WTW: Sub-4 Mania, An NCAA Coach Doesn’t Watch His Team Break A World Record, + Grant Fisher = Charles Barkley?

The Week That Was in Running, February 7-19, 2023

By Robert Johnson
February 22, 2023

The Week That Was took a week off last week with World Cross Country, hence below we are musing on the world of track & field from the last two weeks. But we don’t repeat ourselves, so if you missed our coverage of 2023 Millrose, 2023 Lievin or 2023 World XC catch up now.

We never skip a week of our Track Talk podcast, so be sure to check that out if you haven’t done so already.

Past editions of our Week That Was weekly recap can be found here. Got a tip, question or comment? Please call us at 844-LETSRUN (538-7786), email us, or post in our forum.  

Sub-4 Still Means Something To Us

It’s been an interesting few weeks for people who are into sub-4 minute miles. About 2-3 weeks ago, I looked at the NCAA qualifying list and noticed there were roughly 50 sub-4 minute milers so far in 2023 at the D1 level. To old-timers that may sound like a lot, but considering there were 90 last year, I thought to myself, “What could explain why the numbers are down?”

Answer: I was just a little anxious. There were several big weekends left in terms of qualifying and things changed quickly. On February 11 at the David Hemery Invitational at Boston University, 52 different guys broke 4 in the mile, including Syracuse grad student Karl Winter, aka the former LetsRun.com intern, who ran 3:59.25 to join the sub-4 club for the first time.

Also breaking four for the first time was Alex Rizzo of Navy who ran 3:58.75 at BU, joining identical twin Matthew Rizzo of Georgetown who first busted four last year and had already run 3:56.20 this year. Alex doesn’t have the family PR but he did get the weekend bragging rights as Matt ‘only’ ran 3:59.79 at BU. Matt was 9th in heat 2, Alex was 3rd in heat 4. For the record, Alex is older by 20 minutes (being a twin, I care very much about knowing that).

Article continues below player.

BU was so crazy that people in the 7th heat were breaking four — four of them!

Just before BU, Track & Field News announced they were no longer going to be updating their list of sub-4 American milers, writing the following statement.

“Amendments are most welcome, but we don’t anticipate adding any post-2022 marks. The advent of super-shoes has bombarded the 4:00 barrier into something no longer relevant for tracking, although many new members would have made it even without high-tech footwear.”

We don’t agree and got a number of emails from people wanting to help keep up the list. It’s got to exist until we at least get to 1000 — as of February 11, the list only has 711 names. We were thinking of even making t-shirts and sending them to every American who breaks 4 up until #1000. If you have an idea for what the t-shirt should say or look like, send me an email.

The way I see it: being a billionaire isn’t what it used to be, but it’s still noteworthy. There are 724 billionaires in the US — almost exactly the number of sub-4 milers in US history.

And it still means something to the runners as we got a text from Karl Winter that read in part, “There’s been a lot of discourse about the significance of sub-four in the past week or so – still meant something to me! Hopefully more to come at ACCs.”

Update: Good news. A reader has emailed and informed me that TFN has reversed their decision after reader outrage. They will continue to maintain the list.

MB: United States Sub-4:00 Milers list no longer being updated because of supershoes
MB: 52 guys including the former LetsRun intern broke 4:00 at BU today + MITs Ryan Wilson who went from 4:06 to 3:55!


Oklahoma State (and Washington) Break World & NCAA Men’s DMR Record + Free Coaching Advice From Oklahoma State Coach Dave Smith Who Didn’t Watch The Race

Guys have broken four (counting altitude and flat track conversions) at 49 different schools. However, 65 of the sub-4s come from the 21 schools that have multiple sub-4 guys. Below you will see schools with multiple sub-4s.

Schools With Multiple Sub-4 in 2023
Washington 7
Ok State 5
Georgetown 4
Iowa State 2
Stanford 4
Harvard 3
Va. Tech 2
Montana St 3
Villanova 3
Air Force 2
Indiana 2
Michigan 2
Ole Miss 2
Princeton 2
Tulsa 2
Wake Forest 2
Wisconsin 2

As you can see, Washington leads the way with 7 followed by Oklahoma State and UVA at 5. And what did Oklahoma State and Washington do last week? They both broke the previous NCAA and world indoor DMR record at the Arkansas Qualifier where Oklahoma State came from behind and got the win in a world best of 9:16.40 thanks to Ryan Schoppe‘s 3:52.84 anchor, as UW ran 9:16.65.

Ok. State got the indoor DMR Record. Photo via okstate.com

Oklahoma State’s splits were as follows: Fouad Messaoudi (2:49.49), DeJuana McArthur (46.82), Hafez Mahadi (1:47.27) and Schoppe (3:52.84)

It’s worth noting that Washington ran NCAA 1500 champ and 3:51 miler Joe Waskom on leadoff and not anchor. Anchor duties went to their 4th-fastest miler in 2023, Kieran Lumb (3:53.83 pb, he split 3:53.46), as their two 3:52 milers Brian Fay and Nathan Green weren’t on the team and instead ran on the pace team which recorded a DNF.

Oklahoma State coach Dave Smith wasn’t in Arkansas. He was 8,878 miles away in Australia, getting rave reviews coaching the US men to their first U20 medal at Worlds since 1982.

(Editor’s update. Florida Atlantic coach Rick Rothman was officially the U20 coach but that’s not who the athletes praised in our interview. Smith was the Sr. men’s coach).

I reached out to Dave via text and asked if he was able to watch the Ok State men rock the DMR live. No, he was in the same boat so many of us have been in over the years. Here is his reply via text:

It was 7:00am Australia time. I woke up at 5:00 and tried to go back to sleep but couldn’t. At 5:30 I decided to send text messages to the guys with last minute instruction and encouragement but after I got it all written out I reread it and decided maybe I was over coaching so I didn’t send it.  Probably one of my better coaching moves. I think I should ignore them more often. Then I just stayed in bed waiting and the last time I looked at my watch it was 6:43. I woke up at 7:02. Didn’t have time to look for and load video so I just watched live splits.

So there you have it. One of the great NCAA coaches is just like all of us — he can’t figure out the streaming (SEC+ for the record) and just decides to wait for the splits.

As for his coaching move, or non-move, I do think it’s a good thing for young coaches to learn. You most definitely can over-coach.

Also, let’s not overstate our importance. The athletes will do just fine more times than not without you.

In fact, shouldn’t that be the goal? I used to tell the freshman at Cornell, “Ultimately, I want you to develop into a co-coach. We can design perfect workouts that are in theory perfect for you but ultimately I’m not in your body. I don’t know if you are stressed out as your grandmother is sick or your girlfriend wants to break up with you or because you pulled an all-nighter, etc.”

Younger athletes (U20 guys maybe?) likely need more help, so Dave gave it to them.

It reminds me of something Mick Byrne told me when I had just started coaching at Cornell. I told him I was getting up and running in the morning knocking on some of the guys’ doors to try to get them to join me. but one or two of them hadn’t gotten up. His reply was “Robert, you can’t want it more than the athletes.”

US Jr XC Team Celebrates and Raves About Dave Smith

Arkansas Only Has 1 Sub-4 Minute Miler

Not included in that list of schools with multiple sub-4 milers is perennial power Arkansas, who has one sub-4 guy. So is Arkansas down this year? Far from it. If you use a computer to score the current NCAA descending order list (and I love the computer at cloudtrainingsystems.com), Arkansas is currently projected to win NCAAs by a large margin 52 to 35. Just as when legend John McDonnell was in charge, the jumps are still super good (projected 23 points in the long and triple) but most of the other points are coming from projected wins in the 4 x 400 and 400 thanks in large part to Tennessee transfer Chris Bailey, who leads the NCAA and world 400 list at 45.09.

Who knows, maybe one day Bailey will end up as a mid-d star. Bailey did recently rabbit the first 600 of an 800.

Does that mean Arkansas distance is terrible? Far from it. They actually set a school record in the DMR at the Arkansas Qualifier – 9:22.13 (9th in NCAA). The week before Arkansas’ Patrick Kiprop broke the 5000 school record by running 13:24.32.

Kenya’s Next 1500 Hope?

Quick: What do you Faith Kipyegon and Asbel Kiprop both have in common besides being from Kenya and being Olympic 1500 champs?

Both are former world junior xc champs as well. Whenever a miler has the endurance to excel at World XC, watch out.

Well at World XC this year, a miler didn’t quite win the junior boys race but World U20 1500 champ Reynold Cheruiyot took silver in 24:30, only a second back of the win, beating the top American Leo Young by some 93 seconds.

Of course, Cheruiyot had already anointed himself as someone to pay very close attention to last year when he put up a 3:34.02 win in Heusden before CRUSHING the field at World Juniors, winning the 1500 by 1.41 seconds in 3:35.83, with the entire margin of victory coming in the final 80 meters.

That win came after his crazy prelim when for kicks he decided to gap the field early and win by 4+ seconds.

Lots of Fast Marathon Times in Seville

On Sunday (February 19), the 28th Zürich Maratón de Sevilla was held in Spain and once again the depth of performances was wild. 24 men broke 2:10 and 18 women broke 2:30.

And it’s not like the prize money is crazy or anything, it only goes 8 deep and starts at $15,000 for first and is $500 for 8th.

As a result, if you are wondering kind of like I was, “How can that be? Was the course short?”

The answer appears to be, “No. Not unless it was also short last year” as last year the results were almost as deep — 19 guys broke 2:10 and 17 women broke 2:30.

The temperatures were ideal (54-58F/12-14.5C) and the wind appears to have been around 10-12mph.

The fastest runners were Ethiopia’s Gadisa Birhanu Shumie, who dropped his pb from 2:09:25 to 2:04:59 to win the men’s race, and Kenya’s Jackline Chelal who lowered her pb from 2:29:22 to 2:20:29 to win the women’s. Most of the PBs weren’t nearly that large.

Below I show everyone’s results for the top 10 men and top 10 women and give you their previous pbs (people that ran faster than ever before are in bold). All together, 17 of the 20 listed below ran faster in Seville than they had anywhere else (including 2 debuts).

  Men Country Time Previous PB
1 Gadisa Shumie ETH 2:04:59 2:09:25
2 Kebede Tulu ETH 2:05:19 2:06:03
3 Mekuant Ayenew ETH 2:05:24 2:04:46
4 Gashau Ayale ISR 2:05:33 2:09:30
5 Bethwel Kibet KEN 2:05:42 2:14:55
6 Enock Onchari KEN 2:05:47 2:07:52
7 Mulugeta Asefa ETH 2:06:07 2:07:56
8 Nicolas Navarro FRA 2:06:45 2:07:01
9 Douglas Chebii KEN 2:07:11 2:06:27
10 Wilfred Kimitei KEN 2:07:22 2:13:51
  Women Country Time Previous PB
1 Jackline Chelal KEN 2:20:29 2:29:22
2 Ayana Mulisa ETH 2:21:54 2:28:02
3 Soboka Urge ETH 2:23:05 2:27:13
4 Citlali Moscote MEX 2:24:53 2:26:13
5 Deborah Schöneborn GER 2:25:52 2:26:55
6 Muluhabt Tsega ETH 2:26:02 2:24:23
7 Hanne Verbruggen BEL 2:26:32 2:29:14
8 Meritxell Soler ESP 2:26:37 debut?
9 Alia Mohamed Saeed UAE 2:27:08 debut?
10 Alisa Vainio FIN 2:27:26 2:28:41

Jonathan Gault likes to say on the Track Talk podcast that I’m obsessed with obscure national records.  I plead guilty as I think it’s really cool to be best in the history of a country at something. And I’m not the only one. David Monti of Race Results Weekly noted there were 5 women’s national records set and 6 men’s. I’ve listed them below.

Women’s National Records Set in Seville
9. Alia Mohamed, UAE, 2:27:08 NR/DB
10. Alisa Vainio, FIN, 2:27:26 NR/PB
11. Silvia Patricia Ortíz Morocho, ECU, 2:27:36 NR/PB
12. Nora Szabo, HUN, 2:28:25 NR/PB
40. Jhoselyn Yessica Camargo Aliaga, BOL, 2:40:24 NR/DB

Men’s National Records Set in Seville
4. Gashau Ayale, ISR, 2:05:33 NR/PB 2500′
11. Cristhian Simeon Pacheco Mendoza, PER, 2:07:38 NR/PB
13. Hector Garibay Flores, BOL, 2:07:44 NR/PB
25. Amine Khadiri, CYP, 2:10:20 NR/DB
26. Carlos Martin Diaz Del Rio, CHI, 2:10:26 NR/DB
32. Cristhian Zamora, URU, 2:11:02 NR/PB

More: MB: Reality check- 18 guys ran 2:08:16 or faster at Seville Marathon over weekend. 1 ran that fast in US last year


Seville wasn’t the only Spanish city where people were running fast over the weekend. There also was some fast running in Barcelona at the 13.1 mile distance at the eDreams Mitja Marató de Barcelona. In the women’s race, Kenya’s Irine Kimais, ran a massive pb of 64:37 to get the win, a time that would have been a world record as recently as 2020. As it stands now, Kimais is the 8th fastest woman in history.

The 24-year-old Kimais, who has run 30:37 on the track for 10,000, ran five half marathons in 2022, winning three, but had never run faster than 66:03 (and that was on the point-to-point course in Rome) coming in. The runner-up in Barcelona was former half marathon world record holder Joyciline Jepkosgei of Kenya. Jepkosgei, the former NY and London marathon champ, held the half marathon world record for nearly three years from April 2017 to February 2020, running 64:52 and 64:51 in 2017. On Sunday, she PR’d but now is only 9th fastest in history at 64:46.

Two men, Kenya’s Charles Kipkurui Langat (58:53) and Ethiopia’s Birhanu Legese (58:59) broke 59 in Barcelona. It was the 26-year-old Langat’s first time under 60:00 (pb of 60:44). It was also a pb for Legese who ran 59:20 without super shoes in 2015. The 2:02:48 marathoner is clearly fit as he heads into a stacked London Marathon in April that will feature 4 of the 5 fastest men in history.

Hellen Obiri Doesn’t Defend Her World XC Title / Wins A Watered Down RAK Half

Rather than defend her world cross country title, the OAC’s Hellen Obiri was racing at the RAK Half  Marathon which finished a little less than 2.5 hours before the senior women’s World XC race in Australia began.

And Obiri picked up the win and $13,613 (AED 50,000) by running 65:05. Obiri, who was second last year at RAK Half in 64:22, went for a much faster time as she ran her first 10k in 30:26 (64:12 pace) but slowed to 31:05 for her second 10k. She still won by a lot as world marathon champ Gotytom Gebreslase was second in 1:05:51.

In the men’s race, Benard Kibet, the Japanese-based Kenyan with a 26:55 10,000 pb who broke Haile Gebrselassie‘s 17-year old 10-mile world best of 44:24 by running 44:04 in December, ran a big 13.1 pb of 58:45 (previous pb of 59:57) to win. Finishing second in 58:49 was 24-year-old Daniel Mateiko of Kenya. Mateiko, the Worlds 8th placer in the 10,000 in Eugene, did what he almost always does at 13.1 — run fast but lose.

Mateiko has now broken 59:00 four times in his career but never won any of those races.

Daniel Mateiko’s Sub-59 Half Marathons
58:26 – 3rd in Valencia
58:45 – 6th at RAK Half
58:40 – 3rd at Valencia
58:49 – 2nd at RAK Half

RAK definitely took a big hit in terms of quality and depth due to World XC being held on the same weekend. While Obiri was at the RAK Half, thankfully most of the biggest names that might normally have been at RAK Half were at World XC, including 2022 RAK Half winner Jacob Kiplimo. See the following two tables comparing the quality at the RAK Half in 2022 versus 2023.

Men 2022 2023
Sub-58 1 0
Sub-59 7 2
Sub-60 8 6
Sub-61 15 8


Women 2022 2023
Sub-65 3 0
Sub-66 5 2
Sub-67 7 4
Sub-68 9 6

Grant Fisher Isn’t The Only Star Without A Medal

The last few weeks have been crazy fun for track fans as there has been so much action all over the globe — Boston, Lievin, NY, Bathurst, etc.

As huge fans of world cross country, if a 26:33 10,000 man like Grant Fisher was going to skip the world’s greatest distance race, we’re glad he did so to run in a world-record race in the 3000 in Lievin. In that race, Fisher ran aggressively early but ended up being a bit overmatched as he faded to a 7:35.82 fifth-place showing, in the race won by Lamecha Girma in a world record of 7:23.81.

It was great that Fisher afterwards told us he wanted to go to Lievin to race the best as he knew it’s always super fast. Last year in Lievin, Getnet Wale gave the WR a scare and ran 7:24.98.

What do Fisher and Wale have in common? Both have never medalled at Worlds outdoors.

But those two are far from the only studs who haven’t medalled outdoors. Nicholas Kimeli — the world #2 in the 5000 last year at 12:46.33 (Fisher was #3), who is a year younger than Fisher — hasn’t medalled nor has 21-year-old Berihu Aregawi, who finished just ahead of Fisher in the 10,000 at the Olympics before soloing a 12:50 5000 at Pre. But Aregawi just won his first global medal by snagging World XC silver, beating both Joshua Cheptegei and Geoffrey Kamworor.

Diamond League 3000 record holder Thierry Ndikumwenayo (7:25.93), who is the same age as Fisher (27 days older), also hasn’t medalled and didn’t even compete at the 2021 Olympics or 2022 Worlds as he was waiting for his transfer of allegiance to Spain to go through.

Winning a medal is nice but it shouldn’t be viewed as the ultimate decider as to whether your career is legit or not — just like in the NFL or NBA where Dan Marino never won a Super Bowl and Charles Barkley never won an NBA title. In some ways, a significant part of it is outside of your control. Does the superstar 10,000 champ bother to double back in the 5,000 (Haile G never did at the Olympics), do they skip Worlds all together to move up to the marathon, etc?

We debated whether Grant would ever get a medal on this week’s Track Talk podcast. Video clip below:

History Repeats Itself, A Dubious DQ Mars USATF Indoors at ABQ

A shout out to all of the mid-d and distance winners at USA Indoors. Bryce Hoppel remained undefeated at USA Indoors, winning his third USA indoor title (also winning in 2020 and 2022) while Nia Akins (2:00.16), Nikki Hiltz (4:17.10), Val Constien (8:48.29), and Sam Prakel (3:42.62/8:12.46) won their first US track titles, with Prakel winning two.

But can we all admit that Prakel shouldn’t have won the 1500? Why in the world was Josh Thompson DQ’d after easily winning the race? See the video below.

Yes, I get it. Thompson bumped Henry Wynne in the final 100 and we ideally don’t want that to happen in the final 100 of a race. But he barely touched him and the rule book specifically says the “resulting consequence” of the jostling should be considered.

The resulting consequence was zero.

Moreover, the track officials didn’t call a foul while the race was going on. If that’s the case, the bar should be astronomically high to call a foul.

Lastly, our sport needs to enter the modern era. Give runners/coaches challenge flags and go under the hood and do all replays/challenges live, within 5 minutes. There should never be a time that the runners leave the track, let alone fans leave the stadium, not knowing that a DQ is possible.

It’s sad to see that even though the USATF CEO is making north of $3 million a year, we are still dealing with an antiquated officiating system. Nine years ago, we had a similar ridiculous DQ but on the women’s side in the 3k. It was so bad the 1500 runners walked off the track hand in hand the next day in protest.

If you don’t know about the  2014 USA DQ controversy, catch up now as a lot went on at that meet, including Alberto Salazar and Jerry Schumacher having to be separated.

More: Feb 2014: The Inside Story Of Gabriele Grunewald’s DQ – Insider Access, False Promises And A Violation Of USATF’s Own Rules?
*MB: Employee 1.1 just texted to say Salazar is trying to get Grunewald DQd
March 2014: USATF Talks About The “New Conclusive” Evidence That Got Gabe Grunewald DQed

LRC Sam Prakel Completes the Double*, Nikki Hiltz, Nia Akins Get First USATF Track Titles after Josh Thompson DQd in 1500

Tweet of the Week

Being on a successful collegiate track team is fun. Congrats to the UMass-Lowell women who ended Albany’s 13-year win streak at the America East meet by the narrowest of margins, 196.5 to 196.

More: River Hawks Clinch First-Ever AE Indoor Title 

Quotes Of The Day And Last Week’s Home Pages

To see the quotes of the day from last week or last week’s home page or any home page, go to our archive page.


Got a tip, question or comment? Please call us at 844-LETSRUN (538-7786), email us or post in our forum.

Editor’s note: Initially the piece talked about Lamecha Girma having neve medalled before. We changed it as it was last year’s Lievin winner, Getnet Wale, not this year’s who hasn’t medalled. Also the piece initially didn’t include that Rothman was the official U20 coach.

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