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Indoor Comes To a Triumphant Close
Last Saturday, the Illini Track Club hosted the biggest NIRCA-only indoor meet of the year: the Illinois Club Relays. Every year, the return of the Club Relays means the opportunity for the best club runners in their region — in one of the most competitive areas in the country — to line up and go toe to toe. This is often one of the best early indicators for outdoor Nats, now barely over a month out. This is real racing, so times don’t matter. That said, when you get that many great runners on a start line together, and all of them are trying to win, there’s going to be some fast performances.
I predicted last week that there would be some speedy races, and I was correct1. Don’t believe me? Check this out:
Never Underestimate A2
Perhaps the event that stresses me out most to spectate2, the 60m hurdles saw some stiff competition. George Patil of Cincinnati won the men’s race handily in 8.68 — the only sub-9 of the day and a nearly half-second victory over the rest of the field. Patil also placed second in the high jump, leaping 1.83 meters for the silver. Even more striking, however, was the women’s winning time: 9.01 from Illinois’ Ari Afolabi. That, for those of you keeping score at home, is fast enough to place second overall in the men’s race. Afolabi, had she been in the fellas’ final, would have beaten second-place Jonathan Sze (who still ran an excellent 9.11) by a full tenth of a second!
Considering she also took 3rd in the flat 60 (nearly dipping under 8 seconds) and ran in Illinois’ winning 4x200 squad, I’d say it’s a fair bet that Ari Afolabi will be a name you ought to get used to reading here.
Okay, Maybe Just Illinois Women’s Sprints in General
I wanted to highlight Afolabi’s dominant win in the 60 hurdles especially, but it really has to be said that the Illinois women’s sprint squad — perhaps the biggest factor in their 2022 Outdoor Championship title — has continued to showcase the depth of their talent. In the 60m dash — won by Melissa Aninagyei-Bonsu in 7.84 — Illinois placed 4 women in the top 53. They also swept the 4x200, 4x400, and SMR, not to mention the triple jump. Clearly, the Illinois women’s sprint team remains the juggernaut they’ve always been. Don’t call it a comeback, ‘cause they never left.
The men’s 3k last weekend went, in a word, crazy. Before the Illinois relays, we had (on record), 25 sub-9 club 3k performances. The Club Relays alone brought that up to 43. That’s right, 18 men ran sub-9 last weekend.
Marquette Club Running’s Patrick Hetlage won the stacked race in 8:35.77 — placing him 3rd for the season. 5 men in heat 1 ran under 8:45 last Saturday, and 8 dipped under 8:50.
More Mile Madness
As if the fast times in the 3k weren’t enough, both the men’s and women’s miles saw major fireworks at the Club Relays. Last week, I talked about the depth of the women’s mile, and this week the Midwest decided to prove me right. 6 women took down the 5:30 barrier4 at the Club Relays, the first of whom — Notre Dame’s Emily Arenas — ran 5:12. Another 8 women broke 5:40 in that race.
The men’s race was won by Aleksander Wormuth of Minnesota, who ran a blazing 4:18.51 and pulled ahead of OSU middle-distance heavyweight Aidan McCarthy by just 1.5 seconds. All in all, 13 men ran under 4:30.
Tyler Klein (Illinois) continues to make it look easy, running 6.94 for a 60m win, leaping 6.58m for a Long Jump W, and running on the 4x200 and 4x400 teams that took 1st and 2nd, respectively.
The Michigan women took the win in the 4x800 relay, squeaking in just a couple of seconds ahead of Saint Louis University and running 9:45 in the process. The MRun men also had a good race, but it was the Illinois 4x800 team who emerged victorious. Illinois was also the only team to sneak under 8 minutes for the relay.
“The Heps of NIRCA”
Illinois wasn’t the only meet to see some fast times last Saturday! Also of note was the Harvard Indoor Invitational, or the Heps of NIRCA. The Northeastern boys continue to crush the distance events, especially the two-mile, where Vinny Castronuovo, Nicolas Ferretti, and Alex McDonnell finished 1-2-3 respectively, going 9:28/9:35/9:37. UConn kept the sprints locked down, per usual, winning every men's race under 800 meters5 , as well as the women's 200m. Additionally, Lara Shonkwiler6 (MIT) and Hayley Norton (UMass Amherst) ran 5:22 and 5:27 in the mile, and Kathryn McCarthy (Northeastern) ran 11:56 for a two-mile win.
I also predicted I’d do live updates on social media, but you can’t win ‘em all!
I have tender shins, okay?
Broken up only by Beatriz Nieto of Purdue, who took second in 7.88
I also discussed last week how I think sub-4:30/5:30 are fair and roughly equivalent marks to track, given the context of the league and the competition. I think the club relays proved this thesis: 103 women and 204 men ran the mile. 13 men broke 4:30, and 6 women broke 5:30. If we’re doing ratios (something I admittedly rarely do), that’s 6.4% of the men and 5.8% of women. For my money, that’s close enough for horseshoes, hand grenades, and government work.
The 60m was technically won by a non-NIRCA runner, but the next two runners were from UConn and us post-collegiate guys don’t count.
Podium contender for best name in the league