Tonight in Jacksonville, Fla., 13 members of the Syracuse Orange track and field team take the next step to reaching the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships. The top twelve athletes in each event at the East Regionals will move on to Eugene, Oregon and the NCAA meet so let’s preview the action.
The men step on the track tonight starting with Simon Smith in the 1500m heats. Smith enters ranked 74th in the region and he’ll be in Heat 3 of 4 tonight. The top runner in Smith’s heat is Alabama Crimson Tide freshman Eliud Kipsang who enters with the 3rd fastest 1500m time in the nation this season. The top five athletes in each heat plus the next four fastest times advance to Friday’s quarterfinal.
Also tonight is the men’s 10000m which features five Syracuse runners. JP Trojan is coming off a 2nd-place finish at the ACC Championships and he along with Joe Dragon represent Syracuse’s best hopes in this event. Dom Hockenbury, Matthew Scrape and Silas Derfel are not expected to compete for a top 12 spot but in a field of 48 runners competing on a night when the temperatures will be in the 80s at race time all bets are off. This race is going to be about survival and expect it to be very tactical which can often lead to some surprising results.
The women get started on Thursday and the Orange will have Shaleah Colaire in the 400m hurdles. Colaire was added to the meet this week and she’ll be in Heat 2 of 6. The top three in each heat plus the next six fastest times will advance to Saturday’s quarterfinal heats.
Four Syracuse runners will compete in the women’s 10000m on Thursday evening. Amanda Vestri and Annie Heffernan enter the race with top-10 times in the region this season and be in position to advance to Eugene. Both runners are experienced and have had strong outdoor seasons but like the men they’ll need to navigate the large field along with the heat and humidity. Jordan Jacob and Abigail Spiers are not expected to contend for the top 12 spots but we’ll see if they can stay in position to challenge late in the race.
The final two Syracuse qualifiers will compete in the 3000m steeplechase which has only one round in Jacksonville. Aidan Tooker will be in Heat 3 of 3 on Friday night for the men’s race and Justus Holden-Betts will be in Heat 3 of 3 on Saturday for the women’s race. In both the men’s and women’s steeple the top three finishers in each heat plus the next three fastest times advance to Eugene. The benefit of going last is both runners know what the times to beat will be which provides opportunity but also means they must be flexible in their race strategy. It’s an advantage to know how they need to run to make it through so we’ll see if Tooker and Holden-Betts are able to benefit from their heat placement.