The First-Ever LRC NCAA Track & Field Mock Draft

In the NBA draft, there are 14 lottery picks. Here are the 14 top mid-d and distance talents that should come off the board and get signed by the shoe execs.

Considering the pundits for the major professional sports spend tons of time doing mock drafts, we thought it would be fun to do one for track & field. There’s no actual track draft, you say? That’s not going to stop us. Below you will find the first track & field mock draft.

In the NBA, it’s the 14 lottery picks that everyone cares about. The same should be true for track & field, so I’ve limited this mock to 14 athletes. As far as who is eligible, I only picked runners who had clearly run their final NCAA meet (so no Graham Blanks, Parker Wolfe, Adam Spencer). Shoe execs, you’re welcome for the free consulting — don’t sign anyone else as you’ll be wasting your time.

And remember, you don’t get drafted based on accomplishments but rather upside and potential. In actuality, marketability is also very important for shoe companies, but I tried to do my mock draft more on talent/potential than marketing.

Note: For some draft picks, I have a team selecting them. That part was more done in fun. I don’t necessarily expect that shoe company to sign them.

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#1 Parker Valby, Florida 

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There were two collegiate record holders to choose from for the #1 pick as Parker Valby and Nico Young both broke the collegiate 5,000 and 10,000 records with a little help from the shoe designers.

If you are thinking about who has better odds of winning a global medal at some point, it’s Young as his times are much closer to being in the medal hunt than Valby. Valby’s PRs are 6.2 and 6.7% slower than the 5,000 and 10,000 WRs whereas Young is just 2.9 and 2.7% off the WRs. But the odds that Young never makes an Olympic team are higher than the odds Valby never makes one.

Valby has to be, as they say in baseball, the 1-1 (first round, first pick). She’s much more dominant at the collegiate level and her marketability is off the charts given her looks and fun personality. The average middle-aged American woman can relate to Valby’s low mileage and cross training regimen as well. That being said, Young does have some builtin marketability as the Michael Sam of track & field.

Team: Bowerman Track Club 

In recent months, BTC has been getting crushed on LRC for losing so many of its stars. Little did people realize Jerry Schumacher was brilliantly tanking to get the #1 pick to pick Valby. Some might think putting the low-mileage Valby in a high-mileage program isn’t a good idea, but Valby gets to reunite with her original college coach Chris Solinsky.

#2 Nico Young, NAU

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Young’s bid for 1-1 status took a hit at NCAAs when he got outkicked by Parker Wolfe for the 5,000 title. It’s a little disappointing that Young ends his NCAA career with the same number of XC and outdoor titles as you or I — zero — but there is no denying he still deserves to be the #1 man off the board given his two collegiate records. Had he opted for the 10,000 at NCAAs, he’d have won that.

In the short term, the question is how does Young look at the Olympic Trials this week? Has he lost some aerobic fitness as coach Mike Smith got a little too cute working on Young’s speed by racing him in so many 800s and 1500s this spring? Or was his loss at NCAAs simply because it was a fairly slow race?

Team: Sean Brosnan’s 4:20 Isn’t Fast Track Club

Young’s 2024 track season is no longer perfect but he’s the perfect first pick for the expansion club owned and run by Brosnan.

“Nico wouldn’t be anything without me and all of the other Sahlmans/Youngs would be nothing without Nico,” said Brosnan in a fake press release that we just made up. “Nico put me on the map as a high school coach and he’ll do it again as a pro.”

#3 Maia Ramsden, Harvard 

Repeating as NCAA 1500 champ isn’t easy (heck, winning indoor mile and outdoor 1500 titles is rare too, and hadn’t been done in 14 years before Ramsden). Only three women have ever gone back-to-back and it hadn’t been done in 20 years, but Ramsden made it look easy. She was unreal all year long and even had enough energy to run World Indoors and 4:02.58 in LA along the way.

Drafting an international who is already on their Olympic team (Ramsden will make it for New Zealand) is kind of like drafting a catcher in baseball. It’s a very safe pick with less that can go wrong but also less upside than going for raw talent.

Team: OAC Europe

A Kiwi Harvard grad who is the daughter of diplomat is the perfect fit for a Swiss company that sends off a sophisticated vibe and is the brand of choice the upperclass, right?

(Update: In the midst of writing this column, Ramsden signed with the North American OAC team).

#4 Olivia Markezich, Notre Dame 

When we talked about this mock draft on last week’s LetsRun Track Talk podcast, Jonathan Gault thought it was a reach to take Markezich at #4 and then went on about how the men’s 1500 is a more marquee of an event, etc.

To me, taking Markezich at #4 is kind of like taking Ramsden at #3. Drafting an American steepler is a very safe pick. With Emma Coburn and Courtney Frerichs on the way out, if you can run under 9:10 in the steeple, you look like a lock to make every single US team for years to come. Markezich has already run 9:17 in each of the last two years without living at altitude.

But Markezich isn’t just a good steepler. She’s very good at other events as well. Her success in non-barrier races (NCAA 3rd placer in XC, NCAA runner-up in flat 3k with an 8:40 pb), very much reminds me of Frerichs or Alicia Monson coming out of college. They were great college runners who each won one NCAA title but really took off as pros.

At the pro level, women’s running still isn’t as deep as men’s running and that’s true in the steeple, so a medal isn’t out of the question. We keep expecting the women’s steeple to become an event where if you can’t run under 8:55 you have no shot at a medal, but the reality is it’s June 17 and only four women in the entire world have broken 9:10 in 2024.

The more I think about it, Markezich should probably go ahead of Ramsden because she’s an American and it’s a bigger market. Both are similarly far away from medalling (six seconds for Ramsden in the 1500, 12 seconds for Markezich in the 3k steeple).

Team: Brooks Beasts

Did you know the Brooks Beasts have never produced a US Olympian? Kind of hard to believe considering they’ve produced a world champion in the men’s 1500 and Markezich may have the highest US Olympic odds for 2024 of anyone in this draft. But I don’t actually think that her going to Beasts would make sense as who would she train with? I just wanted to get that Olympic stat out there.

(Update: In actuality, she’s already signed with OAC.)

#5 Ky Robinson, Stanford

After dominating the 2023 NCAAs on the track, Robinson’s collegiate career didn’t end with more glory in 2024 as he had to settle for a bunch of 3rd place finishes (in XC, indoor, and outdoor) but it’s not everyday you can sign an Australian who ran 13:06 at age 21. I know he was only 5th at the Australian championships but him making the 2024 Olympic team isn’t out of the question as Australian champ Matthew Ramsden isn’t even in the top 45 on the Road to Paris list.

Team: Bowerman TC

I know he’s signed with OAC but wanted to project he was going to BTC so he could be reunited with his old Stanford teammate Charles Hicks. Coach Jerry Schumacher ingeniously sent his own son to Stanford to recruit future Grant Fisher replacements.

#6 Shane Cohen, Virginia

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Cohen went to DII Tampa with the intention of being a normal student, not a runner. A year ago, he failed to break 1:53 in the 800 but now he looks like the second coming of Robby Andrews and Nick Symmonds and is NCAA DI 800 champ with a 1:44.97 pb (48.27 400 pb). When Symmonds burst onto the scene in 2006 from the DIII ranks, he ran 1:45.83 to place 2nd at USAs and had a 48.53 400 pb. Cohen’s close will be hard to beat in tactical 800s.

Team: UA Mission Run Baltimore Distance

What teams even try to get 800 guys other than UA and Brooks? Maybe the Nike Union Athletic Club? Baltimore is a perfect fit for the Huntingdon Valley, Pa., native as it’s less than 2.5 hours away.

#7 Joe Waskom, Washington

Waskom falls to #7 on my board in a move roundly ripped by experts like Jonathan Gault as most expected him to go #3 at the lowest. Just like how QB is the marquee position in the NFL, the men’s 1500 is the marquee distance event in the draft and Waskom has won two NCAA 1500s in the last three years. In fact, he was only .15 away from becoming the first 3-peat winner of the event since Marty Liquori in 1969-1971.

So why is he falling to #7? Because it’s quite possible his upside is limited to being #3 in the US.

Do you realize that Waskom (23 years, 66 days old) is 55 days older than Cole Hocker and almost two years older than Hobbs Kessler? And 3:43 miler Yared Nuguse only just turned 25. I know Waskom made the team in 2023 but it’s quite possible he never makes another US team.

Team: Brooks Beasts

If you have the opportunity to sign an NCAA men’s 1500 champ for less than an absurd amount of money, recent history says you should do it. I can see why adidas (they already have a ton invested in Kessler), Nike (Hocker), and On (Nuguse) wouldn’t be interested in Waskom but the Beasts got a steal with Kerr a few years ago and should go all-in on Waskom.

#8 Taylor Roe, Oklahoma State

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Before Katelyn Tuohy and Parker Valby took over the NCAA distance world, Roe was the NCAA XC runner-up in 2020 and the NCAA 3,000 champ in 2022.

If I was a pro team, I’d immediately call up Oklahoma State coach Dave Smith and ask him if he thinks Roe has marathon potential. Because if the answer is yes, then she probably should be picked #3 overall. If the answer is no, I’d tumble her down. One huge positive about Roe is she was a warrior for Oklahoma State.

Team selecting: Puma Elite

Amy and Alistair Cragg have had marathon success with Fiona O’Keeffe already signed Oklahaoma State’s Isai Rodriguez last year.

#9 Sophie O’Sullivan, Washington

Sophie is the Bronny James of this draft. Given her bloodlines, many thought she had the potential to go #1 overall after running 4:02 at Worlds for Ireland last year. However, her final year of college was a huge disappointment, much like Bronny’s first year at USC.

Many uninformed fans may think that someone who was 12th at the last two NCAA 1500s and never ran faster than 4:08 in a college race should not be drafted at all. Not me. She has to be a lottery pick. When I was coaching at Cornell, I said I don’t recruit times, I recruit talent. Considering her mother is a former world champ (Sonia O’Sullivan) and her father a famous coach (Nic Bideau), she’s bound to generate news coverage as well.

Team: Nike Union Athletic Club

Life’s not fair and when your mom is the assistant coach, it pays dividends.

#10 Parker Stokes, Georgetown

Stokes is arguably the biggest faller on my draft board as he legitimately could make the Olympic team this year in the steeplechase. So why don’t I have him higher? Because I don’t see a lot of upside for the NCAA steeple champ other than what you are getting right now. How is someone who was never in the top 120 at NCAA XC going to be one of the top guys in the world?

Stokes is a great steeplechaser but I’m not sure he’s a great runner. And to be a great pro, you need to be a great runner. He was a steeple specialist in high school. That being said, he is a 3:57 miler who won the Big East indoor mile in 2022.

Team: UA Mission Run Baltimore Distance

Hanna Tropf, who run UA’s Sports Marketing for running, is a Georgetown alum.

#11 – Alex Maier, Oklahoma State

Even in the era of supershoes, it’s not every day that an American comes out with a 13:11 5,000 pb who was top 5 at NCAA XC and both NXN and Foot Locker XC in high school. Much of what I wrote about Taylor Roe applies to Maier. If Dave Smith thinks he can be any good at the marathon, this guy must be signed immediately as he could be a better version of Ryan Vail, maybe even a Scott Fauble type.

Of course, it’s also possible that Maier, who didn’t score at his final NCAAs (9th 10,000, 17th 5,000 — though he was banged up entering the meet), is kind of past his peak. He was 5th at Foot Locker way back in 10th grade in 2016.

#12 Luke Houser, Washington

I know Houser has won the last two NCAA indoor mile titles but if I’m a shoe exec, am I really going to give a ton of cash out to a guy who may only be the third-best miler on his NCAA team and just got last in the NCAA final? In HS, he wasn’t as good as Waskom and I still think that’s the case. Houser’s 1500 upside seems limited given his 1:49 800 pb, and while he was good at XC in college (2nd at Pac-12s), he was never an All-American so I double he’s strong enough to make it in the 5,000.

All of that being said, history says drafting him this low would be a mistake. The previous four NCAA mile champs were Mario Garcia Romo (4th at 2022 Worlds), Cole Hocker (6th at 2021 Olympics), Geordie Beamish (2024 world indoor champ), and Josh Kerr (2023 world outdoor 1500 champ).

#13 Bailey Hertenstein, Colorado

Hertesenstein, a former 1500 runner, ended her NCAA career with a 3rd place finish in the 5000, where she ran a 15:10 pb. She also was 5th at 2022 NCAA XC. Considering CU has produced a TON of top notch female pros, if I was a shoe exec, I’d most definitely want to talk to her.

#14 Olivia Howell, Texas

Olivia Howell wins the NCAA mile

Howell was only 8th at her final NCAAs in the 1500 but she won the indoor mile title in 2023 for Illinois.

Honorable mention: Yusuf Bizimana, Texas

The 2023 NCAA indoor 800 champ and outdoor runner-up certainly didn’t have the senior year he envisioned as he didn’t make the final indoors and was only 6th outdoors. Plus his pb is only 1:45.74 (48.11 in the 800).

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MB: 2024 Track and Mock Draft – Here are you 14 lottery selections

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