A League of His Own: Clayton Murphy Destroys the Field Over the Final 100 to Win NCAA 1500 Title in Super Fast 3:36.38

By LetsRun.com
June 10, 2016

EUGENE, Ore. — Clayton Murphy made clear today at Hayward Field that he’s the finest 1500-meter runner in the NCAA, and by some margin. The Akron junior turned what was expected to be a close race into a laugher over the final 100 meters, pulling away from Washington’s Izaic Yorks, the NCAA leader on time in 2016, and Virginia’s Henry Wynne, the NCAA indoor mile champ, clocking a blazing 3:36.38 despite windy conditions. Murphy now has an outdoor title to go with the indoor 800 title he claimed in March and he’s a serious threat to make the U.S. Olympic team this summer in whatever event he runs (he’s still debating between the 800 and the 1500, though he doesn’t have the 3:36.20 1500 Olympic standard yet). Yorks, who pushed the pace in the middle stages of the race, was second in 3:38.06 with indoor mile champ Wynne third in 3:38.35.

The Race
Given both Murphy and Penn State’s Brannon Kidder have run 1:45 for 800, either Wynne or Yorks was expected to push the pace in this one and Wynne did just that, moving to the front from the gun and towing the field through a quick 56.8 first 400. At that point, Yorks was right on his shoulder with Murphy tucked in behind them. Yorks took over at 500m and even though the pace slowed, it was still hot and the field began to string out behind him. By 800 meters (1:56.2), the top four — Yorks, Wynne, Oregon’s Sam Prakel and Murphy — were beginning to separate from the field as Kidder struggled to hold on in fifth and at the bell, it was those four still together with Kidder about four meters back.

Yorks and Wynne began an extended kick at that point, and at 1200 (2:53.6, 57.4 for the last 400), they were starting to open up a gap on Prakel and Murphy. Wynne passed Yorks for the lead midway down the backstretch and with 200 to go, Murphy was five meters behind them. Had the milers done enough to drop the 800 champ?

No. Despite the furious pace, Murphy closed the gap on the final turn with relative ease and took the lead coming off the Bowerman Curve. Within seconds, it was over as he cruised away from his rivals, the smoothness of his form belying the speed at which he was moving. Murphy closed in 55.84 for his final 400 — no small feat in a 3:36 race — and looked capable of more had he been challenged in the home straight (some competition may have helped him achieve the Olympic standard of 3:36.20, which he missed by just .18). He won by a ton in the end — 1.68 seconds — as Yorks outkicked Wynne for runner-up honors. Kidder ran down Prakel over the final 300 for fourth in his final collegiate race.

Results and our quick take analysis appear below.

Pl Athlete Affiliation Time 300m 700m 1100m 1500m
1 Clayton Murphy Akron 3:36.38 42.03 [42.03] 1:42.64 [1:00.61] 2:40.55 [57.91] 3:36.38 [55.84]
2 Izaic Yorks Washington 3:38.06 42.13 [42.13] 1:41.91 [59.79] 2:39.76 [57.85] 3:38.06 [58.30]
3 Henry Wynne Virginia 3:38.35 41.84 [41.84] 1:42.17 [1:00.33] 2:40.00 [57.83] 3:38.35 [58.36]
4 Brannon Kidder Penn State 3:40.67 42.31 [42.31] 1:42.77 [1:00.46] 2:41.35 [58.58] 3:40.67 [59.33]
5 Sam Prakel Oregon 3:40.84 42.45 [42.45] 1:42.39 [59.95] 2:40.32 [57.93] 3:40.84 [1:00.53]
6 Robert Domanic Mississippi 3:41.71 42.66 [42.66] 1:43.31 [1:00.65] 2:43.22 [59.91] 3:41.71 [58.50]
7 Craig Engels Mississippi 3:43.23 42.48 [42.48] 1:42.88 [1:00.40] 2:42.98 [1:00.10] 3:43.23 [1:00.26]
8 James Randon Yale 3:43.84 42.28 [42.28] 1:42.97 [1:00.69] 2:43.57 [1:00.61] 3:43.84 [1:00.28]
9 Jordan Williamsz Villanova 3:47.61 42.92 [42.92] 1:43.81 [1:00.90] 2:43.42 [59.61] 3:47.61 [1:04.20]
10 Josh Kerr New Mexico 3:50.00 42.72 [42.72] 1:44.07 [1:01.35] 2:46.10 [1:02.04] 3:50.00 [1:03.91]
11 Blake Haney Oregon 3:53.80 42.84 [42.84] 1:43.62 [1:00.78] 2:45.24 [1:01.63] 3:53.80 [1:08.57]
12 Adam Palamar Syracuse 4:03.80 42.86 [42.86] 1:50.75 [1:07.90] 2:54.92 [1:04.17] 4:03.80 [1:08.88]
Split Intermediate Leader Time Fastest Split Time
300m Henry Wynne 0:41.84 Henry Wynne 0:41.84
700m Izaic Yorks 1:41.91 Izaic Yorks 0:59.79
1100m Izaic Yorks 2:39.76 Henry Wynne 0:57.83
1500m Clayton Murphy 3:36.38 Clayton Murphy 0:55.84

Quick Take #1: What a dominant run by Clayton Murphy
Anyone with eyes could see Murphy’s dominance today, but here are a few stats to contextualize it, the first two courtesy of the USTFCCCA:

-Murphy’s 3:36.38 winning time was third-best in meet history and the fastest since George Mason’s Abdi Bile ran 3:35.79 to win NCAAs in 1987. Bile won the world title at 1500 meters later that year.

-Murphy’s 1.68-second margin of victory was the biggest since Stanford’s Gabe Jennings in 2000.

-The time was also a new U.S. leader for 2016, shaving almost a second off Colby Alexander’s 3:37.32.

Not bad for a guy who was is very inexperienced in the 1500.

Quick Take #2: Murphy said the plan was to get to 1200 and kick from there
Murphy anticipated a fast race and said that while he felt tired at 1200 as he’s never gone out that hard in a 1500 before (he came through around 2:54), but he still had confidence in his kick. Murphy was slightly gapped by Wynne and Yorks at that point, but he worked on the backstretch to stay within striking distance. Off-camera, he said he expected either Yorks or Wynne to move with 100 to go, but when neither did he decided to move himself and put them away at the top of the home stretch as he didn’t want it coming down to a lean at the line.

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Quick Take #3: Murphy put off decisions about turning pro and which event he will run at the Olympics Trials, saying tonight is about celebrating
Murphy is scheduled to run the 1500 at the Portland Track Festival on Sunday and said that his focus is that right now rather than making decisions about turning pro or 800 vs. 1500 at the Trials. Though Murphy now has the Olympic Trials standard for the 1500, he missed the Olympic standard by .18 today. Given the wind and the sit-and-kick way in which he ran his 3:36.38 today, the Olympic standard of 3:36.20 seems very achievable, even if he has two days of racing in his legs already this week. With Jordan McNamara, Matthew Centrowitz, Hassan Mead and Nick Symmonds all entered in Portland as well, the men’s 1500 should be an exciting race and good prep for Murphy for the Olympic Trials (there are three rounds at the Olympic Trials and the PTF will be Murphy’s third race in five days).

We have some advice for Murphy: turn professional. His stock is sky-high right now and it’s an Olympic year. Someone is going to pay him a lot of money; something similar to Boris Berian’s $125k/year from New Balance (or more) would not be surprising. Murphy just dusted a deep NCAA field and is the 2016 U.S. leader. Plus, Murphy has already beaten Berian this year at 800. He’ll probably develop more from racing pros than he would crushing it in the NCAA for another year. 

The only downside for Murphy is the fact that Donavan Brazier may be an even more sought out commodity.

Quick Take #4: Izaic Yorks was happy just to be racing for a national title after almost quitting the sport as a freshman
Yorks said that in retrospect he might have been better served trying to avoid the wind a bit more than he did, but he said that it wasn’t a huge factor in why he did not win. Yorks, who almost quit the sport as a freshman after battling anemia and depression, was not overly disappointed as he gave it his best shot but just came up short.

Yorks will run the 1500 at the Trials where he said he’d like to make the final.

Quick Take #5: Henry Wynne: “I did what I could…nothing to complain about”
Wynne, who led for the first 500, said he expected Yorks would look to push the pace and said if not he had planned on doing it himself, so he was glad to see it go fast. He was a bit disappointed with his final 200, where Yorks bested him for second, but overall said he had no complaints with third.

Quick Take #6: Yale’s James Randon scores in his first trip to NCAAs
Randon made Yale alum Weldon Johnson (a LetRun.com co-founder) very proud by getting the Bulldogs on the board and scoring one point by finishing in eighth in 3:43.84. Randon was pleased with the progress he’s made in over the past year as he was only sixth at Heps last year. He also admitted that he knew the race would go fast by reading the LetsRun Quote of the Day.

Quick Take #7: Syracuse’s Adam Palamar explains his trip at 500 meters
500 meters into the race, Palamar was thrown into the infield. He got back on the track and finished the race in last place in 4:03.80. Palamar was obviously disappointed to get bumped, but acknowledged that sort of thing can happen in a 1500 final.

Palamar said even he wasn’t quite sure what happened as he got caught from behind and couldn’t tell which runner made contact. He wound up with a tear in his shoe as well as a cut on his knee. Upon further review, Jordy Williamsz was running behind Palamar and it looked as if he was the one who caused Palamar to fall toward the infield. But Palamar said Williamsz approached him after the race and explained that what he did was just a chain reaction of another move (likely Blake Haney moving up on his outside) and that he did not mean to do it. Palamar didn’t blame him and is just looking to move on and run fast this summer ahead of the Canadian Championships.

Quick Take #8: This event did not go Oregon’s way
The Ducks wound up just 4th in the team score, 14 points back of champions Florida. The 1500 is definitely one place where Oregon would have liked to have scored higher as they only got four points despite having two of the top four finishers indoors and 3:39 man Matthew Maton (who did not make the final). Sam Prakel, who was 4th indoors, was 5th today, while Blake Haney, who was 3rd last year and 2nd indoors but has struggled this spring, was 11th and did not score.

Talk about the epic men’s 1500 on our world famous fan forum / messageboard: *MB: Clayton Murphy Destroys the 1500m Field – Wins in 3:36!!

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