018 NCAA 3k/5k Talk: Who wins Fisher or Knight in the 3k? Kurgat or Schweizer in the 5k & 3k?


Be sure to enter the $200,018 Running Warehouse prediction contest

800 preview: 2018 NCAA Indoor 800 Preview: Sammy Watson Is Primed to Break Through; Can Isaiah Harris — Or Anyone Else — Hang With Michael Saruni?
Mile preview: 2018 NCAA Indoor Mile Preview: Josh Kerr Favored To Repeat As Elle Purrier Tries To End Her NCAA Title Drought
3k/5k preview: Justyn Knight & Grant Fisher Renew Rivalry; Can Karissa Schweizer Avenge NCAA XC Defeat To Ednah Kurgat?

*Schedule/start lists/broadcast information *All LRC coverage