NCAA Men’s 1500 — Joe Who?

A 53.26 last lap propelled unheralded Joe Waskom to a “tactical” 3:45.58 win. (MIKE SCOTT)

IT WOULD BE HARD to identify a more improbable NCAA 1500 champ than Joe Waskom.

These were the Washington sophomore’s finishes in outdoor races before the Pac-12: 6th in a steeple; DNF in a 1500; 10th in a steeple; 4th in a steeple; DNF in an 800; 11th in a 1500. After he won the conference in a PR 3:40.33, he was merely No. 45 on the NCAA list.

But championship 1500s are won by racing, not pacing.

“I’m gonna be honest. I thought I was gonna shoot for top 5 today and see what happens,” Waskom said. “I got to the last lap, and I was feeling pretty good. It was pretty slow, which is kind of how I like it now.”

Waskom’s closing 53.26 propelled him to 1st in 3:45.58. Favorite Mario García Romo of Mississippi, the indoor mile champion, found himself boxed inside on the rail early in the final straight and could only manage 2nd (3:45.69). He was followed by Princeton’s Sam Ellis (3:45.69).

Team tactics paid off for Waskom, who led a 1-5-7 finish by the Huskies. Fellow soph Luke Houser was 5th, and frosh Nathan Green (a 4:00.97 Idaho high schooler last year) was 7th.

With 400 to go, Houser, Waskom and Green moved up to 1-4-5, separated by just 0.29. The entire field of 12 was separated by only 0.70.

Waskom said the Huskies were working together but running different races. He bolted from 5th to 1st with about 250 to go, leaving the favored García Romo boxed on the rail. The Spaniard’s late charge left him a step behind.

Said Waskom, “Well, I saw my boy up in the lead, I thought I’d go join him. I knew I could close in 53. I knew it would take about that, and I knew if I went at 300 to go, I’d at least get to the lead. I didn’t know if I’d hold it, but yeah, I did everything I could today, and with the help of these boys.

“These boys are why I won today. I believe in them. They believe in me.”

Waskom ran a 3:56.43 indoor mile in February but began this season running the steeple, in which he has an 8:35.71 PB from ’21. He spoke with coach Andy Powell about his struggles, and both agreed he should drop down to the 1500.

It was a satisfying moment for Powell, who coached for 13 years at Oregon before leaving for Washington. Waskom became the Huskies’ first 1500/mile champion since Rufus Kaiser in 1928, and the third successive American to win.

“Super-powerful to have three guys, which is rare,” Powell said. “They worked together to basically maximize those points.”

As compelling as the final was, the semis might have been more so. Casualties included CR holder Eliud Kipsang and Moroccan Olympian Anass Essayi. The last nine men to break the NCAA 1500 or mile record all failed to win at NCAAs in that season. Two of the past three, Kipsang and Sam Tanner last year, failed to make the final.

Kipsang explained that he had lost several days of training because of an illness after Regionals.


FINAL (June 10)

1. **Joe Waskom (Wa) 3:45.58

(45.76, 67.51 [1:53.27], 59.06 [2:52.33], 53.25) (53.25, 1:52.31, 2:59.82);

2. *Mario García Romo’ (Ms-Spa) 3:45.69 (53.47, 1:53.10, 3:00.33);

3. Sam Ellis (Prin) 3:45.82 (53.36, 1:53.01, 3:00.06);

4. *Thomas Vanoppen’ (WF-Bel) 3:46.03 (53.25, 1:52.93, 3:00.49);

5. **Luke Houser (Wa) 3:46.13 (54.08, 1:53.01, 3:00.57);

6. Jonathan Davis (Il) 3:46.15 (53.99, 1:53.58, 3:00.77);

7. ***Nathan Green (Wa) 3:46.26 (53.92, 1:52.98, 3:00.25);

8. ***Adam Spencer’ (Wi-Aus) 3:46.28 (53.76, 1:53.46, 3:00.91);

9. *John Petruno (MiSt) 3:46.56 (54.01, 1:53.60, 3:00.69);

10. *Isaac Basten (Drake) 3:46.67 (54.42, 1:53.22, 3:00.68);

11. George Kusche’ (NnAz-SA) 3:47.20 (54.57, 1:54.25, 3:01.65);

12. **Ryan Schoppe (OkSt) 3:47.68 (54.93, 1:54.10, 3:01.44).

SEMIS (June 08)

I–1. Davis 3:37.39; 2. Green 3:37.46 (3, 4 AJ); 3. Ellis 3:37.60; 4. Vanoppen’ 3:37.65; 5. Spencer’ 3:37.81; 6. Schoppe 3:37.94; 7. AJ Ernst (Prov) 3:41.04; 8. *Cathal Doyle’ (Port-Ire) 3:42.56; 9. **Elliott Cook (Or) 3:44.47; 10. Sean Peterson (Young) 3:47.07; 11. Nick Dahl (Duke) 3:48.14;… dnf—***Anass Essayi (SC).

II–1. Garcia Romo’ 3:39.32; 2. Waskom 3:39.45; 3. Basten 3:39.45; 4. Houser 3:39.60; 5. Petruno 3:39.64; 6. Kusche’ 3:39.67; 7. Nehemia Too’ (IaSt-Ken) 3:40.01; 8. *Nathan Henderson (Syr) 3:40.06; 9. Jacob Brueckman (CoSt) 3:40.82; 10. **Rhys Hammond (Corn) 3:41.36; 11. *Jesse Hunt’ (NC-Aus) 3:42.28; 12. **Eliud Kipsang’ (Al-Ken) 3:43.30.