WTW: NCAA Conference Madness, Nairobi Breakthroughs, & Volunteer Fatigue in Eugene?

The Week That Was in Running, May 8-14, 2023

Each week, we try to make the sport more fun to follow by putting the prior week’s action in perspective for you. 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.

This week we start by breaking down the pro action in Nairobi before devoting most of the column to the Power 5 NCAA conference action.


Sha’Carri Richardson & Ferdinand Omanyala Impress in Nairobi, & Remember the Name Reynold Cheruiyot

The Kip Keino Classic, a World Athletics Continental Tour Gold meet, was held in Nairobi on Saturday, and there were some big-time performances in both the sprint and distance events. Though Sha’Carri Richardson wanted to run the 100 (she was likely prevented from doing so because Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce was also scheduled to run it before withdrawing with an injury), she kept rolling with an impressive win in the 200 meters instead.

Two weeks earlier in Botswana, Richardson, who has always been much better in the 100 than 200, was only 2nd in 22.54, but on Saturday she ran a killer turn and was well clear of the field midway down the home straight. She had such a big gap that she started celebrating with 30 meters to go. Her time was 22.07 (aided by 5,000+ feet of elevation) but likely could have broken her 22.00 pb from 2020 had she run hard all the way through the line. Next up for Richardson is the LA Grand Prix on May 27, where she’ll run the 100 against Marie-Josee Ta Lou, who just ran 10.78 in Clermont on Sunday.

The men’s 100 also featured a dominant win as Kenya’s Ferdinand Omanyala ran a world-leading 9.84 to easily handle Americans Kenny Bednarek (9.98) and Worlds silver medalist Marvin Bracy (10.03). Omanyala’s win earned the biggest cheers of the day, and for the second year in a row, he met the Kenyan president after his victory.

The biggest distance performance of the day came in the men’s 1500, where 18-year-old Reynold Kipkorir Cheruiyot continued to show why he is one of the world’s most promising middle-distance talents. Last year, Cheruiyot ran 3:34 at the official age of 17, then won the World U20 1500 title four days after his 18th birthday. This year, Cheruiyot has taken silver in the U20 race at World XC, run 13:04 on the roads for 5k, and run two pbs in his two track races. The first was a dominant 3:33.65 win at the African U20 champs in Zambia on April 30. Then in Nairobi, he stepped up to race one of the world’s top milers, Abel Kipsang, and ran him down in the home straight to clock another pb of 3:32.01. It’s also worth noting that both his Zambia race (4,200 feet) and Nairobi are at elevation.

Cheruiyot also showed impressive tactical savvy on Saturday – after trying and failing to pass Kipsang on the back straight, he backed off and attacked again in the home straight rather than running extra distance on the turn. Between his 1500 results and his strong performances at longer distances, Cheruiyot has all the tools to become the next great Kenyan miler.

PR of the Week

If you watched the women’s 1500 at the Kip Keino Classic, where Janat Chemusto of Uganda used a 59.84 final 400 to blow away the field and win in 4:01.79, it was hard to not be impressed by Chemusto and bewildered as to how the 24-year-old could only have a a 4:14 pb before that race. Chemusto ran super confidently right behind the rabbit, then destroyed everyone once the rabbit dropped off with 500 to go.

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Since the race ended, we’ve learned that the World Athletics database and Tilastopaja didn’t have all of the results for Chemusto. She’d actually run 4:08 earlier this year but she’s still improved a ton in 2023.

We’d love to know how she’s improved so much as it’s not as if she only started competing this year. She ran 9:10 for 3k way back in 2014  and 4:17.61 for 1500 in 2015 and had recorded a 1500 result every year since then save for 2019 and 2020. Last year, Chemusto was just 5th in the African champs (4:21.36 — almost five seconds off a medal) and 4th in the Islamic Solidarity Games (4:16.72).

Post-race reports indicate her coach is Addy Ruiter — the same coach as Joshua Cheptegei — so we’ll reach out to him or the Global Sports Communications team to find out her story.

Chemusto’s Final 500

MB: Janat Chemusto: New Women’s 1500m medal contender? 

Taunting DQ Costs Virginia Tech the ACC Men’s Team Title, Vaults Clemson From 5th to 1st

At the ACC Championships at NC State, this time the wild and controversial finish came in the men’s team race. Indoors, the Duke women lost the team title at the finish line of the 4 x 400 as they dropped they stick, but outdoors they DOMINATED, racking up 145.5 points to beat Virginia Tech by 60 in a meet where Katelyn Tuohy successfully made her 10k debut, winning comfortably in 32:56.

Heading into the men’s 4 x 400 at ACCs, the top five teams in the 15-team megaconference were separated by just 4.5 points. Clemson, which had four finalists in the open 400, won the event as expected and got the team title, but don’t tell that to one of the announcers as they made a math error and falsely stated, “UVA wins the team title- we are very sure of that.”

It’s pretty amazing that Clemson, which announced in November 2020 that it was cutting its men’s track program (only to reverse course after public outrage in April 2021) is the ACC champ just a few years later.

The final ACC team scores were:

1 Clemson 92
2 Florida State 91
3 Louisville 89.5
3 Virginia 89.5
5 Virginia Tech 84.5

So Virginia Tech went from winning indoors by 34.5 points to just 5th outdoors. But what’s interesting to note is they would have won the outdoor title as well if their freshman 400 runner hadn’t been DQ’d for taunting after crossing the finish line first in the open 400.

Do you think this is worthy of a DQ?

That DQ greatly benefitted Clemson, who had four 400 finalists (one of whom was DQ’d for a lane violation) as their three scorers were each bumped up a place, netting them an extra five points. Without the taunting DQ, Clemson would have only been fifth in the team score as the final standings would have been as follows:

1 Virginia Tech 94.5
2 Florida State 90
3 Louisville 89.5
3 Virginia 89.5
5 Clem 87

Of course, if 9.94 100m man JoVaughn Martin of Florida State hadn’t DNS’d the 100m final, things would have looked different as well. If Martin had walked the final, FSU would have tied Clemson for the team title, and if he was healthy enough to compete, they likely would have scored six more points in the 100m and potentially won the team title outright.

While we certainly don’t want runners taunting other competitors, this whole thing reminds us that track & field’s penalties are often a bit harsh. In the NFL, this likely would have resulted in a fine, in soccer a yellow card. But in track, it’s all (DQ) or nothing.

Britton Wilson Amazes at SECs Again

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The SEC Championships is annually the most competitive conference meet in the NCAA, and the 2023 edition at LSU may have been the best in the storied history of the meet. And for the second year in a row, Arkansas’ Britton Wilson was the meet’s outstanding performer. In 2022, Wilson won the 400 (50.05), 400 hurdles (53.75), and split 48.60 to anchor the winning 4×400, all in the span of 2.5 hours. This year, Wilson didn’t run the 4×400 (Arkansas already had the team title wrapped up by then) but her individual performances were both much faster – after winning the 400 in 49.13, she came back 90 minutes later and won the 400 hurdles in 53.28.

Wilson’s 49.13 was a collegiate record, breaking her own collegiate record of 49.40 she set the day before in the prelims. That 49.40 broke the previous record of 49.48 set by…Britton Wilson at this year’s NCAA indoor championships (the previous outdoor record of 49.51 also belonged to Wilson).

Wilson has a big decision to make later this summer about which event to pursue at USAs and Worlds. Her 49.13 was the fastest 400 by an American woman since 2009 and puts her #4 on the all-time US list in that event behind only Sanya Richards-Ross (48.70), Valerie Brisco-Hooks (48.83), and Chandra Cheeseborough (49.05) – and one spot ahead of Allyson Felix (49.26).

Wilson was 5th in the 400 hurdles at Worlds last year, and she told us at NCAA indoors that she still planned to focus on that event at Worlds this year. But only two women ran faster than 49.13 in the flat 400 last year, and one of them, world champ Shaunae Miller-Uibo, won’t be racing in 2023 as she just gave birth. Wilson would be a gold medal contender if she runs the flat 400 this year in Budapest.

There are a bunch of variables in play here, though. One is that Wilson has yet to truly rip a fast 400 hurdles race in 2023. She has run 53.23 and 53.28 this year, but the latter was in the SEC final just 90 minutes after her 49.13. She ran 53.08 last year, but considering the gains she has made in the flat 400, should be capable of much faster than that now. 

Another big variable is Sydney McLaughlin-Levrone. SML has been unbeatable in the 400 hurdles in recent years, and her world record of 50.68 is almost a full second faster than any other woman has ever run. McLaughlin-Levrone’s coach Bobby Kersee has said she will run the 400 more in 2023, but the events she runs at Worlds are still up in the air – the 400, 400 hurdles, or both? And what about Femke Bol (52.03 400H pb), who earned silver at Worlds last year in the 400 hurdles, then ran 49.26 to break the flat 400 indoor world record in February? It’s going to be very interesting to see which events SML, Bol, and Wilson choose at Worlds this year.

Five Collegiate Records Fall at SECs

Wilson’s wasn’t the only impressive performance at SECs last weekend. Four collegiate records were broken in the span of five hours on Saturday, and five in all counting Wilson’s 400 record in Friday’s prelims.

Athlete/Team Event Mark Previous record
Britton Wilson W 400 49.40 49.48i (Britton Wilson, 2023)
Britton Wilson W 400 49.13 49.40 (Britton Wilson, 2023)
LSU M 4×100 37.90 37.97 (Florida, 2019)
Florida M 4×400 2:57.76 2:58.53 (Florida, 2022)
Jaydon Hibbert M TJ 17.87m 17.57m (Keith Connor, 1982)

But the table above does not tell the full story. In both the 4×100 and 4×400, the runners-up also ran under the old collegiate record, leading to some very entertaining finishes. In the 4×100, LSU edged Florida at the line, 37.90 to 37.93.

Meanwhile, in the 4×400, Alabama ran 2:58.01 but that was only good enough for second. Florida, incredibly, was only in 4th place with just over 800m remaining but got sub-44 splits on leg 3 (Jacory Patterson, 43.97) and 4 (Ryan Willie, 43.32) to win it and break the NCAA record.

The final collegiate record went to Arkansas’ Jaydon Hibbert in the men’s triple jump, and it is becoming clear that the young Jamaican is one of the greatest talents the event has ever seen. Last year, Hibbert won World U20 gold as a 17-year-old by jumping 17.27 meters. This year, Hibbert won NCAA indoors, and at SEC outdoors jumped 17.87 to smash one of the oldest collegiate records on the books – the 17.57m by SMU’s Keith Connor from 1982. Only Henry Rono’s legendary NCAA steeple record of 8:05.4, set in 1978, has stood longer and Hibbert broke the record by nearly a foot (30 cm is 11.8 inches).

Connor set his record at age 24 at 4,500 feet of altitude in Provo. Hibbert set it at sea level in Baton Rouge, and he did so as a true freshman. In fact, Hibbert is young for his grade – he only turned 18 in January, meaning he is younger than many current high school seniors. Hibbert’s mark was also a world U20 record, destroying the 17.50 set by East Germany’s Volker Mai from 1985 (Hibbert had already gone farther indoors, jumping 17.54 at NCAA indoors). Finally, Hibbert’s mark was a 2023 world leader. He should be in the medal mix in Budapest this summer.

Those collegiate records at SECs were truly world-class performances. In three of the four events, it was harder to win the 2023 SEC title than to win a World Championship medal in 2022.

Athlete/Team Event Mark Would have placed at 2022 Worlds?
Britton Wilson W 400 49.13 2nd (49.11 winning time)
LSU M 4×100 37.90 4th (37.48 winning time)
Florida M 4×400 2:57.76 2nd (2:56.17 winning time)
Jaydon Hibbert M TJ 17.87m 2nd (17.95 winning jump)

And while the women’s 100 hurdles at SECs did not feature an NCAA record, it was also incredibly competitive. Kentucky’s Masai Russell entered the race as the collegiate record holder at 12.36, and though she didn’t run a bad race in the final, she only finished 3rd in 12.47 behind LSU’s Alia Armstrong (12.40) and Arkansas’ Ackera Nugent (12.43). It’s hard to compare the results to last year’s World Championship final as Worlds was wind-aided, but it took 12.55 to get on the Olympic podium in 2021 and 12.47 to get on the SEC podium in 2023.

All three women are now among the top six on the all-time NCAA list:

1. 12.36 Masai Russell, Kentucky 2023
2. 12.39 Brianna McNeal, Clemson 2013
3. 12.40 Alia Armstrong, LSU 2023
3. 12.40 Jasmine Camacho-Quinn, Kentucky 2018
3. 12.40 Janeek Brown, Arkansas 2019
6. 12.43 Ackera Nugent, Arkansas 2023

Parker Valby Wins a Thriller

Six months ago, there was a legitimate debate about who was going to win the 2022 NCAA cross country title: NC State’s Katelyn Tuohy or Florida’s Parker Valby. Tuohy erased an 11-second deficit to win that race over Valby, and has since gone on to set collegiate records in the indoor mile, indoor 3000, and outdoor 5000. Valby, meanwhile, missed NCAA Indoors due to injury and did not debut outdoors until April 28.

On Saturday, Valby ran the 5,000 at SECs and it came down to the wire as she barely held off two-time NCAA champ Mercy Chelangat to win by just .04 of a second. Valby ran 15:25.03, the #4 time in the NCAA this year, after leading more than 4400m of the race.

Valby, who ran with a compression sock on her left leg, did not look 100%, particularly at the end of the race as she struggled to hold off Chelangat. Afterwards, she revealed she has been battling an injury since the winter and still doesn’t know what is going on with her leg.

“We actually don’t really have a diagnosis of the injury yet, it’s been 3 or 4 months now,” Valby said on the SEC Network broadcast. “But we found little injuries that are like — I’ve seen so many doctors. But basically, yeah, we don’t have a diagnosis. It’s a lot to unpack.

“…I’ve done one track workout since February. So I had no idea if my leg was going to hold up or not. This was my first time wearing spikes since, I think, cross country — no, my one indoor race, I wore spikes, didn’t go too hot. But basically, yeah, I didn’t know what to expect. I knew that my team needed me so I’m glad I could push myself to score those points for my team.”

Valby may have only done one track workout since indoors, but she did race a 5,000 in Jacksonville in April 28 (she won in 15:32) and likely has been doing a lot of cross training. Valby is a super talent and has shown in the past that she can get big results off of limited running (she was 2nd at NCAAs in the 5000 last year despite doing most of her easy days in the pool/elliptical/Arc Trainer) but it’s a fine line to manage for Valby and coach Will Palmer. If Tuohy skips the 5000 at NCAAs – she said she is leaning toward the 1500 – Valby will be among the favorites to win her first NCAA title next month in Austin. Assuming her body holds up.

Washington Men Break Oregon’s 15-Year Win Streak at Pac-12s

One of the more impressive streaks at the NCAA conference level was the 15-year win streak by the Oregon men in the Pac-10/Pac-12 meet. The streak began in 2007, Vin Lananna’s second year as head coach and continued throughout the entire Robert Johnson era (2013-22) before Johnson was let go after last season. But it finally came to an end on Sunday as Washington, under former Oregon assistant Andy Powell, won its first conference title with 151 points – 14 more than USC (137). Oregon, in its first year under coach Jerry Schumacher, was only 6th on the men’s side (75 points) but handily won the women’s title with 158.5 points to USC’s 127.

Washington put on a show by winning all five distance events, including two by Princeton grad transfers (Sam Ellis in the 800 and Ed Trippas in the steeple) and an impressive double by Irishman Brian Fay, who beat NCAA XC champ Charles Hicks to win the 10k, then doubled back to win the 5k two days later. The crazy thing is, Washington did it without the two NCAA champions on their roster, Joe Waskom and Luke Houser, winning a single event. In fact, they combined to score just two points.

How is that possible?

Well, Waskom ran the steeple on Friday night and was leading through 1400m before losing his shoe in the water pit, after which he dropped out and had to get his foot checked by a doctor. Then in the 1500 final, Powell told LetsRun he instructed Waskom and Houser to run toward the back of the pack and just focus on scoring as he was confident UW’s Nathan Green would win. Green did indeed win in 3:42.22, but Houser was only 7th in 3:47.69 and Waskom 11th in 3:54.37. Houser and Waskom both doubled back for the 5k two hours later but Houser finished 17th and Waskom dropped out after a mile.

“I think [Joe] was emotionally and physically a bit drained going into the 1500,” Powell said. “We basically were sending four guys up to the front and have Joe and Luke secure the back places. We figured if we get 20 points in that event, we were still on track to win.”

Washington wound up scoring exactly 20 in the 1500 en route to victory, with the impressive Green leading the way. He used a huge kick (51.90 last lap) to win the race in his outdoor opener after dealing with a nerve impingement earlier in the spring.

“Closing in 51.9 running 3:42 is insane,” Powell said. “…That’s why you build a really deep team. You’re not just relying on your best runners, you’re relying on your whole team.”

Some on the LetsRun messageboard noted Oregon’s relative lack of entries in men’s distance events – the Ducks only entered six athletes from the 800 through 10k, and half of those were in the steeplechase. One athlete who could have made a difference is Elliott Cook, who was 7th in the mile indoors and is redshirting outdoors. Abdinasir Hussein – who ran 28:57 for 10,000 this year – did not race either, though he hasn’t raced since March 17. But Oregon also took some major hits after the 2022 season – as the Register-Guard’s Chris Hansen noted in his meet preview, Oregon lost three Pac-12 field event champions from last year who had eligibility remaining but chose not to continue their collegiate careers.

“I had a meeting with the team and I said, we’re not in it for the team title this year,” Schumacher told Hansen. “We’re not and it’s not going to happen. But just because we’re not in that position, doesn’t mean we take our ball and go home. It means we set the standard for the future. … We’re going to fight and compete and try to put the most points on the board that we possibly can.”

Sixth obviously isn’t what Oregon is looking for, but the fact is that, even at full strength, the Ducks’ men’s roster isn’t that strong right now. The question moving forward is whether Schumacher can replenish it. The distance side is off to a good start: Oregon already has two of the top distance recruits in the US high school class of 2023 – HS 5k record holder Connor Burns and Arcadia 3200 champ Simeon Birnbaum (3:59/8:34 pbs). 

There was also an interesting article from Ken Goe last week about the location of this year’s Pac-12 meet. Oregon State was originally supposed to host but told the Pac-12 in October its stadium would not be ready. Oregon has been the natural fallback option at Pac-12s, stepping up to host in similar situations in 2006 and 2017, but this time the Ducks passed and Mt. SAC hosted instead. An Oregon spokesman told Goe that UO declined because there was not enough time for them to prepare to host a first-class event – though apparently there was enough time for Mt. SAC. 

We at LetsRun have no problem with Oregon declining — we’ve long thought there are way too many meets in Eugene already. Maybe people in Oregon are finally starting to realize that as well. Messageboard poster “volunteer fatigue” from Oregon made a great point on our message board this week, writing:

The article left out a big part of the story. After last season there was constant talk in Eugene of volunteer fatigue. They hosted a ton of meets and it was taking a toll on staff and volunteers, many of whom are getting up there in age and have other lives.

The schedule isn’t just about UO meets. Hayward has already had Preview, Oregon Relays, Marathon, Twilight. The schedule is pretty packed going forward with state HS champs, HS outdoor nationals, USATF nationals, Junior Olympic Nationals, Pre Classic.

Throwing in another major meet isn’t as easy as it sounds and would take a toll on staff, facilities, volunteers. Seems reasonable to pass on hosting.


At the Big 12 champs, the Texas Tech men and Texas women were runaway winners but the biggest individual star was once again 21-year-old Julien Alfred of Texas. The reigning NCAA champ anchored Texas to an NCAA record of 41.89 in the 4 x 100 (a time that would have won bronze at Worlds last year) and ran 10.84 (+0.2) to claim the 100 (after running a windy 10.74 +3.4 in the prelims) and 22.28 (+0.3) to win the the 200 after running 22.09 (+2.0) in the 200 prelims.

In the men’s action, NCAA 3000 champ Fouad Messaoudi of Oklahoma State ran a stellar 3:36.59 1500m to claim the title over Iowa State’s Ezekiel Rop (3:37.02) while NCAA indoor 800 champ Yusuf Bizimana of Texas ran an NCAA-leading 1:45.82 to claim the 800.


At Big 10s, first-year head coach Justin St. Clair wasted little time in leading the Nebraska men to their first team title since 2016 and the women to their most points ever (112 for 3rd) while the Michigan women won the title, just like they did indoors after only finishing 7th last year.

The Next Month of Track & Field Is Going to Be Very Fun

Big matchup with these three in Rabat

The Diamond League is on hiatus at the moment, but once it does resume on May 28 in Rabat, track fans will be in for a treat as there will be three meets in 13 days and all three are shaping up to be exciting. First up in Rabat, world champ Fred Kerley and Olympic champ Marcell Jacobs are slated to race each other in the 100 meters for the first time since the 2021 Olympic final in Tokyo (Trayvon Bromell and World U20 champ Letsile Tebogo are also entered). And on June 9, Jacobs will race Noah Lyles and Ferdinand Omanyala in the 100 in Paris.

In between, there is the Florence Diamond League on June 2, where we will get Jacobs vs Kerley again (this time in front of the Italian fans). But we already knew that. On Monday, Florence released full fields for the meet, and while scratches are a possibility (we’re still 18 days out), the men’s 5,000 should be hot. World champ Jakob Ingebrigtsen isn’t there, but almost everyone else is, including world record holder Joshua Cheptegei, Worlds medalists Jacob Krop and Oscar Chelimo, Diamond League champ Nicholas Kipkorir, Berihu Aregawi, and American Grant Fisher. In all, the race contains seven of the top nine from our 2022 world rankings.

It’s great to see Fisher continuing to test himself against top competition on the European circuit. Last year, Fisher finished in the top three in all three of his Diamond League appearances after Worlds. This will be the first time he has run a Diamond League before Worlds/Olympics.

Speaking of US medal threats, where is Athing Mu? The world/Olympic 800 champ has yet to race in 2023 and has not been announced for any meet (not even the LA Grand Prix on May 27, which her coach Bobby Kersee has been promoting). Mu said she chose not to race indoors as she was still getting adjusted to Kersee’s system, but by this time last year, she had already raced five times outdoors. 

Of course, Mu doesn’t have to race very much at all if she doesn’t want to as she has a bye into Worlds (which are still 3+ months away) as defending champion.

Olympic Marathon Trials Preview? / Betsy Saina Gets First USATF Title at 25k Champs

At the USATF 25k Champs at the  Amway River Bank Run in Michigan, Betsy Saina pulled away from former American record holder in the marathon Keira D’Amato over the final 1.5 miles to get the win and her first US title in 1:24:32, as D’Amato was 7 seconds back.

Saina bounced back nicely from her 2:21:40 run in Tokyo in March and is definitely in the mix as one of the favorites to make the 2024 US Olympic Marathon Team.

On the men’s side, Leonard Korir repeated as champion.

Recommended Reads

LRC Cordell Who? Meet the DII Star Who Just Ran 12.97 in the 110 Hurdles Cordell Tinch of DII Pittsburg State had the performance of the week as he also long jumped 8.24m (+3.2) and cleared 2.18m in the HJ at his conference meet.

To see our favorite reads from other weeks, go here.

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.

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