Seven Syracuse Orange track athletes are in Eugene, Oregon to compete in the 2018 NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships this week. While the Orange aren’t worried about the team title, they are looking at the potential of setting some program history. Justyn Knight and Paige Stoner have the potential to record the best finishes in a NCAA Outoor Championship, but they aren’t the only ones looking to make an impact in Eugene.
The men’s 3,000m steeplechase gets things started on Wednesday (8:02 pm Eastern). Aidan Tooker will be in his 2nd NCAA Championships in a row and takes to the track in the 1st heat. Last year Tooker was 21st in the event, but he enters 2018 with the experience of last year and the 11th fastest time. Noah Affolder will be in Heat 2 and he’s 12th on the NCAA list this season. The freshman is living up to expectations this Spring and both he and Tooker will be looking to get a spot in Friday’s final.
Matt Moore will be the next Syracuse athlete to take to the track on Wednesday. He’ll be in the 3rd Heat of the 110m hurdles and he’s a bit of a surprise to be in the field. The sophomore had the 31st fastest time in the country this year, but he earned his way into the field at the East Regional meet. Now Matt will be trying to become the 7th Syracuse male hurdler to earn All-America honors. Something which might work in his favor is that only two of the eight athletes in his heat are upperclassmen so big-meet nerves could provide the opening for Moore to advance.
Colin Bennie will be finshing his Syracuse career with his 4th straight NCAA Outdoor appearance. After running the 5,000m his first year, Bennie moved up to the 10,000m and had a 10th place finish in 2016. This year he enters the meet with the 10th fastest time and he’s in the next tier of contenders for the longest race of the meet, which will start at 10:08pm on Wednesday. Colin’s not known for great finshing speed, but his experience should allow him to remain in contact with the leaders. With some of the favorites coming back in the 5,000m it should be a tactical race and we’ll see if Colin can add another All-American honor to complete his Syracuse resume.
Paige Stoner’s been setting numerous Syracuse records over the last 15 months. She heads into Thursday’s 3,000m steeplechase semifinal (7:30 pm Eastern) with one of the fastest times in the event this season. Allie Ostrander of the Boise State Broncos is the overwhelming favorite as she’s been seven seconds faster than everyone else this year. Ostrander’s scheduled to run the 5,000m which is just a couple of hours after the steeplechase final on Saturday so it would seem as though she’d like a controlled race which opens the door a little for the rest of the field. Last year Stoner finished 11th in this event and this year she has higher expectations.
Stoner’s in the first heat on Thursday and she’ll need to finish in the top 5 of the heat, or have one of the two next fastest times from the two heats. If Stoner can advance to the final she’ll have a chance to record the best outdoor finish by a Syracuse distance runner as she did during cross-country (17th) and indoor (8th) this year. The previous best Orange finishes in a distance event were by Margo Malone who was 7th in the 10,000m in 2015 and Lauren Penney who finished 8th in the 5,000m in 2013.
The final Syracuse athletes will take to the track on Friday evening at 10:25 when Philo Germano and Justyn Knight compete in the 5,000m. All eyes are on Knight who will be looking for his 3rd career NCAA title. Last year he was the favorite in the event, but finished a disappointing 3rd. It’s a race that frustrated and motivated Justyn and I expect he’ll attempt to break the back sooner this year. He’s the top seed and would like to end his outstanding Orange career with the program’s 1st NCAA Outdoor Title.
Philo Germano is capping his career with his strongest track season. This will be his 2nd appearance at the NCAA meet with his previous visit ending in a Did Not Finish. He only had the 40th fastest 5,000m time this year but he delivered a strong closing kick at the East Regional. He’ll be remembered for his finishing kick to seal the Orange’s NCAA XC title in 2015, but Philo would like to make one more memory in Orange this week.
The NCAA meet will be broadcast in its entirety on ESPN3 with evening coverage on ESPN2 (Wednesday and Thursday) and ESPN (Friday and Saturday). The full meet schedule is here and we’ll provide updates throughout the meet.