2024 NCAA Men’s Distance Preview: A 1500 For The Ages + Nico Young Looks To Keep Dream Season Rolling

The 2024 NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships will take place in Eugene, Ore., this week from Wednesday – Saturday (men are Wed./Friday and women are Thursday/Saturday).

Mid-d and distance-wise, the meets offer two stark contrasts. On the women’s side, each of the mid-d/distance events has a clear favorite who is also one of the fastest in NCAA history – 800: Michaela Rose of LSU (#2 all-time); 1500: Maia Ramsden of Harvard (#2 all-time); 5000/10,000: Parker Valby (#1 all-time); and steeplechase: Doris Lemngole (#2 all-time).

For the men, only in the 10,000 is there a huge favorite – New Mexico’s Habtom Samuel has run over a minute quicker than the rest of the field running an NCAA #2 all-time 26:53.84. 

We’ve broken down the men’s and women’s meets separately, you can find the men’s preview below. Women’s preview is here.

We also have an overall preview here: 5 Things to Watch at 2024 NCAAs: All-Time 1500/5K Matchups, Which Heavy Favorite Will Lose, & Learn These Sprint Names.

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After you read it and become informed, come back to LRC and enter our free NCAA Prediction contest which should be up shortly. Then spread the word and get a friend to enter as well. You can play in groups.

 If you’re not sure how or where to watch, take a look at this viewing guide as well as the schedule of events.

Men’s 800: Your Guess is as Good as Ours

Full List of Entrants / Live Results / NCAA Rankings

As evidenced by what happened indoors when Iowa’s Rivaldo Marshall, a man who finished only 5th at Big 10s, won the national title, this event is all over the place right now. It’s hard to peg a potential favorite in this event as a result of all the chaos this year but three names come to mind. 

LRC’s favorite is Texas veteran Yusuf Bizimana. He won NCAA indoors in 2023 and was the heavy favorite indoors this year before getting knocked out in the prelims. He was second last year outdoors to only Will Sumner. He is undefeated against college competition this outdoor season over 800 meters.

Another contender is NCAA leader Sam Whitmarsh of Texas A&M who has run almost a second faster than anyone else in the country so far this year (1:44.46). He hasn’t lost an 800 all year outdoors unless you count him finishing 2nd in the 2nd round of regionals by .02. He is the SEC champ but lacks national-level experience after not making the indoor meet this year and getting knocked out in the prelims outdoors last year.

Sean Dolan of Villanova, the son of Penn coach Steve Dolan, will also be in the mix to win it as well as he was second indoors. Outdoors, he raced sparingly but won the Big East in 1:45.83. He was also knocked out in the prelims last year outdoors. 

Two men with experience that could be in the mix are Clemson’s Tarees Rhoden and Penn State’s Handal Roban. Rhoden was the ACC champ and 5th indoors and Roban was third outdoors last year and 7th indoors.

Some men were able to run well indoors but have not had much to show for it outdoors, such indoor champ Rivaldo Marshall, who was only fourth at Big 10s. Finley McLear was third indoors but has not won an 800 outdoors, not even making the Big 12 final. Nicholas Plant had a solid outdoor season but was only 4th at ACCs. 

Two other names of note are Rynard Swanepoel and Shane Cohen who have the 2nd and 3rd fastest times in the NCAA this year. 

Joseph’s Prediction: Yusuf Bizimana makes up for indoors.

Who wins the 800?

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Men’s 1500: An All-Timer & Total Tossup?

Full List of Entrants / Live Results / NCAA Rankings

Luke Houser (l), and Nathan Green (r) in February 2023
Kevin Morris photo

There is a TON of talent in this one including three former NCAA champs competing, and all of them come from the same team: Washington. The title winning trio comprises Luke Houser, the 2023 and 2024 NCAA indoor mile champ, Nathan Green, the 2023 NCAA 1500 champ and Joe Waskom, the 2022 NCAA 1500 champ who made Worlds last year for Team USA. Throw in Wisconsin’s Adam Spencer (the Australian champ), NCAA leader Colin Sahlman of NAU, 3:32 man Anass Essayi of South Carolina/Morocco, and annual Penn Relays hero Liam Murphy of Villanova and this is an all-time classic.

Due to the talent level of the NCAA in this event and the crazy way the heats were drawn up, it is likely one of the men we just mentioned gets knocked out in the prelims. Houser, Green, Waskom, Spencer, Sahlman, and Pac-12 champ Elliott Cook of Oregon are all in the second semifinal and only five men make the final automatically.

Sahlman is the most improved guy of all the contenders. This winter he ran a 3:53.17 mile at BU indoors before finishing 6th at NCAAs. Outdoors he ran the NCAA lead of 3:33.96 to win against many of the NCAA’s top contenders at Bryan Clay. He has exceptional speed, running 1:45.63 for 800. This regular season he has only lost to Nico Young at the Oxy Invite, a loss he avenged at Big Sky a week later. 

The next man to talk about is Luke Houser. He was great indoors winning the NCAA title but he has had an interesting outdoors. He totally bombed at Bryan Clay running 3:42.12, but came back with a nice win at Payton Jordan running 3:39.05. He then ran the 800 and 1500 at Pac-12s finishing just 5th and 3rd. Is he just timing his peak right or is he not as fit as he was indoors?

Staying on the theme of the Washington men, we can now talk about Nathan Green. He is the reigning champ from last year, where he won in a slow 3:42.78. He spent his winter working on this speed but failed to qualify for the final indoors in the 800 in a weak field. He had a monster run of 3:34.79 to finish second at Bryan Clay. He was 4th and 2nd in the 800 and 1500 at Pac-12s leaving us question marks about his fitness. 

The third Washington man is Joe Waskom. He won this race in 2022, and was second last year, but then made the U.S. team. He was only 8th indoors and 4th at Pac-12s, but that race came after he won the steeple the day before. He has only run 3:39.83 this year at the West regionals. 

The man who beat all the Washington men to win the Pac-12 1500m title is none other than Elliott Cook. He also won the 800 at Pac-12s and could be rounding into form at the right time.

Liam Murphy is the Big East champion outdoors in the 1500. He was 4th in the 3k indoors and anchored his team to two impressive wins at the Penn Relays in the 4 x mile and the DMR. He spent the whole winter staying away from speed and looks to be a title contender as that has now become a focus in training. 

Adam Spencer contended for the win last year before finishing third and was second indoors before venturing back to Australia to take down a deep field to become a national champion. He won the Big 10 800 outdoors this year and has the best PB in the field at 3:31.81.

Anass Essayi has run 3:32.87 before overseas but was only 4th last year outdoors before DNF’ing indoors in the mile. He got beat in the SEC 800 and 5k but has the talent to win it all.

Ethan Strand was the ACC champ and was 4th indoors in the mile.

Rojo’s prediction: I had to rewrite this preview as one of the interns tried to start it by saying Colin Sahlman is the favorite. Sahlman may win but to call him the favorite is simply not accurate. Spencer nearly won last year, battled for the win indoors this year and then won the Australian champs. He just won the 800 at Big 10s convincingly and has the best 1500 PB of anyone in the field. Given how inconsistent the UW guys have been and given how Sahlman was just 6th indoors and how he lost to a 10,000 guy during the regular season in the 1500, Spencer is the favorite.

That being said, intern Joseph says Colin Sahlman takes down the field.

Who wins the 1500?

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Men’s Steeple: Can the Mountain be Climbed? 

Full List of Entrants / Live Results / NCAA Rankings

This is a race where although no one has been dominant there is a clear favorite. UVA’s Nathan Mountain opened up his steeple season this year narrowly losing to pro Matthew Wilkinson and running a jaw-dropping 8:20.68. That is the fastest time in the NCAA by about five seconds. He then came back and won ACCs. He looks to have leveled up from last year where he finished 4th. 

His main competition will come from Victor Kibiego (8:25.48 sb), the the SEC champ who was third last year for UTEP but now runs for Texas A&M.

Eastern Kentucky’s ​​Abdelhakim Abouzouhir was 6th last year and he holds the second-fastest time in the NCAA running 8:25.37 at Bryan Clay. He won both his regular season steeples narrowly taking down Rob McManus, the Big Sky champ at the Stanford Invite. 

Georgetown’s Parker Stokes was third in 2022 with a blazing fast 8:18.88 but was 14th this past year. He has run 8:26.61 this season, but do you really expect a guy who was only 7th in the Big East 1500 to win?  James Corrigan was the Big 12 champion and is an NCAA XC All-American.

The two regional champions were Yasin Sado of Virginia, who beat his teammate Nathan Mountain, and Victor Shitsama, who was 7th last year, but was only second at Big 12’s. 

Joseph’s Prediction: Nathan Mountain is a cut above the rest.

Who wins the steeple

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Men’s 5,000: Nico Young Vs. The Field

Full List of Entrants / Live Results / NCAA Rankings

Nico Young at the 2020 NCAA xc meet (Photo by Shane Bevel/NCAA Photos via Getty Images)

This race is one that very few men have the capability of winning. Many of the top stars have opted for just the 5k in an attempt to save their legs in an Olympic year. The obvious favorite is Nico Young. He has had a senior year for the ages and has been on fire. He ran 12:57.14 to set the collegiate record at BU indoors this year in the 5k and set the 10k record at Sound Running’s The TEN two weeks later. He is the 5k and 3k champion from indoors and dominated. He has been focusing on his speed outdoors running lots of 800 and 1500s and will be comfortable kicking off a slow pace or going with a hot pace from the gun.  

Young will have a few contenders that will look to give him trouble, the first being the reigning 5k/10k champion from last year, Ky Robinson of Stanford. He has run 13:06.42 for second indoors at BU and has the experience needed to capitalize in the right situation.

Next up is the man who beat Robinson in that race, Harvard’s Graham Blanks. He was dominant in cross country and was undefeated winning the national title. He ran 13:03.78, to set what was then a collegiate record at BU and looked like a national title contender…and then got hurt and missed indoor nationals. Since then he has just done what he needed to qualify and has kept under the radar. 

The man behind Nico Young indoors was Parker Wolfe of UNC. He has been great this year, running 13:13.61 at BU and lost by one and two seconds in the 3k and 5k to Young. In a super tactical race, he has a chance to come home with the gold.

We also have Habtom Samuel who will be doubling back from the 10k but has run 13:13.34 this year. He is exceptionally talented but struggles in tactical races finishing 4th and 7th in the 5k and 3k indoors. Brian Musau is the NCAA leader at 13:13.29 and finished 6th in the 3k indoors.

Joseph’s Prediction: Young wins.

Rojo’s comments: This race is an all-time classic. For the intern to label this Nico Young versus the field is a bit harsh. Yes, Young has been almost perfect on the track in all of 2024 (although he did lose two races at his conference to Colin Sahlman, but that’s kind of expected when you have the NCAA 10,000 record holder racing the 800/1500). And if Young wins, he will complete one of the greatest track campaigns in NCAA distance history: NCAA records at 5000 and 10,000 and NCAA titles at 3000/5000 indoors and 5,000 outdoors.

That being said, I still have a STRONG memory of having witnessed Ky Robinson make a mockery of the NCAA fields in the 10,000 and 5,000 last year in Austin and thinking to myself, “That guy will never lose another NCAA race again.” Now he’s lost plenty since then but I’m wondering if he’s returning to that form. Plus Graham Blanks owned these guys in XC and was the NCAA record holder briefly in the 5000 indoors before he got injured.

One might think that the person who wins the 3,000 and 5,000 indoors automatically crushes everyone outdoors as well but history says that’s not the case. Twelve times in NCAA history, a man has won the 3,000 and 5,000 at NCAA indoors, and half of the time that person has failed to win an NCAA outdoor title that spring. So if Young has a 50% chance of winning, I guess that means Nico vs the field is an accurate headline.

Who wins the 5000?

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Outdoor results for NCAA 3,000/5,000 indoor winners

Bold = Won outdoor title

2000 – David Kimani, South Alabama – 4th in 1500 outdoors
2001 – David Kimani, Alabama – 3rd in 1500 and 5000 outdoors
2003 – Alistair Cragg, Arkansas – 2nd* 10,000, 1st 5000 outdoors (*Cragg crossed the line holding hands with his teammate Dan Lincoln)
2004 – Alistair Cragg, Arkansas – Won 10,000 outdoors
2009 – Galen Rupp, Oregon – Won 5,000 & 10,000 outdoors
2012 – Lawi Lalang, Arizona – 11th 1500, 3rd 5000 outdoors
2014 – Edward Cheserek, Oregon – Won 10,000, 2nd 5000 outdoors
2015 –  Eric Jenkins, Oregon – 2nd in NCAA 5,000 and 10,000 outdoors
2016 – Edward Cheserek, Oregon – Won 5,000/10,000 outdoors
2017 – Edward Cheserek, Oregon – DNC NCAAs
2019 – Morgan McDonald, Wisconsin – Won 5,000 outdoors
2022 – Abdihamid Nur, NAU – 3rd in 10,000 outdoors

Men’s 10,000: Habtom Samuel vs. the Field

Full List of Entrants / Live Results / NCAA Rankings

This is also a race that has an extremely clear favorite. New Mexico’s Habtom Samuel has run over a minute quicker than the rest of the field, running an NCAA #2 all-time 26:53.84. He lost to Nico Young in that race, who never ran an NCAA qualifying eligible 10k and opted to focus on just the 5k in this meet to stay fresh for the US Olympic Trials. Some names that Samuel beat in that 10k at Sound Running include USA champions Joe Klecker, Woody Kincaid, and Abdihamid Nur. He also beat sub-13 man Adriaan Wildschutt, and world 4th placer  Luis Grijalva. He is a world-class athlete and is the man to beat. His only flaw is his lack of speed in slow races as he finished just 4th and 7th in the 5k and 3k indoors. As long as he pushes the pace before the final laps, he should be fine. 

The rest of the field is tricky to analyze as many of these men try to “tempo” efforts early in the season to qualify for this meet. The current NCAA “leader” who has a time in an NCAA-approved race is Alex Phillip from North Carolina (Samuel’s 26:53 did not count for NCAA qualifying purposes). He only finished third in a tactical ACC race but could be a factor if the pace is fast. 

The conference champs include Victor Kiprop from Alabama. He is the SEC champion and he won the East Regional. Arkansas’ Patrick Kiprop won the 5k at SECs working on his speed and was third at West Regionals. Michigan’s Tom Brady won the 10k at Big 10s while Sanele Masondo of Iowa State won the Big 12. Oklahoma State’s Alex Maier won the Big 12 5k and was second in the NCAA 10k in 2022.

Additionally, you have Oklahoma State freshman Denis Kipngetich who was 4th in XC but has been very inconsistent. Texas Tech’s Ernest Cheruiyot has the second fastest time in the NCAA with a 27:51.13 but he was only 4th at Big 12s.

Joseph’s Prediction: Habtom Samuel dominates over the last mile.

Who wins the 10,000?

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Talk about the meet on our messageboard: Official 2024 NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Champs – Can Nico Young and Parker Valby complete legendary sesasons?

*Women’s preview is here

*5 Things to Watch at 2024 NCAAs: All-Time 1500/5K Matchups, Which Heavy Favorite Will Lose, & Learn These Sprint Names

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