WTW: NCAA Madness (and Stupidity), Washington’s Elite 8, and National Records Galore in Birmingham
The Week That Was in Running, February 20 – 26, 2023
The two major conference championship weekends each year in the NCAA are always entertaining and this year did not disappoint. We share some of the highs and lows with you below. Plus we take a look at the World Indoor Tour final in Birmingham as well as the US Half Champs in Ft. Worth, Texas. If you missed our coverage of the BU last chance meet, catch up now: BU Last Chance Miles Fizzle as Henry Wynne (3:52.51) and Geordie Beamish (3:51.22) Pick Up Wins.
We start with the NCAA action.
Congratulations, you’re the collegiate record holder…..for the next 80 minutes only
At the Big 12 championships on Saturday, Texas’ Rhasidat Adeleke of Ireland set an NCAA and Irish indoor record in the 400 by running 50.33. She wasn’t the NCAA record-holder for long: 80 minutes later, Florida’s Talitha Diggs, the 2022 NCAA and US outdoor champ, ran 50.15 to win SECs. Diggs’ time also broke Kendall Ellis’s American record of 50.34 (which doubled as the NCAA record at the start of the day).
What a day for the collegiate 400m record!— Travis Miller (@travismillerx13) February 26, 2023
4:40pm ET: 50.33 – Rhasidat Adeleke (Texas)
6:00pm ET: 50.15 – Talitha Diggs (Florida) pic.twitter.com/xNZnOpPxO3
Congratulations, you’re better than everyone else in the world but only 4th in the conference
If Diggs’ mark wasn’t a reminder that the quality of the SEC meet each year is insane, then maybe this will convince you.
Arkansas’ Chris Bailey went into the men’s 400 at SECs as the world leader at 45.09. In the final, he ran 45.13 but that only placed him third as Georgia’s Elija Godwin ran 44.75 and Florida’s Jacory Patterson ran 45.05. In fact, the top four in the SEC final all ran faster than anything anyone else in the world has run this year as Florida’s Ryan Willie ran 45.15 for 4th while Karsten Warholm is #5 in the world at 45.31.
If you don’t know Godwin’s back story, it’s a pretty cool one:
Damn! https://t.co/ISITEjfBsA— Michael Johnson (@MJGold) February 27, 2023
Eight Washington men break 4:00 in the same mile (again)
For the second time in 2023, eight milers from the University of Washington broke 4:00 in the same mile race (technically only seven were wearing UW singlets – Sam Ellis is a grad student at UW who only has outdoor eligibility). The crew of Ellis, Kieran Lumb, Luke Houser, Nathan Green, Aidan Ryan, Aaron Ahl, Joe Waskom, and Brian Fay all did it in Seattle on January 28 and the same eight did it again in Boston on Sunday.
Why fly all the way to Boston to run another mile? Well the UW crew wanted to take a run at the collegiate record (didn’t happen) but also wanted to ensure all seven men were qualified for NCAAs. That’s pretty much the case now as everyone but Ahl is in the top 16 on the NCAA list and Ahl is #17, meaning he only needs one scratch to get in.
The top of the NCAA list is truly crazy to look at right now. Six of the top eight are Huskies:
- 3:50.46 Anass Essayi, South Carolina
- 3:51.90 Joe Waskom, Washington
- 3:52.03 Brian Fay, Washington
- 3:52.62 Kieran Lumb, Washington
- 3:52.76 Nathan Green, Washington
- 3:52.87 Luke Houser, Washington
- 3:52.99* Duncan Hamilton, Montana State
- 3:53.65 Aidan Ryan, Washington
*converted for flat track and altitude
We should point out that five of Washington’s guys were already sub-4:00 milers before enrolling at UW (though all eight have run PRs this season). Here’s a closer look at each runner’s path to Seattle.
Enrolled at UW after graduating high school in 2019. 4:06 HS 1600 pb.
Enrolled at UW as a 22-year-old from Ireland in 2021 having already run 3:58 in the mile.
Enrolled at UW as a 23-year-old from Canada in 2021 having already run 3:57 in the mile. Turns 25 in August.
Enrolled at UW after graduating high school in 2021. 4:00 HS mile pb.
Enrolled at UW after graduating high school in 2019. 4:08 HS 1600 pb.
Enrolled at UW as a 22-year-old in 2022 having already run 3:56 in the mile for DIII Williams last year.
Canadian enrolled at UW as a 23-year-old in 2022 having already run 3:57 in the mile for DII Simon Fraser last year.
Age: Not listed on Tilastopaja – likely 23 or 24 since he graduated high school in 2017. Update: He’s 24 and he turns 25 in October.
Enrolled at UW in 2022 having already run 3:56 in the mile for Princeton last year.
No matter how they got to Seattle, six men at 3:53 or faster and five at 3:52 or faster on one team is absolutely ridiculous. As recently as 2017, the NCAA mile record was Lawi Lalang’s 3:52.88. That time would make him the #6 guy on the 2023 Washington Huskies. That’s a bit misleading though – Lalang ran his 3:52.88 in 2014, an era before supershoes. With them, Lalang’s record would be worth 3:49 or 3:50. But having six of the eight fastest milers in the NCAA is unprecedented depth.
It has many wondering whether this UW team is the greatest crop of milers ever assembled on an NCAA team. That really depends on what you mean by “greatest.” The 2023 UW mile squad may well be the deepest in NCAA history, but you can make a strong case this may not even be the best group of milers coached by Andy Powell. In 2010, the Oregon trio of Andy Wheating, AJ Acosta, and Matthew Centrowitz went 1-2-3 in the NCAA 1500 (Washington went 1-5-7 in 2022 with Waskom, Houser, and Green). Wheating ran 3:30 later that summer while Centrowitz was a US champion and Worlds medalist a year later. Plus Mac Fleet, the 2010 NCAA mile runner-up and an eventual two-time NCAA 1500 champ, was a freshman on that team. Is that more impressive than having a #6 and #7 man at 3:53 and 3:55?
In the immediate future, the big question is how will Powell deploy his runners at NCAAs? He could enter all seven men in the mile, which would be a pretty cool visual –could you imagine if all seven made the final? But if UW wants to maximize its team score, that’s not the best use of resources.
Fay is a fast miler but he’s also qualified in the 3k and 5k. It makes the most sense to enter him in those events rather than just have him in the mile. And if Washington wants to win the DMR – they’re the #2 seed – they’ll need to hold someone out of the mile to keep him fresh to run the 1600 leg (the mile prelims are less than two hours before the DMR final). No school has won the DMR without a fresh anchor leg since Neil Gourley anchored Virginia Tech to the win in 2018; it hasn’t happened on the women’s side since Sarah Brown did it for Tennessee in 2009.
The most logical option to anchor the DMR is Lumb – he was their anchor when Washington ran 9:16.65 earlier this year, #2 in NCAA history, and he has a qualifier in the 3k, meaning he could still run an individual event at NCAAs (the DMR is Friday, the 3k Saturday). The problem is, when Washington ran 9:16.65, they were beaten by Oklahoma State, and the OK State anchor in that race, Ryan Schoppe, will probably also be fresh at NCAAs (Schoppe is the #5 seed in the 3k and will likely run that event at NCAAs too).
When we spoke to Andy Powell on Sunday, he told us everything is still on the table for NCAAs. He has 11 days to solve a dilemma any collegiate coach would be happy to be facing.
- MB: Does Washington have the best collection of milers in NCAA history?
- MB: NCAA historians, when is the last time someone anchored the DMR not fresh and won?
Will Sumner delivers
The men’s 800 at SECs is always hot and this year the league was infused with two of the top high schoolers in US history as Cade Flatt (#2 all-time US HS at 1:46.48) is at Ole Miss and Will Sumner (1:46.53, #3 all-time) is at Georgia.
Well just as was the case last year in HS, the two didn’t race each other yet again at SECs. Flatt only ran the 400 leg of the DMR (and only split 49.1 as he returns from injury) but Sumner ran the open 800 and he delivered, winning comfortably in 1:48.28 with Florida’s Sam Austin second in 1:48.67 and Ole Miss’s Baylor Franklin third at 1:49.04.
Georgia freshman Will Sumner kicks to the SEC 800m title in 1:48.28!pic.twitter.com/pfmyf32bwQ— Travis Miller (@travismillerx13) February 25, 2023
Barring two scratches, Sumner will not compete at NCAAs individually as 1:48.28 only puts him 18th on the NCAA list (16 go). But he’s clearly one of the top NCAA guys as Austin is ranked #2 in the NCAA this year at 1:46.06 and Franklin is #7 at 1:46.74.
Of course, missing NCAAs in the 800 wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world. It keeps the pressure off, and Sumner might end up on Georgia’s 4 x 400 anyway – he ran on it at SECs, splitting 46.83.
Julien Alfred does it again
The exploits of Texas’ Julien Alfred, the reigning NCAA 100m champ from St. Lucia, have been impressive this winter. Last year, Alfred set the NCAA 60m record by running 7.04 in the prelims at NCAAs (though she was only 5th in the final). This year, she has broken the record three more times, most recently becoming the first sub-7 NCAA sprinter in history when she ran 6.97 in the final of the Big 12 meet. She then came back and won the 200 with the #2 time in NCAA history at 22.26.
All three of Alfred’s record runs this year have been aided by altitude – she ran 7.02 and 7.00 in Albuquerque (4,950 feet) and her 6.97 in Lubbock (3,200 feet). She now ranks tied for 8th on the world all-time list, just .05 shy of Irina Privalova’s world record, and will get one more crack at a fast time at elevation as NCAAs are in Albuquerque.
The better Alfred does, the more it reminds us that we need an explanation from World Athletics about the timing blocks at Worlds last summer. Devon Allen wasn’t the only casualty of the statistically impossible quick reaction times. Alfred also was tossed out of the world semis.
Oh so close….
Craziest. Ending. Ever.
All the Duke women needed to do in the final event of the ACC championships was finish in 6th place, and their 4 x 400 team was doing much better than that. They were just steps away from winning the team title, the race and perhaps qualifying for NCAAs when this happened:
Unfortunately for Duke, anchor Megan McGinnis – who won the individual 400 earlier in the day – dropped the baton just before the line following contact with Miami anchor Sanaa Hebron. The moment the baton came out, Duke was doomed – technically, McGinnis could have gone back to pick it up and then finished the race, but she would have had just seven seconds to do so (Miami’s winning time was 3:32.56, sixth-place Virginia ran 3:39.56). That was barely enough time for an exhausted McGinnis to register what happened, let alone retrace her steps, retrieve the baton, and cross the finish line.
(For the record: the NCAA rulebook says a relay team should be disqualified if “the last runner of the team finishes the race without a baton.” A strict interpretation would argue McGinnis should have been DQ’d the second she crossed the finish line without a baton, but we don’t agree – in this case, there’s a difference between “crossing the finish line” and “finishing the race.”)
There also was a crazy ending at the Ivy Heps indoor champs where the Princeton men were 13 points down heading into the relays, but found a way to edge Harvard 167 to 166, even though Harvard won the 4 x 400. How is that possible? Harvard, who hasn’t won a men’s track title since 1985, would almost certainly have won had they not dropped the stick on the 4 x 800. Princeton has now won 8 straight indoor titles.
Perry Mackinnon runs World Cross, PRs at conference a week later
How about a thumbs up to Cornell senior Perry Mackinnon? In a day and age when the pros tell us it’s too hard to get to Australia for World Cross Country because they’ll lose weeks of training due to travel, Mackinnon showed that excuse isn’t true for everyone.
Check out what the two-time NCAA XC qualifier’s race/travel schedule has looked like the last few weeks.
February 11 – Runs 3000 pb of 7:57.01 in Boston, which is a six-hour drive from Ithaca, N.Y. Flies to Sydney, Australia, on February 12, then drives three hours to Bathurst.
February 18 – Runs 3rd leg on Canada’s mixed relay team that placed 8th at World XC (he tied Uganda on his leg and ran the co-9th fastest 3rd leg). Drives three hours back to Sydney, then flies back to Cornell on February 19.
February 25 – Runs 8:08.65 for 3000 at Ivy champs (Heps) on a flat track in Hanover, N.H., which is a six-hour drive from Ithaca, to place 3rd in 3000.
February 26 – Runs 13:56.34 5000 pb to place 4th at Heps.
So after 20,000+ miles of flying and 18 hours of driving over the previous two weeks, MacKinnon PR’d in his final race. Great stuff.
Whenever a pro tells me from now on they can’t go to a meet as it’s too hard to get to, I’m going to respond. “Google Perry Mackinnon LetsRun.com.”
Cornell men’s distance coach Mike Henderson said it wasn’t too hard to tailor things for Mackinnon to have a great experience and represent his country, “When you are fit, you are fit and don’t need to do a lot of workouts.”
Mackinnon, who is 25 (13 years of school in Canada + a gap year before starting Cornell), only found out he’d be running World XC on February 1, well after he’d been entered at BU. He will be running at Syracuse next year as a grad student.
Parker Valby sits out of SECs
One notable development from conference weekend is who didn’t compete: Parker Valby. The University of Florida star was on the start list for the 3,000 and 5,000 at SECs but did not compete in either race. LetsRun reached out to Valby’s coach Will Palmer for an explanation, but he told us he was unable to share any information other than that Valby was not to compete at SECs.
Valby, the NCAA runner-up in cross country, has raced only twice this indoor season, anchoring Florida’s DMR at the Razorback Invitational on January 27 and running 8:49.71 for 3,000 meters at the Valentine Invitational in Boston on February 10. That time ranks her third in the NCAA but it remains to be seen whether she will run NCAAs two weeks from now.
Katelyn Tuohy splits 4:23 on DMR, wins 3k and gets standing ovation
During XC season, there was a lot of debate as to who would win when Valby and Tuohy faced off, but right now there is little doubt who is the best distance runner in the NCAA: Katelyn Tuohy. At ACCs last week, she split 4:23.36 on the DMR anchor (getting third) before winning the 3000 in 8:51.92 off of a 4:52 first 1600 (she ran her final 1600 in 4:36.30).
Next stop for Tuohy? The NCAA indoor championships, the one NCAAs that Tuohy has never won. It remains to be seen what events Tuohy will run. She is #1 in the country in the mile (4:24.26, 5.61 seconds better than anyone else), 3000 (8:35.20, 10.3 seconds better than anyone else), and 5000 (15:15.92, 2.05 seconds better than anyone else) and the NC State DMR team is #2 in the country at 10:48.55 (1.93 seconds off of #1 UW).
We can’t imagine she’d run the DMR. If NC State can’t win ACCs with Tuohy fresh on the anchor, why would they win NCAAs with her tired from an individual event?
The 3000/5000 seems like the no-brainer call for least amount of stress, and that’s what Tuohy did last year, finishing 2nd in both races. As fans, we’d love to see the mile, 3000, 5000 triple. No one has ever won all three in the same year, though Oregon’s Edward Cheserek came close on the men’s side in 2017 as he won the 3000 and 5000 and was 2nd in the mile.
- MB: Katelyn Tuohy wins 3k at ACCs and gets a standing ovation from the crowd
- MB: TUOHY should stay in school!!! get all records and attention possible from NCAA!!! Sponsors agree!!!
- MB: NCAA historians, when is the last time someone anchored the DMR not fresh and won?
Guys in slow heat takes top 5 spots in ACC men’s 5000
Speaking of ACCs, there was one hilarious story in the men’s 5k. The ACC prides itself on being one of the best distance conferences in the country. And hey, with 15 schools, many of them going basically all-in on distance, why shouldn’t they be?
But maybe the coaches aren’t as smart as they think they are. At ACCs on Thursday, the slow heat of the 5000 was run and it ended up being quick as the top 6 guys, led by Syracuse’s Paul O’Donnell, ran between 13:50 and 14:00.
So the fast heat goes out, and guess what happens? Instead of running the first mile in 4:30 to make sure they can attack 13:50, the athletes, who are used to rabbitted race after rabbitted race, go out in 4:44. By 2k (5:56), it was all but officially over. In the end, the winner of the second heat, Notre Dame’s Carter Solomon, ended up sixth in 14:00.42.
Why someone like UNC, which had five entrants in the fast heat, or Notre Dame, which had three, didn’t take turns leading is almost beyond comprehension (Syracuse also had three entrants but we get why they wouldn’t want to help out).
It reminds us of the 2019 US indoor meet when Drew Hunter won the 2-mile out of the “slow” heat.
National records galore in Birmingham
The 2023 World Athletics Indoor Tour, which we greatly enjoyed, came to an end on Saturday in Birmingham, England. It ended up being a great day for the Brits as Keely Hodgkinson (1:57.18), Neil Gourley (3:32.48), and Dina Asher-Smith (7.03) all got wins and national records to boot. Laura Muir also won the 1k but her time of 2:34.53 was nowhere near Maria Mutola’s 2:30.94 WR or even Muir’s own 2:31.93 European record, set in Birmingham six years ago.
Gourley’s 3:32.48 was just 0.10 off of Jakob Ingebrigtsen’s 3:32.38 world lead. And remember, Yared Nuguse beat Gourley by 2.08 seconds at Millrose. Gourley took the record from Josh Kerr, who was in the race and running with a purpose, tying to PR after impressively winning the 3000 at Millrose. Kerr did all the work from 1k to 1350 after the rabbit dropped off but in the end he ended up being the perfect pace-setter for Gourley as Kerr faded to 5th in 3:34.93.
A nice bonus for Gourley is that the win made him the 2023 World Athletics Indoor Tour series champion in the 1500, propelling him past Nuguse in the standings. That title comes with a bye into World Indoors next year – something we’re sure Gourley will be doing considering 2024 World Indoors will be held in his hometown of Glasgow.
Gudaf Tsegay came just .09 away from the Ethiopian and world record of 8:16.60 in Birmingham as well.
The long-standing Irish 1500 records fall* in Birmingham
The third and fourth placers in the men’s 1500 Birmingham were both Irish and both ran fast as Andrew Coscoran ran 3:33.49 for third and Luke McCann ran 3:34.76.
Per the Irish Times, Coscoran’s is the fastest 1500 ever run by an Irish runner indoors or out:
They were two of the longest-standing records in Irish athletics, Ray Flynn’s outdoor mark of 3:33.5 going back 41 years, clocked during the Dream Mile run in Oslo back in July 1982, with the previous indoor mark of 3:35.4 belonging to Marcus O’Sullivan since 1988, also clocked en route to a mile win in New Jersey in 1988.
So Coscoran beat marks that were 1500 splits en route to a mile. If we convert the Irish indoor and outdoor mile records to the 1500, we get the following:
Ray Flynn’s 3:49.77 outdoor mile from 1982 converts to a 3:32.71.
Marcus O’Sullivan’s split came from his 3:50.94 indoor mile in 1988, but Eamonn Coghlan is the Irish indoor mile record holder at 3:49.78 (no 1500 split taken), which he ran in 1983. That converts to a 3:32.72 1500.
Jacob Thomson and Aliphine Tuliamuk win the US Half Marathon titles
Two-thirds of the 2020 US women’s Olympic marathon team were in action on Sunday at the USATF Half Marathon Championships, which were staged as part of the Cowtown Marathon and Half Marathon in Fort Worth, Tex. Aliphine Tuliamuk, the winner at the Olympic Trials three years ago in Atlanta, was the winner again on Sunday as she clocked a pb of 69:37 to win her second US half title and 12th US title overall (Tuliamuk ran 69:16 in her half debut in 2013 but that came on an aided course in Santa Fe). For Tuliamuk, 33, to run a half pb now is a sign that her buildup for April’s Boston Marathon is going very well – and she had company up front as her HOKA NAZ Elite teammate Lauren Paquette led much of the way and finished second in 69:51, more than a minute ahead of third-placer Nell Rojas (71:08).
The course in Ft. Worth is quite hilly. If you look at the elevation chart, it’s kind of scary but LetsRun.com stat/coaching guru John Kellogg thinks it’s only roughly 55 seconds slower than a flat course. He can’t say for sure without knowing exactly how steep some of the hills are.
The news was not as good for the other member of the 2020 US Olympic marathon team in action, Molly Seidel, as she ran 73:08 for 8th. Granted, Seidel is running the Nagoya Marathon in Japan in two weeks, so she likely wasn’t going to the well. But if you take a minute off her time for hills and double it, that’s not going to be very competitive in Nagoya.
On the men’s side, Jacob Thomson was the winner in 62:38 in a four-way kick over three-time US Half champ Leonard Korir (62:39), US marathon champ Futsum Zienasellassie (62:39), and Abbabiya Simbassa (62:41). Thomson has traveled a circuitous path to his first national title. He ran for two years at NC State before transferring to the University of Kentucky, where he had a best finish of 6th in the NCAA 10k (2016 and 2018). He then spent 2018-20 with the B.A.A. High Performance Team in Boston, competed in the colors of Tracksmith in 2021, then joined Under Armour’s Dark Sky Distance team in 2022. Now he’s a national champion at the age of 28.
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