2024 NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships

The Top Nine Things We Learned From The NCAA Outdoor Championships

The Top Nine Things We Learned From The NCAA Outdoor Championships

We were left with these nine incredible storylines at the NCAA Outdoor Championships this weekend in Eugene.

Jun 9, 2024 by Cory Mull
The Top Nine Things We Learned From The NCAA Outdoor Championships

EUGENE -- You can never quite predict the many outcomes of the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships.

The momentum swings like a pendulum, operating one way and then the other, before you ultimately find yourself with a first-time champion, an all-time record, a did-you-believe-it moment, or maybe a team title decided in the final event of the night. 

Pick your poison. Nationals always hits. For us track aficionados, it also keeps us coming back for more. The four-day tally at Hayward Field featured thousands of fans from across the United States. We had World No. 1s, NCAA records and a ridiculous performance that may never be copied. 

Undoubtedly, there was a lot to tackle over Friday and Saturday's final days of action at NCAAs, so we decided to break down our top nine moments from the weekend spread across the men's and women's fields.

If you're searching for more content on nationals, please make sure to check out the links above, including full photo albums, interviews, stories, breakouts and more. 


1. The 'Fab Four' Women Of Arkansas Might Have Achieved A Feat That Will Never Be Topped In History

Much has been made of the historic 400 meter performance of Nickisha Pryce, Kalyn Brown, Amber Anning and Rosey Effiong on Saturday at the NCAA Outdoor Championships. 

Ushering in a historic moment of four women under 50 seconds in the the NCAA final, the 'Fab Four' perfected a signature race that may never be replicated again.

Pryce, the 23-year-old Jamaican, broke the collegiate and Jamaican national record in 48.89 and became the first woman in the NCAA ranks to run under 49 seconds. Brown, meanwhile, tied Britton Wilson's collegiate record from last year, hitting 49.13 on the clock while doing so as a collegiate freshman. 

Then there was Anning and Effiong, who followed in 49.59 and 49.72, with the ladies in lanes 5, 6, 7 and 8 creating a virtuoso finish.

It all had to start somewhere. 

When asked where it began, Anning was quite succinct.

"Quite early before SECs we did a 450m," she said. "We had to come through in, 'What was it, 53?' 53. We came through in 51, all of us. Like 51-high. And I was like, 'Yeah, we're ready to go.' We were able to do this in practice."

The following meet, the group went 1-2-3 at SECs, while Effiong was fifth in 50.75. Two weeks later, the foursome elevated by going 1-2-3-4 at the NCAA West Regional.

"Put us all in the race, we're competitive. Seconds are going to be dropped," Anning added. "I feel like leading into SECs and seeing the times we were able to accomplish there. It was like, 'Yeah, we're ready to go.' As long as we kept the momentum going, we would be good for nationals."

The race should have ramifications for all four involved. 

Pryce, now the world lead at 400m, seems like a lock for Team Jamaica ahead of the Paris Olympics, while Anning might have a similar outcome for Great Britain -- both will return to their home countries in a few weeks for their national trials. 

Brown and Effiong, however, will have to fight at the U.S. Olympic Trials. 

Brown is currently the No. 2 athlete in the world at the distance at the tender age of 19, just year removed from a season-best of 53.84 as a high school senior in North Carolina. But the 400m is among the toughest teams to make on the U.S. side.

2. Parker Valby Was Truly Unstoppable In 2024 And May Have Officially Claimed GOAT Status

The evolution of Parker Valby's influence on the NCAA may have began in a loss. 

Two years ago, in this very same meet and at this very same venue, while the Florida star was just a freshman running in the NCAA Outdoor 5,000 meter final against North Carolina State's Katelyn Tuohy, it was Valby who drove the race forward with four laps to go. 

It may have been the first indication of what was to come.

That race ended in a loss, and so did Valby's next major championship during cross country -- also to Tuohy -- but the Gator never stopped bringing the heat, ultimately winning NCAAs as a sophomore in the 5K.

Valby's junior year at Florida has been nothing short of remarkable. She went on to claim the national cross country title in November, then followed with indoor national championships in the 3K and 5K and two more on Thursday and Saturday in the 10K and 5K. 

She finished on Saturday by re-setting her own NCAA record in the 5K in 14:52.18. She won 15 out of her last 16 races, with her lone set-back coming in a regional qualifying race where her intention was more on just pushing through. 

Valby confirmed that this is her last year in a Gators jersey and so she'll leave with three NCAA records. 

So was it that moment two years ago? Is that when it all changed? 

"I went for it at nationals," she said of her 5K loss in 2022. "It didn't play out in my favor. Since then, it's felt good." 

In total, Valby has garnered six national titles over the last calendar year of action dating back to the 2023 NCAA Outdoor Championships.

That progress has sling-shotted the Florida star not just into the record books, but also into the quickly-moving culture-setting in track and field. She rarely sat on anyone in championship finals and always made headlines. 

There were times when she "dropped the mic" in interviews, brushed by questions in mixed zones or even waved to the crowd during a 10K final like she did on Thursday. That manner brought Valby closer to her fans. 

Nike signed her to an NIL deal in June of last year, while Runner's World reported this month that she's likely to command an initial pro contract of $650,000 per year. 

On Tuesday, before the NCAA Outdoor Championships began at Hayward Field, she was asked what she would miss about her time at Gainesville. 

"That's a really tough question," she said. "I've enjoyed Gainesville so much. So much to do. No. 1, it'd probably be going to Whole Foods. I'll miss that the most. No. 2, it would probably be the cows. Going to miss them. Yeah, that's pretty much it." 

While it would be true to say that Valby has gained followers and influence based around her performances and ability as a track athlete, it also would be hard to dismiss her appeal off the track, too, with those quirky interviews and fun-loving moments. 

Those two combined statures have elevated her into rare company in the NCAA. She operated in a place where few others have ever been. 

"It's very surreal," she said. "Younger me definitely looked up to Katelyn Tuohy and Taylor Roe and all of them. So it's incredible to be in their position and I'm super grateful for everyone and everything that it took to get here." 

3. Washington's Joe Waskom Found A Way To Win The 1,500m Again And Continued the Huskies War Path Through The Distance

Another win on Friday made it five straight for the Washington men in the 1,500m collegiate final.

That's five straight NCAA wins across the outdoor and indoor track and field seasons dating back to the 2022 NCAA Outdoor final in the 1,500m. 

"No, that's a hard one to get your head wrapped around," Washington coach Andy Powell said on Friday. "Super excited for Joe." 

Washington senior Joe Waskom won his second title in three seasons, somewhat unbelievably, swinging around from a boxed position with less than 50 meters to go to win in 3:39.48. 

"I came into this program five years ago not knowing what to expect," he said. "And leaving here and winning two titles and making a world team is great, but what I feel like I'm going to remember the most is the bonds I've made with my teammates and coaches." 

Waskom did not dominate over his final outdoor season, nor did he reach the highs of 2023 when he set a new lifetime best of 3:35.86. He ran 3:43 at Bryan Clay, authored a 3:40 at Payton Jordan and was fourth in the Pac-12 final. 

But Waskom also never stopped believing in the process. 

"People always love fast times," Waskom said. "It's what gets media attention. But in our reality, we don't really care much enough for all that publicity stuff. We care about getting this title today.

"We (were) prepared for any single race plan today. If it was 3:34 today, we all could have done it. If it was 3:55. We were ready for anything." 

Waskom, along with teammates Nathan Green and Luke Houser -- all three in the NCAA final and all three owners of, at some point, an NCAA win -- went first, 10th and 12th.

4. Ole Miss Sprinter McKenzie Long Entered Into The Annals Of The NCAA

Only six sprint sweeps had ever been achieved at the NCAA Outdoor Championships prior to the weekend.

McKenzie Long issued the seventh. 

The 23-year-old Ole Miss redshirt senior secured her part of history, anchoring the team's 4x100 win in 42.34 before turning around with two more victories in the 100m and 200m with times of 10.82w and 21.83.

Her final race in an Ole Miss jersey was a world-leading time. 

"Just allowed my abilities to come through," she said. "And that's what I did." 

On Tuesday, Long dedicated her final championships to her late mother, a travel nurse who died in her sleep at the age of 45 from a heart attack earlier in the year. Four days after that declaration, Long made sure to realize it.

"She was my best friend," Long said. "She was my everything." 

Long said afterward that she will compete in both the 100m and 200m at the U.S. Olympic Trials. 

5. Nothing Was Guaranteed This Weekend, Even For The Stars Of The College Ranks

Every NCAA Championship features its fair share of surprises. 

This year proved no different. 

In the men's 5K, it was North Carolina's Parker Wolfe, a runner-up over the indoor season who finally capitalized and had the right stuff over the final 100 meters to win in 13:54.43. 

There was the men's 800m, a race that always offers its blend of chaos. There, Virginia's Shane Cohen, a former Division II standout, blitzed by the entire field over the homestretch to claim the win in 1:44.97. 

There was the women's 800m. Less a surprise than a reaffirmation, Stanford's Juliette Whittaker pulled past LSU's Michaela Rose, who won this race in 2023, to capture the crown in 1:59.61. It was her second straight win at 800m dating back to the indoor campaign.

And how about the women's 400mH? The 2023 winner, Michigan's Sarah Sutherland, may have been shocked to find USC's Jasmine Jones, a first-timer in the event over the spring, in line for the win.

But Jones, a former five-star recruit from Georgia, saved her best for last, clocking a World No. 3 time of 53.15.

6. The Transfer Portal Is Alive And Well, But Coaches Are Using It To Find Unsung Talent And Not Just Former DI Stars

Talent is in the eye of the beholder. 

While former high school stars littered the lineups in a variety of collegiate finals, the opposite was also the same. 

In the men's ranks, three eventual NCAA winners all held stories of perseverance, from Penn State's Cheickna Traore to Virginia's Shane Cohen to Houston's Louie Hinchliffe. 

Five years ago, Traore was a lightly-recruiting 400m runner from a New Jersey High School who signed with a NCAA Division III program. On Friday, he was a Division I champion at 200m who had reached the Olympic standard ...twice. He won the 200m final in 19.95.

Cohen walked-on to a Division II program at Tampa. While impressive, he didn't win a national title until Friday, too, lowering his lifetime best down to 1:44.97, which was a full three-seconds plus better than his top time at Tampa. 

And then there's Hinchliffe. 

The Sheffield, England native may have never reached his heights had he not decided to compete in a Senior Championship in 2022. After winning the 100m, he found his way to America, qualified for an NCAA final at Washington State, and then found himself at Houston a year later working with nine-time Olympic winner Carl Lewis.  

On Friday, Hinchliffe was the fastest man in the NCAA at 100 meters. He won the collegiate final in 9.95 seconds.

7. The Destruction Of The Decathlon NCAA Record By Leo Neugebauer

Friday marked another notch to the belt of legendary decathlete Leo Neugebauer, the 23-year-old multis star from Germany. 

The Texas star upped his former NCAA No. 1 all-time mark on Friday, passing last year's collegiate record of 8,836 en route to a final, masterful performance of 8,961 points. 

That effort was the eighth-best decathlon of all-time in the world, while Neugebauer became the sixth overall all-time performer at the multis in history. 

Consider the history.

The likes of Trey Hardee (Texas, 2006), Ashton Eaton (Oreogn, 2010), Lindon Victory (Texas A&M, 2017), Garrett Scantlilng (Georgia, 2015), Brian Brophy (Tennessee, 1992) and Mike Ramos (Washington, 1986) had all come before the German even hit the scene. 

But last year's NCAA win of 8,836, upping Garland's former NCAA record from 2022 while also simultaneously beating the Georgia athlete in his final year in a collegiate jersey, may have set the stage for this year. 

8. Harvard Held A Strong Position At NCAAs, And Looks To Remain As An Ivy Power 

Between Maia Ramsden's third straight national title in the 1,500m -- two outdoor wins spread across the 2023 and 2024 seasons and an indoor crown in the mile -- Graham Blanks' fifth-place outing in the 5K, Tito Alofe's fourth-place nod in the high jump, Milina Wepiwe's top eight honor in the discus and Kenneth Ikeji's runner-up performance in the hammer, the Crimson firmly put their stamp on the NCAA Outdoor Championships, claiming 12 points on the men's side and 17 on the women's. 

That was good for team finishes of 23rd and 16th, respectively, across both fields.

While that's a step back from last year's outputs of ninth and 11th -- which were both school records -- it still retained the Crimson's position among the NCAA elite. 

And that's no small order for an Ivy program. 

Even competing alongside programs like Florida, Georgia and USC can be a challenge for most others. But over the last few years, Harvard has carved its place.

It's a fair question to wonder how Harvard will re-load on the women's side following the departure of Ramsden this season -- she said after her 1,500m final that she is finalizing her professional decision -- but the Crimson are likely to build upon the 800m campaigns of Sophia Gorriaran and Victoria Bossong -- both reached the NCAAs, with Gorriaran making the final. 

9. Mike Holloway Is A Man Who Gets The Job Done

On Tuesday, a day ahead of the first round of the NCAA Outdoor Championships, Holloway was asked how he manages in a situation were a national team title is within grasp.

"It's not like a football or basketball game where you can change the course of the game by making some type of change," he said, "but the biggest thing is, and we always talk about this, you just have to come in here and be you," Holloway said. "If you come in and do what you've been doing all year, you'll be fine. It's the people that come in here and change things, the people who come in here and try to be someone who they're not, they get themselves in trouble.

"The biggest thing is, if you have something go wrong, you have to flush it, let it go and move on to the next thing," he said. 

Going into the final event of the day on Friday, Holloway's men were trailing Auburn by five. 

The meet hadn't gone perfectly. The team's top miler, Parvej Khan, did not make the 1,500m final, while points were left on the table in a few other events. 

But Florida scored across seven events, which was good enough to give the program a chance.

While the Gators needed a third-place finish or higher to claim a title -- a fourth-place finish would have left Florida in a tie with Auburn -- it also had to flat-out beat Alabama and USC, which were also in the final.

Holloway's men were third, giving Florida its third straight outdoor title, as well as its seventh outdoors all-time. 

"I get asked all the time, 'What's your favorite championship' and my answer is always the same. 'The next one,'" Holloway said. 

Holloway maintained that Florida' resolve and calm under pressure was what ultimately secured the title. 

"There's nothing you can do about those things," he said. 

The win was another reminder of Florida's firepower, year in and year out. 

"This is serious business for us," he said. "We haven't been off the podium in 15 years, so this is not something new for us." 

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