By Chris Lotsbom, @ChrisLotsbom
(c) 2014 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved, used with permission
NEW YORK (20-Feb) -- This weekend will be a busy one at The New Balance Track & Field Center at The Armory, as three Division I conference championships will be held between Friday and Monday. The Big East Conference kicks things off on Friday and concludes Saturday, while the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) holds its championship on Friday evening. On Sunday and Monday, the America East conference will take center stage on The Armory's fast, Mondo oval.
Between the three conference meets, there are a number of top distance runners competing in events ranging from the 800m through 5000m. Here's a look at some of the top names to watch for this weekend.
- Coach Ray Treacy and his Providence College Friars didn't miss a beat coming off their NCAA Cross Country Championship season from last fall. A dominant duo up front in Emily Sisson and Laura Nagel has solidified them as the top women's distance program in the nation; both are entered in the 5000m on Friday as well as the 3000m on Saturday evening. Sisson, the reigning 3000m champion, is ranked third in the nation for 3000m (9:00.76) and second for 5000m (15:40.62). Nagel's season bests are just off Sisson's: 9:01.35 for 3000m (2nd in the NCAA) and 15:42.60 for 5000m (4th).
- You'll be hard pressed to find a more consistent middle-distance squad in America than Villanova. Emily Lipari looks to defend her 1000m title coming off a solid 4:35.24, eighth place performance at the NYRR Millrose Games Wanamaker Women's Mile, while Nicky Akande competes in the 800m alongside teammate Kelsey Margey. Akande is the top returner from last year's 800m. Entered in the mile is Stephanie Schappert and Angel Piccirillo.
- Georgetown's Andrea Keklak is ranked fourth in the NCAA for 800m (2:04.64), though will run the mile here. Teammate Sabrina Southerland, a freshman, may have an extra hometown advantage in the 800m, considering she attended Benjamin Cardozo High School in Queens and competed at The Armory all throughout high school. Also keep an eye on Katrina Coogan, daughter of Olympians Gwynn and Mark Coogan, in both the 1000m and 3000m.
- Butler University makes it's first appearance at the Big East Conference Indoor Championships, and is led by Mara Olson. The junior is ranked in the NCAA top-20 for both 3000m (9:08.83) and 5000m (16:03.89), though is only entered in Saturday's 3000m.
- Iona's Kate Avery is far and away the class of the MAAC field. Last week, the native of Great Britain timed 8:56.20 for 3000m at the NYRR Millrose Games, finishing seventh. Though it is unclear which discipline she'll contest on Friday, Avery is sure to be competitive: among NCAA athletes, she's ranked 20th in the mile (4:38.24) and second in the 3000m (8:56.20) this year.
- Stony Brook's Olivia Burne has run 4:38.10 for the mile this season, though she will drop down to the 1000m at the Championships. She's seeded with a time of 2:51.50.
- Silvia Del Fava of Albany. A native of Italy, Del Fava is a clear favorite in both the 3000m and 5000m. She won the 3000m at the Armory Collegiate Invitational presented by NYRR earlier this season in a personal best of 9:33.50.
- If all goes well for the men of Villanova, they could sweep the mile, 3000m, and 5000m. Australian Jordy Williamsz and reigning conference champion Robert Denault lead the mile field and have both gone under four-minutes. Last week the tandem timed 3:56.84 and 3:59.86, respectively, at the Iowa State Classic.
Just like in the mile, Villanova has a fearsome duo in the 3000m and 5000m. Freshman Patrick Tiernan and senior Sam McEntee, both of Australia, have routinely finished atop the results this year. Tiernan is ranked second in the nation for 5000m, having run 13:37.73 just last weekend, while McEntee is the reigning 3000m conference champion.
- Georgetown's mid-distance squad is led by junior Billy Ledder and sophomore Ahmed Bile. Bile, who has broken 1:50 this season, will try and improve upon his third place showing from a year ago, while Ledder will take to the line in the 1000m. In 2013, Ledder was runner-up to former Providence Friar Julian Matthews in the 1000m.
- Providence's Julian Oakley has come oh-so-close to cracking four-minutes for the mile, running 4:00.71 this season. Senior teammates Julian Saad and Kevin Cooper will race in the 3000m.
- Butler's Tom Curr could be a dark horse in the mile. He's run 4:03.22 this year, as well as 8:22.26 in the 3000m.
- For more than a decade, Iona has been a dominant force in the distance disciplines at the MAAC Championships. Once again, they are poised to take home the hardware this year. Entry lists for the MAAC have yet to be released, but here's a rundown of Iona's top talents: Matthew Gillespie, a senior, has run 3:58.48 for the mile and 7:52.24 for the 3000m, making him a duel threat. Similarly, freshman Chartt Miller has shown promise over both events, clocking 4:00.99 and 7:57.52 this month. Sophomore Kieran Clements and junior Otis Ubriaco both dipped under 8:00 for 3000m just last week, running 7:57.67 and 7:59.33 in Boston.
- Binghamton junior Jesse Garn got a taste of the spotlight last Saturday, racing the NYRR Wanamaker Mile at the NYRR Millrose Games. Garn placed eighth in a field full of professionals, timing a personal best of 4:01.10. Returning to The Armory, Garn will race the 1000m, the event he won at the Armory Collegiate Invitational earlier this month.