My weekly recap - the Week That Was - is now up. Weldon put it up by mistake before I was 100% done with it so I wanted to start a thread to make sure anyone who has already read it sees what I wrote about former Syracuse runner, Iliass Aouani, who broke the Italian record in the marathon last weekend. Here it is.
Guy who never was top 100 at NCAA xc runs 2:07:16 in marathon
Former NCAA runner Iliass Aouani of Italy by way of Morocco was never a star while in college. During his four years in the NCAA (1 year at Lamar, 3 years at Syracuse), he never finished in the top 125 at NCAA cross country.
Iliass Aouani's NCAA XC finishers
2015 - 185th (running for Lamar)
2016 - 128th
2017 - 234th
2018 - DNC (101st at NE region)
On the track, he only made NCAAs as a senior when he was 20th in the 10,000 in 2019.
But now he's the Italian record holder in the marathon as over the weekend at the Zurich Marató de Barcelona, he lowered his pb from 2:08:34 to 2:07:16 to place 9th and break Eyob Ghebrehiwet Faniel's 2:07:19 national record.
Now Aouani did flash some big-time talent at Syracuse. As a senior, he ran a 28:25.36 school and ACC record at Stanford and then won the ACCs in the 5000 (14:00.38) and 10,000 (29:01.13, championships record) before his disappointing 20th-place showing at NCAAs.
But there was a good excuse for the 20th place showing at NCAAs. It came in the midst of Ramadan and he was fasting from sunrise to sundown. Syracuse coach Brien Bell and Aouani would often work out on Sweet Road at 1 am as he'd eat around 8:30 or nine, take a nap and then meet up with Bell for an after-midnight workout.
Aouani also did quite well in school as he was the ACC Scholar-Athlete of the year in 2019 and he earned both a bachelor's in Civil Engineering and a masters degree in Structural Engineering.
What If The NAU Dynasty Never Started?
One more interesting thing about Aouani. In cross country, he'd often get a bit worked up and struggled the last few minutes of races. The most prominent of these struggles came in his first fall at Syracuse at the 2016 NCAAs, where Syracuse was going for a second-straight little. At 8k, they lead NAU 108-123 and Aouani was the third man in 51st. He ended up fading 128th. Had he maintained his place, Syrcuase would have repeated as champions and NAU wouldn't have won their first NCAA title.
Might the NAU dynasty not even be a thing?
Syracuse = Marathon U?
Coach Bell said he's not surprised by Aouani's marathon success as he called him a "great talent" and "a great dude with a great work rate" who was known to rock some long runs in college, including a 20 miler at 5:08 pace.
And marathon success seems to come naturally for Syracuse grads. Should we start calling them Marathon U? They've produced way more sub-2:10 guys than any other college in recent memory, right?
Syracuse's Sub-2:10 Guys Of Late
Iliass Aouani - 2:07:16
Martin Hehir - 2:08:59
Colin Bennie - 2:09:38
Hell Jonathan Aziz, who only ran 15:15/30:57 at Syracuse, has run 2:15:31. What's in the water in upstate NY?
On the women's side, just look at what the Syracuse women have done in since December. Paige Stoner won the US marathon champs in 2:26:06, while Maegan Krifchin ran 2:30:16 in Houstion in January and Sarah Pagano ran 2:32:05 in Nagoya on March 12.