Weekend Viewing Guide: College XC in Vegas, Tuohy Debuts, Schweizer Leads 10K Standard Chase, Big $$$ at Camel City, & ATL #4
By Jonathan Gault
February 18, 2021
In a normal year, being a running fan isn’t easy. Our sport has no commissioner, so it can be hard to keep track of all the competitions as everything isn’t coordinated for the ease of the viewing public.
In the pandemic year of 2021, keeping track of everything is really hard. It’s February, which in the United States means it’s indoor season. Except it’s also cross country season and, what’s that? Pros are running outdoor races as well? Add in the alphabet soup of streaming packages required to watch these events and it can all be a little much.
But that’s why you come to LetsRun.com. Football, at least the American version, is gone until September, and basketball and hockey are mired in the long regular-season slog to the playoffs. What better time to throw yourself (even more) into running? We’ve sorted through the weekend calendar for the most intriguing races from this weekend’s events. Consider this your weekend viewing guide.
We preview the most appealing action to you in the order that it takes place.
Friday, February 19
Battle Born Collegiate XC Challenge (Las Vegas)
Start times: 1 p.m. ET (men), 1:45 p.m. ET (women)
Teams racing: Men — #2 NAU, #5 Stanford, #10 Colorado; Women — #4 New Mexico, #5 Colorado, #6 Stanford, #9 Washington, #11 Boise State, #16 NAU
Big questions: Are the Stanford/Colorado men podium contenders? Who emerges from a deep women’s field?
Two weeks ago, the Stanford men ran their first cross country meet of the season at the FSU Winter XC Classic in Tallahassee and won convincingly over a field that contained 2019 podium teams Iowa State and Colorado. It was a feat made even more impressive by the fact that the Cardinal squad featured four freshmen in its top six, led by true freshman Cole Sprout, who finished 5th overall in his collegiate debut.
Friday’s race offers a chance to see whether Stanford is closer to NAU — the national title favorite — or Colorado, the team they vanquished 14 days ago. For Colorado, it’s an opportunity to see if the Buffaloes are any better than they were in Florida. As expected, All-Americans Eduardo Herrera and Alec Hornecker were near the front in that race, but CU didn’t have the depth at the 3-4-5 spots to challenge Stanford. If Kashon Harrison (7th at Pac-12s last year) or Mississippi State grad transfer Stephen Jones (80th at 2019 NCAA XC) can run on Friday, Colorado may be able to close that gap and stake their claim as a podium team.
While NAU — assuming they run a full-strength team — should run away with the men’s race, the women’s race is up for grabs. Colorado narrowly beat Stanford, 72-77, in Tallahassee two weeks ago, so expect another close run between the two Pac-12 powers on Sunday. The question is whether New Mexico or Washington can join them up front.
The Lobos are ranked #4 in the USTFCCCA coaches’ poll, but that is mostly an expression of faith in the program’s history and coach Joe Franklin, who has guided UNM to podium finishes in five of the last six years. UNM hasn’t competed at all this year — indoors or XC — and the top three runners from last year’s 4th-place NCAA squad are gone, including NCAA individual champs Weini Kelati and Ednah Kurgat. Can anyone emerge to lead this team?
The Washington women have raced this year, taking 4th on this same course on February 1 behind BYU, Boise State, and NAU. But that Washington squad did not feature Allie Schadler (8:58 for 3k last weekend) or Melany Smart (6th at NCAA XC last year). If both those women are in the fold on Friday, the Huskies could challenge for the win — and a podium spot at NCAAs.
Saturday, February 20
Big question: How will NC State’s Katelyn Tuohy fare in her collegiate debut?
Did you forget about Katelyn Tuohy? We don’t really blame you. So much has happened since Tuohy’s last race — a win in the 1500 at the New York high school state meet on March 7, 2020 — that some may have forgotten it’s the freshman year of one of the most accomplished high school distance runners in US history. The Covid-19 postponement of NCAA xc until the winter was benefitcial for Tuohy, a three-time NXN champion in HS, as she did not run XC for NC State last fall, with her coach Laurie Henes telling LetsRun she didn’t want to rush Tuohy into racing after the star freshman arrived on campus less than 100% healthy.
Now it appears Tuohy is healthy enough to race and will make her NC State debut running the 3000 meters on Camel City’s flat track in Winston-Salem. She’ll race alongside Wolfpack teammates Hannah Steelman and Kelsey Chmiel (both top-25 finishers at 2019 NCAA XC) in a race veteran pro Rachel Schneider will be favored to win. With just three weeks until NCAA XC — in which NC State figures to be a title contender — this will be a big test of Tuohy’s fitness. Tuohy, remember, is the high school record holder at this distance (9:01.81).
Overall, the pro fields at Camel City aren’t as strong as usual for a meet that in the past has attracted the likes of Matthew Centrowitz, Jenny Simpson, and Paul Chelimo. That’s because meet director Craig Longhurst told us last month he elected to restrict the fields, almost exclusively, to athletes traveling from driving distance of Winston-Salem due to COVID uncertainty. He didn’t want athletes to book flights only to be left on the hook if something changed and sporting events in North Carolina were no longer permitted.
But the meet, held by JDL Castle Corporation, deserves MAJOR kudos for keeping its significant prize money intact: $6,000 for first, $4,000 for second, etc. down to $300 for eighth. The whole purse won’t be distributed (the majority of entrants are college athletes), but given the current pandemic, the prize money that is being offered is outstanding.
Last year, In 2019, Schneider won both the 3k and mile to win $12,000 in roughly half an hour. She could do the same again in 2021 (the events start 50 minutes apart), with athletes such as Willy Fink (mile) and former NCAA champs Ben Flanagan (3k) and Jazmine Fray (800) also hoping for a profitable afternoon.
The TEN (California)
Free live stream: Professional Track Series YouTube channel
Start times: 11:15 p.m. ET (women), 11:55 p.m. ET (men)
Entrants: Men — Grant Fisher, Ben True, Woody Kincaid, Edward Cheserek, Chris Derrick, Marc Scott, Kieran Tuntivate, Reid Buchanan; Women — Marielle Hall, Gwen Jorgensen, Karissa Schweizer, Elise Cranny, Kim Conley, Emily Infeld, Eilish McColgan
Big question: Who will hit the Olympic 10,000m standard?
This is what it’s all about. This meet, organized by Sound Running, consists of just two races, both featuring small elite fields targeting the Olympic standards of 27:28.00 (men) and 31:25.00 (women). Currently, just three American men (Lopez Lomong, Eric Jenkins, and Shadrack Kipchirchir) and nine American women have the standard. And while it is possible to qualify for the Olympics based off your world ranking, your position is a heck of a lot safer with the standard in your back pocket.
In the men’s race, Edward Cheserek may be the slight favorite, considering he already has the Olympic standard thanks to his 27:24 from December, though Brit Marc Scott looked very fit in taking down a strong 3k field at the Prickly Pear Invite in Arizona two weeks ago. Scott’s Bowerman TC teammates Grant Fisher (10k debut) and Woody Kincaid (first 10k since 2013) will also be interesting to watch. And does Ben True, now unsponsored, have anything left in the tank at age 35?
On the women’s side, Karissa Schweizer is the biggest name. This will be her first 10k as a pro, and given her credentials at shorter distances (8:26 3k/14:26 5k), she will be heavily favored. Elise Cranny was just .08 behind Schweizer when they last raced over 3k two weeks ago and should also factor. Plus Emily Infeld will line up for her first 10k since August 2017. Infeld, 30, has an incredible championship record (3rd 2015 Worlds, 11th 2016 Olympics, 6th 2017 Worlds) at 10k. If she can get the standard this weekend and make it to the Olympic Trials in one piece, watch out.
What sets this apart from your typical standard-chasing time trial is that this meet will have prize money — which perhaps explains the presence of athletes who already have the standard, such as Cheserek, Marielle Hall (31:05 pb, #6 all-time US), and Eilish McColgan (31:16 pb). And the prize money works in a unique way: the meet is asking fans to donate, with all proceeds to be split evenly between the winners of the men’s and women’s races. It takes money to stage these events and broadcast them live, for free, so if you’re feeling generous, you can make your contribution here.
Sunday, February 21
Big questions: Who wins a strong men’s 800m? Does Ryan Crouser break the shot put world record again? And how does Allyson Felix look in her 2021 opener?
There are only two distance races in this meet (men’s and women’s 800), but the men’s 800 is definitely worth watching. Erik Sowinski and Craig Engels, who ran 1:45 and 1:46 here three weeks ago, are entered again. But the big news is the additions to the field: Isaiah Harris and Kenya’s Michael Saruni. Harris, a World Championship semifinalist in 2017, raced just once during the 2020 outdoor season and has only raced once so far in 2021, clocking 1:17.70 for 600 at Penn State on February 6. He’s not on the Donavan Brazier/Bryce Hoppel level, but Harris is still only 24 and capable of special things when healthy.
Up against Harris is the man he upset for the NCAA title in 2018 — collegiate record holder Saruni. Saruni is a humongous talent but it has yet to come together consistently for him as a pro. In 2019, he ran 1:43 indoors at Millrose, defeating Brazier to become the second-fastest man in history indoors (Elliot Giles bumped him down to #3 on Wednesday). Outdoors, he ran 1:43.70 in Monaco, but didn’t make the Kenyan World Championship team. Last year, he mostly raced small meets in the US rather than travel to Europe, and now he’s making his 2021 debut on Sunday.
In the other events, Ryan Crouser demands attention anytime he steps into the shot put ring and will look to improve upon his 22.82m WR from ATL #1. And on the women’s side, 35-year-old Allyson Felix will begin her quest for a fifth Olympic team by doubling up in the 60m and 200m, her first races since July.