March 9, 2018
COLLEGE STATION, Texas — The heats of the men’ s and women’s mile at the 2018 NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships went largely according to form as all the favorites advanced and 2015 champ Rhianwedd Price-Weimer showed she’s returning to form. In both the men’s and women’s races, 9 of the top 10 seeds made tomorrow’s 10-person final, dealing a blow to any critics who think the flat track and altitude conversions are overly generous.
With the men, when we say all the men’s favorites advanced, we should perhaps just say that defending champ Josh Kerr of New Mexico advanced as he is the heavy favorite at these champs. Kerr was in heat 2 and was looked to be at total ease. As the competitors around him looked to be straining, Kerr was glancing around, advancing as an auto qualifier with ease.
Before Kerr showed his mastery, heat 1 was first. After going out a very slow 2:07.60 the first 809 meters, the pace picked up with all eight guys going sub-30 the next lap. Then going around the next bend there was a fall that took out Oregon’s Mick Stanovsek. Texas freshman Sam Worley had to run a little extra distance around the fall and wouldn’t be a factor after this, but there were still six guys racing for four auto spots for the final. At the bell Sam Prakel of Oregon led with Cole Rockhold in tow as Zach Perrin of Colorado tried to stay close. Prakel and Rockhold kept it going the final lap, going sub-29, and would finish more than a second and a half ahead of everyone else. Kasey Knevelbaard of Southern Utah, only sixth at the bell, was the only other guy to close sub-29 and he got an auto spot as Perrin faded and Jonah Koech managed a 30.06 final lap to get the final auto spot.
After a review, Stanovsek was not put in the final.
|1||6||Sam PRAKEL||SR||Oregon||4:02.65 Q|
|2||2||Cole ROCKHOLD||JR||Colorado St.||4:02.84 Q|
|3||4||Kasey KNEVELBAARD||SO||Southern Utah||4:04.39 Q|
|4||1||Jonah KOECH||JR||UTEP||4:04.76 Q|
|6||7||Diego LEON||SR||Montana State||4:08.34|
Everyone in heat 2 knew that as long as the pace was faster than 4:05, there were 6 spots available for the final. Sean “The Hammer” Tobin of Ole Miss led at 809 (2:02.15). Tobin would lead nearly the entire way as at the bell everyone but Carlos Villarreal had a shot. Seven guys were kicking for six spots in the final. Tobin nearly ended up being the odd guy out as just before the finish he appeared to let up. Josh Kerr, who looked easy throughout, took the heat in 4:02.03 quickly followed by Patrick Joseph and then it ended up being a blanket finish. As Tobin relaxed, 5 guys finished within .11 of one another. Tobin would hang on to the final spot for the final one hundredth ahead of Amos Bartelsmeyer of Georgetown. True frosh Reed Brown, last year’s Foot Locker champ, made the final.
When it all shook out, the top 9 seeds all made the final, with #10 seed Zach Perrin being replaced by #16 seed Sean Tobin.
|1||8||Josh KERR||SO||New Mexico||4:02.03 Q|
|2||7||Patrick JOSEPH||SR||Virginia Tech||4:02.06 Q|
|3||3||Reed BROWN||FR||Oregon||4:02.25 Q|
|4||2||Neil GOURLEY||SR||Virginia Tech||4:02.25 Q|
|5||5||Vincent CIATTEI||SR||Virginia Tech||4:02.27|
|6||6||Sean TOBIN||SR||Ole Miss||4:02.35|
Quick Take: Josh Kerr may be the heavy favorite, but he knows a thing or two about upsets and isn’t taking anyone lightly
Coming into this meet last year, Josh Kerr was just another name on the startlist, another fly to be swatted away in Edward Cheserek’s pursuit of yet another NCAA title. But Kerr’s incredible run in last year’s final changed everything, and now Kerr — who still has two more years of indoor eligibility after this one — is everyone’s pick for the win tomorrow.
But after Kerr’s upset win last year, he’s not taking anyone lightly.
“It’s a lot of fun but I just want to make sure that everyone’s getting the respect that they deserve,” Kerr said. “There’s a lot of good guys ran this year and I hope that everyone can see that.”
We asked him if there was anyone in particular he was watching out for and Kerr, spotting a Virginia Tech guy walking past him, raised his voice,
“The Virginia Tech guys are all right!” he said, trying (unsuccessfully) to make sure his rival could hear him.
We understand Kerr’s humble attitude, and you can’t draw definitive conclusions from a prelim, but nothing we saw today changed our minds that Kerr is the man to beat. He got into perfect position in his heat and closed well to win it, and though he ran 4:02.03, the fastest time of the day, he never looked to be straining and jogged straight off the track afterwards. If we hadn’t stopped him for an interview, he probably would have been back to the warmup area within 15 seconds of finishing his race.
Quick Take: Thumbs down to Oregon for not letting their athletes speak to the media
We tried to grab Sam Prakel for an interview after he won heat 1 of the mile, but before he had a chance to respond to our interview request, we were cut off by an Oregon staffer, who curtly told us that would not be possible.
We asked why, and were told initially that it was because Prakel might be doubling back in the DMR, but the staffer quickly revised that and said that, in fact, the coaching staff had instructed him that no Oregon athletes who made the final would be available for interviews today.
This is a totally unnecessary policy. We’ve never heard of any other school use that explanation, even Oregon itself — their athletes have always been available after prelims in the past.
The women’s mile heats went very much according to form as 9 of the top 10 seeds made tomorrow’s 10-person final with the lone casualty being Michigan senior Haley Meier, the #9 seed, failing to advance and being replaced by Columbia’s Sarah Hardie who got in as a time qualifier.
|1||5||Rhianwedd PRICE-WEIMER||SR||Miss State||4:37.71 Q|
|2||2||Elise CRANNY||SR||Stanford||4:37.97 Q|
|3||6||Dani JONES||JR||Colorado||4:38.17 Q|
|4||3||Whittni ORTON||SO||BYU||4:38.33 Q|
|5||1||Amy CASHIN||SR||West Virginia||4:40.15|
|1||2||Jessica HARRIS||SR||Notre Dame||4:38.82 Q|
|2||3||Millie PALADINO||JR||Providence||4:40.28 Q|
|3||5||Elinor PURRIER||SR||New Hampshire||4:40.35 Q|
|4||1||Nikki HILTZ||SR||Arkansas||4:40.56 Q|
|7||7||Paige DUCA||JR||Boston College||4:46.49|
|8||6||Molly SUGHROUE||JR||Oklahoma State||4:48.42|
Quick Take: 2015 NCAA champ Rhianwedd Price-Weimer was candid in discussing her struggles in recent years
If you’ve followed NCAA running for a few years, the winner of heat 2 was a familiar face as Mississippi State’s Rhianwedd Price-Weimer powered to victory in 4:37.71, the fastest time of the day. Price-Weimer won the NCAA outdoor 1500 title all the way back in 2015, catching Shelby Houlihan by surprise at the line. She ran an impressive 4:09.56 to win that race but has struggled to regain that form since then as she’s only run within five seconds of that time once since 2015.
Price did make the NCAA outdoor final last year (she placed 9th) but said that it wasn’t until this season that she has started to feel like her old self. In 2016, she missed the entire season with pneumonia and pleurisy (a complication of pneumonia that, per the Mayo Clinic website, causes inflammation in the pleura — “a membrane consisting of a layer of tissue that lines the inner side of the chest cavity and a layer of tissue that surrounds the lungs). Pleurisy can cause chest pain and and shortness of breath — nasty for anyone, especially a runner.
Price said that when she finally returned, workouts went “the same, if not better than 2015” but races were an entirely different problem.
“Every race I would do, I would see myself [thinking], I should be there (at the front) but I’m way back here,” Price-Weimer said. “Just getting it through my head was super difficult.”
Price-Weimer said she cried after almost every race last year.
Off the track, things weren’t much smoother. Price-Weimer was taking a heavy courseload in addition to an internship, and as if that wasn’t enough, she had a wedding to plan (she got married in August in her native Wales).
This year, however, Price-Weimer committed to going into races with a more positive mindset, and so far, it’s paying off.
Lightly raced Dani Jones ready for final
Dani Jones won the 3000 last year and the DMR, but this year she’s just in the mile. She said that wasn’t really by choice as she was battling some Achilles problems which caused her to be more lightly raced and focus on the mile. She’s looking forward to the final.
“We had some bumps in the road this year that were unexpected, some Achilles stuff… I was pretty excited about the mile, I haven’t tried it very often, not since my freshman year when I tried to qualify and didn’t [qualify],” she said.
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