Yared Nuguse Had A Perfect Indoor Season

A 3:47.38 win in the famed Wanamaker Mile gave Nuguse the American Record. (VICTOR SAILER/PHOTO RUN)

3 RACES, 3 WINS, 3 AMERICAN RECORDS. Yared Nuguse made the most of his indoor season, solidifying his position as one of the U.S.’s best milers and establishing himself as a serious contender on a global stage.

“I would rate my indoor season as 10 out of 10,” says the 23-year-old Notre Dame alum. “With the expectations I had for indoors, I really wanted to do well. But winning all those races with such fierce competition, it just shows that I’m in a really good spot right now.”

After opening the campaign with a 3000 AR of 7:28.24 in Boston on January 27, Nuguse won the Millrose mile with another national record on February 11 (3:47.38, along with a 1500 AR of 3:33.22 en route), then wrapped things up on February 22 with a well-timed kick to top a strong 1500 field in Madrid (3:33.69).

“I’ve always really liked indoors,” he says. “It started mostly in college with the DMR, that was the main reason why I loved indoors so much.”

And though the emphasis in professional running is on outdoor championships, Nuguse enjoys using undercover racing to break up winter training and as a barometer for what to expect later in the year. “I still think indoors is fun, just to see where you are at a certain point,” he explains. “The outdoor season is very long and hard, but it feels nice to have this indoor season and then a break from racing before getting back into it for outdoors.”

When he stepped onto BU’s famed oval the 3000 record was not on his mind. “Being my first race of the season, I was expecting low 7:30s,” he says. Instead, he moved to No. 9 on the all-time world list (pushed down to No. 10 later in the season), improving his PR by almost 10 seconds. His previous best, a Collegiate Record at the time (7:38.13 last year), was also set at BU.

At Millrose, Nuguse and his OAC teammates Olli Hoare and Mario García were targeting sub-3:50 times and national records. The U.S. indoor best of 3:49.89, set by Bernard Lagat in ’05, was top of mind for Nuguse.

To maximize their chances, the trio even recruited Millrose pacer Erik Sowinski to do some training sessions with them in Boulder, simulating various follow-the-leader configurations. Sowinski delivered in the Armory with a 1:52.99 split at the half. The pace lagged a bit after the rabbit supreme stepped off, but Nuguse moved ahead of Hoare and into the lead with two laps to go.

“I was feeling weirdly better than I normally feel in a race of that speed,” he says of his sensational final quarter (54.23), which allowed him to obliterate Lagat’s record. In fact, Nuguse’s 3:47.38 now trails only Yomif Kejelcha’s ’19 WR (3:47.01) and puts him in striking distance of Alan Webb’s outdoor AR of 3:46.91.

“I usually only have a kick like that when I’m behind someone,” Nuguse says. “But the atmosphere there was great and I felt really good, so I just hammered down that last 200. I knew I was going to break the American Record, but to break it by a whole 2 seconds is still crazy to think about.”

There were no records to be had in Madrid a week and a half later — thanks in part to the city’s elevation of about 700m — but it gave Nuguse a chance to show off some tactical savvy. After Spain’s Mohamed Katir took the lead with a lap and a half to go, the American followed patiently and timed his final sprint perfectly, coming off the last turn to win convincingly.

“I haven’t had a lot of races where I’ve kicked down someone the last 100m or so,” he admits. “So that was really fun. I was ready for it to be a tight race. That was as good an ending to the season as any.”

Now the focus turns to outdoors. The past two seasons have been an emotional roller coaster for the Louisville native. As a Notre Dame junior he narrowly missed defending his NCAA 1500 title from ’19, then kicked his way into 3rd at the Olympic Trials, only to have to scratch from the Tokyo heats after suffering a quad injury in Japan. Last year it was a hamstring issue that forced him to miss his final ACC and NCAA.

After finishing a disappointing 11th in the USATF 1500, he began working with Dathan Ritzenhein’s squad. The transition to training at Boulder’s 1600-plus meters of altitude was a challenge at first, but by summer’s end Nuguse was already seeing results. He made a late-season trip to Europe and came away with a 3:33.26 PR to win in Padua, Italy.

He continues to thrive in the OAC’s team atmosphere. “The way that everyone treats each other and trains together reminds me of that college connection I felt at Notre Dame,” says Nuguse, who lives with fellow rookie pros García and Sinta Vissa as well as Geordie Beamish: “It’s very team oriented, and I always thrived in that environment. I think this was the pro-group version of that in a sense.”

The big goal for ’23, of course, is making the U.S. team for the Worlds and fighting for the medals in Budapest. He’s thrilled that WC and Olympic 1500s are now fast paced from the gun. “I love the lack of tactical races. My first tactical race in college I was so confused,” he says with a laugh. “It was at ACCs my freshman year and I was like, ‘Why are we running so slow? This is so stupid.’”

After this winter’s accomplishments, his confidence is high. “If I’m running anything like I was able to this indoor season, then come USA outdoors I’m definitely slotted in for one of the spots on the team,” he says. “It would be nice to make the team and really compete in Budapest. If all goes well and I get to that point, then I know I can compete with the best at worlds.” ◻︎