NCAA Men’s 800 — Transfer Remade Winner Cohen

Two years ago neither Shane Cohen nor Sam Whitmarsh felt any assurance they’d some day finish 1–2 in an NCAA 800. (KIRBY LEE/IMAGE OF SPORT)

THE TRANSFER PORTAL led to a complete transformation for Shane Cohen. At Tampa, his PR was 1:48.25 and his highest finish was 6th at the 2022 NCAA Div. II Champs.

A femur stress fracture took a toll last year as Cohen’s best was only 1:53.79. Unwilling to let that be the final word on his collegiate career, he contacted Virginia. Coach Vin Lananna welcomed the fifth-year senior to Charlottesville, never realizing he had another Robby Andrews on his hands.

Like Andrews, who won the NCAA 800 for the Cavaliers in ’11, Cohen prefers to sit back and kick. He won his semi, with Texas A&M junior Sam Whitmarsh taking the other.

Whitmarsh was not only the top-rated 800 runner in the country, he was also the sentimental favorite after overcoming heart issues that required surgery in ’22.

Yet while Whitmarsh was winning the SECs, Cohen said his running really started clicking at ACCs, where he placed 3rd. He then dropped his PR to 1:45.36 at the East Regional.

In the final, the field passed the 400 at about 51 seconds, led by Clemson senior Tarees Rhoden with Texas senior Yusuf Bizimana, the ’23 runner-up, on his heels. That pace was just as Cohen had hoped. He laid back at 52.18.

“It’s hard to really hold 50-point, 51-point,” he said. “I just trusted myself and just tried waiting for the perfect move.”

However, Cohen admitted he could have executed his strategy better. He expected to be mid-pack when it was time to kick, but instead was solidly in 9th place.

Whitmarsh had his own problems, stuck in 5th with 200 left. But while the tallest man in the race was weaving through traffic inside on the straightaway, Cohen was gaining on the outside.

Rounding the final turn, Cohen had nimbly maneuvered around a falling Camden Marshall of Indiana to sprint down the line separating lanes 3 and 4.

He feared Whitmarsh had another gear. “Luckily, I was able to have just enough to secure the win and be able to hold on,” Cohen said.

The Cavalier thrust his left fist into the air, clocking a PR of 1:44.97 in his first meet in Oregon. “Hayward Magic did not disappoint,” he said.

Whitmarsh was smiling as he crossed the finish line in 1:45.10 while Iowa State junior Finley McLear outdueled Rhoden, 1:45.66–1:45.70, for 3rd.

Now Cohen could negotiate a transfer into a pro career. He qualified for the Trials at the Regional, but must take 0.27 off his best to reach the Olympic standard.

“I was only a 1:48 guy after last year, so, honestly, I have no idea how it works,” Cohen said of his post-college plans, adding, “I wanted to take care of business here.”


FINAL (June 07)

1. Shane Cohen (Va) 1:44.97 PR (52.18/52.79);

2. *Sam Whitmarsh (TxAM) 1:45.10 (51.88/53.22);

3. *Finley McLear’ (IaSt-GB) 1:45.66 PR (51.96/53.70);

4. Tarees Rhoden’ (Clem-Jam) 1:45.70 PR (51.28/54.42);

5. Sean Dolan (Vill) 1:45.89 (52.01/53.88);

6. Yusuf Bizimana’ (Tx-GB) 1:46.37 (51.42/54.95);

7. *Kimar Farquharson’ (TxAM-Jam) 1:46.38 (51.68/54.70);

8. **Nicholas Plant (VaT) 1:47.00 (51.65/55.35);

9. *Camden Marshall (In) 2:04.27 (52.19/72.08) (fell with 100 to go).

SEMIS (June 05)

I–1. Cohen 1:46.94; 2. McLear’ 1:47.29; 3. *Rynard Swanepoel’ (WF-SA) 1:47.44; 4. *Darius Kipyego (IaSt) 1:47.56; 5. **Oussama El Bouchayby’ (Al-Mor) 1:47.60; 6. *Caden Norris (TxAM) 1:47.96; 7. *Rivaldo Marshall’ (Ia-Jam) 1:48.36; 8. *Sebastian Fernandez (BYU) 1:49.43.

II–1. Whitmarsh 1:46.01; 2. Rhoden’ 1:46.18; 3. Farquharson’ 1:46.32; 4. Plant 1:46.40; 5. Dolan 1:46.91; 6. *Dayton Carlson (AzSt) 1:48.66; 7. *Yukichi Ishii’ (PennSt-Jpn) 1:49.07; 8. Mehdi Yanouri’ (OkSt-Mor) 1:49.09.

III–1. Marshall 1:48.17; 2. Bizimana’ 1:48.27; 3. **Handal Roban’ (PennSt-StV) 1:48.67; 4. **Cole Lindhorst (Tx) 1:48.69; 5. ***Andrew Casey (Wi) 1:49.59; 6. Luke Griner (Army) 1:49.87; 7. ***Gabriele Angiono’ (Gtn-Ita) 1:50.75; 8. William Cuthbertson (Butler) 1:51.84.