Men’s 800: The future has arrived; Will Sumner negative splits a 1:44.26

AUSTIN, Tex. – Andrew Wheating. Clayton Murphy. Donavan Brazier. 

The US has been blessed with 800m stars who burst onto the scene at NCAAs.

Add Will Sumner to the list.

Just watch this:

After leading through a modest opening 800 of 53.12, Georgia Freshman, Will Sumner, hit turbo and blew away the field the second lap to run a 1:44.26, negative split to capture the 2023 NCAA title in 1:44.26, as NCAA indoor champ Yusuf Bizimana was 2nd in 1:45.74 and another freshman, Handal Roban of Penn State, was third in 1:45.95.

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It was a breathtaking performance by Sumner who came into the NCAA as the third-fastest US high schooler at 800, and the record holder at 600m (like his dad before him). Sumner showed his 200/400 speed the final lap and immediately looked to be a force to make the US team for the World Championships in Hungary.

Fast negative split 800s are really rare. Here is a list showing some world records were actually set with a negative split.

Results: Men 800 M (Final)
Pl Pos Athlete Time 400m 800m
1 5 Will SUMNER
Georgia [FR]
 PB   CL   FR 
2 4 Yusuf BIZIMANA
Texas [JR]
3 7 Handal ROBAN
Penn State [FR]
4 1 Abdullahi HASSAN
Wisconsin [JR]
1:46.30 53.38
5 9 Conor MURPHY
Virginia [JR]
6 8 Mehdi YANOURI
Oklahoma State [JR]
7 6 Aidan MCCARTHY
Cal Poly [SO]
1:46.78 53.83
8 2 Tiarnan CRORKEN
Ole Miss [SR]
9 3 Crayton CARROZZA
Texas [JR]
1:47.23 53.68

QT: What a run by Will Sumner

Sure, an American freshman has run faster at NCAAs (Brazier ran 1:43.55 in 2016), but Brazier didn’t do it with a negative split.

Sumner’s run also puts him #5 on the all-time NCAA list, amongst some truly elite company. Just look at this list:

  1. 1:43.25 Michael Saruni, UTEP 2018
  2. 1:43.55 Donavan Brazier, Texas A&M 2016 – 2019 world champ
  3. 1:43.69 Moad Zahafi, Texas Tech 2022
  4. 1:43.73 Emmanuel Korir, UTEP 2017 – reigning Olympic/world champ
  5. 1:44.26 Will Sumner, Georgia 2023
  6. 1:44.3 Jim Ryun, Kansas 1966 – 1968 Olympic 1500 silver
  7. 1:44.41 Bryce Hoppel, Kansas 2019 – 4th at 2019 Worlds

We should remember Sumner is a true freshman. He was only 7th at NCAA indoors, and Brazier, after winning NCAAs in 1:43, bombed out of the Olympic Trials a few weeks later.

But it’s very exciting to have a new face in the US men’s 800m ranks, and Sumner’s future is very, very bright. A year ago, he ran 1:46.53 to become the third-fastest US high schooler in history (a full second faster than Brazier ran in HS) and until a month ago, that was still Sumner’s PR. But he has come on very strong at the end of the year, PRing to win SECs (1:46.20), and then running PRs in both rounds at NCAAs (1:46.00 in the prelims, 1:44.26 in the final). Sumner was not surprised by tonight’s run – after his final pre-NCAA workout, his coach Pat Henner told him he was ready to run 1:44 and Sumner believed him.

Sumner said that adding weights to his routine (he never lifted in high school) and upping his mileage slightly (15 miles per week compared to 8-10 in high school) has helped him both physically and aerobically stronger, which he believed helped him break through tonight.

Sumner will be in high demand among the shoe companies after tonight’s run – he is now the US leader for 2023 and the only American man with the World Championship standard (though seven others are in the world ranking quota).

Sumner said he would entertain professional offers this summer but is undecided about whether to turn pro, noting the tremendous resources offered by the Georgia athletic department and the opportunity to make money on the side with NIL (though he does not currently have an NIL deal).

“It’s a matter of weighing my options,” Sumner said. “If a deal comes that I can’t pass up, I would probably take it.”

Quick Take: Almost every finalist ran well tonight

Usually when the opening lap of the NCAA final goes slow (and 53.12 is on the slower side for a collegiate 800), you don’t expect to see a slew of fast times. Yet despite the early pace, six of the nine finalists wound up running a personal best. And considering all nine of them ran negative splits, you would think some of them may be able to run a lot faster this summer.

Quick Take: Aidan McCarthy is living the dream. From 54/1:59/4:19 in HS to 1:46/3:39 in college.

LetsRun is filled daily by visitors, many of them are runners dreaming of a breakthrough.

Please let Aidan McCarthy be your inspiration. Talk about dreams becoming reality, McCarthy only ran 1:59/4:19 in high school. His high school coach Jason Oswalt told us they were hopeful McCarthy would run 4:12 but COVID cut his senior year short. Now he’s a 1:46 guy. Pretty impressive for a guy who only ran 53 for the 400 in HS.

McCarthy was one of three finalists tonight who didn’t PR but he did run 1:46 for the second time in his life.

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