2023 NCAA Indoors: Washington Goes for History in the Mile and Prepare for War in the 5K

By Jonathan Gault
March 6, 2023

It’s been a historically fast year in collegiate distance running. We’ve seen the all-time lists rewritten in the mile, 3k, 5k, and DMR, with NCAA records in the 3k and DMR. I wrote about this at length last week and it’s worth revisiting as we prepare for the biggest meet of the NCAA indoor season: LRC Super Spikes? Raised Expectations? A Look At How The NCAA & American Distance Running Record Books Have Been Rewritten in Just 4 Years.

But as fun as it can be to see all these fast times, the NCAA championships undoubtedly remain the best and most exciting part of collegiate running. And that’s because this meet is all about racing. Winning NCAAs is a big deal, and a victory at this meet is often a springboard to success at the highest levels of the sport. The last two NCAA mile champions ended their seasons by finishing 6th at the Olympics (Cole Hocker) and 4th at Worlds (Mario Garcia Romo). Clayton Murphy began his 2016 season by winning an NCAA indoor title in the 800 meters and wound up as the bronze medalist at that year’s Olympics. This meet mints new stars on an annual basis.

Who will emerge this year? While there is plenty of talent, none of the men’s distance events has an overwhelming favorite. The mile features 3:50 miler Anass Essayi of Morocco and a sextet of Washington Huskies, led by NCAA 1500 champ Joe Waskom. In the 5k, NCAA champs Dylan Jacobs (10,000) and Charles Hicks (XC) will face a field of top runners hungry for their first national title. And the DMR should be a hard-fought battle after Oklahoma State and Washington both ran well under the previous NCAA record.

Below, I preview every men’s mid-d/distance event at NCAAs before looking at the team battle. The women’s preview is here.

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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Also, I’ve got some bad news for you: it’s going to cost you to watch the meet. NCAAs has gone behind the ESPN+ paywall even though the DII and DIII meets are free.

*Schedule, entries, & results *TV/streaming information *All LRC coverage

Men’s 800: Texas Longhorns lead the way in a wide-open field

(prelims Friday 9:45 p.m. ET, final Saturday 9:30 p.m. ET)

Name                        Year School                 Seed           
  1    521 Yusuf Bizimana                SO Texas               1:46.03 
  2    159 Sam Austin                    SO Florida             1:46.06 
  3    524 Crayton Carrozza              JR Texas               1:46.28 
  4    227 Jason Gomez                   SR IA State            1:46.53 
  5    299 Navasky Anderson              SR Miss State          1:46.58 
  6    122 Tarees Rhoden                 JR Clemson             1:46.61 
  7    406 Baylor Franklin               SR Ole Miss            1:46.74 
  8    226 Cebastian Gentil              SR IA State            1:46.75 
  9    646 Cass Elliott                  SR Washington          1:46.76 
 10    276 Ayman Zahafi                  SR Miami (Fla.)        1:46.84 
 11    479 John Lester                   SO Stanford            1:46.93 
 12    433 Samuel Rodman                 SO Princeton           1:46.96 
 13    134 Mahamed Sharif                JR Connecticut         1:46.96 
 14    427 Handal Roban                  FR Penn State          1:47.01 
 15    331 Ethan Brouw                   SO New Mexico          1:47.21 
 16    193 Will Sumner                   FR Georgia             1:47.28

Last year’s champ Brandon Miller has gone pro early and only one of the eight finalists from 2022 is in the field this year (Texas’ Yusuf Bizimana, who was 4th) and, as you can see from the seed times above, no one has separated themselves based on season’s best (Bizimana is #1, but his time is converted from 1:46.62 at altitude and I’m skeptical whether 800 times should receive much of an altitude conversion at all). That means we’re looking at a pretty wide-open race in Albuquerque.

Embed from Getty Images

Navasky Anderson of Mississippi State was the NCAA runner-up outdoors last year, running 1:45.02 to break a 45-year-old Jamaican record, and he won his only 800 of 2023 comfortably, clocking 1:46.58 in Nashville on February 11. But he only ran the DMR at SECs, and in that race only split 4:08 on the anchor leg.

Georgia’s Will Sumner is another big-time talent. Last year, Sumner broke the US high school record in the indoor 600 by almost two seconds (1:15:58) and ran 1:46.53 outdoors, missing Michael Granville‘s 1996 national record by .08. In his first season of NCAA competition in 2023, Sumner has gone even faster in the 600 (1:15.32) and took down a strong field to win the SEC meet in the 800. That win, in which he took down Florida’s Sam Austin (1:46.06 sb) shows Sumner is coming along nicely, but he was also beaten convincingly by Anderson when they raced in Nashville earlier this year, 1:46.58 to 1:47.28.

Texas teammates Yusuf Bizimana and Crayton Carrozza both enjoyed success at this meet last year (Bizimana finishing 4th in the 800, Carrozza running the 800 leg on the winning DMR), helping Texas to the team title. Both won Big 12 titles two weeks ago (Bizimana in the 600 yards, Carrozza in the 800) and neither has lost an 800 this year (granted, Bizimana has only run one). Either of them could take the title in ABQ.

JG prediction: Anderson might be the best 800 man in the field, but he’s also a big, tall guy — the kind that can run into trouble on the tight turns and tight packs of an indoor 800. And it worries me that he only ran the DMR at SECs. Sumner has a bright future, but an American freshman hasn’t won this race since Robby Andrews in 2010 — it’s very hard to do. I’ll take Carrozza, the Big 12 champ, FTW, but half the field has a legitimate shot at winning this race so it’s hard to have much confidence.

Who wins the NCAA men's 800?

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Men’s mile: Six Washington Huskies and South Carolina’s Moroccan star

(prelims Friday 9:00 p.m. ET, final Saturday 9:00 p.m. ET)

 Name                        Year School                 Seed           
  1    456 Anass Essayi                  SO South Carolina      3:50.46 
  2    655 Joe Waskom                    SO Washington          3:51.90 
  3    648 Brian Fay                     SR Washington          3:52.03 
  4    650 Nathan Green                  FR Washington          3:52.76 
  5    651 Luke Houser                   JR Washington          3:52.87 
  6    653 Aidan Ryan                    SR Washington          3:53.65 
  7    632 Thomas Vanoppen               SR Wake Forest         3:54.85 
  8    136 Isaac Basten                  JR Drake               3:54.89 
  9    580 Ronan McMahon-Staggs          SO UCLA                3:54.93 
 10    621 Conor Murphy                  SO Virginia            3:55.24 
 11    423 Elliott Cook                  SO Oregon              3:55.34 
 12    643 Aaron Ahl                     SR Washington          3:55.60 
 13    674 Adam Spencer                  SO Wisconsin           3:55.61 
 14    130 Isaiah Givens                 FR Colorado            3:55.99 
 15    284 Nick Foster                   SR Michigan            3:56.08 
 16    181 Matthew Rizzo                 JR Georgetown          3:56.20

2023 has been a year unlike any other for collegiate milers. Ninety-seven NCAA Division I runners ran sub-4:00 miles (or sub-4:00 equivalents, factoring in NCAA altitude/track conversions) — the most in history, and almost triple the numbers we were seeing prior to the superspike revolution.

NCAA sub-4:00 milers/sub-4:00 equivalents, 2019-23

Season Sub-4:00 milers
2018-19 33
2019-20 35
2020-21 38
2021-22 90
2022-23 97

The best of the best are getting faster as well. To make it to NCAAs this year in the mile, you had to run 3:56.20 or faster. And the all-time list has undergone some serious revisions: six of the top 10 fastest miles in NCAA history have been run in the last six weeks.

NCAA all-time indoor mile list

Time Athlete School Date
3:50.39 Cooper Teare Oregon 2/12/21
3:50.46 Anass Essayi South Carolina 2/10/23
3:50.55 Cole Hocker Oregon 2/12/21
3:51.90* Joe Waskom Washington 1/27/23
3:52.01 Edward Cheserek Oregon 2/26/17
3:52.03* Brian Fay Washington 1/27/23
3:52.03 Morgan Beadlescomb Michigan State 2/11/22
3:52.62 Kieran Lumb Washington 2/26/23
3:52.76* Nathan Green Washington 1/27/23
3:52/87 Luke Houser Washington 2/26/23

*oversize track

Of the six men above, five of them are entered in the mile at NCAAs (all but Lumb, who is doing the 3,000 and, presumably, the DMR). You may have also noticed that a number of them attend the same school: Waskom, Fay, Green, and Houser are all teammates at the University of Washington, and they’ll be joined at NCAAs in the mile by two more Huskies: Aidan Ryan (3:53.65) and Aaron Ahl (3:55.60). It’s one of the deepest middle-distance crews ever assembled on a college campus.

Embed from Getty Images

How many points will Washington score in the mile? is sure to be one of the most-asked questions among distance aficionados in Albuquerque. Going by seeds, UW is projected at 26 — a tally that would have finished tied for 5th in the team standings in 2022. That total is a bit optimistic, but we should note that Washington coach Andy Powell has been at the helm of the last two 1-2-3 sweeps in a distance event at NCAAs, both when he was at Oregon: Andy WheatingAJ Acosta, and Matthew Centrowitz in the outdoor 1500 in 2010, then Eric JenkinsEdward Cheserek, and Will Geoghegan in the indoor 3000 in 2015.

All of the fast times sure are nice to look at, but what makes the mile such a great race at major championships is that it requires a blend of fitness and strategy to succeed. Sometimes, one athlete is so much better than everyone else that tactics are irrelevant — either they run away from everyone from the front or they blow the field away with their kick. But most of the time, it pays to be well-rounded. The last three NCAA mile finals have been won in 4:07, 3:53, and 4:07. Last year, Mario Garcia Romo of Ole Miss ran 3:30 to finish 4th at the World Championships…but a month earlier, he was only 2nd at NCAAs in a race won in 3:45. You need to be ready for anything at NCAAs.

As of two weeks ago, Joe Waskom was the top dog among the Huskies. He showed he could kick by winning NCAAs last year outdoors thanks to a big, brave move on the backstretch. This season, he showed he could run fast, clocking 3:51.90 to move to #4 in NCAA history at the UW Invite on January 27. But in Waskom’s most recent race, February 26 at BU, he was just 11th overall in 3:56.79, losing to six of his Washington teammates after fading late. After the race, Waskom said he wasn’t too worried — he was in the midst of a tough training block and had been tasked with setting the pace for his teammates once the pacer dropped — but it’s hard to call him the slam-dunk favorite at NCAAs.

South Carolina’s Anass Essayi is the top seed, and he has been incredible in 2023. An Olympian for Morocco at 20 in 2021, Essayi enrolled at USC last year and made it to NCAAs in the 1500 but dropped out of his prelim after aggravating a hamstring injury by stepping on the rail. This year, he’s come out firing, running 7:41 and 3:50 and winning the SEC mile handily after closing in 53.16 in a 4:01 race. The only thing left for him to do is to back those performances up on the big stage at NCAAs.

Outside of Essayi and the UW guys, Wake Forest’s Thomas Vanoppen is the next-fastest seed with a 3:54.85 season’s best, and he finished 4th in the NCAA 1500 final last spring. He’s one to watch as well.

JG prediction: If Essayi closes like he did at SECs, he will be tough to beat. But Waskom has run fast and showed he can win when it matters. I like him if it’s slower race like last year’s final — and I expect it will be, given Albuquerque’s 4,959 feet of altitude. Waskom FTW.

Who wins the NCAA men's mile?

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Men’s 5,000: Jacobs, Hicks, or someone new?

(final Friday 10:05 p.m. ET)

  Name                        Year School                 Seed           
  1    503 Dylan Jacobs                  SR Tennessee          13:11.01 
  2    482 Ky Robinson                   SO Stanford           13:11.53 
  3    392 Alex Maier                    JR OK State           13:11.80 
  4    343 Drew Bosley                   SO No. Arizona        13:13.26 
  5    345 Nico Young                    SO No. Arizona        13:15.25 
  6    107 Casey Clinger                 SO BYU                13:17.36 
  7    197 Graham Blanks                 FR Harvard            13:18.45 
  8    339 Parker Wolfe                  SO North Carolina     13:19.73 
  9     94 Barry Keane                   SR Butler             13:21.57 
 10    478 Charles Hicks                 JR Stanford           13:22.05 
 11     61 Patrick Kiprop                SO Arkansas           13:24.32 
 12    396 Isai Rodriguez                SR OK State           13:25.84 
 13    199 Acer Iverson                  JR Harvard            13:26.11 
 14    355 Carter Solomon                SO Notre Dame         13:26.11 
 15    109 Joey Nokes                    SO BYU                13:29.30 
 16    477 Devin Hart                    JR Stanford           13:29.31

The times in the 5,000 this season have been crazy fast — eight men under 13:20! — but times are fast in pretty much every event these days. A more accurate gauge of the quality of this field may be this stat: five of the men in this race have finished either 1st or 2nd at NCAAs in the past. The list: Tennessee’s Dylan Jacobs (NCAA 10k champ), Stanford’s Charles Hicks (NCAA XC champ), Stanford’s Ky Robinson (NCAA indoor 5k runner-up), Oklahoma State’s Alex Maier (NCAA 10k runner-up), and Northern Arizona’s Nico Young (NCAA XC runner-up). And that group does not include NAU’s Drew Bosley, who was 3rd at NCAA XC and earlier this season set the NCAA 3k record at 7:36.42.

Embed from Getty Images

The winner of this race will probably come from that group of six. But who? Hicks and Young went 1-2 at NCAA XC and both have a strong track record at NCAAs, but both men have been beaten convincingly multiple times by their teammates this season (Hicks by Robinson, Young by Bosley). I have slightly more faith in Hicks to turn things around for NCAAs, but neither is entering the race in top form.

Bosley has the NCAA 3k record but has never been better than 8th at NCAAs on the track. He should do much better here — and has the advantage of being based at 7,000 feet in Flagstaff. While most of the other contenders are coming up in elevation, Bosley is actually coming down. Robinson has also been in great form as he beat most of the top guys in the 5k in Boston in December and just ran 7:42 for 3k one week after finishing 23rd at World XC in Australia.

Jacobs, meanwhile, is the only guy in this field with an NCAA title on the track, using a 55.45 last 400 to win the 10k last year. He’s been great every time out in 2023, narrowly missing the NCAA records in the 5k (13:11.01) and 3k (7:36.89) this season, smashing Maier in the latter race at Millrose. At SECs, he anchored Tennessee’s DMR to victory and closed in 26.05 for his last 200 to win the 3,000. He’s ready to go.

JG prediction: If this race were being held at sea level, I’d feel more confident picking Jacobs. But the altitude could benefit Bosley — especially if he and Young team up to set a fast pace, as they did at NCAA XC. I’m still giving Jacobs a narrow edge due to his kick, but this will be a war between several of the NCAA’s brightest stars. Jacobs FTW.

Who wins the NCAA men's 5,000?

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Men’s DMR: Who will prevail after a record-setting season?

(final Friday 10:45 p.m. ET)

 School                                                  Seed           
  1  Oklahoma State                                       9:16.40         
  2  Washington                                           9:16.65 
  3  North Carolina                                       9:19.99 
  4  Wisconsin                                            9:19.99 
  5  Villanova                                            9:20.44 
  6  Michigan                                             9:20.83          
  7  BYU                                                  9:21.18 
  8  Ole Miss                                             9:21.89 
  9  Arkansas                                             9:22.13            
 10  Indiana                                              9:22.16                             
 11  Tennessee                                            9:22.65           
 12  Texas                                                9:22.74
Photo via okstate.com

It’s always tricky forecasting the DMR. Three of the last five winning teams came into the meet with the #1 seed time…but three of the last seven winning teams were seeded 10th or lower. Some years, three competent legs and a superstar anchor is better than four good legs…other years, the reverse is true. Making all of this trickier is we don’t often know how each coach will choose to deploy their resources at NCAAs — will they double a guy back from the 800 or mile prelims or try to run a completely fresh team?

Washington, of course, has an incredible mid-distance crew and will probably use 3:52 miler Kieran Lumb fresh on the anchor leg. But to win, they’ll likely have to rely on a couple of guys doubling back, such as 800 leg Cass Elliott (1:46 SB) and whoever runs the 1200 leg.

That’s what makes Oklahoma State an appealing pick. The Cowboys ran 9:16.40 on February 17 to smash the NCAA record (Washington was close behind at 9:16.65), and OSU can run the same team at NCAAs, entirely fresh (they have no entrants in the 400, 800, or mile at NCAAs).

OSU will start at slight favorites, but you can’t count out anyone at NCAAs. Just look at the last two seeds, Tennessee and Texas. Last year, Texas surprised everyone by winning with a balanced team and a walk-on named Yaseen Abdalla on anchor. Abdalla could factor again in this year’s race — but for Tennessee, which is where he transferred after Texas coach Pete Watson left for Boston College. Texas is strong again this year, too, as they have two of the top three seeds in the 800 (Yusuf Bizimana 1:46.03 and Crayton Carrozza 1:46.28), though both would have to pull double duty if they are to run the DMR.

JG prediction: The DMR is usually a crapshoot. Even in years where the winners seems obvious — such as Notre Dame last year with Yared Nuguse — it’s rarely straightforward. I like that OK State has the fastest time and I like that they’ll have a fresh lineup. In an event rife with uncertainty, that counts for a lot. Cowboys FTW.

Who wins the NCAA men's DMR?

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Men’s 3000: Check back Saturday morning

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

     Name                        Year School                 Seed           
  1    343 Drew Bosley                   SO No. Arizona         7:36.42 
  2    503 Dylan Jacobs                  SR Tennessee           7:36.89 
  3    394 Fouad Messaoudi               SO OK State            7:41.63 
  4    456 Anass Essayi                  SO South Carolina      7:41.93 
  5    397 Ryan Schoppe                  SO OK State            7:41.99 
  6    494 Yaseen Abdalla                SO Tennessee           7:42.23 
  7    482 Ky Robinson                   SO Stanford            7:42.30 
  8    392 Alex Maier                    JR OK State            7:43.05 
  9    652 Kieran Lumb                   SR Washington          7:43.27 
 10    305 Duncan Hamilton               JR MT State            7:43.28 
 11     11 Sam Gilman                    SR Air Force           7:43.70 
 12    648 Brian Fay                     SR Washington          7:43.85 
 13    107 Casey Clinger                 SO BYU                 7:43.96 
 14    673 Jackson Sharp                 JR Wisconsin           7:44.10 
 15    483 Cole Sprout                   SO Stanford            7:44.50 
 16     93 Jesse Hamlin                  SO Butler              7:44.69
Kevin Morris photo

In nine of the last 10 years, the winner of the men’s 3,000 has either been the winner of the 5,000 (seven times) or the winner of the mile (twice). NAU’s Andy Trouard in 2018 is the only guy in that span to have won the 3k without winning another title — he was only 5th in the 5k but improved to 1st in the 3k the next day.

Surprise, surprise: three of the top four seeds this year will be doubling back from one of those two events — including Drew Bosley (7:36.42) and Dylan Jacobs (7:36.89), both of whom ran faster than Yared Nuguse‘s old NCAA record of 7:38.12 set just last year. In fact, between mile, 5k, and DMR commitments, there are probably only four guys (Duncan HamiltonSam GilmanCole SproutJesse Hamlin) who will be fresh for this race.

JG prediction: The best way to make an intelligent prediction for this race is to wait until day 1 is over. The winner of the 5k is the safest bet to win the 3k as well, but if Fouad MessaoudiRyan Schoppe or Kieran Lumb looks incredible in the DMR, maybe one of them wins it instead. The time gap between the mile and 3k finals (the races start an hour apart) would seem too short for Essayi to pull the double, though Cole Hocker did manage to win both events two years ago. Since I picked Jacobs to win the 5k, I’ll pick him again here but reserve the right to change my mind after Friday’s events.

Team Battle

(This section was written by Robert Johnson) 

According to the USTFCCCA, “Arkansas is a clear-cut favorite to walk out of the Albuquerque Convention Center with its 21st national title in program history and first since 2013.”

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

#1 Arkansas 55
#3 T. Tech 44
#2 Washington 38
#5 Alabama 34
#4 Florida 28

Update on 3/8: What’s interesting about that is Arkansas is projected to win while scoring 0 points in the mid-d or distance events. A much different team than what produced the victories for the legendary John McDonnell.

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

More: Women’s Preview *Projected 2023 NCAA Indoor scores according to entries and descending order list

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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