2024 NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships

It Could Be A Wild Ride In The Men's 1,500m Final On Friday At NCAA Outdoor

It Could Be A Wild Ride In The Men's 1,500m Final On Friday At NCAA Outdoor

The race for an NCAA men's title in the 1,500m is as deep as ever. Wednesday's prelims set up what's going to be an exciting stage in the final.

Jun 6, 2024 by Cory Mull

EUGENE -- The preliminaries of the men's 1,500 meters at the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships isn't always a predicator of what's to come in the finals. 

Take the 2022 race, for instance. A total of 12 men broke 3:40 for the distance over the first two heats, ensuring their places in the championship. 

But then no single athlete ran faster than 3:45 in the final. 

For anyone who watches their fair share of track, that's no surprise. Championship racing isn't about record timing but elite tactics. This year might be different, though. There's reason to think 2024's installment could harbor visions of 2021, when Cole Hocker took the race to its limit and clocked a winning time of 3:35.35, pulling five men under 3:40 and beating then-NCAA record-holder Yared Nuguse over a 52.23 final lap. 

Of course, running fast isn't the only variable. There are other factors to consider. 

Chief among them is Washington. The Huskies have absolutely owned this race over the last two years. Joe Waskom won outdoors in 2022, Luke Houser added indoor mile tallies in 2023 and 2024 and Nathan Green claimed last year's title in 3:42.78.

All three men return for Friday's final. 

But so too does Northern Arizona's Colin Sahlman, the No. 2 ranked NCAA runner of all-time at 3:33.96. Sahlman said he tried something different with his tactics in the opening circuit on Wednesday and closed hard for a time of 3:37.43.

"We wanted to mess around with some tactics today," Sahlman said. "I went out toward the back of the pack, just to see if I could move up. I feel like I did that perfectly and got right into position with 400m to go. It worked out the way we planned it out." 

Sahlman may pose the biggest threat to Washington's dominance.

Then there's North Carolina's Ethan Strand, who ran the 11th-fastest collegiate 1,500m of all-time in April in 3:35.60. He submitted his entry into the final over the slower first heat, registering a time of 3:39.93. And then there's Villanova's Liam Murphy and Oregon's Elliott Cook, who won the first and second heats overall in times of 3:39.68 and 3:37.25.

Cook last made a 1,500m field in 2022, though he didn't make the final. He was seventh in the mile last year over the indoor season. 

After Wednesday's race, though, he was confident in his chances. His performance was a new PR.

"Lot of confidence right now," Cook said. "You could put that heat together and say that's the final and most people would believe you. So to be able to come out and do that today, have a little second PR, make me feel like that. i'm excited to see what happens in the final. I think it can go either wya, it can go fast or it can go slow. I can win it either way."

Murphy, meanwhile, has been a madman at the distance. The Villanova senior broke through in April at Bryan Clay, hitting 3:36 on the clock before going on to claim a Big EAST title a month later. In April, he also kicked hard in both the 4xmile and DMR to give the Wildcats two massive wins at the Penn Relays.

With Washington operating three across in the final, the race could be decided upon the pace for which the field operates at. A slow early go and this thing should come down to the wire -- with every man believing their kick reigns supreme.

Ultimately, though, it could come down not to who but when someone makes a move. 

At the Prefontaine Classic just a few weeks ago at Hayward Field, the reigning world champion Josh Kerr made a risky play at 600 meters in the Bowerman Mile, moving on Jakob Ingebrigtsen, whom Kerr beat at worlds in Budapest. That tactic worked again at Pre, with Kerr winning in a world-leading mile time of 3:45.34. 

While he later called it a "dumb" move, it also won him a high-stakes race. 

Do the NCAA men have anything to learn from Kerr? 

We'll find out.

Men's 1500 Meters, Semifinal Results 

  1. Elliott Cook - Oregon [JR] - 3:37.25
  2. Adam Spencer - Wisconsin [JR] - 3:37.32
  3. Colin Sahlman - Northern Arizona [SO] - 3:37.43
  4. Nathan Green - Washington [SO] - 3:37.51
  5. Luke Houser - Washington [SR] - 3:37.53
  6. Ezekiel Rop - Iowa State [SR] - 3:37.62
  7. Joe Waskom - Washington [JR] - 3:37.93
  8. Rheinhardt Harrison - Oregon [FR] - 3:38.70
  9. Alex Stitt - Oklahoma State [JR] - 3:38.90
  10. Peter Smith - Iowa State [SR] - 3:39.23
  11. Isaac Basten - Drake [SR] - 3:39.60
  12. Liam Murphy - Villanova [JR] - 3:39.68
  13. Anass Essayi - South Carolina [JR] - 3:39.75
  14. Wes Porter - Virginia [JR] - 3:39.88
  15. Ethan Strand - North Carolina [SO] - 3:39.93
  16. Damien Dilcher - Iona [SR] - 3:40.07
  17. Parvej Khan - Florida [FR] - 3:40.10
  18. Charlie O'Donovan - Villanova [SR] - 3:40.31
  19. Tomas Palfrey - Oregon [SO] - 3:40.82
  20. Steven Jackson - Boston College [JR] - 3:40.85
  21. Gary Martin - Virginia [SO] - 3:41.43
  22. Benne Anderson - Syracuse [FR] - 3:42.06
  23. Damian Hackett - Cornell [JR] - 3:43.34
  24. Nick Foster - Michigan [SR] - 3:44.24

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