Track And Field Star Brandon Miller Breaks Indoor Record – 2022 NCAA Indoor Men’s Mid-D/Distance Preview: How many titles will Jared Naguz win? Will Brandon Miller be the next 800 star?
Being a track fan can be tough at times. Some U.S. athletes competed in World Indoor, some competed in U.S. Indoor but not World Indoor, and some did not participate in the indoor season. Keeping track of everything can be challenging.
Track And Field Star Brandon Miller Breaks Indoor Record
But not at the NCAA level. The NCAA has its flaws, but its championship year after year is one of the best in the world. There are two main reasons:
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1) Ability. In global athletics, there is no greater talent development system than the NCAA, where elite athletes from around the world join.
2) Everyone agrees that championships are important. At the professional level, you can have global tournaments like World Indoor. You can smash WorldX. Not in the NCAA. If you’re in the NCAA system, you run the NCAA (if you’re good enough), and you generally build an entire season around it. This has produced a plethora of talented athletes in their prime, as well as some high-profile, dramatic championship games.
That’s why I can already say with confidence that the 2022 NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships, which begin Friday in Birmingham, Alabama, will be a fantastic track and field competition. Between cross country, indoor and outdoor, I’ve personally played in 17 NCAA championships and scored in all of them. That formula — talent + grand slam — will never change, and it will never fail.
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However, the name will change. You may be familiar with some of them, like Notre Dame’s Yared Nuguse or Northern Arizona’s Nico Young, but newcomers emerge every year and there’s no better platform for legends to emerge than the NCAA Tournament. Just ask Josh Cole, who came into the limelight in 2017 for beating Edward Cheserek and is now the men’s 3:29 and Olympic bronze medalist. Or Cole Hawker, who went from a quick but unproven college runner to America’s next long-distance running star after an impressive mile/3-k double in last year’s NCAA Indoors.
Whose legend will be born in Birmingham this weekend? Let’s preview the men’s distance program and see if we can find out. Women’s preview coming soon.
In recent years, Texas A&M has become an 800 U. It started with Donavan Brazier winning the NCAA Outdoor Championship in 2016, followed by Sammy Watson in 2018 and Jasmine Frey in 2019. Devin Dixon did not win the outdoor title, but finished second in 2019 behind Bryce Hoppel of Kansas with a time of 1:44.84. Then there’s Aggie’s greatest 800 star, who never won an NCAA 800 (she finished in the 400 at the NCAA), but won at the US and the Olympics. Headlines from last year’s event.
However, despite this success, no A&M athlete has ever won an NCAA indoor championship. That could change Saturday, as the Aggies have a pregame favorite in sophomore Brandon Miller. Miller, who has been in the spotlight since he was 13, was a freshman talent last year as he won the SEC indoor title but couldn’t run fast enough to qualify for the NCAA indoor game. That wasn’t an issue on the perimeter, though, as he was runner-up in the NCAA race with a 1:44.97. Only USC sixth-year senior Isaiah Jewett beat true freshman Miller, who will be named to the U.S. Olympic team in 10 days.
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Miller didn’t experience the sophomore slump this year. He confidently won all four races, including a 1:15.49 600 (sixth in NCAA history) and a 1:45.24 800 in the SECs (third in NCAA history, an American college record). How dominant is he? Ole Miss’ John Rivera finished second to Miller in the SECs with a 1:46.82 — still the third-best time in the NCAA this year.
So who can beat Miller? While a dark horse will always show up at 800, there are two main candidates. The first is Moad Zahafi, who, like Miller, has been dominant this year, playing well in all competitions. This is not surprising. Zahafi, 23, ran a 1:44.78 for Morocco at the 2019 World Championships before joining Texas Tech this year. He competed in 10 secondary European circuit races last summer, winning four and running 1:45 or faster seven times. He has the ability and experience to succeed at Birmingham.
Another one to watch is Jonathan Jones of Texas. As a high school student in Barbados, Jones competed in everything from the 200m to the 1500m, with his best events being the 400m (46.05 pb) and the 800m in 1:48.16 in 2016 as a 17-year-old. At Texas, coach Edric Florier had been planning to have Jones run the 400 and 800, but initially focused on the 400 because Jones felt he needed to get stronger and stronger. It worked so well – Jones set a Barbados record of 44.63 in 2019 and reached the Olympic semifinals in 2021 – and in February Jones ran his first 800 in four years in 1:46.93 points (NCAA ranking 4th).
“He’s much stronger now and has more confidence,” Florial said. “Heck, he can run 20.xx now, run 200, all the way to 800. His range is really insane.”
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Someone who has run the 800 over the past four years might win an NCAA title this week is all too familiar, but Jones is just as talented. Earlier this year he ran a 1:15.12 in the 600 (faster than Miller and fourth in NCAA history) and a 1:06.68 for the 600 yards at the Big 12 Champs , broke the university record. The NCAA 800 will be tougher not because of the extra laps but because of tactical factors: The indoor 800 is tough even for a seasoned pro, let alone a rookie like Jones.
JG Prediction: Miller has been strong since last year, and I don’t think that trend will stop. Miller FTW.
There are a few standouts in the men’s mile competition. The first deadline. It took 3:56.60 to reach this year’s NCAA conference, the fastest ever. The 5K cutoff time (13:26.44) might be more impressive, but I’m old enough to remember when the NCAA mile record was 3:55 (and that was only 10 years ago). The idea that someone can run 3:56 and not even make it to the NCAA as an individual is pretty crazy. Here are the cuts over the past 10 years:
Notre Dame’s Yared Nuguse, a 2019 NCAA 1500 champion and 2021 U.S. 1500 Olympian, is running the DMR and 3000. Earlier this year, Nuguse and coach Sean Carlson considered trying the mile/3k/DMR triple challenge, but Nuguse ultimately ruled it out.
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“It’s my choice,” Nugus said. “I don’t want to play national games. I really want to give 100% of what I have for every game I play, and I feel like there’s not much left for 3k unless the trio ends up being very strategic.
So Nuguze won’t be in Miles. But did you know that despite holding the NCAA record of 3:34.68, there is currently no fastest 1500 pb in the NCAA? That honor originally went to South Carolina’s Anas Esaiyi, a 20-year-old Moroccan Olympian who ran 3:34.58 last summer. Esai won the SEC title with a time of 3:57.37, and if he runs, he’ll be an NCAA favorite. But that was his only race of the season, and a 3:57.37 isn’t enough to get you in the 2022 NCAA tournament. So he didn’t go in either.
So who has the furthest run in the NCAA? The top seed is Michigan State’s Morgan Beadlescomb, who was known as a pure-distance player before this season (No. 6 in the Olympic Trials 5k and No. 5 in the 2021 NCAA XC). But he surpassed Cooper Tear and Cole Hocker’s U.S. record attempt last month in Chicago with a time of 3:52.03 for fourth in NCAA history. The problem is, Beadlescombe was third in the Big 10 mile final at 4:08, so if the NCAA is smart, he could be in trouble.
Likewise, Alabama’s No. 3 seed Eliud Kipsang was the top returner in last year’s NCAA Mile and 1500 finals and had quick individual numbers of 3:54.36 and 3:35.49. However, he finished fourth in the SEC Mile final. Can the player who finished fourth in the conference really win the NCAA?
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It feels very open. Ole Miss’ Mario Garcia Romo finished fifth in the NCAA 1500 last year.
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