Notre Dame’s Yared Nuguse Snatches NCAA Men’s 1500 Title At Line From Michigan State’s Justine Kiprotich

June 7, 2019

AUSTIN, Tex. — Three one-thousandths of a second. That’s what separated Notre Dame’s Yared Nuguse, who gets to call himself an NCAA champion, and Michigan State’s Justine Kiprotich, who has to settle for calling himself a two-time runner-up after a thrilling NCAA 1500-meter final on Friday.

Nuguse is no stranger to late kicks, running down Stanford’s Grant Fisher in the final 15 meters in March to win the NCAA DMR title for Notre Dame. But the .15 margin of victory in that race seems positively enormous compared to today, Nuguse left it extremely late before barely outleaning Kiprotich at the line with an inside pass as both men were credited with a time of 3:41.39.

Talk about close

After reigning champ Ollie Hoare of Wisconsin towed the field through a 58-second opening 400, Nuguse took the lead with 900 meters to go and relaxed the pace, splitting 62.77 from 300 to 700 and 61.43 from 700 to 1100. The result was the entire 12-man field bunched as a single entity at the bell.

Nuguse, in front, had the advantage, but things got really crazy on the back straight as the rest of the field tried to run up on him. With 250 meters to go, the leaders were four-wide, Nuguse flanked by Hoare, Kiprotich, and NCAA mile runner-up Casey Comber of Villanova on his outside.

Nuguse (inside in green) looked to be totally boxed with just over 100 to go

Hoare seized the lead before the final turn, but could not hold it, Kiprotich moving by him with 150 to go. Entering the home straight, Nuguse was in fourth place and horribly boxed in on the rail, with Hoare in front of him and Arizona State’s William Paulson to his right as Kiprotich began to sprint away from them. But Hoare was drifting right, and suddenly the rail opened up for Nuguse like the parting of the Red Sea. Kiprotich had parlayed his superior positioning into a two-meter lead, but Nuguse, finally with room to run, was closing faster and began to claw his way back into the race with 50 meters to go. The only question was whether he could get Kiprotich before the line, and the answer, after a delay of roughly 20 seconds, came officially on the scoreboard: yes.

Watch the finish for yourself

1 Yared NUGUSE SO Notre Dame 3:41.39
2 Justine KIPROTICH SR Michigan State 3:41.39 PB
3 Cameron GRIFFITH SR Arkansas 3:42.14
4 Oliver HOARE JR Wisconsin 3:42.29
5 William PAULSON SR Arizona State 3:42.32
6 Kasey KNEVELBAARD JR Southern Utah 3:42.43
7 Jack ANSTEY JR Illinois State 3:42.73
8 Casey COMBER JR Villanova 3:42.77
9 Sam WORLEY SO Texas 3:42.81
10 Mick STANOVSEK JR Washington 3:45.64
11 Talem FRANCO JR BYU 3:46.20
12 Eduardo HERRERA SO Colorado 3:46.27

Yared Nuguse becomes the first Notre Dame man to win an NCAA 1500 title

We thought Nuguse was the best miler in the country indoors, but he bypassed the mile at NCAAs to go all-in on the DMR, which Notre Dame won. With no DMR outdoors, he ran the 1500 here, and came out with the win in his first individual NCAA final.

While Nuguse admitted that he was a little worried about being boxed in with 100 to go, he trusted that something would open up for him. When it did, he seized the opportunity.

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“You just gotta try to trust your intuition, just kind of go for it in races like this,” Nuguse said.

Quick Take: Kiprotich was disappointed to win, but he’s got US citizenship and is looking forward to a pro career

Two years ago, Kiprotich was a surprise second and very happy. Tonight, 40 meters from the finish, it looked like he’d be a dominant winner but he got nipped at the line in agonizing fashion.

“Heartbroken,” is how Kiprotich said he felt about his three thousandths of a second loss.

Only when asked about Nuguse’s inside pass in the mixed zone with the media after the race did Kiprotich realize that he lost the race because of an inside pass.

“He was coming on the inside? I just realized that. I could have blocked him off,” said Kiprotich, who put both of his hands on his head in disbelief.

But the charismatic Kiprotich quickly turned to smiles during his time with the media. As for the future, Kiprotich who moved to the US as pre-teen, got his US citizenship last year and will represent the US as a pro.

Kiprotich definitely ran many more meters than Nuguse, who stayed on the rail. Kiprotich ran wide for much of the race and even made a move on the turn on the last lap.

For more on Kiprotich’s story, read this article, which includes an interesting anecdote about how in Kenya his classmates teased him that he should be a runner because he was the only Kalenjin person in their grade.

Quick Take: Assuming they don’t go pro, Hoare and Nuguse will look to be the 19th men to win two or more NCAA 1500 titles next year.

A total of 18 men have won two or more NCAA titles in their career. 14 have won two and four men have won three, but none have won three in a row since Villanova’s Marti Liquori in 1969-70-71.

Winners of 3 NCAA 1500 Titles
Don Gerhrmann Wisconsin 1948, 1949, 1950
Ron Delany Villanova 1956, 57, 58,
Dyrol Burleson Oregon 1960, 61, 1962
Marty Liquori Villanova 1969-70-71

Winners of 2 NCAA 1500 Titles
Glenn Cunningham Kansas 1932 and 1933
Archie San Romani Emporia State 1935 and 36
Louis Zamperini USC  1938 and 39
Ross Hume Michigan 44 and 45
Morgan Groth Oregon St. 63-64
David Patrick Villanova 66 and 68
Dave Wottle Bowling Green 1972 and 1973
Eamon Coghlan Villanova 1975 and 1976
Sydnee Maree Villanova 1980 and 1981
Abde Bile George Mason 1985 and 1987
Marko Koers Illinios 1993, 1996
Seneca Lasiter 1997 and 98
Leo Manzano Arkansas 2005 and 2008
Mac Fleet Oregon 2013 and 14

Video interview with Ollie Hoare

The defending champ wanted an honest race, but admitted afterwards that he may have pushed too hard on the first lap.

Video interview with Cameron Griffith

The Arkansas runner had a huge final 100 meters to finish third. He said that racing Hoare today brought back memories as they went to the same high school in Australia.

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