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April 26, 2017

UTEP isn’t taking its middle distance squad to the Penn Relays, which sucks

Even with Oregon star Edward Cheserek a no-go for this weekend’s Penn Relays, the men’s college distance medley relay is slated to be an intriguing one. It’s a wide-open battle between a handful of teams, but I’m most interested in one school’s absence.

Who’s in it?

Oregon will still be a contender, even without Cheserek. They’re planning to run a team of Sam Prakel on the 1,200m (he’s run 3:40.87 for 1,500m this year), Marcus Chambers on the quarter (he’s gone 45.29 this season), Mick Stanovsek for the 800m (coming off a 1:51.39 his last race), and Blake Haney on the anchor leg (who went 3:42.86 this month). It’s not a typically dominant Duck squad at first glance, but each guy’s run faster in his lifetime than he has this season. If everything clicks, they could win it.

Defending champ Penn State could be strong as well, with a squad comprised of mainly 800m guys. Their heavy hitter, Isaiah Harris (2017 best and PR: 1:45.12) will close things out for them, and assuming the cadre of Domenic Perretta (1:47.29), Jordan Makins (1:49.10), and Samuel Reiser (48.78 in 2017) can keep him close, the half-miler should be competitive in a more tactical closing leg.

Reigning NCAA Indoor third-place finisher Georgetown also could get its nose in it. They’ll likely field a lineup of Amos Bartelsmeyer (a sub-4 guy who’s run 1:51.04 and 3:45.03 this year), Quincey Wilson (48.82 this year),  Joseph White (1:46.07 this year), and Scott Carpenter (3:45.12 this year).  If you’re wondering where Spencer Brown (famous for The Athlete Special) is, he plans to run unattached this outdoor season but will continue vlogging.

Oklahoma, Indiana, Villanova, and Middle Tennessee can also field strong teams, and honestly, any of them have just as good a shot at the win as the three schools highlighted above. Basically, there isn’t a clear favorite, and no one squad appears poised to dominate. Which would be the perfect environment for a wildcard team.

Who’s missing and how does it make me feel?

UTEP, baby. UTEP. I’m convinced that if El Paso’s finest were making this trip (and they’re not), they just might have flown back home with some watches and a big silly wheel trophy. It’s a dang bummer they won’t be there.

They have one of the more exciting and untested middle distance crews in the country right now and it would have been really neat to see them wallop on some more conventional powerhouse schools. (Yes, I know UTEP was unstoppable at one point, but they haven’t been that great lately, Without looking it up, how many of you know anything about the school? The mascot even? [They’re the Miners])

Anyway, the squad of Jonah Koech, Asa Guevara, Emmanuel Korir, and Michael Saruni would certainly make things interesting.

Koech has run 48.79 and 4:03.75 this year, and boasts a lifetime best in the 800m of 1:46.53. If somebody with those credentials can’t split 2:5X-low in a fast opening leg, something’s wrong. And if it’s a tactical affair to start, not many 1,200m boys can close with a 48-second quarter guy.

Guevara is only the third best 400m man on this proposed lineup. But he’s run 46.81 this season. Ole Miss won this year’s NCAA indoor DMR with a 50+ second quarter split. This is the least important leg of the event and also the one least likely to be run strategically. Even if Guevara only musters a 47.X split, he’ll hand off at or near the front.

Korir won the indoor 800m title this season. That should be enough to cement him as a frightening presence in this third slot. But there’s more. He set an indoor world best in the 600m this year (1:14.97) and ran 44.67 a few weeks back, easily the quickest 400m PB of any 800m man in this field.

And taking it all home would be Michael Saruni, who is admittedly a pretty major wildcard of an anchor. He outkicked Donavan Brazier in the Texas Relays 800m this year, winning it in 1:45.82. His mile best is only 4:03.32 (which he ran to win the Conference USA indoor title), but the only race he’s lost this season was when he got second to Korir in that 400 where he still managed to run 45.69. His presence on the track would guarantee the anchor leg to be an honest one. Nobody wants to play sit-and-kick with a guy who could just as easily run his team’s quarter leg.

There isn’t a team in the actual race comprised of nationally respectable 400m runners. In fact, I’ve never seen a DMR team like this. They’ll all have eligibility still next year, so here’s hoping they hop on a flight to Philly this time in 2018.

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