2023 NCAA Indoor Women: Katelyn Tuohy Chases Double, Young Stars Galore in 800

By Jonathan Gault
March 8, 2023

The 2023 NCAA Indoor Track & Field Championships kick off on Friday in Albuquerque. On Monday, I previewed the men’s mid-d and distance events. Now it’s time to do the same for the women.

There are a number of intriguing storylines to follow this weekend. The first is NC State’s Katelyn Tuohy. The queen of NCAA distance running won national titles in the 5k and cross country in 2022 and has been even better so far in 2023, breaking collegiate records in the mile and 3k. She was 2nd in the 3k and 5k at NCAA Indoors last year and will be favored to win both events this year.

The 800 offers a look at some of America’s biggest talents in the Stanford duo of Roisin Willis and Juliette Whittaker and LSU’s Michaela Rose. All three have run 2:00 or faster this season, and none is yet 20 years old. Add in the craziness of the indoor 800 and the final is must-see.

Plus it’s been a huge year in the distance medley relay, with eight of the 10 fastest times ever run in the NCAA coming from 2023, including Washington’s collegiate record.

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How will it all unfold out west? Here’s my best guess.

But before I get to my preview, enter the free 2023 NCAA Indoor prediction contest programmed by LRC friend Harry Prevor. We are giving out a free LRC Supporters Club membership to the winner and a free t-shirt to 2nd and third. Support independent journalism, get a free t-shirt, a weekly bonus podcast, shoe discounts and more today by joining the SC today.

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Women’s 800: Teenage dreams

(prelims Friday 6:45 p.m. ET, final Saturday 6:30 p.m. ET)

 Name                        Year School                 Seed           
  1    474 Roisin Willis                 FR Stanford            1:59.95 
  2    266 Michaela Rose                 SO LSU                 2:00.18 
  3    473 Juliette Whittaker            FR Stanford            2:00.32 
  4    145 Imogen Barrett                SR Florida             2:01.23 
  5    235 Sarah Hendrick                SR Kennesaw State      2:02.00 
  6    642 Carley Thomas                 JR Washington          2:02.15 
  7    520 Valery Tobias                 SR Texas               2:02.25 
  8    587 Isabella Giesing              SR UMass Lowell        2:02.35 
  9    204 Kelly-Ann Beckford            SR Houston             2:02.59 
 10    104 Claire Seymour                SR BYU                 2:02.75 
 11     92 Wilma Nielsen                 FR Bradley             2:02.91 
 12    280 Aurora Rynda                  SR Michigan            2:02.99 
 13     91 Katherine Mitchell            SR Boston College      2:03.00 
 14    426 Bronwyn Patterson             SO Penn                2:03.12 
 15     90 MaLeigha Menegatti            SR Boise State         2:03.14 
 16    641 Marlena Preigh                JR Washington          2:03.20
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Few countries are stronger in an event than the United States in the women’s 800 meters. Americans currently hold all three major global titles: World Indoors, World Outdoors, and the Olympics. Of the 12 fastest women in the world last year, half were American. And the talent pipeline is still flowing, as three of the most promising teenage talents in the world will all be in action at NCAA Indoors this weekend.

Last year, Juliette Whittaker and Roisin Willis ran the two fastest 800m times ever by US high schoolers — a national record of 1:59.04 for Whittaker, 1:59.13 for Willis. That’s faster than Athing MuAjee’ WilsonMary Cain, and all the other US phenoms. They finished the season by earning gold (Willis) and bronze (Whittaker) at the World U20 championships in Colombia. Both are monster talents.

Now, Whittaker and Willis, friendly rivals as high schoolers, are freshmen teammates at Stanford. And so far, Willis, 18, and Whittaker, 19, have been as good as advertised. Willis has won all three of her individual races this season and is the NCAA leader at 1:59.95 — just the second collegiate woman to break 2:00 indoors, after Mu. Whittaker isn’t far behind — her 2:00.32 is #4 in NCAA history, and she’s also run a mile pb of 4:33.53.

But Whittaker and Willis aren’t the only teen stars in this race. LSU sophomore Michaela Rose, 19, was also a medalist at World U20s last year — in the 400 hurdles. This season, she’s run 2:00.18 to slide in just between Willis and Whittaker — #2 on the 2023 list, #3 on the NCAA all-time list. Rose was a convincing winner her last time out at SECs.

Who wins the NCAA women's 800?

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JG prediction: I’d be very surprised if someone other than Willis, Rose, or Whittaker wins this race. Florida’s Imogen Barrett is the only other woman in the field who has broken 2:02, and Rose beat her comfortably in her last two races. Claire Seymour of BYU was the runner-up last year and has shown a knack for running PRs in NCAA finals, but she’d need to chop a lot off of her 2:01.91 best from outdoors to win this. Willis is the World U20 and NCAA leader, so I’ll take her FTW.

Women’s mile: Anyone can win

(prelims Friday 6:00 p.m. ET, final Saturday 6:00 p.m. ET)

    Name                        Year School                 Seed           
  1    140 Amina Maatoug                 SO Duke                4:29.87 
  2    196 Maia Ramsden                  SO Harvard             4:30.19 
  3    638 Anna Gibson                   SR Washington          4:31.00 
  4    623 Lindsey Butler                JR VA Tech             4:31.41 
  5    438 Alexandra Carlson             SO Rutgers             4:31.51 
  6     43 Lauren Gregory                SR Arkansas            4:31.88 
  7    415 Klaudia Kazimierska           FR Oregon              4:32.03 
  8    448 Silan Ayyildiz                SO South Carolina      4:32.14 
  9    421 Izzy Thornton-Bott            JR Oregon              4:32.69 
 10     13 Flomena Asekol                JR Alabama             4:32.84 
 11    430 Laura Pellicoro               SO Portland            4:32.91 
 12    425 Kaylee Mitchell               JR OR State            4:32.95 
 13     95 Riley Chamberlain             FR BYU                 4:33.14 
 14    341 Annika Reiss                  JR No. Arizona         4:33.66 
 15    209 Olivia Howell                 JR Illinois            4:33.77 
 16    619 Margot Appleton               SO Virginia            4:33.82

The top six finishers from last year’s NCAA outdoor 1500 final all either graduated or turned pro, leaving something of a vacuum in this event entering the season. Katelyn Tuohy filled that vacuum by breaking Jenny Simpson‘s 14-year-old NCAA record with her 4:24.26 at the Dr. Sander Invite, but Tuohy isn’t running the mile at NCAAs, leaving this as an event with no clear favorite.

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The top contenders all have reasons to pick them — and to pick against them. Duke’s Amina Maatoug is the top seed, but she has only run one 1500/mile race in her collegiate career and has never run at NCAAs as the 20-year old Dutch woman started at Duke as a sophomore this year. Harvard’s Maia Ramsden, who was 10th outdoors in the 1500 and 11th in cross country, was dominant at Heps, but the competition there wasn’t great (though she did beat #3 seed Anna Gibson head-to-head on February 4). Virginia Tech’s Lindsey Butler is the reigning NCAA 800 champ but was beaten in that event by Maatoug at ACCs. The top returner from last year, Illinois’ Olivia Howell (5th in Birmingham) won Big 10s but needed four women to scratch just to make the NCAA meet.

Any of those women could win. So could Arkansas’ Lauren Gregory, who was 3rd and 4th in the NCAA 3k and 5k last year and 2nd in the NCAA 3k in 2021. Now Gregory has moved down in distance in 2023. So far, so good: she won the mile and 3k at SECs, and that was after splitting 4:32 on the DMR.

Third-seed Anna Gibson of Washington, who didn’t make the final indoors or out last year, was beaten by more than 3 seconds by Ramsden at BU. Gibson’s 4:31.00 seed timeis converted from a 4:37.03 she ran in Albuquerque in January, but of course being able to run well at altitude is going to be important this weekend.

Who wins the women's mile?

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JG prediction: Picking a winner here is a crapshoot. I’ll go with Gregory considering she has run 4:09 outdoors, has a track record of success at this meet, and ran great two weeks ago at SECs, but half a dozen women have a legit shot to win.

Women’s 5,000: Tuohy goes for the one NCAA title she hasn’t earned yet

(final Friday 7:05 p.m. ET)

 Name                        Year School                 Seed           
  1    315 Katelyn Tuohy                 SO NC State           15:15.92 
  2     17 Hilda Olemomoi                SO Alabama            15:17.97 
  3     14 Mercy Chelangat               SR Alabama            15:18.12 
  4    330 Amelia Mazza-Downie           SO New Mexico         15:18.54 
  5    607 Emily Venters                 SR Utah               15:20.37 
  6    382 Natalie Cook                  FR OK State           15:24.26 
  7    308 Kelsey Chmiel                 JR NC State           15:27.83 
  8     98 Aubrey Frentheway             SR BYU                15:32.82 
  9    128 Ella Baran                    JR Colorado           15:33.72 
 10    342 Elise Stearns                 SO No. Arizona        15:33.74 
 11    313 Sydney Seymour                SR NC State           15:35.61 
 12    329 Gracelyn Larkin               JR New Mexico         15:37.47 
 13    444 Ruby Smee                     SO San Francisc       15:38.08 
 14    466 Zofia Dudek                   FR Stanford           15:40.41 
 15    131 Sarah Carter                  SR CO State           15:41.70 
 16    486 Amanda Vestri                 SR Syracuse           15:42.48

Katelyn Tuohy has won an NCAA outdoor title. She has won an NCAA cross country title. The only title she has not won (yet) at the collegiate level is an NCAA indoor title. She came very close last year, finishing 2nd in the 5k and 3k by a combined .71 seconds. That meet was Tuohy’s coming-out party at the NCAA level — proof that, after finishing 24th and 15th in two NCAA XC appearances, Tuohy was now ready to contend for NCAA titles. Since then, she’s been unstoppable.

Kevin Morris photo

Seriously. In the year that has passed since last year’s NCAA indoor meet, Tuohy has “lost” precisely one individual race to a collegian. And even that requires a massive asterisk as it came the 2022 ACC outdoor champs, where Tuohy went 1-2 with her NC State teammate Samantha Bush. She’s also been running historically fast times, breaking the NCAA indoor record in the mile (4:24.26) and obliterating the NCAA indoor record in the 3k (8:35.20, an improvement of 6.40 seconds on the previous record).

Plus the one woman capable of challenging Tuohy last fall — NCAA XC runner-up Parker Valby of Florida — isn’t running NCAAs. Valby ran just one individual race this indoor season, and though she qualified for NCAAs in the 3,000, she was a medical scratch from the meet. New Florida distance coach Will Palmer didn’t elaborate on Valby’s status to LetsRun.com when we asked after SECs, so it’s unclear what, exactly, is going on. But she won’t be running NCAAs. For the record, she is not in the transfer portal. We asked a college coach that last week.

So does anyone else in this field have a chance? Alabama’s Hilda Olemomoi, a Kenyan in her first year of NCAA track, looked to have the best shot after running season’s bests of 15:17 (two seconds behind Tuohy) and 8:45 (#4 in NCAA history), but Olemomoi didn’t even win SECs — she was beaten handily by Lauren Gregory in the 3k. Olemomoi’s teammate Mercy Chelangat is a two-time NCAA champion, but Tuohy destroyed her by almost 20 seconds in the 3k at Millrose.

The only realistic way a healthy Tuohy loses this race is if the altitude gets to her. Tuohy grew up in New York and goes to school in North Carolina. NCAAs will be held at 4,959 feet of elevation in Albuquerque. If she can’t handle the thin air, someone who is used to it — perhaps New Mexico’s Amelia Mazza-Downie or Utah’s Emily Venters — could spring the upset.

Who wins the NCAA 5k?

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JG prediction: The last time NCAAs were here, in 2014, we were in a very similar situation. Just like Tuohy, Dartmouth’s Abbey D’Agostino (now Cooper) was the reigning NCAA 5k/XC champ. Just like Tuohy, D’Agostino hadn’t lost to a collegian for a year. Just like Tuohy, D’Agostino grew up and went to college at sea level.

The altitude didn’t impact D’Agostino — she was clearly the best female runner in the NCAA and swept the 3k/5k. Did I shoehorn a D’Agostino comparison because we were college teammates? You can decide for yourself. But 2023 Katelyn Tuohy is an even better version of 2014 Abbey D’Agostino. So, just like D’Agostino, I expect Tuohy to end the weekend with two more NCAA titles.

Women’s DMR: Historically deep field should produce a great race

(final Friday 8:45 p.m. ET)

School                                                  Seed           
  1  Washington                                          10:46.62 
  2  NC State                                            10:48.55 
  3  Oregon                                              10:49.07 
  4  Arkansas                                            10:49.14 
  5  BYU                                                 10:49.24 
  6  Stanford                                            10:49.30 
  7  Duke                                                10:49.87 
  8  Notre Dame                                          10:50.41 
  9  Oklahoma State                                      10:50.65 
 10  Kentucky                                            10:53.45 
 11  Georgetown                                          10:54.18 
 12  UCLA                                                10:54.49

How important is it to have the best anchor in the DMR? By my unscientific calculation, the winning team in the NCAA DMR has had the best anchor in the field (in terms of talent and fitness in that moment) in three of the last five NCAA meets: BYU in 2021 (Courtney Wayment), Oregon in 2019 (Jessica Hull), and Colorado in 2017 (Dani Jones). Last year, Arkansas won, and while their anchor Logan Jolly wasn’t the best miler in the field, she was fresh and ran the fastest anchor leg. That was enough to beat Stanford’s Julia Heymach, who was a better miler but already had a mile prelim in her legs.

So the lesson here: it pays to have a great anchor. And it really helps if that anchor is fresh.

That could be an issue for a number of schools in this race. When you look at the squads these schools ran to earn their qualifiers, six of the top seven seeds have an anchor who is entered in an individual event on Friday. Of that group, NC State’s Katelyn Tuohy (running the 5k) will almost certainly skip the DMR. But what about Washington’s Anna Gibson (#3 seed in mile) or Oregon’s Izzy Thornton-Batt (#9 seed in mile) or Arkansas’ Lauren Gregory (#6 seed in mile). Will their coaches risk assigning double duty? Or will trust someone else to anchor? The answers may decide this race.

All of these teams have run fast to get here. Washington’s time of 10:46.62 is the NCAA record; overall, eight of the 10 fastest times in NCAA history have been run this season.

NCAA all-time women’s DMR list
1. 2023 Washington 10:46.62
2. 2017 Oregon 10:48.77
3. 2023 Oregon 10:49.07
4. 2023 Arkansas 10:49.14
5. 2023 BYU 10:49.24
6. 2023 Stanford 10:49.30
7. 2023 Duke 10:49.87
8. 2023 Notre Dame 10:50.41
9. 2023 Oklahoma State 10:50.65
10. 2009 Tennessee 10:50.98

(If you’re wondering why #2 seed NC State isn’t on this list, they ran their time on a flat track, so their 10:55.49 was converted to 10:48.55 for NCAA qualifying purposes).

Expect a deep race, where almost every team should have a shot at winning.

Who wins the NCAA DMR?

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JG prediction: Washington didn’t enter Sophie O’Sullivan (daughter of Irish legend Sonia O’Sullivan and Australian coach/agent Nic Bideau) in the mile, even though her 4:33.24 season’s best would have got her into the meet. So either O’Sullivan is hurt, or coach Maurica Powell wanted to keep her fresh to anchor this race. The same is true of Oklahoma State’s Gabija Galvydyte of Oklahoma State — she would have easily qualified to run the mile but presumably is passing that up to anchor the DMR. So both teams could have a strong, fresh anchor.

But so could BYU. In fact, the entire team BYU used to qualify for NCAAs will be running fresh, and in their most recent meet, BYU had two women beat O’Sullivan head-to-head in a mile (Sadie Sargent and Riley Chamberlain).

I expect it to come down to one of those three schools but really don’t know who to pick. When in doubt, pick the best anchor. Well there’s not a clear answer there, either. So let’s just say Washington FTW considering they own the collegiate record.

Washington and OK State could have something of a rivalry on Friday because those are also two of the top men’s contenders in the DMR later in the evening.

Women’s 3000: A double for Tuohy

(final Saturday 10:00 p.m. ET)

    Name                        Year School                 Seed           
  1    315 Katelyn Tuohy                 SO NC State            8:35.20 
  2     17 Hilda Olemomoi                SO Alabama             8:45.50 
  3    658 Ceili McCabe                  SO West Virginia       8:50.44 
  4    350 Olivia Markezich              JR Notre Dame          8:50.48 
  5    606 Simone Plourde                SO Utah                8:53.95 
  6    306 Samantha Bush                 JR NC State            8:54.12 
  7    196 Maia Ramsden                  SO Harvard             8:54.39 
  8     14 Mercy Chelangat               SR Alabama             8:54.50 
  9    308 Kelsey Chmiel                 JR NC State            8:54.67 
 10    425 Kaylee Mitchell               JR OR State            8:55.10 
 11    140 Amina Maatoug                 SO Duke                8:55.62 
 12    424 Grace Fetherstonhaugh         JR OR State            8:55.71 
 13    438 Alexandra Carlson             SO Rutgers             8:56.15 
 14    385 Taylor Roe                    JR OK State            8:56.94 
 15    103 Sadie Sargent                 JR BYU                 8:57.08 
 16     99 Lexy Halladay-Lowry           SO BYU                 8:57.39

Often, the women’s 3k champ is either the woman who wins the 5k or the anchor of the winning DMR. Often, but not always — last year, OK State’s Taylor Roe outran 5k champ Courtney Wayment and everyone else to win this race. Roe is only seeded 14th here, and she was beaten in the mile and 3k at Big 12s (to be fair, she was tripling and won the 5k), but she typically raises her game when it matters most and has a strong track record at NCAAs.

West Virginia’s Ceili McCabe could also be dangerous. She beat Roe at Big 12s, has a big kick, and this is her only race in Albuquerque, so she’ll be totally fresh.

Katelyn Tuohy, of course, will be the favorite. Her 8:35 sb is six seconds faster than anyone else in NCAA history and 10 seconds better than anyone in this field. And she can kick.

Does Katelyn Tuohy win the 5k& 3k at NCAAs?

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JG prediction: Maybe things change after Friday’s events, but as of now there is no good reason to pick anyone other than Tuohy.

Team battle: It’s Texas’ meet to lose

(This section was written by Robert Johnson)

I decided to score the descending order list of the top 5 ranked schools to see the projected scores. Here they are.

#1Texas 64
#2 Florida 46
#4 Oregon  37
#3 Arkansas 34
#5 NC State 33

Led by Julien Alfred and Rhasidat Adeleke, Texas sprinters might score enough in the 60, 200 and 400 to win the meet (40 projected points).

Talk about the meet on our world-famous fan forum / messageboard: MB: Official 2023 NCAA Indoors Discussion Thread .

More: Men’s Preview

PS. Don’t forget to enter the free 2023 NCAA Indoor prediction contest programmed by LRC friend Harry Prevor. We are giving out a free LRC Supporters Club membership to the winner and a free t-shirt to 2nd and third. Support independent journalism, get a free t-shirt, a weekly bonus podcast, shoe discounts and more today by joining the SC today.

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