Women’s 1500: BYU’s Anna Camp Springs the Upset

By Jonathan Gault
June 12, 2021

Since 2010, no woman has won the NCAA mile and 1500 titles in the same year. In 2021, Colorado’s Sage Hurta was favored to end that drought, entering the NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships undefeated on the year against collegiate competition and the fastest pbs in the field at both 800 (2:00.62) and 1500 (4:08.38). With 300 meters to go in today’s NCAA 1500 final at Hayward Field, everything appeared poised for Hurta, who had taken the lead from Alabama’s Amaris Tyynismaa at the bell and was starting to stretch out the field.

But BYU’s Anna Camp had other ideas. She tracked Hurta’s move on the back straight, hung with her on the final turn, and with 80 meters to go, blasted away from Hurta and everyone else to win her first NCAA title in 4:08.53.

Anna Camp celebrates her win

Camp’s win was an upset not just because Hurta was favored, but because there was a genuine case to be made entering the meet that Camp was only the third-best 1500 runner on her own team. Camp had run two 1500’s during the regular season, and was not the top BYU runner in either, finishing second to Courtney Wayment at the Hayward Premiere on April 2 and third behind Arkansas’ Krissy Gear and BYU teammate Whittni Orton at the West Coast Relays on April 30.

The latter race, however, offered a reason to be excited as Camp managed a 3+ second pb of 4:11.63. And after another big personal best of 4:09.22 in Thursday’s prelims, Camp stepped on the line with the confidence that springing the upset was possible.

“At the beginning of the season, my coach [Diljeet Taylor], she called me and asked, ‘Do you want me to coach you to win the 1500? Because I believe you can do it.’ And so I knew that there was a chance.”

Camp rewarded her coach’s faith with yet another personal best today, closing in 4:08.53 to take the win.

The Race

As she has throughout the season, Tyynismaa, the NCAA XC 3rd placer, went immediately to the front, but her early splits (69.24 at 400, 2:17.04 at 800) meant that most of the field was still in contention at the bell, at which point Hurta eased past Tyynismaa and into the lead. Hurta’s surge splintered the pack, with Camp and Stanford’s Christina Aragon, the 4th placer in 2018, moving up to chase Hurta as Tyynismaa began to fade.

With 200 to go, Aragon was spent and had been replaced by her teammate Ella Donaghu, the Pac-12 champ, and Penn State’s Danae Rivers, the 2019 NCAA indoor 800 champ behind Hurta and Camp to form a four-woman lead group around the final turn. Camp had yet to show her cards, however, and after running on Hurta’s shoulder on the turn, she made her move early in the home straight and no one could answer. Hurta was forced to battle Donaghu for second as Camp wound up winning by almost a second in 4:08.53. Hurta was the runner-up in 4:09.42, with Donaghu (4:09.66) and Rivers (4:10.47) both running personal bests to take third and fourth, respectively.

1 Anna CAMP SR BYU 4:08.53 PB
2 Sage HURTA SR COLORADO 4:09.42
5 Krissy GEAR JR ARKANSAS 4:11.01
6 Micaela DEGENERO SR COLORADO 4:11.26
8 Christina ARAGON JR STANFORD 4:12.63
9 Kelsey HARRIS SR INDIANA 4:13.93
10 Olivia HOWELL FR ILLINOIS 4:15.56

Quick Take: BYU has some serious distance talent on its roster and a hell of a coach

If you were going to pick a BYU athlete to win the NCAA 1500 title before this season, Camp would not have been the first or second pick for most outside observers, not just because of the presence of Wayment and Orton, but because she didn’t even run the 1500 at NCAAs her last time around: she was 8th in the 800 in 2019 (she actually entered the 800 this year as well but was the first woman out of the final).

But Diljeet Taylor believed in Camp. And with Orton failing to make the 1500 final and Wayment running the steeple, it was down to Camp, who was the top finisher on BYU’s NCAA XC title-winning team (11th place), in the 1500. She showed once again just how deep the Cougars roster goes. Two pbs in three days and an NCAA title is quite the weekend for Camp.

Quick Take: Hurta couldn’t up her game enough from the semis and had to settle for second

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Entering today, Hurta was the only woman in the NCAA to have broken 4:09 this year, and she did it twice, including in heat 1 of the prelims (4:08.88). To say that Hurta went too hard in that race isn’t fair — it took 4:09.80 to grab an auto qualifier, and Camp was not far behind, running 4:09.22 to take second in the heat.

In reality, Hurta ran a very similar race to the semis, closing in 63.39 for her last lap compared to 63.99 in the prelim, while Camp significantly upped her game, closing in 62.11 today compared to 64.07 in the semis. Hurta didn’t run a bad race — she ran the shortest distance possible on the last lap, and while her move at the bell was aggressive, it wasn’t as if she misjudged her effort. She just didn’t have the extra gear that Camp did at the end.

Quick Take: Danae Rivers finds her form again

Rivers won the NCAA indoor 800 title in 2019, but has struggled to reach the same level since then. She didn’t make the NCAA outdoor final that year, and this year, as a senior, was only 5th in the Big 10 1500 final. But she ran the best 1500 of her life today to break a three-year-old pb of 4:10.82, clocking 4:10.47 for 4th.

Anna Camp talks after the win

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