This is day 3 of the 2024 NCAA Championships, and Paul Merca was there for RunBlogRun! We asked Paul to provide us with his big 3 moments each day from Eugene. Paul also provided us with photos as well. Paul Merca is the voice behind PaulMergablogspot.com, and has covered our sport at the highest levels since 1980. 

EUGENE—University of Washington men’s head coach Andy Powell knows how to prepare guys to race the 1500 meters or the mile in big meets, such as the NCAA track & field championships.

The man whose streak dates back to the 2011 outdoor season, when Oregon’s Matthew Centrowitz won the 1500 meters (Andrew Wheating won the 2010 outdoor title but was primarily coached by Vin Lananna at Oregon), put Joe Waskom in the winner’s circle Friday night. Waskom came all the way from seventh place with 200 meters to go to win his second career NCAA outdoor title.

Waskom’s win was the fifth consecutive 1500/mile title won by a Husky, dating back to the 2022 NCAA outdoor race won by Waskom, the 2023 indoor mile won by Luke Houser, the 2023 outdoor 1500 won by Nathan Green, and this year’s indoor mile won by Houser.

As expected in a championship race situation, the pace was slow. The field, led by teammate Houser, went through in 62 seconds at 400 and 2:04 through 800.

Once the field passed the 800 mark, the real jockeying for position began as the field went through 1200 meters in about 3:00.

As they approached the final turn, Waskom was in fifth position close to the rail but saw an opening when Wisconsin’s Adam Spencer swung to the outside.

Like a running back following a lead blocker, Waskom patiently waited for Spencer to make his move, then when the leaders exited the turn and made the dash for home, he really hit the accelerator.

Waskom swung to lane three as Oregon’s Elliott Cook, the Pac-12 champion last month, held the rail, seemingly riding the roar of the Hayward Field faithful trying to will him to victory.

In the last twenty meters, Cook started losing his form, seemingly flailing away to get to the line first. Waskom held his form, catching Cook at the 1496-meter mark to win in 3:39.48 to Cook’s 3:39.57.

Green, the defending champion who beat Waskom at last year’s NCAA meet in Austin, Texas, finished tenth in 3:40.98, and Houser, who did most of the early work up front, was twelfth in 3:48.86.

In the mixed zone, Waskom told reporters, “I came into this program five years ago not knowing what to expect. Leaving here with two titles and making a world team is great, but I feel I will remember the most the bonds I made with my teammates, coaches, and lifelong friends and memories. The hardships of training in the rain, blood, sweat, and tears with the boys.”

Waskom wins the 1,500m once again! photo by Paul Merca

“My stomach was hurting, and I looked to my left. I knew I was gaining on those guys, and honestly, I was getting prepped to dive. I crossed the finish line, and I was lucky to know I won it, but the boys took it to the line, made me fight for it, and made me lose my lunch.”

When asked about how Powell prepares his athletes to race, Waskom said, “We don’t care too much about running fast times early, even though it gets all the publicity. We are prepped for every single race plan. We were ready to run 3:34 or 3:55, and that’s what makes us win five in a row.”

Amazingly, Waskom’s winning time was a season-best, considering his personal best is 3:34.64, set last year in Lignano, Italy.

Despite finishing tenth, defending champ Green was proud that the NCAA title stayed in the hands of the Huskies.

“The Joe Waskom I met way back when and the Joe Waskom I know now are two completely different people, and if you knew Joe the way I know Joe, you would not be surprised that he’s winning all this time.”

“Andy is the best miler coach in the history of miler coaches, and it shows that our boys are dedicated and will do anything to win. We’ll be competitive anytime, anywhere, anyplace.”

HINCHLIFFE COMES THROUGH TO TAKE THE 100M TITLE

In Wednesday’s semifinals, Houston’s Louie Hinchliffe ran 10.09, the fastest time in the three heats that winnowed the field from 24 to 9 for Friday’s finals.

Even though he’d run 10.00 in the NCAA West Regionals opening round two weeks earlier to get the Olympic standard, no one was quite sold on the native of Sheffield, England.

With pre-meet favorite Favour Ashe of Auburn in lane 2, and Houston teammate Shaun Maswanganyi in 3, Hinchliffe got a solid start, but was behind Ashe and LSU’s Godson Oghenebrume, who got great starts.

Hinchliffe surged over the last ten meters to take the victory in a personal best of 9.95. This time is the fastest by a British citizen this season and the sixth fastest in British history.

Hinchliffe became the seventh Cougar to win the national title in this event, joining his coach Carl Lewis (1981), Stanley Floyd (1982), Joe Deloach (1988), Leroy Burrell (1990), Samuel Jefferson (1994) and Cameron Burrell (2018).

Louie Hinchliffe takes the Men’s 100m, NCAA 2024, photo by Paul Merca.

His journey to Houston started with a message to Houston head coach Carl Lewis after Louie entered the transfer portal. He asked the 9-time Olympic gold medalist, “Can you fix me?”

Turned out that Hinchliffe had problems with his hamstring and his back. He felt that while he was at WSU, he was just running and not performing.

“I didn’t have as much guidance as I do now,”  said Hinchliffe.

“I’ve got to forget about this now and focus on the job at hand. The main job is the Olympics. I need to shift my focus to the Olympic trials.”

Lewis said afterward that Hinchliffe will take a few days off before starting preparations for the British Championships. He said that at the beginning of the year, the goal was for him to run 10.00 this season.

“It was a matter of him executing the race and winning the race. When Louie ran 9.84 (wind-aided in the West Regionals), I knew he was ready to go under 10 seconds, and he did it.”

He is set to compete at the UK Championships in Manchester later this month, which act as the British trials for this summer’s Paris Olympics.

GATORS WIN THE TEAM TITLE

Mike Holloway’s Florida Gators, ranked third in the country behind Arkansas and Alabama, won their third straight NCAA men’s title and seventh in school history.

Florida contributed in the long jump, 4×100, 100, 400, discus, triple jump, and 200 to put the Gators five points behind Auburn, 40-35. USC and Alabama tied for third with 32.

Auburn had no control over their fate, as the Tigers didn’t have an entry in the climactic 4 x 400 relay finals to decide the team title, but Florida, USC, and Alabama did.

Florida needed to finish third or better in the 4×4 to win the national title, while USC and Alabama had to win out to take the title.

Florida does it again! photo by Paul Merca

USC was disqualified in the first event of the day when the Trojans were called for obstruction in the 4 x 100 relay after finishing seventh, losing two points.

The team of Raheem Hayles, Jevaughn Powell, Rios Prude Jr., and Jenoah McKiver finished third in 2:58.98 despite leading for most of the race.

In the last 200 meters, the Gators were overtaken by Texas A&M and Arkansas. The Aggies ran a meet record of 2:58.37, while the Razorbacks ran 2:58.83.

Afterwards, Holloway said, “It was a tough day, we had some things not go our way. We built this program with a lot of pride and a lot of passion. When we talk about a standard that we fight to, that’s what you saw today. Somebody stepped up and got it done every time something went wrong.”

“We had adversity throughout the year, and people got nicked up. I want to shout out to my strength and conditioning coach, Matt DeLancey, Yolanda Lawrence in the training room, and our wonderful staff. They piecing people back together when they got a little dinged up, and then my coaching staff has just been phenomenal. Again, we’re a team, we’re family. We talk about a standard, and we fight to win every single day, and that’s what you saw this week.”

As the NCAA championships end Saturday, the Gators will look to add a women’s team title, as Parker Valby returns to the track to run the 5000, two days after winning the 10000. That said, Florida has to hope that heavy favorite Arkansas slips up, particularly in the two relays and the 400, where the Razorbacks have four entries.

To follow NCAA results, please go to: https://flashresults.ncaa.com/Outdoor/2024/index.htm

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