This week we celebrate multiple records, the return of a long-absent star, a big upset, and more. Let’s get to it!
There was too much action to pick just one athlete of the week.
Athlete of the Week #1: Lawi Lalang, Arizona
Lalang took second in the 5000 meters at the Millrose Games, running 13:08.28 and breaking the collegiate record. Not only did he run fast, he pushed winner Bernard Lagat to the American record. Pushed is the right word, as the outcome was in doubt until the very end. It’s a nearly ten second improvement on the old record. In the process, Lalang defeated the #2 and #3 runners at last fall’s NCAA Cross Country Championships (Chris Derrick and Leonard Korir), plus the previous year’s runner-up (Stephen Sambu). Lalang, of course, was #1 last fall.
Athlete of the Week #2: Miles Batty, BYU
Batty took second in the Wanamaker Mile at the Millrose Games, running 3:54.54 and breaking the collegiate record. The old record, 3:55.0, had been set way back in 1974 (and essentially tied by German Fernandez in 2009 with 3:55.02). Batty was second behind last year’s NCAA 1500 meter champion, Matt Centrowitz, now a pro with the Oregon Track Club, and turned back a murderer’s row of top collegiate talent. In fact, the only major collegiate miler Batty did not defeat in that race was, of course, Lawi Lalang.
Honorable mention: Ryan Hill, North Carolina State
Hill won the 3000 meters at the Flotrack Husky Classic in 7:43.08, the third-fastest ever run indoors by a collegian (and fourth-fastest regardless of venue). It was a bit of a shock, although Hill ran extremely well last fall in cross country, finishing 10th at the NCAA Championships.
Team Player: Jeff Mohl, Montana State
In a tri-meet win over Weber State and Montana, Mohl took second in the pole vault, third in the high jump, fourth in the hurdles, and sixth in the 55 meters. Yep, he’s a decathlete.
The Return: Conor McCullough, Princeton
McCullough is one of the USA’s great hopes for the future in hammer throwing. He was the 2010 World Junior champion in the event after his freshman season at Princeton. That, however, was one of the last times he competed until yesterday, as he withdrew from school and went home to California to help out with family difficulties. Now back at Princeton, he won the weight throw in the annual tri-meet against Yale and Harvard with 23.19 meters (76′ 1″), a six-foot improvement on the Ivy League record and tenth on the all-time collegiate list.
Upset: Kind Butler, Indiana
At the SPIRE Invitational on Saturday, Butler started off his day right with a win in the 60 meters. In the 200, he was up against a tremendous field which included Maurice Mitchell (defending NCAA champion) and Horatio Williams (3rd at ’11 NCAA Championships). Butler faced them down and beat them. His time, 20.85, I incorrectly identified as a collegiate leader — it was actually #2 then (and #3 now). His development as a sprinter gives the Hoosiers a huge leg up in their Big Ten title chase in two weeks.
Tough Guys: Alex Genest and Ross Proudfoot, Guelph (Ontario)
While the SPIRE Invitational took place inside, a fierce winter storm raged outside. Seven inches of snow plus winds of up to 40 miles per hour closed parts of Interstate 77 near Akron, and waves from Lake Erie washed up onto Interstate 90 in downtown Cleveland. Genest and Proudfoot, who beat back Florida State’s David Forrester to go 1-2 in the 3000 meters (all with times of 7:57), thought it would be boring to warm up inside, so they went out in the sub-zero wind chill and near white-out conditions for their pre-race jog. “Just like home”, they said.
Rodney Dangerfield Award: Chris Derrick, Stanford
In that same Millrose 5000 meter race where Lalang broke the record, Derrick posted a 13:19.58. More importantly than breaking his PR by some 10 seconds, it also just dips under the 13:20.00 Olympic ‘A’ qualifying standard. Only two other Americans have ever run that fast indoors, Galen Rupp and Bernard Lagat. His time was within two seconds of the old collegiate record. He has barely gotten any attention for his feat, but it is very impressive.
Team of the Week: Arkansas Razorbacks
The Hogs continue to look like the favorites to win the NCAA Championships. At their own Tyson Invitational, they had impressive performances in the 200 meters, 400 meters, 800 meters, 4×400 relay, high jump and pole vault.
Athlete of the Week #1: Katie Flood, Washington
Flood took second in the mile at the Flotrack Husky Classic, pusing 2011 World Championships medalist Sally Kipyego all the way to the finish line and running a time of 4:28.48. That’s the fourth-fastest mile ever by a collegian. Of the three athletes ahead of her, two have won World Championships medals (Kipyego and Jenny Simpson).
Athlete of the Week #2: Deborah Maier, Cal-Berkeley
Like Flood, Maier took second at the Flotrack Husky Classic behind Sally Kipyego, but in Friday night’s 5000 meters. Her time, 15:29.24, is the sixth-fastest ever run indoors by a collegian. The race was set up as an attempt by Oregon’s Jordan Hasay to gain an Olympic ‘A’ qualifying mark of 15:20.00, but she finished fourth and missed the mark by 25 seconds. Maier now has an Olympic ‘B’ mark, and the ‘A’ is in sight.
Honorable Mention: Tia Brooks, Oklahoma
Brooks took fourth in the shot put at the USATF Classic, losing only to three pros, all of whom were finalists at last year’s World Championships. Her distance, 18.19 meters (59′ 8.25″), is not a PR–but if it was, it would put her in a tie for 6th on the all-time collegiate indoor list.
Team Player: Eileen Moran, Princeton
In a tri-meet win over Harvard and Yale, Moran ran the 60 meters and 200 meters plus second leg on the mile relay. All three were wins.
Team of the Week: Oregon Ducks
Oregon has kept the early season in check and not run their stars hard all at once. Now things are beginning to round into form. They had strong showings from English Gardner in the 60 and 200, plus another excellent weekend in the distance events.