WTW: Canada Has a 400m Threat (But His WR Won’t Count), Arkansas Has A New Distance Star, A 97-Pound Japanese Man Runs 2:06 & More

The Week That Was in Running, February 19-25, 2024

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 upcoming week should be a wild one as in addition to World Indoors in Glasgow, the 2024 Abbott World Marathon Majors get underway with the Tokyo Marathon where Sifan Hassan and Eliud Kipchoge will both race.

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Morales Williams Breaks 400m Indoor World Record But It Won’t Count

Raise your hand if at the beginning of the year you had on your predictions chart that Georgia’s Christopher Morales Williams (CMW) would break the indoor 400m world record.*

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Okay. You are lying. I don’t care if you are his mother, his coach, etc. I know you are lying. No one — not even CMW himself — would have predicted that, but that’s exactly what happened over the weekend at the SEC Indoor Championships when the 19-year-old Morales Williams blitzed a 44.49.

It even stunned the announcers, who weren’t even expecting a collegiate record, let alone a world record.

Last year as a freshman, Morales Williams didn’t even make the finals of the 400 at SECs or make it to NCAAs individually. Okay, that’s not fair. That makes Morales Williams not look like a humongous talent and he most certainly is that. The SEC is the most competitive sprint conference in the world. In what other conference does running 45.87 not make the 400 final? That’s what Morales Williams ran at SECs last year outdoors and it placed him 11th.

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He’d lower that PR down to 45.48 in July when he won the Canadian national title at age 18. Now he’s the indoor world record holder.

Congrats.

Now Morales Williams has to be considered a gold-medal threat — for the Olympics.

If you think that’s hyperbole, think again. The 400m is a young man’s game and collegians have won plenty of gold medals in recent Olympics.

Steve Lewis did it as a 19-year-old in 1988.
Jeremy Wariner did it as a 20-year-old in 2004.
Kirani James won it as a pro in 2012, but he was only 19 — and one year removed from college.

Since Michael Johnson won it at the age of 33 in 2000, every Olympic men’s 400 winner has been 25 or younger.

Age of Last 5 Olympic 400m Champions
2004 – Jeremy Wariner – 20
2008 – LaShawn Merritt – 22
2012 – Kirani James – 19
2016 – Wayde van Niekerk – 24
2021 – Steven Gardiner – 25

As for CMW’s run at SECs, unfortunately it won’t be ratified as world record as the SEC didn’t use electronic timing blocks. We know how well those things have worked in the past.

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CMW wasn’t the only one to break a collegiate record at the SEC Indoors. Texas A&M high jumper Lamara Distin of Jamaica became the first collegian to clear 2.00m in the women’s high jump — indoor or out.

MB: Texas A&M’s Lamara Distin makes history – Sets NCAA indoor HJ record, jumps 2.00m at 2024 SECs (video)

LSU’s Michaela Rose didn’t break Athing Mu’s 1:58.40 collegiate record in the women’s 800 but she’s now the only person to run within a second of it as she won the SEC women’s title in 1:59.25.

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Meet the Newest NCAA Distance Star – Peter Maru of Arkansas

The Arkansas Razorbacks won the men’s and women’s team titles at SECs as they so often do. If you’re counting, that’s SEC title #31 for Chris Bucknam, who is now in his 16th year at Arkansas after taking over from the legendary John McDonnell and #1 for new women’s coach Chris Johnson, who took over for Lance Harter this year.

Leading the way for the Razorback men was Peter Maru of Uganda.

If you haven’t heard the name, that’s okay. Maru, a 20-year old freshman, only put on the Razorback uniform for the first time two weeks ago. In his very first race, he broke the Arkansas 5,000 record by running 13:17.86 on February 10. Six days later, he led the Razorbacks to a school record 9:20.09 in their DMR by running a 3:54.68 anchor leg.

In his third meet as a Razorback, he broke the SEC meet records in both the 3000 (7:47.26) and 5000 (13:31.11). He ran that 7:47 out of the slow heat.

Maru entered Arkansas with PRs of 3:40.04 for 1500 (2021), 13:07.42 (2022), and 27:30 for 10k (road 2023). He was 5th in the 1500 at World Juniors in 2021.

It will be interesting to see what Maru does at NCAAs as the DMR final starts 25 minutes after the 5,000 finishes and we don’t think 7:47 will get him into the 3,000 final.

The men’s 5,000 could be quite some race even though Harvard’s Graham Blanks (13:03.78 PR), who briefly held the NCAA indoor record this winter, is injured. Up until two years ago, only two collegians had ever broken 13:10 for 5,000 — Henry Rono (13:08.4 in 1978) and Lawi Lalang (13:08.28 in 2012).

This year indoors, three guys have done it as in addition to Blanks, Nico Young (12:57.14) and Ky Robinson (13:06.42) have done it, while Haru has done it in the past. Plus New Mexico’s Habtom Samuel (PRs of 13:13/27:20, 13:14 indoors) and UNC’s Parker Wolfe (13:13 indoors this year) are also in great form.

Samuel won the 3,000m (7:57.59) and 5,000m (13:45.57) at altitude over the weekend at the Mountain West Champs in Albuquerque (those marks convert to 7:45.83 and 13:23.74 according to the NCAA) while Wolfe put up 20 points at the ACC Champs, running 3:54.17 in the mile and 7:51.11 in the 3,000 to lead the Tar Heels to their first indoor team title since the 1990s.

Young got ready for NCAAs by working on his speed last week at the Big Sky Champs, where he won the mile in 4:01.16 and placed third in the 800 in 1:49.61.

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One of the distance stars at SECs on the women’s side was Parker Valby, the 2023 NCAA XC champion. Valby hadn’t raced since setting an NCAA record of 14:56.11 at BU in December but she showed no signs of rust as she won the 3,000 out of the slow heat in 8:42.29 and anchored Florida to a DMR win in a meet record time of 10:53.29 thanks to her 4:31.45 clocking.

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If you score the NCAA descending order list using the computer at Cloudtrainingsystems.com, the team breakdown is currently as follows:

Women
1 Arkansas 78.33
2 Florida 47
3 Ole Miss 29.5
4 Washington 28
5 LSU 27.5
Men
1 Northern Arizona 53
2 Texas Tech 46.5
3 Arkansas 39.83
4 Florida 36
5 USC 34

Of course, that has Nico Young scoring 25 points by himself and we highly doubt he triples. NAU actually is ranked #3.

Here is the NAU team breakdown if the descending order list held up:

Name Grade Rank Event Points
1. Nico Young JR-3 1. Mile
4. 3000 Meters
1. 5000 Meters
25
2. Aaron Las Heras SR-4 2. 3000 Meters
6. 5000 Meters
11
3. Colin Sahlman SO-2 5. Mile 4
4. Theo Quax SR-4 9. 3000 Meters
7. 5000 Meters
2
5. Garret Bernt SO-2 8. Weight Throw 1

More: NCAA Results

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A 97-Pound Japanese Collegian Runs 2:06:18

Speaking of fast collegians, Japan’s Kiyoto Hirabayashi, 21, won Sunday’s Osaka Marathon in a Japanese debut and collegiate record 2:06:18. That’s super impressive although not quite fast enough for the Koku Gakuin University student to get on the Olympic team (if he’d run under 2:05:50, he’d have taken the third spot).

According to the Japanese press as translated by Brett Larner of Japan Running News, Hirabayashi’s coach Yasuhiro Maeda is already thinking about 2028 and dreaming big — really big. “If everything goes right he might have a shot at breaking 2:04,” said Maeda.

After the race, a LetsRun poster thought Hirabayashi was super thin. They were correct. In this case, looks were not deceiving as Hirabayashi only weighs 97 lbs (44kg). He’s 5’6″ tall (168 cm). Maeda addressed the weight concerns after the race saying Hirabayashi has a “lightweight body.” Larner’s translation states that “rather than adding muscle mass the focus has been on increasing flexibility to enable Hirabayashi to run with a long, dynamic stride like African athletes.” They’ve been working on increasing the mobility of his hip joints and shoulder blades.

As for Hirabayashi’s diet, Maeda says, “He eats a lot, but he just doesn’t gain weight.”

More: MB: Japan’s Kiyoto Hirabayashi runs 2:06:19 debut NR. Have you ever scene a runner this skinny
*Brett Larner: Coach Maeda Calls Osaka Winner Hirabayashi “The Atsushi Fujita of Our Era” (updated)

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Recommended Read

At The Olympic Trials Marathon, The World’s Most Brutal Marathon, DNF is Preferred Over DFL This is a very interesting in-depth article by Dennis Young, who interviewed 16 of the DFL finishers from the US Olympic Marathon Trials including at least two Olympians, one athlete who was high on marijuana and one who cut off her cast prior to the start. Do you agree that DNF is preferred to DFL? Talk about it on our forum:

*MB: True or false: For most, DNF (Did Not Finish) is preferable to DFL. Certainly that’s the case at the U.S. Olympic Trials

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Last Week’s Home Pages

Past editions of our Week That Was weekly recap can be found here. You should come to LetsRun each and every day for the latest news but if you miss a day, you can always go to our archive page. If you like our written weekly recap, you’ll love our weekly Track Talk Podcast as well. Got a tip, question or comment? Please call us at 844-LETSRUN (538-7786), email us, or post in our forum.

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Got a tip, question or comment? Please call us at 844-LETSRUN (538-7786), email us or post in our forum.

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