2024 NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships

Shane Cohen's Winning Moment on Friday Had Parallels Of A Virginia Legend

Shane Cohen's Winning Moment on Friday Had Parallels Of A Virginia Legend

A wild finish in the men's 800m may have been the story of the meet on Friday at the NCAA Outdoor Championships, as a former Division II athlete starred.

Jun 8, 2024 by Cory Mull

EUGENE -- On Wednesday, the parallels began circulating after Shane Cohen's qualifying performance in the semifinal round of the men's 800m at the NCAA Outdoor Championships.

It was then when the Pennsylvania native first began hearing about Robby Andrews, the former Virginia legend and NCAA Champion who cut his teeth with a blitzing kick to win the collegiate final in 2011.

Cohen's performance in the first round was a carbon copy. 

"Obviously, this weekend and regionals, his name was being brought up a lot," Cohen said. 

On Friday, Cohen, a Lower Moreland (PA) graduate in 2019 who reached the PIAA State Outdoor Championships in the 400m but not the 800m, replicated that move on an even bigger stage, swinging into lane four as he drove down the final straightaway and clinched his first NCAA Division I title in a new personal best -- and masterclass -- time of 1:44.97. 

It was nearly identical to Andrews' winning tactics from 2011, and it was a nearly identical time, too, just 0.25 seconds removed from the performance. 

"My coaches said, 'Run all the way through,'" Cohen said. "That's what I did. I was able to have just enough to secure the win and be able to hold on." 

The effort was breathtaking in many respects, mostly for the shocking and down-to-the-wire move, but Cohen's win also came at the expense of Texas A&M's Sam Whitmarsh, who dialed it down the stretch, too. The Texas A&M athlete, who was the NCAA leader with a time of 1:44.46 this season, came up just short in 1:45.10.

Cohen was a fifth-year graduate transfer from the University of Tampa who owned a 1:48.25 personal best from 2022 at the NCAA Division II Outdoor Championships. He had never won a national title at Tampa, and he finished his senior year with the program with a season best of 1:53.79. In high school, his personal best at the distance was 1:58.37.

But he did not give up after high school nor after 2023, ultimately reaching out to Virginia's Vin Lananna while he was in the portal. He isn't quite sure why the legendary coach took a chance on him. 

"I have no idea," he said. "I really have no idea. It was my attitude and my willingness and the way I race. They asked for some film of how I raced at Tampa." 

Cohen was a two-time NCAA Division II Outdoor qualifier, finishing as high as sixth in 2022.

He ran indoors for the first time this winter with the Cavaliers and clocked a best of 1:48.15, then lowered his 1,500m in March at the Raleigh Relays, clocking a time of 3:47.34.

Cohen ultimately kept racing over the season, running 11 times before the NCAA Championships. His confidence swooned when he finally dipped under 1:48 at ACCs, authoring a time of 1:47.50 in the prelims and then a 1:46.89 final, which netted him a third-place finish. 

He then struck gold at the NCAA East Regional, finishing fourth in 1:45.36 to claim his ticket to nationals.

"ACCs, things started clicking for me," he said. "Once ACCs hit, I really thought there was a shot I could make it here, let alone win. The pieces came together, between coach and I. I put the pieces together." 

Fortunately for Cohen, his moment should have lasting effects. 

Performances like his tend to invite conversations on bigger professional stages. That being said, though, Cohen hadn't heard from a single agent before NCAAs. He didn't even know how the process worked. 

"It's funny you said that," Cohen said. "I was only a 1:48 guy after last year. I have no idea how that works. I haven't even talked to my coaches about it. NCAAs was a business. I wanted to take care of business. That's all that was going through my mind." 

Cohen's performance from ACCs booked his ticket to the Trials. His moment on Friday elevated him to the seventh-best 800m runner this season in the U.S. 

He's 0.27 seconds shy of an Olympic standard at the distance.

Perhaps now is a fitting time to start thinking about the next steps.

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