AS REPORTED in the February edition’s Collegiate Digest, the Olympic year started with a bang, KC Lightfoot and Athing Mu both being in record form. With another month in the books, we find Lightfoot and Mu adding their names to the books again. And Oregon’s middle distance men also tossed themselves into the mix. The record action, in chronological order:
Oregon Men Run Fastest DMR Ever
Running in their season opener at the Razorback Invitational (Fayetteville, Arkansas, January 29), Oregon destroyed the Collegiate Record in the distance medley with a scintillating 9:19.42, the fastest ever run indoors or out.
Cole Hocker opened up with a 2:49.89 for the 1200 behind Iowa State’s Jason Gomez (2:49.43). Luis Peralta (47.29) brought Oregon closer to the lead, and Australian Charlie Hunter (1:47.65) took over for the Ducks. Then came Cooper Teare with a dominating 3:54.61 closer.
The old CR, 9:24.52, had been set by the Ducks at the same meet last year. The mark also took down the Absolute CR for the distance, the previous best being a 9:20.10 by Arkansas at the ’89 Penn Relays. Even though the DMR is not a WA-recognized record distance, the presence of an Australian on the relay would preclude any status as either a World or American Record.
Oregon won the race handily, more than 8 seconds ahead of Iowa State’s 9:27.90, which moved the Cyclones to No. 8 all-time among collegiate foursomes.
The next day, the Ducks confirmed that their distance runners are indeed flourishing under assistant Ben Thomas, who came on board from Virginia Tech in ’18.
First, Hunter closed in 56.63 to win the mile in a collegiate-leading 3:54.54, an Australian Record that moved him to =No. 4 on the all-time collegiate list. Reed Brown finished 2nd in a PR 3:56.61.
Then Teare and Hocker pulled a 1-2 in the 3000 in 7:46.10 & 7:46.44. That made them Nos. 7 & 9 all-time among American collegians. Teare closed with a 56.71 to Hocker’s 56.84.
Lightfoot Raises His CR To 19-6¼
Returning to the scene of his first Collegiate Record, Baylor’s KC Lightfoot did it again, arcing over 19-6¼ (5.95) at the Texas Tech Invitational (Lubbock, Texas, January 30) to add a centimeter onto his 2-week-old standard.
Before he got there, the 21-year-old first had to dispatch rival Zach Bradford of Kansas, who had stayed clean through 18-6½ (5.65). At the next bar, 18-10¼ (5.75), Lightfoot cleared on his first. Bradford needed three and then went out at 19-2¼ (5.85).
At the record height, Lightfoot brushed his way over on his second attempt but the bar stayed. He then asked for 19‑8¼ (6.00), where he missed.
“It’s been a good start,” he said. “It felt pretty good on the runway today despite some concerns coming into the meet. Things lined up on 95, and I kept it up there. Unfortunately, the 6-meter bar wasn’t it today, but I know it’s coming sooner rather than later.”
1500 & Mile Records For Cooper Teare
Talk about dominance. After the scintillating DMR results from the Razorback Invitational, Oregon’s milers returned to Arkansas for the Tyson Invitational (February 12–13) and did serious damage to the all-time lists in the 1500 and mile.
Both Cooper Teare (3:50.39, 3:35.46 en route) and Cole Hocker (3:50.55, 3:35.63) broke the previous Collegiate Records at each distance. Both old records had been set by Ducks, a 3:52.01 mile for Edward Cheserek in ’17 and a 3:36.93 in the 1500 by James West last year. Teare also claimed the Absolute CR in the mile, supplanting the Cheserek mark. To boot, teammate Charlie Hunter moved to No. 6 ever with his 3:53.49 (and No. 4 ever with his 3:36.94).
The race was an all-Oregon affair, with Angus Folmli and Reed Brown — who had run 3:56.61 on this track 2 weeks ago — doing the early pacesetting. Folmli was in the lead with 7, 6 & 5 laps to go before stepping off, Brown with 4 & 3. Only a half-second separated the remaining quartet of Oregonians at that point.
Brown faded at that point, Hunter’s 2:54.91 putting him in the lead with 400 to go, followed by Teare (2:55.01) and Hocker (2:55.19). Teare then unleashed the fastest lap of the race, 28.20, making a big move up the homestraight to lead Hocker by 0.23 and Hunter by 0.32 with a lap to go. Hunter faded on the final circuit. While Hocker produced the fastest finish (14.92 from the 1500 split to the tape), it only made up 0.02 on Teare. But one of Teare’s new records didn’t even last 24 hours.
Tanner Takes Teare’s 1500 Standard
Chock-full of pros as it was, the 1500 at the New Balance Indoor GP was already dazzling enough before it registered among observers that 3rd-placer Sam Tanner of Washington had not only nailed the New Zealand Record with his 3:34.72, but had also bettered the CR 3:35.46 that Teare set the night before. As if that weren’t enough, it will also stand as an absolute CR, bettering the outdoor 3:35.01 that New Mexico’s Josh Kerr ran in ’18.
Tanner, just a soph, moved out of the pack after the half and closed with a 56.34/42.77 sequence.
“I am frothing, fizzing, buzzing… everything,” Tanner said. “I’m just super over the moon. I was hoping for an Olympic qualification; we worked hard and got it, so I’m super-stoked.
“I’m still trying to comprehend how awesome it is. It is such an honor. It’s a dream come true literally because I’ve been dreaming about it since I was 12 years old. I’m just so, so excited and can’t wait for the opportunity to stand on that start line in Tokyo.”
Women’s 4×4 Record Falls To Texas A&M
Closing the books on a sizzling Tyson Invitational, the Texas A&M women stepped onto the Fayetteville track knowing this 4×4 wasn’t about holding back. After Jania Martin led off with a 53.04, Syaira Richardson blistered a 51.85. Then Jamaican soph Charokee Young flew even faster, a 51.11, handing off to frosh sensation Athing Mu, the collegiate leader in the 400. Mu, no stranger to recordsetting this year, needed a 51.02 to break the CR and overachieved with a 50.27.
The new mark, 3:26.27, left Texas far behind at 3:32.64 and handily broke the old CR of 3:27.03 that USC set 4 years ago. The year-leading mark has only ever been bettered by four nations.
Said coach Pat Henry, “This week in training we had talked about getting it together and trying to run well this week. We haven’t put any pressure on running a time yet and we didn’t put much pressure on running a time today. I just wanted them to get the absolute best out of themselves today, take a chance and put it on the line.
“Remember, there are three other people and everything you do affects those other three people. You’ve got to be a great teammate to be on a great relay and we got four young ladies right now that are running extremely well. That’s a big-time performance by those ladies.”
Lightfoot Loves Vaulting In Lubbock
For the third time this season, Lightfoot soared over a CR at Texas Tech. This time the Baylor junior joined a very exclusive club, his 19-8¼ putting him over the benchmark 6-meter barrier he last month had told us was his immediate goal. His previous records were 19-5¾ (5.94) on January 16 and 19-6¼ (5.95) on January 30.
This time he opened at 17-9¼ (5.42) and was clean through his third bar, an 18-9¼ (5.72) that sealed the win over BYU’s Zach McWhorter, whose highest clearance was 18-5¼ (5.62).
At 19-¼ (5.80), Lightfoot needed two tries. He cleared 19-4¼ (5.90) on his first, equaling the No. 6 collegiate indoor clearance ever. Then came the big bar. It took him three goes, but he finally soared over, doing a back flip once he landed in the pit.
“There’s really nothing more to say than it was magical, for sure,” Lightfoot said. “I’ve worked my whole life for that bar, and to finally get it takes a huge relief off my shoulders. I’m going to be on cloud 9 for a while, definitely.”
He finished the day with three ambitious attempts at an American Record 19-9 (6.02). As it was, his 19-8¼ also tied the absolute CR set by LSU’s Mondo Duplantis in ’19 and broke the absolute American CR of 19-7½ (5.98) set by Tennessee’s Lawrence Johnson back in ’96.
“There’s still some more in the tank, though,” he said. “I’m just not sure for what height, anymore. I guess the American record is the next big goal.”
Washington’s Shot Shocker
The excitement over the Lightfoot record had barely been absorbed at Texas Tech when Arizona State junior Turner Washington shocked in the shot with a 71-8½ (21.85) that broke the CR of 71-6¾ (21.81) set by Payton Otterdahl of North Dakota State two years ago.
The throw came on Washington’s final attempt as he had languished in 2nd since round 1 after USC’s McKay Johnson opened with a 70-4½ (21.45) that bettered his PR by nearly 3 feet and temporarily moved him to No. 9 on the all-time collegiate list. Washington had thrown a 68-6 (20.88) in round 5 before coming up huge on his last chance.
“I feel super-pumped about breaking the record today,” Washington said. “I came into today just focusing on my technique, and going into the last throw I really buckled down on what I needed to do and it paid off. One of my goals has been to throw over 70-feet so it feels great to finally do that.”
Better known as a discus guy when he was a prep (New Balance champion, Pan-Am Junior silver), Washington has focused on the shot after his transfer from Arizona to Arizona State. Discus genes also run in the family: father Anthony was a 3-time Olympic finalist and the ’99 world champion. □