WTW: The Biggest Winners and Losers From 2024 NCAA Outdoors – The NCAAs That Were

The Week That Was in Running, June 3-9, 2024

The 2024 NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships were held in Eugene last week and thankfully I wasn’t there (Jonathan Gault was, and if you missed our extensive on-site coverage, catch up here). Ok, I’ll admit my disdain for Eugene isn’t totally fair and is a bit selfish. As a parent of a young child, I don’t get to travel a lot and when I do, I want to go somewhere new. Eugene is the opposite of new.

On Friday, as the men’s 1500 final was about to start, my college roommate texted me excitedly to tell me he had signed up for ESPN just to watch the race. Then he added, “Stands looked empty.” I then started to defend Eugene and said, “Hey if you live in Eugene, are you really going to spend days at Pre, NCAAs, and then the Olympic Trials?”

And I don’t want to hear that the College World Series is always in Omaha. They don’t also hold the All-Star Game (Pre Classic) and World Series (Olympic Trials) there every year as well.

You only have so much free time and disposable cash.

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Anyways, the action was great as always. Here are my biggest winners.

Chris Johnson – Arkansas

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I know LetsRun.com primarily focuses on distances, but sprinters/sprint coaches top this list. What Johnson’s Razorback women did in the 400 at NCAAs was wild, and what he’s accomplished in his first year as director of the program is remarkable. In case you didn’t know, they went 1-2-3-4 in the women’s 400 (that’s never been done before in any event). The slowest individual time of the Arkansas quartet was 49.72 — that’s #8 in the world this year — and to cap it off, they came back and broke the NCAA 4 x 400 record by nearly four seconds in running 3:17.96 (old record 3:21.92), winning Arkansas the team title by in the process.

People think Washington’s success in the 1500/mile has been impressive. Imagine if they went 1-2-3-4 at NCAAs with everyone running 3:29-3:30 in the process. And this all comes a year after Johnson had Britton Wilson rocking the 400/400 hurdles for Arkansas.

The improvement of all four Razorback women is really impressive. Three of the four were 53-second women before entering Arkansas.

Improvement by Arkansas 400 Runners
Nickisha Pryce – 53.38 HS pb, never ran faster in two years at Iowa Western CC. Now 48.89.
Kaylyn Brown – 53.11 in HS last year. Now 49.13.
Amber Anning – 51.78 in 2 years at LSU. Now 49.51.
Rosey Effiong – 53.80 in HS. Now 49.72.

There is a thread on the messageboard implying the improvements are too good to be true and one of the arguments made is that Kaylyn Brown has improved by nearly four seconds in a single year. That’s not fair and is a purposely misguided way of looking at things.

Brown was a middle school prodigy who got hurt a lot in high school. Now she has one of the top coaches and training groups in the world and is thriving. Middle school prodigy? Yes. Guess what time she ran in middle school? 54.01.

“It can get hard. I struggled with injuries my whole high school career,” Brown said to WSOC-TV last August. “My freshman year (in HS) I tore my hips and I pulled my hamstrings three times. It’s been a rough high school career but I was able to push through it and come back better than ever.”

McKenzie Long – Ole Miss

Talk about an incredible way to end your NCAA career. Long swept the 100 (10.82, +2.2) and 200 (21.83, +1.0) individual titles and also led Ole Miss to the 4 x 100 crown for the first time ever. Not bad for someone who had never won an NCAA title before (she was 2nd indoors in the 200 and 2nd last year outdoors in the 200) and truly remarkable for someone who started their collegiate career in 2019 for NC State and couldn’t break 11.48 or 23.00 while running for Wolfpack or even make the ACC final.

Now she’s a double individual NCAA champ and a favorite for an Olympic medal in my book. And given the struggles of the Jamaicans in 2024, it might even be a gold medal.

Last year, four different women broke 22.00 in the 200 a total of 14 different times, but Long is the only woman under 22.00 in all of 2024. To be fair, it should be pointed out that last year, only two of the 14 sub-22s came before July, but reigning Olympic champ Elaine Thompson-Herah pulled up injured in NYC on Sunday and Long leads the rest of the world in the 200 by a staggering 0.24 so far this year.

And Long has accomplished all of this while having a heavy heart as her mother died of a heart attack at the age of 45 in February.

The 5 Fastest 200m Women of 2024
1 21.83 1 McKenzie Long USA
2 22.07 -0.3 Sydney McLaughlin-Levrone USA
3 22.08 1.2 Gabby Thomas USA
3 22.08 1 JaMeesia Ford USA
5 22.16Ai Julien Alfred LCA

*ESPN video highlights of Long on SportsCenter

Parker Wolfe – UNC

The 20-year-old junior took down the collegiate record holder in the 5,000 and 10,000, Nico Young, as well as NCAA XC champ Graham Blanks in the 5,000 to win his first NCAA title.

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At age 20, Wolfe has amassed PBs of 3:36.25 for 1500, 3:54.17 for the mile, 7:37.41 for the 3,000, and 13:13.61 for 5,000 and now he has won the NCAA 5,000 title. To win the 5,000 at age 20 is a very rare occurrence. Wolfe is only the third collegian in the last 25 years to win the NCAA 5,000 before turning 21 and the first to do it since Grant Fisher accomplished the feat seven years ago for Stanford (like Fisher, Wolfe is also coached by coached by Chris Miltenberg).

Age of NCAA 5000 Winners, 1999-2024
1999 Bernard Lagat Wash. St. 14:01.09 24 years, 5 months
2000 Brad Hauser Stanford 13:48.80 23 years, 2 months
2001 Jonathon Riley Stanford 13:42.51 22 years, 5 months
2002 David Kimani Alabama 13:59.30 25 years, 3 months
2003 Alistair Cragg Arkansas 13:47.87 23 years, 0 months
2004 Robert Cheseret Arizona 13:49.85 20 years, 8 months
2005 Ryan Hall Stanford 13:22.32 22 years, 7 months
2006 Chris Solinsky Wisconsin 14:11.71 21 years, 6 months
2007 Chris Solinsky Wisconsin 13:35.12 22 years, 6 months
2008 Bobby Curtis Villanova 13:33.93 23 years, 6 months
2009 Galen Rupp Oregon 14:04.12 23 years, 1 month
2010 David McNeill Northern Ariz. 13:44.81 23 years, 8 months
2011 Sam Chelanga Liberty 13:29.30 26 years, 3 months
2012 Cameron Levins Southern Utah 13:40.05 23 years, 2 months
2013 Lawi Lalang Arizona 13:35.19 21 years, 11 months
2014 Lawi Lalang Arizona 13:18.36 22 years, 11 months
2015 Edward Cheserek Oregon 13:48.67 21 years, 4 months
2016 Edward Cheserek Oregon 13:25.59 22 years, 4 months
2017 Grant Fisher Stanford 14:35.60 20 years, 1 month
2018 Sean McGorty Stanford 13:54.81 23 years, 3 months
2019 Morgan McDonald Wisconsin 14:06.01 23 years, 1 month
2021 Cooper Teare Oregon 13:12.27 21 years, 9 months
2022 Olin Hacker Wisconsin 13:27.73 25 years, 0 months
2023 Ky Robinson Stanford 14:04.77 21 years, 3 months
2024 Parker Woffe UNC 13:54.43 20 years, 10 months

Shane Cohen – Virginia

Fifteen months ago, Shane Cohen ran 1:57.00 in an indoor 800 for DII University of Tampa and finished 11th. His seasonal best time all of last year was just 1:53.79 (his pb from 2022 was 1:48.25). Indoors this year, he didn’t even make the finals of ACCs. Outdoors, he was just 3rd at ACCs.

Now he’s run 1:44.79, he’s the NCAA DI outdoor champion, and he looks like the second coming of Robby Andrews/Nick Symmonds. To say he was a big winner last week is an understatement.

Joe Waskom – Washington

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Should we just start calling him “Big Meet Joe?”

Waskom rose to the occasion at the NCAA outdoor championships yet again. The last two years, he’s finished 11th and 4th in the Pac-12 1500, but NCAA outdoors always bring out a great version of Waskom. Waskom went from 7th with 150 meters to go to first at the finish line to win NCAA title #2. Waskom won in 2022, was second in 2023 (and also 2nd at USAs), and won again this year.

As our Jonathan Gault pointed out, since the turn of the century, “Leo Manzano (2005, 2008), Mac Fleet (2013, 2014), and Waskom (2022, 2024) are the only men to have won multiple NCAA 1500 titles, and Waskom, who was 2nd last year, was .15 away from becoming the first three-peat champion since Marty Liquori from 1969-71.”

Imagine for a minute that Waskom had finished third on his team at NCAAs on Friday (certainly a possibility since he has a pair of NCAA champions for teammates in Luke Houser and Nathan Green). Do you think the shoe companies would really be excited to sign him? He had a lot to lose by staying in school but it paid off handsomely for him at NCAAs.

Parker Valby – Florida

Valby pulling off two wins at NCAAs certainly wasn’t a surprise, but she was utterly dominant in doing so. In the 10,000 Valby set a championship record of 31:46.09 and won by 5+ seconds while in the 5,000 she set a collegiate record of 14:52.18 and won by 17+ seconds.

And we need to remind ourselves that often the collegiate careers of all-time NCAA greats don’t always end in amazing fashion. Go ask Katelyn Tuohy, Edward Cheserek, and Abbey Cooper how their final NCAAs went (Valby hasn’t turned pro and could go back next year, but I’d be shocked if she does as she’s already graduated).

And now my biggest losers.

Those That Lost The Most Last Week

Michaela Rose – LSU

Michaela Rose went into NCAAs as the second-fastest collegian in history thanks to the 1:58.37 she ran at Brian Clay in April. She left it with just a fourth-place finish and 2:01.03 clocking.

After winning the 800 last year outdoors, Rose didn’t win indoors this year but she at least ran well, running 1:59.81 in her loss. That can’t be said about her run on Saturday. Breaking 2:00 isn’t normally very hard for Rose. After running 1:58.37 at Brian Clay, she ran 1:58.89 at SECs and then 1:59.05 at regionals and even 1:59.90 in the prelims at NCAAs before laying a clunker in the final.

Rose fans should be troubled that she’ s getting slower evry time she runs. She doesn’t have much time to turn it around before the Olympic Trials start as the first round of the women’s 800 is on day 1: June 21.

The 8 Fastest US 800 Runners in 2024

1 1:57.87 Emily Mackay – New Balance Boston
2 1:57.98 Nia Akins – Brooks Beasts
3 1:58.37 Michaela Rose – LSU
4 1:58.48 Sage Hurta-Klecker –  OAC
5 1:58.77 Heather MacLean – New Balance Boston
6 1:59.29 Sanu Jallow – Arkansas
7 1:59.61 Juliette Whittaker – Stanford
8 1:59.93 McKenna Keegan — Nike UAC

Luke Houser – Washington

The 2023 and 2024 NCAA indoor mile champ was just 12th at NCAA outdoors in the 1500. In hindsight, maybe the 23-year-old should have gone pro after indoors. Houser has good endurance for a miler (2nd at Pac-12s in XC) but only has a 1:49 800 pb, so how big is his upside as a pro?

His teammate Nathan Green also wasn’t great last weekend. The 2023 NCAA 1500 champ went into NCAAs as the 2nd fastest man in the NCAA in 2024 and was coming off a 2nd-place showing at Pac-12s. He left it with a 10th-place finish, but he didn’t lose as much as Houser at NCAAs because he still has a year of eligibility remaining. He’s actually two years younger than Waskom and Houser. Green was born on April 10, 2003, while Waskom was born on April 12, 2001, and Houser on May 2, 2001.

Considering his age and that Green has a 1:46.50 800 pb and was third at Pac-12s in XC, I’m still very high on him. Next year, he’ll get a chance to shine all alone at UW.

Other Winners & Losers From Last Week

That was so much fun I’ve decided to extend the exercise to some of the non-NCAA action from last week.

Here are my biggest winners from the non-NCAA action last week

The Big Winners

Daniel Simmons – American Fork High School

The American high school senior and BYU commit from Utah destroyed Lex Young‘s US high school 5000 record of 13:34.96 by running 13:25.85 at the Portland Track Festival. While he came up a tiny bit short of his 13:25.00 goal (the US Olympic Trials auto standard), the time should still get Simmons into the Olympic Trials. Galen Rupp‘s 13:37.91 high school record stood for 19 years but it has now been broken three times by three different runners in the last 14 months.

In his previous meet at Utah state meet, Simmons ran the 800, 1600, 3200 triple and did quite well, running 8:36.79 to win the 3200, 4:01.27 to win the 1600 and then 1:53.37 to place sixth in the 800. He also ran a leg on the winning 4 x 800 relay team (7:35.22). And all of that was at 4,500 feet of elevation in Provo.

MB: A high school kid ran 13:25 and LetsRun is basically meh

Simmons wasn’t the only high schooler to run fast at the Portland Track Festival. Junior Owen Powell, the son of Washington coaches Maurica and Andy, put up a US #1 time in the 800 of 1:48.60. Powell, who won the Washington 3A state title in XC and the 800 during this academic year, has other PRs of 2:23.22 for 1k, 4:02.04 for the mile, and 8:41.03 for 3200.

Eric Holt – Empire Elite

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It’s not every day that a 29-year-old who lives at home and relies on his girlfriend to buy him meals when they go out to eat nearly takes down a world champion in the 1500, but that’s what happened at the NYC Grand Prix on Sunday. The Empire Elite’s Eric Holt, who does not have a shoe contract, ran a pb of 3:34.05 and nearly got the win over Jake Wightman (3:34.01) but he did take down World indoor bronze medallist Hobbs Kessler (3:34.41).

Holt, who has made the US final each of the last two years (4th in 2022, 12th last year), enters the US Olympic Trials in the form of his life as he has now PR’d at 800 (1:45.89), 1k (2:17.25), 1500 (3:34.05), mile (3:51.46), and 3k (7:51.26) this year.

Do I expect him to make the team? No. But could he? Yes. I still think the following guys have better chances than him — Nuguse, Hocker, Kessler, Waskom, Sahlman, Teare — but running 3:34 flat in blustery conditions is impressive.


Elaine Thompson Herah

In 2016 and 2021, ETH pulled off the double double — winning the 100 and 200 at two straight Olympics (she also won the 4 x 100 in 2021). But it’s fair to say her aspirations of glory at a third straight Olympics are over as over the weekend she only ran 11.48 in NYC and she pulled up lame at the end of the race. Couple that result with the fact that she only ran 11.30 at Pre and it’s safe to say the 31-year-old won’t be a factor at the Olympics (if she even makes it).


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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