The best college milers in the business – Leo Manzano of Texas and Brie Felnagle of North Carolina – will be back to defend championships at the 2008 New Balance Collegiate Invitational, to be held at the Armory Feb. 8-9.
Manzano, a senior, ran 3:59.08 to win the mile a year ago, setting up his NCAA championship in the event for the Longhorns a month later. Outdoors last year he was 2nd in the NCAA 1,500 in 3:37.48 and 2nd at the national championships in 3:35.29. He was outdoor NCAA 1,500 champ as a freshman in 2005.
On Friday night, Feb. 8, Manzano is expected to anchor the Longhorns’ distance medley relay team. Manzano has run anchor legs on several winning Texas teams in the DMR and 4xmile in recent years at the Penn Relays. The DMR is at 7:15 p.m. Friday, the mile at 4:38 p.m. Saturday.
Felnagle, a junior at UNC, won just about everything in sight last season. She won the NCAA outdoor 1,500 in a lifetime-best 4:09.93, and anchored the Tarheels’ winning DMR at the NCAA indoors, where they broke the American record. Here at the New Balance meet, she has already won the mile twice, anchored last year’s victorious DMR, and in 2006, as a freshman, lost a torrid stretch battle to Marina Muncan of Villanova in the relay.
This year she is expected to run the DMR, at 8:30 p.m. Friday, and the 3,000 meters, at 4:02 p.m. Saturday. Her lifetime best in the 3,000 is 9:14.21.
Her challengers in the 3k could include Christine Kalmer (9:10.62) and Dacia Barr ( 9:22.01) of Arkansas and Amy Fowler Layne, a 10:01 steeplechaser from BYU.
In Felnagle’s absence, the top milers will include Liz Maloy of Georgetown, fresh from a PR 4:43.02 over the weekend, and Akilah Vargas of Georgetown (4:46.27). As a prep, Vargas ran on several national-championship relay teams for Boys & Girls High School of Brooklyn
In the men’s mile, Manzano’s challengers could include Andrew McClary (1,500 best of 3:39.81) of Arkansas, Matt Debole (mile best of 4:00.27) of Georgetown, Sam Bair (4:00.14) of Pittsburgh and Liam Boylan-Pett (3:44.74 1,500) of Columbia. Boylan-Pett ran anchor on the Lions’ surprise Penn Relays championship 4x8 team last spring. No Columbia runner has ever broken 4 minutes in the mile.
Bair’s father, Sam Bair Sr., broke 4 minutes in 1967. No father and son have ever run sub-4-minute miles.
In the men’s DMR, Texas can expect challenges from Arkansas, Georgetown, Oklahoma, BYU, Tennessee, Florida State, Connecticut and Iona. The women’s field will include Arkansas, Oklahoma, Penn, Villanova, Columbia, Georgetown and Boston College.
Coach Mick Byrne’s Iona Gaels include the defending champion in the men’s 3,000, Abraham Ng’etich. Ng’etich ran a lifetime-best 7:58.72 a year ago, while his teammate, Mohamed Khadraoui, was not far back in 8:02.14, also a best ever. Ng’etcih is from Eldoret, Kenya; Khadraoui, a native Moroccan, is from Paterson, N.J. Iona athletes also won the men’s mile in 2006 (Tim Bayley), the 3,000 in 2005 (Richard Kiplagat) and the 5,000 in 2003 (Kiplagat).
Other contenders in the men’s distances include Rob Curtis of Villanova, the NCAA runnerup in the 5,000 who is expected to contest the 3k here; Arkansas Razorbacks Scott MacPherson, Daniel LaCava and Shawn Forest; Luke Gunn and Mark Buckingham of Florida State; Michael Maag and David Nightingale of Princeton, and Jacob Korir of Eastern Kentucky.
Other contenders in the women’s distances include Maddie McKeever of Duke, Melissa Grelli of Georgetown, and Susan Kuijken and Hannah England of Florida State
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PHOTOS BY KIM SPIR