NCAA Women’s Recap: Parker Valby (5000), Michaela Rose (800) & Olivia Markezich (Steeple) Earn First NCAA Titles

AUSTIN, Tex. – The 2023 NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships came to an end on Saturday and while the pre-race talk centered around superstars Katelyn Tuohy and Britton Wilson chasing historic doubles, Texas’ Julien Alfred was the true star of the show, winning titles in the 100 (10.72, +2.3), 200 (21.73, +2.5), and 4×100 relay (41.60) while Tuohy and Wilson both left Austin empty-handed.

We covered Maia Ramsden’s upset win in the women’s 1500 final in a separate article here. Below we recap the rest of the women’s distance finals, including front-running victories by LSU’s Michaela Rose in the 800 (1:59.83) and Florida’s Parker Valby in the 5000 (15:30.57) and a dominant win by Notre Dame’s Olivia Markezich, who PR’d by 15 seconds to win the steeple in 9:25.03.


Women’s 800: Michaela Rose Goes Wire-to-Wire

LSU sophomore Michaela Rose took the lead coming off the first turn and never would give it up.

She hit 400 in 58.45 with indoor champ Roisin Willis on her heels. Rose then opened up a gap after the bell and never was seriously challenged as she would get the win in 1:59.83. Willis faded to 4th the final 100 as Gabija Galvydyte of Oklahoma State got second and Claire Seymour of BYU got third to round out the podium.

Quick take: There are three American studs in the NCAA 800m

The attention heading into the year was on the Stanford duo, Willis (the world U20 champion) and Juliette Whittaker (the World U20 bronze medalist and high school record holder), and they delivered on the hype going 1-2 indoors, but now Michaela Rose is the champ. She was super pumped to have win even  though the wind made her goal of Athing Mu’s 1:57.73 impossible.

Quick Take: Roisin Willis gave herself an “A” for her freshman year but admitted she has had her challenges

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When you enter college as a 1:59 performer and a World U20 champion, there is an expectation, fair or not, that you will dominate right away. And Willis did indoors, helping Stanford to the DMR title before doubling back to win the individual 800. Outdoors, Willis’ best 200 until tonight was “only” 2:01.97, but she shaved more than a second off that time to clock 2:00.91 for 4th. After the race, Willis said she thinks she is at a similar level of fitness as indoors but admitted that the outdoor season has been tough as she has dealt with low iron and at times she has been in a “pretty dark place.”

“I have had a few challenges this outdoor season,” Willis said. “Just haven’t physically and mentally been healthy. Took a lot to be back where I was [indoors].”

Willis said that she would still grade her freshman year as an “A” given how well the indoor season went, and that’s a fair assessment. Sometimes we see athletes for their times on paper and forget the human element. Willis is an 18-year-old still finding her way on a Stanford campus full of high-powered individuals. It is asking a lot – perhaps too much – to throw an already-great athlete into such a situation and expect constant, consistent progress out of them. Sports does not usually work that way.

“Moving across the country, transitioning to a new system, it’s a lot,” Willis said.

Quick Take: The second place finisher Galvydyte has a better chance of making Worlds than Rose

Galvydyte, a Lithuanian, is currently 88th in the World Rankings for the 800m. Her performance tonight will shoot her up the rankings, and with the World Athletics quota number being 56 for the 800m, there is a chance she is inside of the quota by the end of July. Galvydyte dropped more than a second off her PB in this race, and is only 0.67 seconds away from the WCS of 1:59.80, a very achievable goal for her by July 30. 

Rose, on the other hand, is 1 of 11 American women who have the WCS, and 1 of 16 women who have the WCS or are in the ranking quota. Although the USA will send 4 women to Budapest because Athing Mu has the bye as defending champion, there are still five American women who have run faster than Rose this season. It will take a huge performance out of the LSU sophomore to make team USA this August. 

Women’s 5000: Parker Valby Dominates as Katelyn Tuohy Does Not Start

When Katelyn Tuohy did not start the women’s 5000m after fading to 7th in the 1500, Parker Valby was arguably the favorite and ran like it, dominating the field to get the win in 15:30.57 as NCAA 10k champ Everlyn Kemboi of Utah Valley was 2nd in 15:39.57 and 10k runner-up Emily Venters of Utah third in 15:42.40.

After a couple modest laps in the heat in Austin (upper 80s with high humidity and a 71 dew point), Valby started to push the pace and Kemboi, Venters and a few others went with her.  By 2 miles Valby had a gap on the field. Valby at this point was running 75-second laps instead of the 73s she had run to break it open but everyone was slowing in the heat. Valby however had something left in the tank and started pushing the pace more the last 1000m to blow the race open for good. She led by 4 seconds with 2 laps to go and a 71.87 and 70.53 final two laps gave her a 9 seconds victory.

Valby is known for her front running but said she didn’t have a defined race plan. She told John Anderson afterwards that her coach Will Palmer “said trust your instincts and my instincts said go for it and that’s my motto, ‘just go for it.’”

Quick Take: What a run, and what a well-deserved title for Parker Valby

Last year outdoors, Parker Valby went for it and was run down by Katelyn Tuohy. Ditto cross country. Indoors, a mysterious leg injury sidelined Valby from NCAAs as Tuohy doubled up in the 3k and 5k. Tonight, nothing stopped her from winning her first NCAA title (though Tuohy scratching after the 1500 certainly didn’t hurt).

Valby admitted that she was still not 100% tonight and that her leg injury has not gone away, but she and coach Will Palmer (who took over when Chris Solinsky left after the cross country season) have been able to find a way for Valby to succeed despite very little running on solid ground (twice a week, roughly 20 miles per week). She certainly looked stronger over the final laps tonight than she did at SECs last month when she barely held off Alabama’s Mercy Chelangat for the win.

Valby deserves all the credit in the world for the way she ran tonight. She knows she doesn’t have the best kick and had to drop everyone else by the bell or risk being run down. That was a very big ask given the hot, humid conditions, but Valby ground the field into submission and closed the race out with a very solid 2:22 800 to earn the win in 15:30, nine seconds ahead of runner-up Kemboi. It takes a mentally and physically tough athlete to be able to execute such a race plan, and after her run tonight, there should be no doubts about Valby in either department.

Quick Take: Amaris Tyynismaa said 4th place was “respectable” but she was shooting for even better

Tyynismaa said she was hoping to finish higher than 4th but said it was a respectable finish given the tough conditions and the fact that she was not feeling her best today. We’d say it was more than respectable as this was Tyynismaa’s best NCAA finish since taking 3rd at NCAA XC in March 2021.

Tyynismaa transferred from Alabama to NC State at the start of 2023 and said that while it has been a significant change, she is happy with how things have worked out. Alabama coach Will Palmer left to take the Florida job at the same time, and while Tyynismaa, an Alabama native, said that was part of her reason for leaving, she said she also needed a new environment, which she believes she has at NC State.

“It was a really big transition, but the team, the environment, the resources, I’ve been so happy,” Tyynismaa said.

Women’s 3,000mSC: A Strong Last Lap from Markezich Propels Her to Win

Olivia Markezich of Notre Dame powered by Greta Karinauskaite of Cal Baptist on the backstretch of the final lap of the women’s steeplechase and would go on to get the dominant win in a 15-second pb of 9:25.03 as Karinauskaite was 2nd in 9:30.85 and West Virginia’s Ceili McCabe a distant third in 9:41.32.

Coming into the NCAAs, Karinauskaite, the 2022 Lithuanian champion, had a season’s best of 9:26.88, 12 seconds faster than the next fastest competitor, so it was not surprising that she took the race from the gun. The race quickly turned into a battle between Karinauskaite and Markezich as the two of them separated themselves from the field early in the race. The two juniors ran together for a majority of the race, with Karinauskaite in the lead by a few seconds from the beginning of the race until the last lap. After the bell, specifically on the back straight, Markezich opened up her stride, made a huge move, and attacked the hurdles with power as Karinauskaite started to stutter before her final barriers. Markezich, who was 2nd in the NCAA 3k indoors, continued strong through the final barriers and home stretch to win in 9:25.03. The Notre Dame junior closed the last lap in 73.83 to Karinauskaite’s 81.01 and is now #3 in NCAA history, behind only Courtney Wayment (9:16.00) and Courtney Frerichs (9:24.41).

Quick Take: Olivia Markezich just wanted to stay in striking distance

Markezich admitted that she has a tendency of getting gapped in races, but at least she is aware of it. So when it happened in tonight’s NCAA final (she was two seconds back with two laps to go), Markezich did not panic.

“[I was] just telling myself that I’m calm and confident and that I can make it up,” Markezich said.

She was right to be confident, as when Markezich passed Karinauskaite on the back stretch, she passed her strong and by the home straight was well clear and en route to her first NCAA title.

Quick Take: We could see both of these women at the World Championships in August

Markezich, an American, just ran the fifth fastest time of the year in the steeplechase by an American. The WCS is 9:23.00 and she is just 2.03 seconds away from reaching the standard. Lining her up against the top women in the country in better weather in Eugene could see that time barrier be broken, but won’t have to worry about hitting it as her world ranking will go up a lot after tonight.  

For the Lithuanian Karinauskaite, her current world ranking is 35, which places her inside the World ranking quota of 36 for the women’s steeplechase and it will go up after tonight’s performance. As long as she keeps her ranking, she will secure her spot in Budapest. 

Karinauskaite wasn’t thrilled with finishing second. She said she expected more but is now turning her focus towards Worlds.

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