2024 NCAA Indoors: Nico Young Sweeps 3K/5K as Luke Houser Repeats in Mile

BOSTON – The 2024 NCAA Men’s Indoor Track & Field Championships belonged to Terrence Jones, Nico Young, and the Texas Tech men. Jones, the Bahamian sprint star, repeated as 60-meter champion (6.54) before adding the 200m title in 20.23 to power Texas Tech to its first NCAA indoor title with 50.5 points (Florida finished 2nd with 41). He is the first man to sweep the short sprints at NCAAs since Houston’s Elijah Hall in 2018.

Before this weekend, Young, the Northern Arizona distance man, had never won an NCAA individual title after enrolling at NAU as one of the most-hyped high school distance prospects ever in 2020. Young broke his drought in a big way as he won the 5,000 on Friday before dominating the 3,000 on Saturday, winning by 1.37 seconds with a meet-record 7:41.01. Young contributed 20 of NAU’s 31 points in the team standings as the Lumberjacks finished 4th overall to match their finish from Birmingham two years ago.

In other action, Washington’s Luke Houser repeated as mile champ in 4:01.72, Iowa’s Rivaldo Marshall won the 800 in 1:46.96, and 19-year-old Georgia star Christopher Morales Williams ran 44.67 to win the 400.

Full results here. Recap and analysis of the distance finals below.

Men’s 3000: Young dominates with 1:54 final 800

For the second night in a row, NAU’s Nico Young put on a show in a distance final at NCAAs, adding the 3,000 title to the 5,000 crown he won on Friday. The race started out fairly honest with Oklahoma State’s Ryan Schoppe trying to do what he did on the anchor leg of Friday’s DMR and control the race from the front. He hit 1600 in the lead in 4:12 (7:54 pace) but that had done little to thin the pack.

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Nico Young wins NCAA title #2 (Kevin Morris photo)

The big move came from Young with 800 to go, when he stormed to the lead and quickly began to string out the pack. He would run his penultimate 400 in 58.30 and by that point the only men close to him were 5k runner-up Parker Wolfe of UNC and OK State’s Brian Musau. Young still had another gear, however, dropping a 27.73 penultimate lap to break free of the field. Wolfe was still in striking distance at the bell and his final lap of 28.03 was identical to Young’s, but Young had already delivered the critical blow and would hold on to win in 7:41.01 to take down Lawi Lalang’s 11-year-old meet record. Wolfe had to settle for 2nd for the second night in a row in 7:42.38 while OK State’s Alex Maier got up for 3rd in 7:44.68.

Young was simply incredible over the final four laps as he closed in 1:54.05 for his last 800 and 55.75 for his last 400.

Northern Arizona [JR]
7:41.01 MR  
2Parker WOLFE
North Carolina [JR]
Oklahoma State [SR]
Villanova [JR]
Stanford [JR]
6Brian MUSAU
Oklahoma State [FR]
7Habtom SAMUEL
New Mexico [FR]
Oklahoma State [JR]
Northern Arizona [SR]
10Anass ESSAYI
South Carolina [JR]
Florida State [JR]
12Yaseen ABDALLA
Tennessee [SR]
13Theo QUAX
Northern Arizona [SR]
14Marco LANGON
Villanova [FR]
Washington [SR]
Portland [JR]

Nico Young is a monster now

Last year at this meet, Nico Young worked with NAU teammate Drew Bosley to push the pace in the 5,000 – they knew that they were more vulnerable in a kicker’s race. Young finished 4th in that race, and by the end of 2023 it was starting to look like Young might end his NCAA career as a bridesmaid: strong enough to rack up a ton of All-American honors, but lacking the kick to win the big one.

But this winter, Young has transformed himself. Not only is he running faster than ever (he set the NCAA 5,000 record of 12:57 in January), but he has developed a kick, and he can deploy it off a fast or slow pace. This sort of thing is not unprecedented – Galen Rupp underwent a similar transformation during his fifth year at Oregon in 2008-09 – but it is rare. And it significantly raises Young’s ceiling as a pro. Before this season, Young looked as if his best chance of pro success would come in the marathon – you cannot be a factor on the world stage on the track without a kick. But with what he has shown at this meet, Young can be a player in the 5k and 10k as a pro. And remember, he’s still only 21 years old.

Despite the loss, Ky Robinson was super upbeat

Outdoors in Austin at the 2023 NCAA champs, Ky Robinson looked unbeatable at the NCAA level, capturing both the 10,000 and 5,000 crowns. This weekend in Boston, he was only 5th and 3rd but he was very upbeat afterwards.

And for good reason. He did much better at NCAA indoors this year (5th and 3rd) than last year (10th and 7th).

“I’m definitely in a better spot (than last year). Last year, I feel like World Cross threw me out in the middle of that season.  So I missed a good chunk of build,” said Robinson. “But right now I feel really fit. I feel like I’m ready to go and attack outdoor season.  I think I’m in a better spot than I was last year. So hopefully we can keep the same trajectory and reach new heights.”

Men’s mile: Houser repeats with terrific front-running performance

Sometimes it pays to run from the front. For Washington’s Luke Houser, it has paid off twice.

One year ago in Albuquerque, Houser took the lead of the NCAA mile final with three laps to go and never looked back, going 29.80-28.86-26.39 to hold off all comers and win the national title. Tonight, Houser grabbed the lead one lap earlier, hitting the front at halfway and masterfully squeezing the pace down over the final 800, going 30.19-28.97-27.46-26.82 to become the first man since Josh Kerr in 2017-18 to repeat as NCAA mile champ, winning in 4:01.72.

With the pace very slow at halfway (2:08.30 through 809m), there was a lot of jockeying for position throughout the second half and a mad dash on the last lap as nine of the 10 men in the field were within a second of the lead at the bell. Wisconsin’s Adam Spencer, the NCAA 3rd placer in the 1500 outdoors, moved up one spot on the podium to take 2nd today and was the only one to challenge Houser in the home straight, finishing 2nd in 4:01.92 as BYU’s Lucas Bons was 3rd in 4:02.12.

Houser’s UW teammate Joe Waskom, the 2022 NCAA 1500 champ who represented the US at outdoor Worlds last year, was not a factor on the final lap and finished 8th in 4:03.26.

Washington [SR]
Wisconsin [JR]
3Lucas BONS
North Carolina [JR]
Georgetown [JR]
Northern Arizona [SO]
7Parvej KHAN
Florida [FR]
Washington [JR]
Michigan [SR]
Virginia [SO]

Check out the names of the guys who have won the NCAA mile in recent years

The winner of the NCAA mile in recent years has almost instantly gone on to a fine pro career. And do you know who the last repeat winner of the mile was before Houser? Take a look as we’ve compiled the winners.

The Last 10 NCAA Mile Champs
2024 – Luke Houser
2023 – Luke Houser
2022 – Mario Garcia Romo
2021 – Cole Hocker
2019 – Geordie Beamish
2018 – Josh Kerr
2017 – Josh Kerr
2016 – Henry Wynne
2015 – Edward Cheserek
2014 – Anthony Rotich

Houser’s run shows the advantage of leading the mile indoors

Leading a 1500 or a mile in a fast race can be a dangerous strategy as you risk serving as a pacer for the rest of the field and getting outkicked at the end. But in a slow race, leading offers a few advantages, particularly indoors. First, you don’t have to worry about positioning as much. Once you get to the lead, you still have to fight to hold it – “I felt like at least twice a lap, someone would come up on my shoulder,” Houser said – but you don’t have to do as much maneuvering as those in the middle of the pack.

The second – and biggest – advantage of leading is that you have run the shortest distance possible. Houser still had a strong last lap, as his 26.82 was best in the field. But runner-up Adam Spencer of Wisconsin closed almost as quickly (26.84). The difference was, Spencer was 3rd at the bell, meaning he had to move wide to pass UNC’s Ethan Strand on the back straight, which resulted in him running extra distance on the back straight and final turn. Houser, meanwhile, did not have to run any extra distance. And with no one in front of him, he never had to worry about chopping his stride, either.

Houser said the plan before the race from coach Andy Powell was for Houser to take the lead at 800 and slowly increase the pace from there. He could not have executed it better. Houser’s win means that Washington athletes have now won the last four NCAA 1500/mile titles (Waskom 2022 outdoors, Houser 2023 indoors, Nathan Green 2023 outdoors, Houser 2024 indoors).

Wisconsin’s Adam Spencer is gearing up for the Aussie Olympic Trials

Spencer, who made it to Worlds last year for Australia, will be running the Aussie champs in April. When we asked him if he was in 3:31 shape like he was last summer, he quipped that he wasn’t sure he was in 3:31 shape last summer until he actually ran the time. While he wanted to win tonight, he is upbeat about his chances. 

Off-camera, we asked him about how the Aussie champs will work as far as qualifying for the Olympic team. He said he went to the Athletics Australia website and thought he read that the top two at the trials with the standard are in line for the Olympics. But when he tried to confirm that with the Aussie officials, they told him that he missed a line saying they don’t technically have to send the top two with the standard. So we looked it up ourselves. Here’s what it says:

The National Federation may, in its absolute discretion, nominate eligible Athletes in

Phase 1 Nomination who:

(i) have achieved the Qualification Standard by the end of the 2023-24 Australian

Domestic Season;

(ii) have finished in the top two (2) Australian places at the 2024 Australian Track

and Field Championships in their event but are not compelled to nominate both

first and second placegetters. 

So there you have it. You want to run well but they don’t have to send you even if you win and have the standard.

As for today’s race, he said he wanted to be up front so “if someone hit the front, I wanted to be on their shoulder.”

“A hundred metres to go, I was feeling pretty good,” said Spencer. “I had another gear, but Luke also had another gear.”

Florida’s Parvej Khan finishes 7th after breakout freshman season

India has a population of over 1.4 billion, the most of any country in the world. Yet only one Indian man has ever broken 4:00 in the mile – Florida freshman Parvej Khan, who won the SEC title two weeks ago and was 7th in his first NCAA final today. (To be fair, 11 Indians have run 3:41 or faster in the 1500, which is a sub-4:00 equivalent. But if you convert Khan’s 3:55.41 mile pb to 1500, he’d rank #2 on India’s all-time list).

Khan grew up poor in the rural village of Chahalka, but after recognizing he had some talent in distance running, he moved in with his uncle in the capital of New Delhi at age 13 and became one of the country’s top runners. Eventually, Khan reached out to one of his Instagram friends, Hakim Abouzouhir of Morocco, who runs for Eastern Kentucky, about how to get an NCAA scholarship. Abouzouhir put Khan in touch with Florida coach Will Palmer, and that’s how he ended up in Gainesville.

We asked Palmer about why he decided to take a chance on Khan given India is not known for producing distance runners. Palmer seemed almost confused that we would even ask: he pointed out that Khan ran 1:47 for 800 and 3:40 for 1500 at age 17 in 2022. It is a big transition to come halfway across the world for college, particularly since Khan did not speak much English beforehand, but so far he is thriving on the track.

For more on Khan’s backstory, check out this profile by Jonathan Selvaraj.

Men’s 800 Rivaldo Marshall Impresses

In his first NCAA appearance, Iowa’s Rivaldo Marshall crushed the field over the last 200 and won his first NCAA title in his first NCAA appearance in convincing fashion in 1:46.96. Villanova senior Sean Dolan was second in 1:47.61

Iowa [JR]
Villanova [SR]
3Finley MCLEAR
Iowa State [SR]
4Nicholas PLANT
Virginia Tech [SO]
5Tarees RHODEN
Clemson [SR]
Iowa State [JR]
7Handal ROBAN
Penn State [SO]
8Abdullahi HASSAN
Wisconsin [JR]

Marshall said he was motivated by his loss at Big Tens tonight

Marshall only briefly spoke to the media tonight but he said he was motivated by his loss at Big 10s (5th place) and had a lot of confidence that he’d have the best kick entering the last lap.

Last year, the 22-year-old Marshall ran for Indian Hills Community College where he won the indoor crown and was third outdoors the JUCO level and had a pb of 1:47.35 outdoors (1:50.56 indoors)

Sean Dolan, a coach’s son, has the long term view

Villanova senior Sean Dolan earned a career-best NCAA finish as the runner-up (previous best was 5th). He was upbeat afterwards as he says he’s barely done any 800 workouts as he’s taking a long term approach in an Olympic year.

While the 3:38 man says he knows ultimately a miler, he said his focus this year is squarely on the 800. When we asked Sean if he ever gets advice from his father, Penn coach Steve Dolan, he said he most definitely does.

I wouldn’t lie and say he’s not a huge influence with me. Like, (when) we talk, most of our conversations these days are about running, “said Dolan. “Luckily I have two really smart people in my corner, and they both have great advice for me. And their plans honestly match up the same. So, yeah, I’m just really lucky to have those very two wise people in my corner.”

But what happens if their advice doesn’t match up? Sean gave the perfect response as a coach’s son. 

I always trust Marcus. Marcus is my coach. I signed up (for him to be my coach), not my dad.”

“So it’s always great to have a mentor like him in my corner, and someone to always watch over my running career. But Marcus is my coach, and whatever he says goes.”

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