NCAA Men’s 1500 — A ’22 Redux Finish For Waskom

Two years ago Joe Waskom’s win shocked even Waskom. Not so this time, though his margin of victory, off a 52.65 last lap, was similar — 0.11 then, 0.09 now. (MIKE SCOTT)

SOMEONE ELSE LED the collegiate list. Someone else won the Indoor mile. Someone else won the Pac-12. None of that scared Joe Waskom away. The ’22 champion, in his final race as a Washington Husky, kicked best in a tactical contest and came away with another victory.

Colin Sahlman of Northern Arizona, who leads the collegiate performance lists with his season-opener 3:33.96, took to the front at the start, followed by Pac-12 champ Elliott Cook of Oregon. Australian Adam Spencer, 3rd last year for Wisconsin, joined the leaders at the front, but at 400 in 62-and-change, Waskom was still content to hang near the back of the pack.

At 700, Husky Luke Houser, the 2-time NCAA Indoor mile champ, moved to the front. With Cook and Spencer closest, he passed 800 in 2:04. Sahlman made a move back to the front on the next turn, running alongside Houser past 1000. That was when Waskom chose to swing wide and join the fun. Sahlman maintained his lead at the bell, with South Carolina’s Anass Essayi on his shoulder, then Waskom, and Spencer tucked on the inside.

On the final backstretch, the tactical intricacies of a championship 1500 unfolded for all to see — in other words, a classic free-for-all as Essayi challenged Sahlman, with Spencer and Cook close behind, while Waskom seemingly got absorbed by the pack. Coming off the final turn, he somehow found a route away from the rail and started sprinting wide.

Up front, Sahlman went a little too wide, allowing Cook to come through on the rail to challenge. The two hammered down the stretch. Spencer, in lane 2, tried to overtake them both but it was Waskom out in lane 3 who had the best wheels, outsprinting Cook 3:39.48–3:39.57, with Spencer 3rd in 3:39.80 as Sahlman faded to 4th in 3:39.92.

Waskom, whose last lap took just 52.65, called the experience “surreal.” He said the final stretch was a blur: “I don’t really remember much, other than my stomach was hurting. I looked to my left and I knew I was gaining on those guys. Honestly, I was just getting prepped to dive.”

He added, “Two years ago, I crossed the line and it was kind of a shock. I was really surprised that I won but today I knew I could do it. And I knew I was in shape to win, it wasn’t ‘Oh wow,’ it was ‘I knew I could do it’ and I got it done.’”

Now the Huskies have won the last three outdoor championships along with the last two indoor miles. Waskom thinks the streak might keep going next year. “It’s incredible to win 5 straight titles and I wouldn’t be surprised if it went on longer. I mean, Andy [Powell] and Chris [Kwiatkowski] have both shown that they’re great coaches and they get us ready for this day.

“People always love fast times. It’s what gets media reality. But we don’t care for all that publicity stuff. We care about winning this title today.”


FINAL (June 07)

1. *Joe Waskom (Wa) 3:39.48 (52.65, 1:49.41, 2:52.52);

2. *Elliott Cook (Or) 3:39.57 (52.49, 1:49.60, 2:53.12);

3. *Adam Spencer’ (Wi-Aus) 3:39.80 (52.97, 1:50.23, 2:53.62);

4. **Colin Sahlman (NnAz) 3:39.92 (53.33, 1:50.06, 2:53.68);

5. Damien Dilcher (Iona) 3:40.24 (53.01, 1:50.07, 2:53.51);

6. *Wes Porter (Va) 3:40.39 (53.22, 1:49.86, 2:53.77);

7. Ezekiel Rop’ (IaSt-Ken) 3:40.50 (53.55, 1:50.84, 2:54.22);

8. *Anass Essayi’ (SC-Mor) 3:40.81 (54.17, 1:50.38, 2:53.95);

9. **Ethan Strand (NC) 3:40.90 (53.70, 1:50.50, 2:54.40);

10. **Nathan Green (Wa) 3:40.98 (54.00, 1:50.77, 2:54.29);

11. *Liam Murphy (Vill) 3:42.90 (55.49, 1:52.84, 2:56.06);

12. Luke Houser (Wa) 3:48.86 (61.90, 1:59.48, 3:02.41).

SEMIS (June 05)

I–1. Murphy 3:39.68; 2. Essayi’ 3:39.75; 3. Porter 3:39.88; 4. Strand 3:39.93; 5. Dilcher 3:40.07; 6. ***Parvej Khan’ (Fl-Ind) 3:40.10; 7. **Tomas Palfrey (Or) 3:40.82; 8. *Steven Jackson (BC) 3:40.85; 9. **Gary Martin (Va) 3:41.43; 10. ***Benne Anderson (Syr) 3:42.06; 11. *Damian Hackett (Corn) 3:43.34; 12. Nick Foster (Mi) 3:44.24.

II–1. Cook 3:37.25 PR; 2. Spencer’ 3:37.32; 3. Sahlman 3:37.43; 4. Green 3:37.51; 5. Houser 3:37.53; 6. Rop’ 3:37.62; 7. Waskom 3:37.93; 8. ***Rheinhardt Harrison (Or) 3:38.70 PR; 9. *Alex Stitt’ (OkSt-Aus) 3:38.90; 10. Peter Smith (IaSt) 3:39.23 PR; 11. Isaac Basten (Drake) 3:39.60; 12. Charlie O’Donovan’ (Vill-Ire) 3:40.31.