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When OLIPOP found out Citius Mag was going to be at nationals this weekend, they sent us boxes on top of boxes of cans to hand out. And the runners came to grab them like moths to a flame. That’s because if anyone can enjoy the gut-healing properties of a prebiotic soda, then it’s a health-focused crowd of runners. Aren’t we all desperately looking for an excuse to still be able to enjoy the sweet taste of ginger ale, vintage cola, cream soda, and other soft drink classics without the guilt of over-indulging on sugar? That’s why it’s the runners’ soda!

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The Best of Boston: Presented by Kyle 🏆

Photo: Justin Britton | @justinbritton | Full Results

Look no further than the medal table at any World Championships to understand why the NCAA is the ultimate pipeline into the pro ranks as 36% of all medalists in Glasgow used eligibility. It’s our minor league system, except if the Long Island Ducks could occasionally beat the Yankees. To qualify indoors, athletes really only have to be good at one thing: time trials. To win indoors athletes need to be good at another: winning.

Here are my big 7 winners of the NCAA Indoor Championships:

The Queen of the Boards but not Hydration

The greatest cross country champion of all time might be open for debate, but if you’re talking about the indoor 5000m, there’s only one answer and that’s Parker Valby. She enjoyed some pacing assistance when setting the NCAA record of 14:56.11 at BU in December. That was no longer necessary this past weekend. Closing her last 1600m in 4:37, Valby put on a clinic, going as far as lapping women about to be named to the same All-American team. Her winning time of 14:52.79 narrowly missed the Olympic standard, which seems like the next box left to tick. 

It was the same story in the 3000m, except with a bit more patience, as Valby allowed others to stay close for a while before running away to finish in 8:41.50. Great performances, but they pale in comparison to her off-track antics. Parker continues to have fun handling the onslaught of questions. Praising the hydrating power of kombucha and revealing that she doesn’t really drink water (while holding a water bottle), Valby said the greatest 5000m performance in collegiate history was a 6 or 7 out of 10 on the effort scale for her. 

4000m of Anarchy

We love the relays for their chaos. And aside from the high school 4 x 200m, which is much too dangerous to be contested by professionals, the distance medley is most full of surprises. The women’s race was uprooted by a fall that took out 75% of the field, and as much as that sucks for basically everyone, it definitely made things interesting. But in classic 1600m form, the leaders let the whole race back in it anyway. Kudos to BYU anchor Riley Chamberlain for the timely kick closing in 4:27.

As far as most made-up events in track, the ranking probably goes something like: 5) One Hour Run 4) DMR 3) Steeplechase 2) Mixed 4x400 1) Shuttle Hurdle Relay. 

A Two-Lap Tango to Remember

This was the deepest 800m field in collegiate history, so anyone could have won this and be considered a big winner of the week. Michaela Rose put the hurt on for 750 meters and dared anyone to come with her, but Juliette Whittaker is the truth – she made the late pass to take it in 1:59.53.

Photo: Justin Britton | @justinbritton

Not the Same Old Young

As the founding patriarch of the most dominant high school program in history, there was nothing that Nico Young could not win. But with historic performances come heaps of expectations, and NAU is not the type of program where one would be able to hide from the limelight. Almost immediately, it seemed like the transition to the big boy races would be seamless as his talent shined through to finish 4th in XC as a freshman. Since then however, despite collecting nine All-American certificates, the NCAA title which had seemed inevitable had not yet come. The unfair narrative pushed by Instagram comment sections was that Nico could not win. Well, setting the collegiate record of 12:57.14 earlier this season only seemed to up the ante. 

Mind you, nothing Nico or Coach Mike Smith ever said would hint they’d felt any sort of pressure. And after closing his final 1600m in 3:59 to win the 5000m in 13:25.29 with a comfortable two second victory, there were no tears of happiness or indication that this was some huge monkey off his back. Then again the next day, when the big move was made to close his last 600m of the 3000m in 1:24.1 to break the proverbial tape in 7:41.01, it was all business. Whether it’s after the highest high or the lowest low, Smith and his disciples remain like water. If there was an expectation for tears of joy and a public display of relief now that Nico Young was an NCAA champ, we never saw it. Ultimately, “we” projected this pressure onto him. But now Nico Young will let us rest. 

Making the Jump

If there was going to be a favorite coming into the high jump then the collegiate record holder Lamara Distin should have been a safe bet. But that’s why they have the meet! Arkansas’ Rachel Glenn had a personal best of 1.93m from when she won the 2021 outdoor title, and yet she cleared 2.00m to tie that collegiate record and win the whole thing. Back then she was competing for South Carolina, but she left over the university’s lack of support for her interest in acquiring NIL deals.

The redshirt junior can do more than jump, having run 23.03 for a 200m and 8.14 for 60H this indoor season. Only she and Vashti Cunningham have the Olympic standard, and so the odds of her making the team are quite good. But that doesn’t mean she wouldn’t make one helluva multis athlete as well!

Texas Technically Speaking, He’s Good

Do you know what’s better than winning one NCAA title? Two! Well, three, if you count Texas Tech’s team title. Terrence Jones repeated his 60m title running 6.54, but it was adding the 200m to his repertoire that doubled his value. His winning time of 20.23 was not bad for a guy whose first official indoor full lap was this year, and mastering the turns was something we watched in real-time as I imagine there aren’t too many banked tracks in his native Bahamas.

Luke At Me Now!

If I could go back in time a couple of years to write a book about the Washington milers, then I’d welcome the accusations of copying Chris Lear’s ideas for how good it’d have been. As a group, they have certainly made a collective name for themselves, but now scouts are going to start appreciating Luke Houser for the individual that he is. Sometimes it takes two NCAA titles for the world to wake up!

The differentiator is that he has now proven that he can run fast (3:51) and win when it’s slow. On paper, Houser is a better cross country runner than he is 800m guy, but in winning his NCAA titles going 4:03 and 4:01, he has a proven ability to control a race from the front. (Mac Fleet won’t stop talking about how clean of a race he ran.) Though the thing that impressed me most was that less than an hour later he was on the line for the 3000m and at the front of the race. He stayed with the pack for 2200m before falling off. Can’t teach that sort of grit! #GetThatValueUp

Pick a number, any number: Which would the pros take? #

If I am a sucker for two things, it’s good sports marketing and beer. The two often go hand in hand, although not in track and field. Fortunately, we can look to women’s hockey for some inspiration about how to get creative.

Molson’s new “See My Name” campaign moves the player’s names on their jerseys from the top to beneath the number, so that they are no longer blocked by hair. Instead, the beer company’s logo will be partially hidden, and in the commercial notes, “Molson is covering our name, so hers can be seen.”

The PWHL players do not get paid all that differently from the majority of track athletes – player salaries mainly range from $35K to $80K. The upstart league is off to a strong beginning with 2.9M Canadians watching the first game on TV, and a recent game between Minnesota and Montreal played to a crowd of over 13,000 fans.

At its peak, more people watch track and field, but there are much stricter limitations on everything, including uniforms, and the willingness of other leagues to innovate and work to bring in new partnership dollars should be emulated. Perhaps in addition to relaxing some overzealous restrictions, track and field could better position itself among women’s pro leagues, which are gaining a lot of steam at the moment. Who else has a perfectly equitable split between participants, viewership, attention, and money?

I digress! Despite the individual nature of the sport, athletes’ uniforms are exactly that… uniform. It’s a missed opportunity to not take advantage of the most unique aspect of the sport to allow some individual expression. How are fans expected to have an allegiance to one athlete vs. another when they all look the same? The easiest way to differentiate and identify the clones wearing whatever this year’s jersey color would be to add numbers to the back.

That thought exercise had me wondering about what numbers the top professionals would add to the back of their uniforms if given the chance to. So I asked them:

  • Courtney Wayment: 20 was my grandpa’s baseball and basketball number when he was little and I used it for my soccer and basketball number growing up! Also courtsasport20 😎

  • Yared Nuguse: 3 has always been my favorite number and feels right. I don’t have a serious reason, but 3 is the one with the treasure chest.

  • Trayvon Bromell: 7 because it represents completion.

  • Nikki Hiltz: 95. I’m a big fan of Cars and Lighting McQueen and that’s his race car number 🏎

  • Fiona O’Keeffe: 37 is a shortened version of the address of our house growing up and I also like that it’s a prime number. I also just learned that it’s the smallest magic square.

  • Ell Leather: 29! Because May 29th, 1954 was the day my great aunt Diane Leather became the first woman in history to break 5 minutes in the mile and she’s been my inspiration since starting the sport.

  • Sinclaire Johnson: 13 because it’s mostly thought to be an unlucky number, but it’s my lucky number because I was born on the 13th.

  • Olin Hacker: 2. It was my number in soccer growing up. I don’t know why I picked it initially, but it might have something to do with the lowest numbers being the smallest sizes. I needed the XS.

  • Chari Hawkins: 7, a number for each of the events in the Hep 🙌 I’ll get lucky #7 while also reminding everyone how many events I have to train for every day.

  • Abbe Goldstein: I’d say 215, Philly area rise up! Although I guess that’s too big. I chose my soccer number to be 23 because it was David Beckham’s.

  • Eric Holt: 4 since that’s my favorite number. It’s the number of letters in my first and last name.And every time I get a bib that is a 4 or a factorial of it is a good omen.

  • Anna Hall: 7! I have it tattoed on my hand. It was my dad’s football number so I picked it in every sport growing up! Plus I do 7 events and want to score 7K.

(Drake would probably say 6, because that’s where he runs with his woes.)

What are these kids up to? 👶

Photo: Johnny Zhang | @jzsnapz

The average high school kid isn’t voluntarily reading an extra four thousand words a week, so the odds are that the majority of you reading this newsletter are much too old to be dialed into the prep running scene. All you know is that every dude breaks four minutes in the mile now, and that makes you a little resentful. Don’t feel bad, these kids will never know the joy of riding a bike around the neighborhood without their parents quietly monitoring them via air tag. 

This year’s New Balance Nationals Indoor meet was as good of a high school meet as you’ll ever attend – so good in fact, that many of you may have already heard some of these results. Particularly this one: if there can only be one MVP from the meet, it would be Quincy Wilson. His performance transcended beyond the SnapChats saying “OMG THIS KID JUST RAN 45.76 FOR 400M!” It was the subject of at least one group chat I’m on, comprised entirely of olds.

We don’t necessarily need to add any additional qualifiers to make a national high school record more impressive. But I’m going to do it anyway. The kid is 16 years old and is only a sophomore! But he’s hardly a neophyte. Wilson is no stranger to the scene – he’s been racking up AAU titles from an early age, and last year at this same meet he ran 46.67, which put him on my radar.

During freshman outdoor season, he split 45.07 at the Penn Relays, and then clocked an open 45.87 at the U20 championships. Now he is coming for the best of the best and not holding back about his desire to compete with the guys he once looked up to. It seems ridiculous to suggest that a kid who has to sit in algebra class the day after rewriting the record books could be a challenge to world champions, but times don’t lie. Noah Lyles split 45.68 on the 4×400 in Glasgow, but in a more apples-to-apples comparison, Quincy’s time would have placed him fifth at the NCAA meet the day before, on the same track.

What does running such fast 400m times at such a young age mean for his future? Should we be concerned about Wilson’s early ascension?

Taking a look at another teen sensation, Sydney McLaughlin-Levrone made her first Olympic team at 16 and she has obviously panned out well. It’s maybe a tad risky to assume all one-lap record-holders will become the next Syd, but she’s at least proof of concept.

The previous boys high school record holder didn’t enjoy a lengthy career, but not for the typical concerns we worry about with prodigies. Elzie Coleman ran 45.92 at the Simplot Games 20 years ago, but wound up kicked off the Mississippi State squad for disciplinary reasons and spent what should have been the prime years of his career in and out of jail.

Not a whole lot we can extrapolate from that unfortunate outlier case!

In watching Wilson run, my first impression is “man, he looks smooth.” (My second is “I would definitely ask him for his ID before selling him tickets to an R-rated movie.”) And in talking to him, I was super impressed by how humble and focused he came across, and how prepared for the trajectory to stardom he seems to be. 

As a Newsletter Man, I hate to stake my reputation on grand proclamations like “THIS KID IS THE NEXT BIG THING,” but also as a Newsletter Man, I need the subscriptions… so THIS KID IS THE NEXT BIG THING!

Photo: Justin Britton | @justinbritton

Other top high school performances include:

  • Daniel Simmons of American Fork, UT, destroyed the national 5000m record, running 13:38.86 mostly solo at the Reggie Lewis Center. If there were any doubts about this track from kids who are too young to remember Craig Mottram, then this answers them.

  • Brianna Selby held off Adeajah Hodge in the 60m, winning in 7.19 (which would have been good for 5th at NCAAs). Hodge doubled back to win the 200m in 22.96.

  • Drew Griffith “broke” Ed Cheserek’s high school 2-mile record earlier this season, but it didn’t officially count because it was on an oversized track. Well, 8:34.91 this time around did the trick, and then some.

  • Patrick Hilby is one of my new favorite runners because the dude went out in 24.5 for the first 200m and still held on to win the national 800m title in a new best of 1:48.47. When Donavan Brazier ran his American record of 1:44.21, he went through in 24.7!

College vs. High School Nationals 👨‍🎓

Photo: Johnny Zhang | @jzsnapz

One of the most overlooked records of the weekend was the trip from my home in Westchester County, New York, to Boston: I completed the trip in under 2 hours and 50 minutes on Thursday night. Considering that I commute 3.5 hours roundtrip for my office job three days a week this was a breeze, which is a sentiment surely shared by college coaches and their operations managers from across the country. It is a bit easier and cheaper to book flights for 15 people to Boston Logan than to Fayetteville’s nearby Northwest Arkansas National Airport.

There was a lot of excitement for the NCAA meet to be held at the epicenter of the indoor track world, and in a major northeast city for the first time ever. Having previously attended the New Balance Indoor Grand Prix and New Balance Nationals at the TRACK, I had high hopes for the excitement and buzz that would follow the athletes around the track. In my dream world, it would be the enthusiasm of Patriot’s Day contained under a roof, with ten times the number of kisses. 

Hearing that the crowd was sold out well in advance of the event only served to amplify these sky-high expectations. And while the races were undoubtedly awesome, with the crowd exploding for the end of the men’s 4x400 and women’s 800, the atmosphere overall was a bit… dry. And returning on Sunday for the high school meet further confirmed that feeling. The kids (the literal kids… not the young adults of the NCAA) had music blasting, introductions under dimmed lights, flames at the finish line, Nickelodeon green slime falling from the rafters (just kidding on this one) and on-field commentary/hype. 

But the most discernible contrast between the two was in the pace of the meets. And I am not talking about the pacing lights! The high school meet just kept going, out of the need to get through a number of heats. There was no dead time. Something was always happening. Now having breaks between races is okay. In fact, it’s preferred! That’s a huge opportunity to build anticipation and to provide commentary and analysis. If done properly, this alleviates the need for the broadcast to fill the silence with story time and instead focus on the action viewers are watching.

Ultimately the issue is that the NCAA doesn’t consider track a spectator sport. They’d never put out the equivalent product for basketball and football, which is understandable since that’s where the money is. But that doesn’t mean some small tweaks can’t be made – a playlist consuming primarily of Drake, for instance really dials up the “this is a sporting event” vibe in the room – that would instantly elevate the experience. If there logistically needs to be 10 minutes to set up the 400m after the 60m, then let fans on-site hear the interviews being broadcast on ESPN with those winners, before giving the next athletes an opportunity to run out and wave to the crowd. 

And if the schedule is going to be segmented by gender, then what are fans supposed to do for the 1.5 hour break between the end of the men’s meet and the beginning of the women’s? That’d maybe be too much Drake.

Rapid Fire Highlights 🔥

  • At the Zurich Marató Barcelona, Tadesse Abraham got the win and set a new Swiss national record in the marathon, running 2:05:01 at 41 years old. He seems okay with it, but I probably wouldn’t have given up becoming a 2:04 guy so easily. Degitu Azimeraw won the women’s race in 2:19:52.

  • Sada Williams, the World Championship bronze medalist in the 400m, set a new personal best of 22.59 for a Barbados national record.

  • Elizabeth Leechman, the sophomore from Texas, ran 15:28.89 to break Katelyn Tuohy’s high school national 5000m record.

  • WATCH: The NYC Half is on Sunday at 7am ET and you can watch on abc7ny.com. (Fields | Results) If someone from NYRR is reading this, you should make it easier to find the elite fields on your site. The search bar and SEO is bad.

  • The DII Nationals Mile champ Caleb Futter of Grand Valley State put on a tactical clinic, winding up the field beautifully and closing in 1:20.0 for his last 600m. Don’t be fooled by the 4:18 winning time, he ran 3:58 earlier this season. #Investors?PossiblyYou! (Watch)

  • Vanessa Fraser has signed a professional contract with Saucony, which is exciting of course for her! But is this a precursor to Saucony getting back in the game? It feels like it’s been a while, and the company has gone through many changes recently including a recent move to Michigan.

  • Brooks Running’s CEO of 23 years Jim Weber has stepped down and is handing over the reins to Dan Sheridan, who started as a tech rep 25 years ago. He bought me a hot dog from the concession stand in Budapest last summer, so this sort of feels like a big win for me. But really, it’s important to have real runners who can appreciate the run speciality industry at the top of the pyramid.

  • The next round of the Josh Kerr vs. Jakob Ingebrigtsen saga will go down at the Pre Classic on May 25th. Here is the full timeline of their public display of affection. Also announced in the field is Yared Nuguse, who might just win the damn thing. But if you are going to do a poster a la boxing promo then you have to pick two fighters.

  • Yuka Ando won the Nagoya Marathon in a new personal best of 2:21:18, and although she fell short of the 2:18:59 needed to qualify for the Japanese Olympic team, she was still pleased with the effort. See! There is more to life than the Olympics!

  • WATCH 📺: The TEN on Saturday earlier races start at 8:45pm ET on Flotrack. The Olympic standards are 27:00 and 30:40. Currently the only American with the time is Alicia Monson. This might as well be the Olympic Trials, because if you don’t get it here… good luck! (Full 10,000m Fields)

Thanks so much to OLIPOP for sponsoring this week’s newsletter! I drank an unbelievable amount of ginger ales this past weekend while covering track, which they fully make possible for all of us Citius Mag to do.

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