By Jonathan Gault
March 9, 2018
COLLEGE STATION, Texas — Track & field has a tendency to shoot itself in the foot at times, but tonight, in the distance medley relay races that ended day 1 of the 2018 NCAA Indoor Track & Field Championships, track & field was just about perfect.
A few scenes from the two wild distance medley relays tonight:
-Virginia Tech anchor Neil Gourley doing what NCAA mile champ (and fellow Scot) Josh Kerr could not – come back from the mile prelims three hours earlier and anchor his team to victory, protecting the 1.34-second lead he inherited thanks to a fantastic 1:46.23 800 leg from Patrick Joseph (also doubling back from the mile).
-Oregon women’s coach Maurica Powell sprinting to the first turn and climbing up the steps to wrap up Lilli Burdon in a bear hug after Burdon’s wire-to-wire 4:33.67 anchor leg won the DMR for the Ducks by just .03 of a second over rival Stanford.
-A true freshman walk-on from Notre Dame (Yared Nuguse) splitting 3:56.90 to run down Grant Fisher on the final turn and clinch a runner-up finish for the Fighting Irish.
-The overall giddiness of the Notre Dame men, epitomized by 800 leg Elijah Silva, who bounced his way through the mixed zone — literally, he was bouncing up and down throughout the interview — after justifying his scholarship to help ND finish second. ND coach Sean Carlson brought in Silva, a 5th-year graduate transfer from Tulsa, in specifically to run this race, and Silva reminded him of that after finding him by the side of the track.
“That was a $70,000 race!” yelled Silva.
Detailed recap and analysis of the races below.
The men went first, and the race was hyped as a showdown between New Mexico, with mile champ Josh Kerr on anchor (but running tired after the mile prelims earlier tonight), and Stanford, with a fresh Grant Fisher, the NCAA outdoor 5,000 champ, running last for the Cardinal.
Utah State held the lead through two legs after recording the second-fastest split on each leg, but the Aggies would fade on the 800 leg, opening the door for the closely-bunched pack behind them. It was Virginia Tech, and specifically Patrick Joseph, who would take advantage. Joseph, who was only 4th at ACCs in the 800 two weeks ago (albeit in 1:47.47), ripped a 1:46.23 leg — over two full seconds faster than the next-fastest leg — to hand the Hokies a 1.34-second lead over Oregon heading out the final exchange.
But Stanford (2.34 seconds back) and New Mexico (2.68 seconds back) were lurking not far behind, with Oregon, Notre Dame, and Villanova in between as well. Surely Virginia Tech needed a bigger lead. Surely Gourley couldn’t hold off the studs behind him. Nobody wins the DMR on the 800 leg, right?
Gourley kept the pressure on from the moment he received the baton, and by the halfway point of the final leg, his lead had not shrunk at all. Then one more lap went by. And another. Then the bell, and there was no Kerr, no Fisher, only Gourley, by himself, 20 meters in front. Finally, desperately, Fisher, Nuguse (anchoring Notre Dame), and James West (anchoring Oregon) made one last push, and though the gap finally began to shrink to Gourley in the last 100 (when he lost about 1 second of a roughhly 1.5 second lead), he was too far gone. Virginia Tech had done it in 9:30.76 thanks to an incredible 800 leg from Joseph and an incredibly tough leg from Gourley on anchor.
Nuguse outkicked Fisher and West to grab second for Notre Dame — again, this kid is a true freshman — while New Mexico, never a factor on the final leg, crossed in last place. Kerr was in position to do something special when he received the baton — he would have needed a 3:55.96 split to catch Gourley and Virginia Tech — but he was not himself, done in by stomach cramps early in the leg. Once Kerr began sliding backwards halfway through the leg, he packed it in and split 4:20.30, saving his energy for tomorrow’s mile final.
|1||5||VIRGINIA TECH||Virginia Tech||9:30.76||2:57.47 [2:57.47]||3:45.90 [48.44]||5:32.13 [1:46.23]||9:30.76 [3:58.64]|
|2||6||NOTRE DAME||Notre Dame||9:31.22||2:56.73 [2:56.73]||3:45.03 [48.30]||5:34.32 [1:49.29]||9:31.22 [3:56.90]|
|3||12||OREGON||Oregon||9:31.45||2:57.38 [2:57.38]||3:44.73 [47.35]||5:33.47 [1:48.75]||9:31.45 [3:57.98]|
|4||11||STANFORD||Stanford||9:31.95||2:56.95 [2:56.95]||3:44.76 [47.81]||5:34.47 [1:49.72]||9:31.95 [3:57.48]|
|5||7||UTAH STATE||Utah State||9:32.31||2:56.90 [2:56.90]||3:43.85 [46.96]||5:35.78 [1:51.94]||9:32.31 [3:56.53]|
|6||3||WISCONSIN||Wisconsin||9:33.27||2:58.70 [2:58.70]||3:47.05 [48.35]||5:35.52 [1:48.48]||9:33.27 [3:57.76]|
|7||9||INDIANA||Indiana||9:35.17||2:57.39 [2:57.39]||3:45.66 [48.28]||5:34.89 [1:49.23]||9:35.17 [4:00.28]|
|8||2||VILLANOVA||Villanova||9:35.49||2:57.18 [2:57.18]||3:44.93 [47.75]||5:34.43 [1:49.51]||9:35.49 [4:01.06]|
|9||10||BROWN||Brown||9:40.24||2:59.14 [2:59.14]||3:47.80 [48.67]||5:37.79 [1:49.99]||9:40.24 [4:02.46]|
|10||1||OLE MISS||Ole Miss||9:41.75||2:58.59 [2:58.59]||3:48.31 [49.73]||5:39.01 [1:50.70]||9:41.75 [4:02.74]|
|11||8||GEORGETOWN||Georgetown||9:51.97||3:00.06 [3:00.06]||3:48.80 [48.75]||5:41.61 [1:52.81]||9:51.97 [4:10.37]|
|12||4||NEW MEXICO||New Mexico||9:55.11||2:58.18 [2:58.18]||3:44.88 [46.71]||5:34.81 [1:49.94]||9:55.11 [4:20.30]|
|Split||Intermediate Leader||Time||Fastest Split||Time|
|L1(1200m)||Notre Dame||2:56.73||Notre Dame||2:56.73|
|L2(400m)||Utah State||3:43.85||New Mexico||46.71|
|L3(800m)||Virginia Tech||5:32.13||Virginia Tech||1:46.23|
|L4(1600m)||Virginia Tech||9:30.76||Utah State||3:56.53|
|Virginia Tech ‘A’||Vincent Ciattei||Gregory Chiles||Patrick Joseph||Neil Gourley|
|Notre Dame ‘A’||Jacob Dumford||Edward Cheatham||Elijah Silva||Yared Nuguse|
|Oregon ‘A’||Blake Haney||Cameron Stone||Mick Stanovsek||James West|
|Stanford ‘A’||Sean McGorty||Julian Body||Brandon McGorty||Grant Fisher|
|Utah State ‘A’||Jordan Beutler||Brady Martin||Clay Lambourne||Dillon Maggard|
|Wisconsin ‘A’||Joe Hardy||Corbin Ellis||Eric Brown||Oliver Hoare|
|Indiana ‘A’||Joseph Murphy||Zubin Muncherji||Teddy Browning||Kyle Mau|
|Villanova ‘A’||Ben Malone||Brian Faust||Harry Purcell||Casey Comber|
|Brown ‘A’||Zachary Lanigan||Oluwatosin Oyewole||Zachery Emrich||Martin Martinez|
|Ole Miss ‘A’||Waleed Suliman||Alvin Westbrook||Sean Tobin||Robert Domanic|
|Georgetown ‘A’||Amos Bartelsmeyer||Kenneth Rowe||Rey Rivera||Spencer Brown|
|New Mexico ‘A’||Ian Crowe-Wright||Carlos Salcido||Michael Wilson||Josh Kerr|
The women’s title was decided on the anchor leg as four schools — Virginia Tech, Oregon, Stanford, and Indiana — all received the baton within .70 of each other, but well clear of the rest of the field. Though the Hokies’ Sarah Edwards received the baton first, it was the Ducks’ Lilli Burdon who quickly went to the lead and tried to stretch it out.
Like Gourley, Burdon kept her foot on the gas throughout the leg, and though the pack of four remained tight for several laps, she began making some headway on everyone but Stanford anchor Christina Aragon. At the bell, it was down to two of the titans of the sport, Stanford and Oregon, for the national title.
It was eerily similar to last year’s race, which saw the two West Coast schools (plus Pac-12 rival Colorado) battle it out to the line, and once again it would come down to the wire. Aragon stuck to Burdon like glue through the final two turns and pulled nearly level in the home stretch. But Burdon refused to give up their lead, and just when it looked as if Aragon might edge ahead for good, Burdon kept pushing as the two women crossed the line almost simultaneously. A few seconds later, the scoreboard confirmed it: Oregon, for the first time in program history, had won the women’s DMR at NCAAs, by 10:51.99 to 10:52.02.
|1||12||OREGON||Oregon||10:51.99||3:19.97 [3:19.97]||4:14.14 [54.18]||6:18.32 [2:04.19]||10:51.99 [4:33.67]|
|2||5||STANFORD||Stanford||10:52.02||3:20.44 [3:20.44]||4:14.03 [53.59]||6:18.67 [2:04.65]||10:52.02 [4:33.35]|
|3||9||VIRGINIA TECH||Virginia Tech||10:53.62||3:20.35 [3:20.35]||4:14.32 [53.98]||6:18.19 [2:03.88]||10:53.62 [4:35.44]|
|4||6||INDIANA||Indiana||10:54.86||3:21.56 [3:21.56]||4:15.08 [53.52]||6:18.89 [2:03.81]||10:54.86 [4:35.97]|
|5||1||BOISE STATE||Boise State||10:58.93||3:20.05 [3:20.05]||4:14.64 [54.59]||6:21.96 [2:07.32]||10:58.93 [4:36.98]|
|6||3||OKLAHOMA STATE||Oklahoma State||11:04.65||3:20.98 [3:20.98]||4:15.32 [54.35]||6:21.50 [2:06.18]||11:04.65 [4:43.16]|
|7||4||EASTERN MICHIGAN||Eastern Michigan||11:04.81||3:21.65 [3:21.65]||4:15.93 [54.29]||6:27.51 [2:11.59]||11:04.81 [4:37.31]|
|8||11||BYU||BYU||11:07.60||3:25.65 [3:25.65]||4:19.38 [53.73]||6:26.37 [2:07.00]||11:07.60 [4:41.24]|
|9||2||KANSAS||Kansas||11:12.91||3:30.37 [3:30.37]||4:23.73 [53.36]||6:30.58 [2:06.86]||11:12.91 [4:42.33]|
|10||10||NEW MEXICO||New Mexico||11:13.21||3:24.43 [3:24.43]||4:20.02 [55.59]||6:26.96 [2:06.94]||11:13.21 [4:46.26]|
|11||8||CLEMSON||Clemson||11:31.41||3:39.73 [3:39.73]||4:33.73 [54.00]||6:42.27 [2:08.54]||11:31.41 [4:49.15]|
|12||7||NOTRE DAME||Notre Dame||11:40.06||3:30.16 [3:30.16]||4:23.69 [53.53]||6:40.05 [2:16.37]||11:40.06 [5:00.01]|
|Split||Intermediate Leader||Time||Fastest Split||Time|
|Oregon ‘A’||Jessica Hull||Venessa D’Arpino||Susan Ejore||Lilli Burdon|
|Stanford ‘A’||Vanessa Fraser||Missy Mongiovi||Elise Cranny||Christina Aragon|
|Virginia Tech ‘A’||Katie Kennedy||Courtney Blanden||Laurie Barton||Sarah Edwards|
|Indiana ‘A’||Brenna Calder||Natalie Price||Kelsey Harris||Katherine Receveur|
|Boise State ‘A’||Alexis Fuller||Chelsea Walker||Amy Pfaff||Allie Ostrander|
|Oklahoma State ‘A’||Kaylee Dodd||Ambra Wesley||Abbie Hetherington||Ariane Ballner|
|Eastern Michigan ‘A’||Alsu Bogdanova||Jasmine Jones||Jenna Wyns||Natalie Cizmas|
|BYU ‘A’||Ashleigh Warner||Brenna Porter||Kristi Rush||Madelyn Brooks|
|Kansas ‘A’||Hannah Dimmick||Nicole Montgomery||Marleena Eubanks||Courtney Coppinger|
|New Mexico ‘A’||Kieran Casey||Shalom Keller||Alondra Negron||Charlotte Prouse|
|Clemson ‘A’||Kamryn McIntosh||Olivia James||Fellan Ferguson||Grace Barnett|
|Notre Dame ‘A’||Kelly Hart||Jordan Shead||Samantha Murray||Annasophia Keller|
Quick Take: The all-in bet by Virginia Tech’s “Three Musketeers” pays off
A year ago, Virginia Tech qualified three mid-d guys to NCAAs individually, but chose not to double them back in the DMR. The Hokies “B team” still managed to finish second in the country.
This year, Virginia Tech once again qualified three individuals — Joseph, Gourley, and Vincent Ciattei, all in the mile — and entering the meet, they were once again considering focusing their efforts solely on their individual event.
The three milers, all fifth-year seniors who have lived with each other since they were freshmen, met after the mile prelims to map out a plan. As it happened, all three guys had been drawn in the same heat (and all three made the final), and they agreed: either all of them would double back for the DMR, or none of them would. Call them the Three Musketeers.
All agreed they felt good enough to try the DMR. So they went for it.
“This is my last chance,” said Gourley, speaking for the group. “This is my last season of eligibility so I wasn’t going to be cautious this time around.”
Add in 400 leg Gregory Chiles — the D’Artagnan to their Athos, Porthos, and Aramis — and the Hokies had their championship team. No matter what happens in tomorrow’s mile final, they are champions tonight.
Quick Take: Patrick Joseph was a monster
I went through the last 10 NCAA meets (that’s as far back as I could find DMR splits) and nobody ran faster on the 800 leg than Joseph’s 1:46.23 tonight. It’s hard to win a DMR on the 800 leg, but Joseph’s huge run broke the race open and Gourley did a magnificent job of making sure the lead did not go to waste. Great job all around.
Quick Take: Tomorrow’s mile final is now must-watch TV
Going into the meet, the LRC brain trust was certain Josh Kerr would win the mile, and he’s still LRC’s pick to win (he said he suffered from stomach cramps during tonight’s race — we have a separate article on Kerr here: After a Disastrous 4:20.30 Split on the DMR, Josh Kerr Vows Something ‘Exciting’ in the Mile Final on Saturday). But despite looking incredible in the mile prelims, Kerr looked mortal tonight in the DMR, and though he packed it in to save his energy late, a dispiriting 4:20 leg (with a hard first 600) is not ideal prep for an NCAA final.
The good news is that Kerr’s DMR struggles makes the mile way more intriguing than it was before. If Kerr wins, he gets revenge on the VaTech guys. If one of the VaTech guys wins — and remember, there are three of them — they would achieve legend status. And if someone else wins? Well that would still be an upset, and upsets are always fun.
Quick Take: Notre Dame’s ragtag crew surprises to take second
Midway through our interview with the Notre Dame guys, Irish men’s distance coach Sean Carlson intervened to explain just how tonight’s result came to be. One by one, he pointed at each guy as he rattled off the odds they had overcome.
400 leg Edward Cheatham: “This guy was a manager on our team for two years.”
1600 leg Yared Nuguse: “This guy’s a walk-on, doesn’t even know what he’s doing.”
800 leg Elijah Silva: “This guy hasn’t run for three years before he got here.”
1200 leg Jacob Dumford: “This guy’s been through three coaches in five years.”
And while it’s incredible that Nuguse, a true freshman, blew away Grant Fisher on the anchor leg, he’s a “walk-on” that any program would be happy to have. Nuguse ran 4:12 for 1600 as a junior at DuPont Manual High School in Louisville, but ran a big PR of 4:06 in the mile the spring of his senior year. Maybe ND can claim he’s a walk-on if he’s not receiving an athletic scholarship (and after tonight, that may not be the case much longer), but we’re sure they welcomed him onto the team with open arms. Still, this was a huge breakthrough for him. His mile PR is 4:02 (though he reportedly split 3:58 in a DMR earlier this year), and he was 5th in the mile at ACCs. Tonight, he split 3:56.
Carlson deserves some credit too. A 2010 grad of DIII powerhouse North Central, the 30-year-old Carlson took over the men’s distance squad last year and has a big recruiting class coming in — three Foot Locker finalists, including champ Dylan Jacobs and third placer Daniel Kilrea.
Quick Take: Oregon women avenge 2017 defeat to win program’s first women’s DMR title
The Oregon men have won four DMR titles in the last 10 years, but until tonight the Duck women had never won one, despite setting the collegiate record last year. Oregon then proceeded to lose three of the four legs from that team (Raevyn Rogers, Ashante Horsley, and Katie Rainsberger, who is still on the team but redshirting this season) but came back a year later and won it all.
The first three legs kept the Ducks in it, but it was Burdon who delivered the hardware by leading almost the entire anchor leg. Not all athletes are comfortable at the front, but Burdon likes to lock into a pace and stay there, which made her perfect for this leg.
“[Oregon coach] Maurica [Powell] just talked to me before the race and said that I run best when I have my rhythm,” Burdon said. “She said to me just think that you’re on the turf next to Hayward Field doing a mile repeat.”
Quick Take: Another near miss for Stanford
A couple of the Stanford runners were joking that they were cursed after this race, and we can understand why. Here’s where the women’s DMR has finished at NCAAs over the past four years:
2018: 2nd (by .03)
2017: 2nd (by .02)
Elise Cranny was especially snake-bitten — she was on each of the last four squads (and also lost an individual title by .01 in 2016). But all four women handled their defeat with class, knowing that there was nothing else they could have done.
“Regardless of the outcome, I wanted to know that I gave it everything I had,” anchor Christina Aragon said. She certainly did.