Britton Wilson (49.48!) & Julien Alfred Highlight Incredible Day of Women’s Sprinting at 2023 NCAA Indoors

By Jonathan Gault
March 11, 2023

For coverage of the rest of the NCAA meet, go to the front page or here: Complete 2023 NCAA Indoor Coverage

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – The NCAA Indoor Track & Field Championships saw its greatest night of sprinting in 2018 with future stars Sydney McLaughlin-Levrone, Michael Norman, and Gabby Thomas all blitzing incredible times. That meet featured two world records, four American records, and six total collegiate records across both sexes of competition.

Article continues below player

Like our coverage from Albuquerque?

Join the Supporters Club today to support independent journalism.

Supporters club members get all the LetsRun content, savings on running shoes, and their support ensures has on-site coverage from the biggest Athletics events in the world. Use code CLUB25 to save 25%. And follow us on social media:

Five years later, the sprint action exploded once again at NCAAs, this time almost exclusively on the women’s side. In a 90-minute span on Sunday afternoon, the fans in the building at the Albuquerque Convention Center witnessed the following at the 2023 NCAA Indoor Championships:

-Texas’ Julien Alfred run 6.94 seconds to win the 60 meters, a collegiate record and #2 time in world history
-Arkansas’ Britton Wilson run 49.48 to win the 400 meters, a collegiate and American record and #2 time in world history
-Arkansas’ Ackera Nugent run 7.73 to win the 60 hurdles – which would have been the collegiate record had Nugent not already broken it 24 hours earlier in the prelims
-Alfred return to the track to run 22.01 to win the 200, a collegiate record and #2 in world history
-Arkansas run 3:21.75 to win the 4×400 relay (including a 49.20 anchor from Wilson) – a collegiate record and the fastest indoor time in world history (though it won’t be ratified as a world record as the Razorbacks’ four legs aren’t all from the same country)

It was utter madness. And while Albuquerque’s 4,959 feet of elevation certainly helped times in the short sprints, that doesn’t change the fact that these are some of the planet’s top sprinters operating at their highest levels.

Embed from Getty Images

Of all the performances, Wilson’s was the most stunning. Though she was among the top NCAA sprinters last season, winning the NCAA title in the 400 hurdles and finishing 5th in that event at the World Championships, Wilson entered this year’s NCAA indoor meet slightly under the radar. Wilson missed six weeks of fall training with stress reactions in both of her shins, and as a result, mostly ran over-distance races during the regular season. That went well – she set an NCAA 600m record of 1:25.16 and tied her pb of 2:02.13 to finish 2nd at SECs in the 800. But Wilson returned to the 400 for NCAAs, and given she had run the open event just once this year (51.14 at the Tyson Invitational in February), it was fair to wonder how she would stack up against Texas’ Rhasidat Adeleke and Florida’s Talitha Diggs, who traded the collegiate record (50.33 for Adeleke, 50.15 for Diggs) at conference weekend two weeks ago.

Wilson responded by running 50.69 in the prelims to lead all qualifiers, but still had to face Diggs, the reigning US outdoor champion, in the second section of a two-section final on Saturday. Usually, the battle for the break is the most important part of an indoor 400 – because it’s so hard to pass, it’s crucial to have the lead at 200 meters. But Wilson did not fight Diggs for the lead and hit 200 in 23.56 to Diggs’ 23.17. Instead, Wilson tracked Diggs doggedly before easing past her entering the final turn. Diggs, spent and slowing by that point, could not answer as Wilson powered home to smash Diggs’ American and collegiate records.

“I knew she was going to get out,” Wilson said. “I just [wanted] to stay clean to the break and make my move when it was efficient enough. I was really just trying to run a clean race.”

Had Wilson run her time a month ago, it would have broken a 41-year-old world record. Instead, she will have to settle for second on the all-time indoor list behind the Netherlands’ Femke Bol’s 49.26, set on February 19 in Apeldoorn. Those performances make it hard not to wonder what could be in store this summer in the 400m hurdles. Just eight months ago, Sydney McLaughlin-Levrone looked to have totally conquered the event with her jaw-dropping 50.68 world record in the World Championship final in Eugene – a performance some considered the greatest in the history of the sport. And yet Bol and Wilson – both 400 hurdle specialists, and both even younger than the 22-year-old McLaughlin-Levrone – are now recording times once considered untouchable in the indoor 400. Those times are also significantly faster than McLaughlin-Levrone’s 50.07 outdoor pb – though SML has run just two outdoor 400’s since the start of 2019.

Embed from Getty Images

49.26 and 49.48 on banked tracks in the winter does not necessarily translate to 50-second 400m hurdle races in Budapest in August. But Bol and Wilson’s heroics this indoor season have injected at least a modest degree of intrigue back into an event that was presumed to belong to McLaughlin-Levrone for as long as she cared to run it.

Wilson has options, though. 49.48 would have put her 4th on the 2022 outdoor world list in the flat 400, and of the three women above her, one won’t be racing this year (world champ Shaunae Miller-Uibo is pregnant) and another, Bol, may not even run the 400 at Worlds. Yet even though Wilson said the 400 is her “favorite” event, she said she plans to focus on the 400 hurdles when it comes to USAs and Worlds in 2023.

As for the 800? Don’t rule out a return some day.

“I actually enjoyed running it and I hope to run it again,” Wilson said. “It hurts, and it’s hard, but I actually didn’t hate it.”


Embed from Getty Images

In the short sprints, Julien Alfred turned the NCAA championships into her own personal showcase, becoming the first woman to win the 60 and 200 at the same NCAA meet since Auburn’s Kerron Stewart in 2007. For Alfred to win both showed just how far the talented St. Lucian had come in one year. Alfred broke the collegiate record in the 60 prelims at last year’s NCAA meet, but let the pressure get to her in the final and only finished 5th. Her 200 was even worse as she finished last in the final in 23.54 – her slowest time of the season.

But Alfred rebounded by winning NCAA outdoor titles in the 100 and 4×100, and now 12 months on from her meltdown in Birmingham, Alfred unleashed one of the greatest days in the history of NCAA sprinting. At 6.94 and 22.01, she sits #2 on the all-time lists at both 60 and 200 meters – just .02 and .14 off the world records in the two events.

“I’m really proud that I didn’t succumb to pressure,” Alfred said, who credited listening to music and taking counsel from coach Edrick Floreal as keys to keeping her emotions in check. “I didn’t make the anxiety take over my body and get emotional.”

Now it’s on to the real deal: outdoor track. The dirty little secret of why collegians have been able to climb the all-time sprint lists is that no group of elite athletes takes the indoor season more seriously. Many of the very best professionals don’t run it, and those who do aren’t trying to peak for mid-March like the collegians do. That is not meant to diminish what Alfred and Wilson accomplished during this incredible weekend, just to serve as a reminder that there are even bigger challenges on the horizon this summer. 

Be a fan and talk about the meet on our world-famous fan forum / messageboard.

For coverage of the rest of the NCAA meet, go to the front page or here: Complete 2023 NCAA Indoor Coverage

Like this article? Subscribe to our newsletter or follow us on social media

The latest running news, sent to your inbox weekly or when urgent news breaks.

You have been subscribed.