Frankly, there is not a whole lot of difference between D-I and D-II in track and field, particularly on the men's side. The NCAA scholarship limit for men's track and field in D-I and D-II is an identical 12.6 scholarships (for the women it is 18 for D-I and 12.6 for D-II). Tarleton has only recently gotten up to the men's scholarship limit, but they have always put an emphasis on distance runners -- they probably give 50% of their scholarships to distance runners, whereas ACU (and SHSU) probably give 20% of scholarships to distance runners. I am surprised to see Tarleton beat Lamar so soundly -- Lamar usually gives 80-100% of their scholarships to distance runners.
Watcher of XC is also dead-on, Tarleton has been able to build a salty distance running corps by finding overlooked Texas runners -- their top 7 runners at the TAMU meet were from: 1) Robinson, TX; 2) Robinson, TX; 3) Pflugerville Hendrickson; 4) Southlake Carroll; 5) Bruceville-Eddy; 6) Bandera; and 7) North Mesquite. In most cases, Coach Ponder from Tarleton has been developing these kids for 2-3 years, and he has a good rep as a distance coach. Looks like he has a team that can push for making it to the D-II national meet on the men's side. You will notice that the Tarleton women are not as strong as their men's side and it is due to simple arithmetic. D-II women can give 12.6 scholarships and D-I can give 18 scholarship -- if most of the D-I schools only give 25% of their scholarships to distance runners -- that is still around 4-5 scholarships and they will have a far better chance of finding those somewhat hidden kids in Texas.
At first glance at the results, I was very disappointed in the ACU results at the TAMU meet. But, looking at the results a little closer, there were some good things as well.
WOMEN -- There is still too much time between ACU's #1 (Carnley Graham) and the #2 runner, who this week was soph Hannah Marut -- 1:16 is too big a gap. That has to drop under a minute, which is not easy when Carnley is running at a much higher level. The gap between #2 and #5 is not too bad -- less than a minute. #3 ACU runner, freshman Sarah Wagler is showing lots of promise. This week's #4 and #5 -- sophs Soren Underwood and Briahna Gerlach -- will be pivotal for ACU having any chance of challenging for a top-5 spot at conference. The good news was that all of ACU's top-5 improved over their times at the first home meet -- Carnley (24 seconds); Hannah (50 seconds); Sarah (36 seconds); Soren (49 seconds) and Briahna (9 seconds). It appears that the ACU women are all progressing toward a peak at conference. There is a BIG difference in time between #5 and #6 ACU runners (soph Aubrey Young) of almost 2 full minutes -- really scary if one of the top-5 sustain an injury, an illness or simply have a bad day at the conference meet.
The women finished in 8th place overall -- 5th place was Lamar, 6th place was Houston and 7th place was Georgia State -- ACU was comfortably ahead of 9th place SELA and 10th place SHSU.
MEN -- there is too much of a gap between ACU's #1 (Kevin Kipkosgei) and #2 (fellow freshman Levi Chambers) of 1:27. There is a HUGE gap between #1 and #5 -- 3:37!! In a perfect world, you would like to see around a 1:30 gap and would settle for a 2-minute gap between #1 and #5. ACU is a long ways from having that kind of pack, partly because Kevin is showing such stunning improvement each week (he ran 1:46 faster than what he ran in Abilene a few weeks back). The freshmen are looking good this year -- as I mentioned, Kevin ran much faster than he did in the Abilene debut meet. Levi Chambers finished in 46th with a time 54 seconds faster than at the home meet; walkon freshman Grant O'Neil finished in 90th with a time 1:40 faster than run in Abilene -- only Colton Gates ran poorly among the freshman, struggling to a time that was 56 seconds slower than he ran in Abilene.
The ACU men's team will come down to how our returnees fare. Junior Drew Cummings, who ran #2 for ACU almost all last season is struggling mightily -- he finished well behind the freshman O'Neil and his times are far off last year's times; soph Conner Miller had to drop out of the race again this week as he tries to find an orthotic that can deal with his blisters; and soph Seth Crockett, while showing a big improvement over his run in Abilene, still needs to show a big improvement over last year. Senior Travis Nichols is running reasonably in this, his final XC season for ACU. His time was 1:30 better than he ran in Abilene. These returnees need to really turn it on if ACU is going to improve on last year's 6th place conference finish.
The ACU finish in 11th place -- behind 3rd place Lamar, 8th place SELA, and 9th place SHSU. That does NOT bode well for the conference meet!
ACU XC headed to San Antonio to run in the UIW Invitational. Only 3 D-I programs in this meet - UIW, ACU and UTSA (who has a very poor distance running program), in a field dominated by D-III schools, like Trinity, Southwestern, Schreiner, Sul Ross, McMurry, Texas Lutheran. This will be rather low-key race on a rather high-quality course. It should be the ideal meet for ACU a few weeks out from conference and a team missing some important runners out with minor injuries.
WOMEN -- the true freshman, Sarah Wagler, is not running this weekend. Wagler has run well this year -- running #2 or #3 at the three meets thus far. Carnley Graham will again lead the field in a race that she could well win. This is a perfect meet for the sophomores who to really turn it up -- people like Hannah Marut, Briahna Gerlach, Soren Underwood, Allie Taylor and Aubrey Young. With the race in San Antonio, it will be a good chance for sophomore Taylor Reinhold (San Antonio Brandeis) and freshman Loren Rivera (San Antonio Brennan) to run in front of a lot of family and friends.
MEN -- the key person missing this week will be Kevin Kipkosgei, who is nursing a small nagging injury. Also, Conner Miller is fighting a losing battled with finding the right orthotic to deal with his foot pain. With Jordan Mossinger out for the season after an off-season pedestrian accident and freshman Colton Gates also dealing with a nagging injury that already took him out of the Texas Tech meet, this team will go to battle with the absolute minimum number -- 5 runners. Freshman Levi Chambers has run well all year, as has senior Travis Nichols. This would be a great meet for junior Drew Cummings to break out of his season-long funk -- Drew can run #2 for ACU if he runs to his potential. Soph Seth Crockett is another one who has struggled this year after I thought he would have a great season. Freshman Grant O'Neil has been a pleasant surprise.
This meet is the 4th meet this year in which ACU has competed that is within easy driving range of Abilene -- Lubbock, College Station, and San Antonio to go along with our home meet. Operating on a tight budget, ACU track and field/XC will try to cut costs during the XC and indoor track seasons (thankful that Tech has opened a spectacular new indoor facility and that Red Raider coach Wes Kittley still invites ACU to many of his home meets). This should leave some money for the outdoor track team to make some key trips this next spring, meets like Mt. SAC Relays or the Bryan Clay Invitational, to get ACU's top national meet prospects a chance to experience west coast running prior to running in the D-I West Prelim meet in Sacramento next May.
Tomorrow is the conference XC meet, being held in Lake Charles. The weather looks good, no rain in the forecast before the race tomorrow (and no rain earlier in the week) and should be a little on the warmish side for a XC race -- probably in the low to mid-60's. This is what I think I see for tomorrow:
WOMEN - of course, the ACU women handily won the XC title last year, but lost the top 3 finishers in the race to graduation. Carnley Graham (6th last year) has been running at a very high level all season and she will challenge for the women's title. Three returning sophomores -- Hannah Marut, Briahna Gerlach, and Soren Underwood -- have all been steadily improving all season and all have top 25 potential. The biggest obstacle to ACU grabbing a top-3 team finish is the ongoing injury status of freshman Sarah Wagler, who early in the season ran #2/#3 for ACU. In XC, the top 5 finishers are counted in the team score (scoring is pretty simple -- if you get 1st place, you get 1 points and if you get 16th place, you get 16 points -- the LOWEST score wins). With Wagler out with an injury, I don't know who that #5 finisher will be for ACU -- soph Allie Taylor has been sick all season, so that #5 may have to be soph Aubrey Young or freshman Loren Rivera. One good sign -- ACU was able to win the UIW XC meet with Sarah Wagler injured -- Aubrey Young stepped up to fill that #5 spot. UIW was 5th in last year's team race and is a pretty good team. I think that ACU ends up in the top 6 teams, but I don't think they can challenge for a top-3 spot without Sarah W.
MEN - ACU finished 7th last year in the team race and lost the top 2 of the top 4 runners from last year -- Ryan Cleary and John Baker (who both still have one season of eligibility on the track and will be running for ACU this coming spring). However, I thought that newcomers Kevin Kipkosgei and Levi Chambers, plus returnees Drew Cummings, Conner Miller, and Travis Nichols could put together a strong team. Early in the year, Kevin K looked fantastic, but he has seen nagging injuries impact his season and miss the last meet. Drew Cummings (upper respiratory ailments) and Conner Miller (blisters that have not been aided by the correct orthotics) have suffered through difficult seasons. Freshman Levi Chambers has been a really solid addition and Travis Nichols, the only senior on the team) has shown steady improvement all season. Soph Seth Crockett looked better at UIW and freshman walk-on Grant O'Neil has stepped in ably after injuries to the top runners. If Kevin K runs close to 100%, he may well be able to help ACU get within the top 7 teams again. If he is not running in the top 10 and Conner and Drew continue to struggle with their individual ailments, then ACU might have to fight to get in the top 10 teams.
The women's race results have been posted for the SLC XC championship and they are rather disappointing. Carnley Graham gets 6th place (All-conference) to match the 6th place she got last year. Carnley was one minute behind the winner, who was the English kid from TAMU-CC. I mentioned in my post yesterday that I thought ACU had up to 3 kids who could finish in the top-25 and one of them (Hannah Marut) lived up to the prediction. Hannah finished in 20th and finished 50 seconds behind Carnley (I had hoped to see all three sophomores finish within 1:00 of Carnley). Briahna Gerlach finishes in 35th place a minute behind Hannah and three places lower than last year. Soren Underwood struggled to 52nd place -- 18 places lower than last year -- and 50 seconds behind Briahna.
Two walkon freshmen finished next -- Loren Rivera was 72nd place and she was the #5 finisher that we had to use in the point totals. Chase Nolan -- running in her first meet since the opener, finished in 81st place. Sophomores Aubrey Young (85th) and Allison Taylor (86th) finished far back in the pack of 93 runners -- the last three finishers in the entire race ran for New Orleans, but UNO still slipped in front of woeful Nicholls in the race for the cellar.
ACU finishes in 8th place. If Soren and Briahna matched their places from last year, we jump up to 6th place. If freshman Sarah Wagler was able to run, we probably end up in 5th, but it would be very tough to move any higher. The top-4 teams were closely bunched. TAMU-CC wins it by ONE point over Lamar, with SFA just 3 points behind Lamar and McNeese 8 points back of SFA.
Men's race underway right now and results should be out in less than 30 minutes.
The men's results are out and they are not very pretty -- ACU finishes 9th after a 7th place finish last year. The good news is that 2 freshmen finished in the top 2 spots. Levi Chambers is the only ACU runner to squeeze into the top-25, as he finishes 25th and he was the 5th best freshman finisher in the field. Kevin Kipkosgei has been unable to train for 2-3 weeks due to an ankle injury and that showed as he struggles to finish 43rd. A quick perusal of the results show that Kevin finished behind 4 of the top 10 in the race that he BEAT at the TAMU meet -- his last injury free meet.
Travis Nichols, the only senior on the XC team this year, finished in 61st place -- moving up 2 spots from last year. Conner Miller finished 64th (28th last year) in only the 2nd race he has raced and finished this year. Seth Crockett finished 69th, the exact same place he finished last year. Freshman walkon Grant O'Neil finished 83rd and Drew Cummings -- struggling with upper-respiratory ailments all year -- finished 2nd to last in the while race, 86th, after finishing 21st last year! Needless to say, the cold monsoon conditions in Abilene off and on for all of October have NOT been conducive to healing of upper-respiratory. NOTE: For those of you NOT in Abilene, this October has been the 4th wettest month in Abilene in recorded history and every rain has been a cold, nasty kind of rain, no mild spring showers in October.
Thank goodness for NWST, UNO and the always woeful Nicholls -- these three teams insulated ACU from finishing in the cellar. A healthy Kevin K would probably not have moved ACU up to 8th place -- there was a big space between 8th place SHSU. If Kevin K had been healthy and if Conner Miller and Drew Cummings finishes in the same place as last year, it would have moved ACU up to around 6th place. Central Arkansas pulled off an upset, beating Lamar 57-64.
I just looked at some of the pictures from the meet and the conditions were pathetic. There are pictures of runners running through ankle deep mud! Of course, every one had to deal with the same conditions, but I hate seeing a championship meet run in such treacherous conditions.
Thanks, Slight Correction. Allyson Girard IS from Arizona — Gilbert, AZ, by way of Minn-Duluth and Mesa CC. Remind me to never depend on my increasingly faulty, top-of-head memory! slight Correction, as an obvious T&F/XC fan, I hope you will drop by the board occasionally — would love to have you posting more about my favorite sport.
The indoor track season has begun for at least one Wildcat. Ryan Cleary went up to Pittsburg State in Kansas, which actually has a really top-flight indoor track facility, last Saturday and won the 3k run with a new PR of 8:23.36. Why did Ryan drive to the frozen tundra of Kansas to run this race? There are some really good reasons:
-Ryan had already used up his XC eligibility and did not run for ACU during the XC season, but had been training HARD all fall. He needed a race to test his fitness level BEFORE the Christmas holiday and it appears that he passed his "mid-term test" with flying colors
-Ryan redshirted the 2018 indoor season, but back in 2017, he had run the mile indoors all year and was put into the 3K for the conference meet. The way that the conference 3K works is that the top 16 times goes in a fast section and every other entry goes into the "slow" section. Because Ryan had not run the 3K during the indoor season prior to conference, he was placed in the slow section and had to run pretty much by himself, winning that section by 10 seconds and pushing his way into 6th place in the overall results. His time last Saturday was 6 seconds FASTER than his time at conference in 2017 and guarantees him a spot on the fast section at conference, which is still 2.5 months away (Feb 24-25).
Now, Ryan can concentrate on picking up a lot of mileage in training and at most indoor meets this season he will probably work on his speed work -- running the mile and 800 and maybe throw in one "over-distance" race with a indoor 5K sometime along the way.
Trackfan, it always amazes me when I see the dedication and perserverence of athletes that often have to train in more solitude and with less fanbase to push themselves so hard for pretty much no recognition. Thanks for always making their stories so good.
Ryan Cleary is certainly one such athlete, Outsider. The kid came to ACU as an okay HS runner and has worked his way into being conference champ in the steeplechase and a qualifier for the NCAA West Prelim meet in Sacramento last spring. Ryan has run an 8:56 in the steeple in the past and last year an 8:44 would have gotten him to nationals. I really think he can still drop his time another 10-15 seconds and put himself into the running for a spot at the national meet. All of this from a kid who did not even win his district meet in HS!
I also heard through the grapevine that ACU has signed Anthony Bryan, from South Walton HS in Florida. This is a high quality signing for ACU. Bryan trains as a decathlete with one of the best youth level decathlon coaches in the country - Willie Parker. At his district track meet in Florida last year, Anthony won the 110H, pole vault and long jump (a GREAT combination of events for an aspiring decathlete.) He has already competed at the national level -- as a 15-year old, he got 2nd in the national Jr Olympic 15-16 Division decathlon with a good score of 6,353. Last winter, he got third at the prestigious New Balance Indoor Nationals pentathlon. What was the level of competition there? Anthony was the only HS junior in the top 5 -- the 1st place guy (Kyle Garland) signed with national champion Georgia; the 2nd place guy (less than 100 pts ahead of Anthony) signed with USC; and the guy who finished 50 points behind Anthony signed with Penn State. That tells you a little about this kid that ACU signed.
When you look at his times/marks prior to ACU, it is obvious that Anthony is a talent! PR's in the 10 events of the decathlon: 100 (11.41 -- probably his weakest event); 400 (52.13); 1500 (5:15); 110 hurdles (14.42 - one of his best events); Shot put (44-5); discus (130-1); Javelin (136-1.5); HJ (6-2); LJ (22-4.5); and the pole vault (14-3.25). The PV is usually one of the toughest events for a new decathlete to learn and Anthony is already a good HS vaulter. I am really excited about ACU signing Anthony Bryan.