The 53rd edition of the Mt. SAC Relays will kick off Thursday evening with a smattering of steeplechase and 10k races, but the Friday night distance carnival is really when the action heats up. Highlighting the events of the night are the women’s 1500 and 5000 meter races.
Women’s 1500 meters
The 1500 meters features the current superstar of American distance running Shalane Flanagan and her up-and-coming young teammate Lisa Koll. Flanagan is coming off her spectacular third place finish at the World Cross Country Championships while Koll was a disappointing 40th. Both will be seeking spots on Team USA at Worlds in Daegu, likely in the 10,000 meters.
NCAA cross country champ Shelia Reid of Villanova will compete against new Colorado Buffalo and Stanford 5k winner Jessica Pixler for the top collegiate spot in the contest. American professionals Lauren Centrowitz, Brenda Martinez, and Alice Schmidt will also be testing their legs in this early season test.
Women’s 5000 meters
The 5000 meters is the most loaded of any race at the Mt. SAC Relays. Let’s start out with a pair of American record holders, Molly Huddle and Jenny Simpson. Huddle, the 5k record holder, made her second straight top 20 finish at the World Cross Country Championships about a month ago. Simpson holds the top U.S. mark in the steeplechase but will be competing in the flat twelve-and-a-half lap race on Friday evening. She won two indoor national titles in the mile and 3000 meters in late February.
Other notables in the field are former Illinois NCAA champ Angela Bizzarri, Oregon phenom Jordan Hasay, Sara Hall, and ex-Washington All-American Katie Follett. Pixler is entered in the 5k in addition to the 1500.
Other events of note:
Women’s 800 meters
New Balance pro Maggie Vessey has to be considered the favorite with her 1:57 personal best. She had a difficult 2010 season but is now trying new things under the training of coach Rose Monday. Former Indiana Hoosier Molly Beckwith should not be counted out given her surprising 1:59 effort last summer in Europe. Another to watch for is Sacramento State senior Lea Wallace, the fastest collegiate indoor half-miler in 2011.
Women’s 3000 meter steeplechase
Washington’s Mel Lawrence had a stellar redshirt freshman season in 2009 when she placed third at the NCAA championships in a time of 9:40. She has been plagued by injury in recent years but appears ready to make her return to the steeple. Also entered ex-Baylor star Erin Bedell who is now training with the McMillan Elite group in Flagstaff.
For full Mt. SAC Relays start lists, click here.