June 12, 2015
EUGENE, Ore. — The final day of men’s competition at the 2015 NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships was full of thrilling races as there were tight finishes in every mid-d/distance race. We’ve recapped Edward Cheserek‘s win in the 5,000 in a separate article and below we discuss big wins by Oklahoma State’s Chad Noelle in an extremely tactical 1500, Iowa State’s Edward Kemboi in a very slow 800 and UTEP’s Anthony Rotich, who three-peated in the 3,000 steeple. Wind on the backstretch slowed the winning times but amped up the drama as in both the 800 and 1500 a ton of guys were still in contention with 200 to go.
Men’s 800: Kemboi adds outdoor crown to go with his indoor title
Edward Kemboi rode the rail to an NCAA title.
The Iowa State senior, who came up empty in three previous trips to the NCAA outdoor championships, finally got the title he coveted on Friday evening, using a strong last 100 to win the 800 in 1:49.26 on a windy day in Eugene. That the time was the slowest winning mark at NCAAs in 60 years — back when they still ran 880 yards — won’t matter at all to Kemboi, who became the third man in as many years to sweep the indoor and outdoor titles (joining Elijah Greer in 2013 and Brandon McBride last year).
Kemboi was boxed in for most of the race, but all it took was a few quick strides for Kemboi to weave past Arizona’s Collins Kibet on the outside of lane 1 as they came off then final turn and then move back inside up the rail past Binghamton’s Jesse Garn. After that, he had open track in front of him to speed away to the victory.
Given the fact that the runners were facing a stiff headwind on the backstretch, noted front-runner and defending champion Brandon McBride decided to not take this one out hard. Instead of front-running, he went out in last as Kibet took the field through a pedestrian first 400 (26.06, 55.66). At 600 (1:24.35), Garn had the lead and Kemboi was only 5th (1:24.53) but everyone was still right there as first and last were separated by just .46.
As they hit the final turn, Kemboi first went outside and then inside as he powered home to victory. Kemboi wasn’t the only guy coming on strong at the end as the runner-up ended up being Penn State junior Brannon Kidder who was 7th at 600 and the third-placer was Akron sophomore Clayton Murphy who was 8th at 600. Kidder nearly caught Kemboi at the end as he was just .10 behind (1:49.36) with Murphy .16 behind him (1:49.52).
|1||Edward Kemboi||SR||Iowa State||1:49.26||1 (1)|
|2||Brannon Kidder||JR||Penn State||1:49.36||1 (2)|
|3||Clayton Murphy||SO||Akron||1:49.52||1 (3)|
|4||Jesse Garn||JR||Binghamton||1:49.74||1 (4)|
|5||Shaquille Walker||SO||BYU||1:49.99||1 (5)|
|6||Brandon McBride||JR||Miss State||1:50.11||1 (6)|
|7||Collins Kibet||SO||Arizona||1:50.35||1 (7)|
|8||Andres Arroyo||SO||Florida||1:50.67||1 (8)|
Quick Take #1: Kemboi Was Never Worried About Being Boxed in On The Last Lap
We caught up with a jubilant Kemboi after this one was over. He said he wasn’t concerned about being in on the rail during the tightly-bunched last lap as he firmly believes it always opens up in the last 100 of an 800.
Next up for Kemboi is the Kenyan Trials. He says he loves the sport and wants to try to make it as a pro.
Quick Take #2: Brannon Kidder: “I’m gonna have to stick with the 8 for another year.”
Kidder, the co-NCAA leader at 1:45.58, has also run 3:57 in the mile this year – an event he was 7th in at NCAA indoors. He said for now he prefers the 800 and will focus his attention on that at USAs. As for today’s race, he was pretty happy with it but admitted it was tough to finish second, “It hurts a little bit to be so close.”
Quick Take #3: Unlike Kidder, Akron’s Clayton Murphy is moving up to the 1500 in 2016
Murphy, who was third, said he’s still learning the 800 and that he needs to work on running the backstretch as he feels that’s the weakest part of his race. He came into Akron as a miler and said the plan has always been to move up to the 1500/mile and make the finals of the Olympic Trials next year.
Quick Take #4: Defending champ Brandon McBride was surprisingly nonplussed about finishing just 6th. In fact, he said he was “happy with it.”
We caught up with McBride after the ran a 45-second split and helped Mississippi State to a surprising third-place finish in the 4 x 400 relay.
“To be honest, third in the 4 x 400 means much more to me than a win in the 800. It’s tough for me to motivate myself [in the 800] because, you know, I’ve been here, done that. But it means the world to me that we got third in the 4 x 400,” said McBride.
“It was a windy day today so we decided to try to something a little new, and depending on how you look at it, you can look at it as, ‘I learned something so it was a success,’ or you can look at it as, ‘I got sixth place so it wasn’t a very good race.’ But you know I learned something and got better so I’m happy with it – I really am.”
Men’s 1500: Chad Noelle kicks best to take an extremely tactical race
While the day as a whole belonged to the Oregon Ducks, Oklahoma State junior Chad Noelle showed that Oregon isn’t the place for everyone as the former Duck won a tactical men’s 1500 in 3:54.96 thanks to a 52.03 last lap which featured a sub-24.5 last 200. Air Force senior Zach Perkins had the second-fastest last lap (51.93) to get second in 3:55.08 as Oregon true frosh Blake Haney surprised in third to help the Ducks to the team title (3:55.12). New Mexico’s 6th-year senior Peter Callahan was was fourth (3:55.22) after leading the race for all but the final 75 meters.
1500 finals are often tactical and given the fact it was windy on the backstretch, this one was as well. After an opening 300 of 46, the next lap was covered in 70. The penultimate lap wasn’t a whole lot faster (65) as this became a one-lap race. On the backstretch, Callahan made a big push with about 220 to go but at least half the field was probably still dreaming of victory. As they rounded the final turn as everyone was close together and the race stayed tight all the way through the finish line as first and last were just 1.80 seconds apart.
However, Noelle, the NCAA leader in 2015 at 3:38.35, had been tracking Callahan the entire last lap. They hit the bell side by side before Noelle slotted in behind Callahan when Callahan made a push just before the final turn. Noelle, who didn’t even make it to Eugene last year as he fell at regionals, would get by Callahan with about 75 meters left and hold on for victory.
|1||Chad Noelle||JR||Oklahoma State||3:54.96||1 (1)|
|2||Zach Perkins||SR||Air Force||3:55.08||1 (2)|
|3||Blake Haney||FR||Oregon||3:55.12||1 (3)|
|4||Peter Callahan||SR||New Mexico||3:55.22||1 (4)|
|5||Jordan Williamsz||JR||Villanova||3:55.36||1 (5)|
|6||Kyle Graves||SR||Wake Forest||3:55.39||1 (6)|
|7||Cristian Soratos||SR||Montana State||3:55.60||1 (7)|
|8||David Elliott||JR||Boise State||3:55.86||1 (8)|
|9||Daniel Winn||SR||Oregon||3:55.93||1 (9)|
|10||Graham Crawford||JR||North Carolina St.||3:56.19||1 (10)|
|11||Johnny Gregorek||SR||Oregon||3:56.30||1 (11)|
|12||Robert Denault||JR||Villanova||3:56.42||1 (12)|
|13||Izaic Yorks||JR||Washington||3:56.76||1 (13)|
Post Race Interviews
Chad Noelle was understandably overjoyed with his victory
Noelle felt confident in his kick and said he didn’t launch into his full kick until 70 meters to go, and at that point he stopped looking at the video board and just focused on going as fast as he could. Noelle said it was special to win the race at Hayward Field given that he used to run for Oregon. He didn’t harbor any ill will toward the Ducks but said the shift from an individual-based culture in high school to a team-based culture at Oregon had something to do with his decision to transfer to OSU and that he was more prepared for the team atmosphere in Stillwater.
Zach Perkins will look to continue his running career as a professional
Perkins had the best final 100 of anyone in the field (and the second-fastest last lap of 51.93) but he was boxed in for most of the final lap, which was a real problem in such a slow race. Perkins was hopeful things would open up for him, but that never happened and he had to go out to lane 4 for the final straightaway.
Perkins has eligibility remaining but in the Air Force (as in the Ivy League), you only get four years to use it, so he won’t be running in the NCAA next year. Perkins has a service commitment and he’s looking to fulfill it by joining the Air Force’s World Class Athlete Program which would allow him to train full-time for an Olympic spot.
Peter Callahan didn’t have any regrets after this one.
Callahan said he doesn’t normally lead but his goal was to have a clean race. He said he felt comfortable leading and that when he hit 300 to go, he thought to himself, “let’s win this wire-to-wire.” In hindsight, he said he probably pushed a little too hard too soon but he was proud of the effort he gave.
Villanova’s Jordan Williamsz is now going to focus on trying to make Worlds in the 800 this summer
Men’s Steeple: Anthony Rotich becomes third man to three-peat
Coming off the final hurdle, it looked as if the bid of Anthony Rotich – the Kenyan and UTEP senior – to become just the third person to win three straight NCAA titles in the men’s steeple was in serious jeopardy as American Stanley Kebenei of Arkansas was gaining and nearly dead-even with Rotich. However, Rotich dug deep and Kebenei never got ahead. In the end, Rotich pulled away over the final 10 meters and narrowly won in 8:33.90 to Kebenei’s 8:34.22.
Rotich joins James Munyala (UTEP, 1975-76-77) and Daniel Lincoln (Arkansas, 2001-02-03) as the only three-time winners of the men’s steeple.
Ole Hesselbjerg of Eastern Kentucky/Denmark was third in 8:36.09 as the order of finish for 1-3 was the same as last year. Top American-born honors went to Oklahoma junior Brandon Doughty in 8:39.35.
There wasn’t much to say about this race as it was tactical until the last lap which was super-fast as the top 3 guys all broke 60 on it, led by Rotich’s 57.93. Rotich, who assumed the lead midway through the race after fellow Kenyan Edwin Kibichiy of Louisville fell on the homestretch while leading, was 4-5 meters up on Kebenei heading into the last water jump, where he lost some momentum as he stuttered before the jump. Coming into the last barrier on the homestretch, Rotich’s lead was quickly being erased but Kebenei never was able to pull ahead.
Results and post-race interviews appear below.
|1||Anthony Rotich||SR||UTEP||8:33.90||1 (1)|
|2||Stanley Kebenei||SR||Arkansas||8:34.28||1 (2)|
|3||Ole Hesselbjerg||SR||Eastern Kentucky||8:36.09||1 (3)|
|4||Brandon Doughty||JR||Oklahoma||8:38.35||1 (4)|
|5||Mike Hardy||SR||Weber State||8:42.30||1 (5)|
|6||Mark Parrish||SR||Florida||8:42.34||1 (6)|
|7||Dylan Lafond||JR||Illinois||8:42.96||1 (7)|
|8||Zak Seddon||JR||Florida State||8:43.77||1 (8)|
|9||Edwin Kibichiy||SO||Louisville||8:43.78||1 (9)|
|10||Steve Flint||SR||BYU||8:54.80||1 (10)|
|11||Darren Fahy||SO||Georgetown||8:56.69||1 (11)|
|12||Mason Ferlic||JR||Michigan||8:57.30||1 (12)|
Rotich’s collegiate career isn’t over
After the race, Rotich said that he wasn’t planning on leading so early but was forced into it when Kibichiy went down. He said it didn’t make a huge difference as he knew he had the best speed (2014 NCAA indoor mile champ) and trusted his kick at the end. Rotich said he was honored to join James Munyala as a 3-time NCAA steeple champ and revealed that he’s still got a season of cross country eligibility left.
Stanley Kebenei was disappointed to come so close to victory but is hoping he can make Team USA for Worlds
The loss clearly hit Kebenei hard as he felt this was finally his year to win his first NCAA title, but once again Rotich was just a bit better over the final 100. Now Kebenei, who is a U.S. citizen, will focus on USAs, where he feels he has a good shot to make the team in the steeple. His 8:23.93 sb is currently third in the U.S., behind Evan Jager and Donn Cabral but ahead of Dan Huling (8:24.61).
Hesselbjerg is going to lay low for a little while and return to Denmark before trying to get a World Championship qualifier in August.
Michigan’s Mason Ferlic, who was the top American last year in 4th, was a total non-factor after having his first career face-plant on the second water jump.
Ferlic had been having a great season until this happened:
Ferlic will try to rebound at USAs in a few weeks: