Top 11 Athletes To Watch At RunningLane Track Championships

* Athletes compete in the boys mile at the 2022 RunningLane Track Championships.

We're now just over a week out from the third installment at the RunningLane Track Championships in Huntsville, and 2023 could arguably be the biggest year yet for the premiere showcase event.

That's because some of the nation's elite distance athletes will toe the line in highly-anticipated head-to-head matchups.

We've narrowed down the list of top entrants to analyze which of those high-caliber athletes you should pay particular attention to at RTC3.

Continue below to see which elite athletes you should watch out for heading into RunningLane next week.

Devan Kipyego, St. Raphael Academy (RI)

Event: Boys Mile

Last year it was Rocky Hansen that nearly went sub-4 in the boys mile with a 4:00.76 winning mark.

But could 2023 be the year that we see a barrier-breaking performance in Huntsville?

Kipyego will certainly look to make that happen as the four-minute miler will hope to become the third athlete in 2023 to dip under the elusive mark.

The Iowa State signee holds a 4:00.64 bet from Brooks PR in 2022 and went 4:01.04 during his indoor campaign to rank among the top milers in the country over the past year. 

A fast mile at RunningLane led by the sub-4 hopeful will be one of the highlight races to watch next weekend.

* Nicki Southerland reflects on her performance following her races at RunningLane Track Championships in 2022.

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Nicki Southerland, Delta (IN)

Events: Girls 800m and Mile

Southerland has had quite the busy spring season.

She's tripled or quadrupled in individual events in nearly every competition doning the Delta (IN) uniform, and she's done so in winning fashion. Southerland remains undefeated in every race she's contested from 400m up to the 3,200m except for one -- a 10:14.61 PR 3,200m performance at the Carmel Distance Showcase.

At RunningLane, Southerland will look to add to more wins to her belt.

At last year's championships, Southerland put herself on the national radar with runner-up finishes in both the 800m and mile, clocking personal bests of 2:08.64 and 4:45.03 that still stand to this day.

She'll enter as one of the favorites to potentially upgrade her two silver medals from 2022 to gold at RTC3.

Noah Jenkins, Herriman (UT)

Events: Boys Mile and 3,200m

Jenkins has had a breakout year out of the Herriman powerhouse distance program.

It began on the cross country course in the fall with a top 15 finish at Nike Cross Country Nationals and has since transitioned to the track where he's ranked as one of the top 3,200m racers in the country.

A 8:43.19 fifth-place performance in a historic Arcadia Invitational race has solidified the senior's spot among the country's best distance runners.

So far, Jenkins ranks as the top entrant in the RunningLane boys 3,200m with that best from Arcadia. He'll also look to challenge some of the top dogs in the mile like Devan Kipyego and lower his 4:14.30 personal best set back during the indoor season.

Justine Preisano, Cuthbertson (NC)

Events: Girls 800m and Mile

The North Carolina indoor 1,000m champion and member of the Cuthbertson 4x800m indoor national record squad will look to have another groundbreaking moment on the big stage.

Preisano, the junior who just recently announced her commitment to the NC State Wolfpack for 2024, will toe the line in both the 800m and mile at RunningLane as someone who could potentially challenge for titles.

This outdoor season, Preisano has clocked 2:12.32 in the 800m and 4:57.32 for the full mile, but a competitive field could push her to barrier-breaking performances.

Justin Gottlieb, Jefferson (WV)

Event: Boys 800m

West Virginia's best in the 800m is taking the trip south hoping to secure the first national win of his career.

Gottlieb holds a state-leading 1:52.98 from the Arcadia Invitational in early April and currently ranks as the top 800m seed going into RunningLane next weekend.

Last time out at a national championship meet, Gottlieb took third in the 800m at Nike Indoor Nationals with a mark of 1:52.66.

Could sub-1:50 be in the cards at this year's championships. Last year, Drew Costelow of Valor Christian took the RTC title in 1:51.66, but Gottlieb could be the guy to make both a title and stellar time happen in Huntsille this year.

Gillian Bushee, Herndon (VA)

Event: Girls Mile and 3,200m

Bushee has already been on a roll this outdoor season, and she'll look to continue her success heading into the RunningLane Track Championships.

She's pocketed four wins in the 1,600m this spring, including at the Dogwood Track Classic where she clocked a PR of 4:46.30. A sixth-place finish in the 3,000m at the Penn Relays and a 2:12.93 800m best from the Northern Virginia Invitational also highlight her well-rounded senior outdoor campaign.

At RunningLane, the multi-time Virginia state champion will look to push the pace in both the mile and 3,200m fields. Currently, Bushee, Nicki Southerland, Tilly O'Connor and Stella Kermes are the only girls in the mile with times below 4:50, so Bushee could likely lead the way in the front pack toward a victory.

Brayden Seymour, Newbury Park (CA)

Event: Boys 3,200m

One of the distance stars of Newbury Park (CA) will travel across the country to take his shot at a RunningLane Track Championships title.

Seymour will take to the starting line in the 3,200m in just his second race at the distance this outdoor season. 

He holds an all-time career PR of 8:59.72 for 3,200m from the FSU Relays in 2022, but has since lowered bests in various other events. In 2023, Seymour has dropped to 4:08.67 for the full mile and recently went 3:59.30 over 1,500m.

Seymour will be one of a handful of guys searching for a mark under nine minutes in the 3,200m under the lights in Huntsville next weekend.

Mia Prok, Niwot (CO) 

Event: Girls 3,200m

A year since Prok put together a bronze medal 3,200m effort and an 11th-place finish at the 2022 RunningLane Track Championships, Prok will enter the 2023 as a favorite to win the 3,200m title.

Prok clocked 10:16.09 in 2022 for her third-place finish, and RTC3 next weekend will serve as just her third race this season in the event. Nonetheless, look for her to still challenge for the win.

Across other events this season, she has been a consistent performer, registering season bests of 4:57.32 for 1,600m and 2:14.84 at 800m. 

Can Prok upgrade her medal to gold in 2023? Chances are she'll be in the mix for the 3,200m title in a stacked girls field.

Alex Leath, Vestavia Hills (AL)

Event: Boys Mile

The in-state 800m talent will bump up in distance hoping to secure an elite performance in the boys mile at RunningLane.

Leath went down in the history books during the indoor season as one of the fastest 800m U.S. high school runners ever, clocking 1:48.46 for US No. 4 all-time indoors. While he won't be in the 800m, he will look to improve upon that 4:10.69 mile best of his from earlier in the spring.

And in a fast field that includes other all-timers at the mile distance, expect Leath to push the pace with his speed and contend for the RunningLane winner's belt.

Elyse Wilmes, Father Tolton Regional Catholic (MO) 

Event: Girls 800m

Wilmes may very well be one of the most underrated middle distance athletes in the entire country.

The Missouri talent broke out onto the national scene in 2022 with a huge 2:08.99 800m performance at HOKA Festival of Miles and has since solidified her spot among the top-ranked half-milers.

This spring, Wilmes has recorded a best of 2:10.38, which came just last weekend at the MSHSAA Class 2 Sectional 2 Championships. She's also posted an all-time 1,600m PR this season of 4:57.06 and clocked 57.58 over 400m.

With numerous sub-2:10 racers in the field, Wilmes could certainly contend for a title in Huntsville.

Owen Clemons, Cleveland (TN)

Event: Boys Mile

Arguably one of the top future stars in high school distance running, Clemons could have a breakout at RunningLane.

The Cleveland (TN) freshman owns the fourth-fastest 1,600m mark among the class of 2026 this season of 4:15.93 from the Front Runner Chattanooga Area Top 16 meet in April. 

And he's not new to high-caliber racing, either. Clemons won the freshman mile at adidas Track Nationals during the indoor season and placed third at the Tennessee State HS indoor Track Championships in February.

In a competitive field, expect the young freshman to hold his own against some of the nation's top distance athletes.