Thursday, January 10, 2013

2013 NCAA Men's Indoor 3000m Preview

Here is the 3000m preview for this upcoming indoor season. Just a reminder that this is an active list of the top 10 runners in each event, meaning that it will be changing throughout the season because in essence this is my predictions for the top 10 finishers in Fayetteville. A side note for those who read this and don't see their buddy on their list or someone else who they feel like is deserving, remember that if they do run better or prove that they can beat anyone on the list, they will be replaced. Also keep in mind there is only room for 10 runners on each list so that is bound to happen. 

Probably the hottest athlete, in terms of running well recently, going into the 2013 indoor season is the Wolfpack senior Ryan Hill. He returns as the fastest 3k runner in the country last year with his PR of 7:43.08. Hill has been extremely impressive over the last year and has made a name for himself as one of the great up and coming American-born distance runners. His fifth-place finish in the 5k at the U.S. Olympic Trials solidified that along with his outstanding PR of 13:27.49 that came with it. Outside of his amazing PRs, Hill is also a very good runner indoors. Out of the five races he ran indoors, Hill won 4 of them including the ACC Championship for 3k and DMR,  the Virginia Tech Elite Meet Mile for 3:58.33, and the Husky Classic 3k which included his unreal PR of 7:43. As the number one returner for 3k in the all the land, Hill is the man to beat in 2013.

Going from the hottest athlete to Lawi Lalang, who is possibly the coldest runner in NCAA right now, (it is all relative). Lalang burst onto the NCAA cross country landscape in 2011 where he demolished anyone who even threatened him in any race and went on to easily win the NCAA XC title. He next moved on to indoor where he pulled off the 3k-5k double and also was second in the Millrose Games with his ridiculous 13:08.28. But, since his double at indoor nats in 2012 Lalang has won only one race that really mattered---the Pac-12 1500 meter title. Granted, placing second at the Mt. Sac 5k in 13:18.88 is quite good, especially considering he lost to Bowerman Award winner Cam Levins. The bad news gets worse for Lalang as he was overtaken as the best in the land during the most recent cross country season where he got beat by, soon to be mentioned in this list, Kennedy Kithuka. Regardless of all the down talk, Lalang is still a legitimate threat to win any time he steps up to the starting line, and therefore should be thought of as a favorite to repeat as champion for 3k.

The returning champ from NAIA for 3k and 5k is Texas Tech’s Kennedy Kithuka.  Although Kithuka has relatively decent PRs compared to everyone else in this list, Kithuka cannot be discounted for the times he ran last year as an NAIA competitor. He still has run 7:58 for 3k indoors and has OK wheels with a humble PR of 4:04 and 3:46 for mile and 1500m, respectively. Kithuka blew everyone away this past NCAA cross country season, by winning every race he won by a considerable margin and especially the move he made at 6k at XC nats was absolutely devastating and seems to be fitter and faster than the good runner he was last year. If his indoor season follows suit, Kithuka is definitely one to watch in the 3k.

Coming off of a redshirt outdoor season in 2012 and not being eligible for cross country this past season, Diego Estrada is fresh and ready to roll for the 2013 indoor year. Estrada may be the most exciting runner to watch as he is known for always taking the race out hard and making everyone else around him run faster. Estrada is the number four returner in the country at this distance and has a PR of 7:44.63, only tenths away from Lalang’s PR. This indoor season will be the first time he has run in an official NCAA race since last indoor where he placed 7th overall behind some pretty legitimate names like: Lalang, Derrick, Levins, Chelimo (to be mentioned later), and Hill. Diego did have an awesome opportunity to represent Mexico at the Olympics in London, where he finished 21st in the 10,000.  It is likely that Estrada has an amazing base going into this season and is primed to be a contender once again for the 3k indoors this year.

Farrell solidified his mark as one of the top distance runners in the country outdoor last season as, although he was redshirting prepping for the Olympics, he ran a nice PR for 5,000 in 13:15.31 (which would have been the fastest time outdoors for any collegian). Farrell was also impressive this most recent cross country season with a 9th place finish at Nationals in Louisville. Tom is the number five returner in the land for 3000 indoors. In 2012, Farrell placed 9th in 7:55.09 indoors and has a PR of 7:52.38. With a  nice track record (literally) indoors, Farrell is on fire as of late and will surprise many in 2013 indoors.

As unbelievable as this may sound, Chelimo only lost one race in 2012 indoors and that was his 4th place finish at the national meet in Boise last year in the 3k. Chelimo followed up his awesome indoor season with an equally impressive outdoor when he won the East Regional 5000 and went on to place second at nationals behind Levins. Cross Country in 2012 was not nearly as good for Paul as he battled injuries and also some better competition up front (i.e. Kithuka, Mecheso back, Ahmed, Rotich, Lalang, Sambu, the list goes on). Chelimo did not win a single race he ran and was handled by Rotich at Pre-Nats, along with a good, but not great showing at XC nats where he finished 10th (once again it is all relative). The good news for Chelimo is it is a new season and with some solid wheels (3:40 1500m PR) he is someone to watch for to possibly upset some of the main guys up front.

The JUCO transfer from Central Arizona just added to an already loaded Texas A&M track team in 2012 and made an immediate impact indoors and outdoors.  Indoors Lelei anchored their DMR to seventh place finish at nationals (3:58.67 split) and broke school records in the mile (4:01.49) and 3000 (8:01.01). Lelei improved even more over 3000 meters on the track outdoors as he became one of the premier steeplechasers in the country finishing fourth at the national meet and a very good PR of 8:38.90. Lelei has continually improved and has risen to be one of the best distance runners in the country at really any distance. In cross country Lelei had several quality finishes: 2nd at Notre Dame, 4th at Wisco Invite, 1st at SEC, and 5th at Nationals. Lelei now has a solid base and the strength to roll on many of the top runners in the country for 3000m.

With a 7:48.35 PR for 3000m and being a returner from the final at indoor nationals in 2012, Andy Bayer is a must have on this list as a possible top 10 finisher in the 3K this season indoors. Bayer is so extremely versatile having incredible range (1:49.17 800m PR, 3:37.24 1500m PR, 3:57.75 Mile, above mentioned 3K PR, and 13:33.25 5000m PR) and that is what makes him so dangerous in any race, on any day when he toes the line. The real question is what he will actually be running at nationals and what he will be focusing on and finally how hard he has to run in the DMR Mile leg on day 1. Either way, Bayer is dangerous at every distance from 800m-5000m, but like mentioned in the Mile preview, he needs to get healthy and recover from the injury that hindered him from running at XC Nationals in Louisville.

The Alaska native and former Portland Pilot, Trevor Dunbar, enters the 2013 indoor season as the sixth best returner from the 3k at nationals in Boise last year. A year ago at this time the NCAA running world was shocked (or maybe some were) with the news of Dunbar’s transfer to Oregon. Trevor made an immediate impact as a Duck finishing 10th indoors in the 3k and putting out some legitimate times for 3000m and 5000m indoors alone running 7:51.55 and 13:36.86, respectively. Dunbar followed up a good indoor season with a good outdoor season with a 6th place finish for 5000m in Des Moines. Dunbar impressed early in the 2012 cross country season with a solid victory at Dellinger Invite over BYU’s Jared Ward and two 3rd place finishes at Pac-12’s and the West Regional. Unfortunately, things did not necessarily come together as he would have hoped for at nationals and was the first man out of All-American status with a 41st place finish in Louisville. Regardless of his finish in cross country, Dunbar is a clear standout on the track and is considered one of the better distance runners in the country.

In his final season as a Lobo, Ross Millington has one final indoor season left to leave his mark on a very good distance program. Millington has not run since indoors last season and one can only assume that he is going to be fit and hungry to run some fast times this season. A 13th place finish for 3000m at indoor nationals in 2012 makes him the 7th best returner in the country and Millington ran the fifth fastest time in all the land last year with a 7:49.11 clocking. The native of Stockport, England, Millington has a good chance to improve upon his school record in the 3000m and is definitely a dark horse in this event looking towards the national meet in Fayetteville later this year. Millington has quality speed which will help him indoors and hopefully finish well at nats (3:59.86 Mile PR). 

Others not mentioned but of note: Anthony Rotich (UTEP), Maverick Darling (Wisconsin), Reed Connor (Wisconsin), Rex Shields (BYU), Mark Amirault (Virginia). 

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