Notre Dame’s Yared Nuguse runs 7:38.13 to set new NCAA 3k record 

By Jonathan Gault
February 12, 2022

BOSTON – Yared Nuguse likes to cut it close. When he anchored the Notre Dame men to victory in the distance medley relay at the 2019 NCAA indoor championships, he held off Stanford anchor Grant Fisher by .15 of a second. When he won the NCAA 1500m title later that year, the margin was even smaller: just three-thousandths of a second. So when Nuguse set his sights on Alistair Cragg’s NCAA indoor 3000m record of 7:38.59 at the David Hemery Valentine Invitational at Boston University on Saturday, we should have expected it to be close.

Nuguse delivered the drama and delivered the record, using a 58.03 final 400 (28.52 last lap) to duck under Cragg’s mark, clocking 7:38.13, a time that also moves him to #7 on the all-time US indoor list. The 22-year-old Notre Dame senior now has quite the resume: two NCAA titles (and counting), two NCAA records (he ran 3:34.68 to break the outdoor 1500 record last May), and a berth on the 2021 US Olympic team at 1500.

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In the immediate aftermath of his record-breaking run, Nuguse was at a loss for words. Shortly after the race, Notre Dame coach Sean Carlson FaceTimed Cragg, now head coach of Puma Elite Running in North Carolina, so that the current and former record holders could chat. But when asked to recall exactly what they discussed, Nuguse was still in shock.

“He was really happy that I was able to do it and just…uh…I don’t know,” Nuguse said, trailing off.

To be fair to Nuguse, he has had a lot to process. Nuguse tested positive for COVID early last week, though he said he “didn’t have it bad” and that it had minimal impact on his preparations (Nuguse said that, per Notre Dame policy, he was still allowed to train by himself). But as a result, Nuguse did not fly into Boston until this morning (he had to test negative this morning in order to fly). Heading into the race, Carlson told Nuguse to be prepared to back off the pace if he wasn’t feeling up to it midway through the race, but there was no holding back his charge today.

“I’m not the kind of person to let those kinds of excuses bring you down,” Nuguse said.

There was also uncertainty about the pacemaking situation, but in the end Eric Holt and James Randon, both doubling back from races earlier this day, did a good job of keeping Nuguse on track as Nuguse hit 1600 in 4:05.81, just behind record pace of 4:04.58.

With Holt stepping off at 1k (2:33.47 for Nuguse) and Randon departing at 1700m, it was up to Nuguse to bring it home over the last 6.5 laps, and while he was able to run 30.23 and 30.29 for laps 10 and 11 (30.57 is record pace), he slipped to 31.33 and 31.19 for laps 12 and 13. Cheered on by the crowd, however, Nuguse responded with a 29.51 penultimate lap before bringing it home with a lean at the line to get the record.

Quick Take: What a run from Nuguse

A lot of talented runners have come through the NCAA since Cragg set this record 18 years ago, and until, no one had broken 7:40, let alone Cragg’s mark of 7:38.59. So for it to finally fall required some performance, especially considering Nuguse was all alone for the final 1300 meters. It is not a shock that Nuguse broke this record – we all know how talented he is – but this was an incredible run.

And Nuguse may not be done breaking records. The Notre Dame men are lining up for a DMR next weekend in South Bend, and between Nuguse, Samuel Voelz (1:45 800, Olympic Trials finalist), and Dylan Jacobs (3:57 mile), they’ve got the potential for a seriously fast team. That said, the collegiate record of 9:19.42 set by Oregon last year will take some breaking as that squad featured individual NCAA champions on three of the four legs (Cole Hocker, Cooper Teare, and Charlie Hunter).

Quick Take: Nuguse respects how insane Cragg’s record was

Comparing times run in 2004 to times run in 2022 is no longer an apples to apples comparison as the super shoes/spikes have revolutionized the sport. Nuguse said he gained a new level of respect for Cragg’s record as he battled through the painful final kilometer tonight and alluded to the shoe advantage in his comments praising Cragg.

“I’m just impressed that Alistair Cragg, the guy who did it, did it 18 years ago,” Nuguse said. Now we’re at a time when the sport’s getting so much better and so much faster, and it’s just an awesome time to be in. And to run this time 18 years ago, when I was like, four, just blows my mind.”

It seems unlikely Nuguse’s 7:38 will last as long as Cragg’s, particularly if shoe technology continues to improve, but it would not be shocking to see it last a good while. The simple fact of the matter is that 7:38 is ridiculously fast and most collegians capable of running that fast have already turned professional (see: Hocker, Cole). Nuguse would have had plenty of interest from sponsors after making the Olympics in 2021, but he elected to return to Notre Dame for one more year and has a chance to put the collegiate records (particularly his outdoor mark) out of reach.

***

There were a few other fast races at BU on Saturday aside from Nuguse’s – and not just the 5k that saw Grant Fisher blast an American record of 12:53. In the 1500, Neil Gourley of Great Britain ran a world-leading 3:35.32 (an overall pb), a good start for Gourley after joining Under Armour’s Dark Sky Distance team in Flagstaff this year. Gourley was the British champion in 2019 but didn’t make the Olympic team last year as he tore his calf last year six weeks before the British trials. Now back to full health, he has made a promising start to 2022.

Sign of the times: 3:56 may not get you into NCAAs in the mile

Sam Ellis of Princeton ran an Ivy League record of 3:56.87 to win the fast section of the mile at BU today (this was a separate race from the 1500 in which Gourley ran 3:35).

That’s the good news. The bad news is the fastest time in Heps history probably won’t be enough to get Ellis to NCAAs as he is currently ranked 25th in the country in the mile. Only the top 16 declared entrants make it to NCAAs, and right now Southern Utah’s Nate Osterstock is 16th on the list at 3:56.16. A sign that we are in a new era for distance running if there ever was one.

Though Ellis wanted to improve his seed (he ran 3:57.02 in Seattle in January), he said he was more focused on winning the race, hopeful that with the talent assembled, it would take a fast time to win. But Ellis didn’t get great position early, and the pace was slow through halfway (the leader hit 809 in 2:00.60 with Ellis back in 2:02.62). So even though Ellis closed in a very quick 1:54.25, he will likely be on the outside looking in when it comes to NCAAs in the mile.

Fortunately, Ellis also has a shot to make it in the 800 (where he is seeded 22nd at 1:48.32) and the DMR, an event in which the Tigers are hoping to qualify next week at Notre Dame.

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