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Stan Becton | NCAA.com | February 21, 2022

Here's how more college athletes have run under the once-impossible four minute mile than ever before

Notre Dame's Yared Nuguse wins 1500 meter race in photo finish

In the 2021-22 NCAA Indoor Track and Field season, a remarkable 82 student-athletes have run the mile in less than four minutes. To put that in perspective, one must first understand the history of the mile as an event in track and field.

Running under a four-minute mile used to be an impossible task. It wasn't until Roger Bannister broke the four-minute barrier in 1954 that it was even thought of as a possibility. 

This year, the impossible has become routine.

Seventy-seven Division I runners, four Division II runners and one Division III runner have run a sub-four mile through Feb. 19, 2022.

"What is the reason?," wonders everyone in their best Cardi B voice.

Using data from qualifying times from the Track & Field Results Reporting System, we’ll take a look at five questions that could provide the reason for such impressive performances in the mile this season.

Could it be the meets?

Maybe everyone is running a fast mile because they're all together in the same meet. It would make sense for athletes to run faster because they are keeping pace with one another right?

That could be the case.

Yet, among athletes that have run under a four-minute mile, their fastest qualifying times have come from 28 different meets. Here's a breakdown of some of the said meets:

No. of qualifying times
under a 4-min mile
Meet Host Weekend
9 Music City Challenge Vanderbilt Feb 12, 2022
8 David Hemery Valentine Invitational Boston University Feb 12, 2022
5 Bruce Lehane Scarlet and White Invite Boston University Feb 5, 2022
5 Husky Classic Washington Feb 12, 2022
5 The Badgers Windy City Invite Wisconsin Feb 12, 2022
5 Arkansas Qualifier Arkansas Feb 19, 2022

Ten meets that have a sub-four-minute qualifying time had just one runner do so. That leaves 18 meets with multiple qualifying times under one minute. 

While the meets could be the reason why so many athletes have run under a four-minute mile, it's happened at far too many meets for it to be the only reason.

Could it have been a weekend?

Maybe everyone is running so fast because all of the runners hit their peak during one weekend. The 33 runners who ran their fastest time during the weekend of February 12 provide strong evidence for this argument.

Seven of the 10 fastest qualifying times at the DI level occurred on Valentine's Day weekend. Could the runners in the mile have been hitting top speeds to avoid Cupid's arrow?

RECORD: See the highlights from a record-breaking indoor track & field weekend

Possibly.

But more likely, the reason for runners finding immense success that weekend comes from the build-up of the season. It was just one week before some conference championships after all. The natural progression of the season should see runners get faster, especially in distance events.

So, one weekend can't be the sole reason behind the number of fast miles this season.

No. qualifying times
under a 4-min mile
Weekend
33 Feb 12, 2022
17 Jan 30, 2022
12 Jan 22, 2022
10 Feb 5, 2022
5 Feb 19, 2022
5 Jan 15, 2022

Could it be the tracks?

Maybe the reason behind the fast miles is that more events are happening on "faster" tracks. Could the surface be behind it all?

Of the 82 athletes that have run under four minutes in the mile, 62.1 percent of their fastest times have come from four tracks. Take a look at some of the leaders below:

No. of qualifying times
under a 4-min mile
Host Schools
17 Boston University
12 Washington
11 Vanderbilt
11 Arkansas
5 Wisconsin
4 Penn State
4 Notre Dame

The table shows 64 out of 82 qualifying times. While 78 percent of each athlete's fastest time has come from seven tracks, that number does not cover every track an athlete has run below a mile at.

Many athletes have run sub-four in the mile on multiple occasions. While according to runners, a good track can provide an extra boost, it can't MAKE a runner faster.

These runners are fast in the mile regardless of track and most can speed around in the mile, regardless of surface.

While theorizing about some tracks being faster than others for the mile is fun to do, it's not the reason times are so low this year.

Could it be the schools?

Maybe the runners with sub-four-minute mile times are the result of powerhouse programs. If they all train together, that should help with their times, right?

Yes, if all of the sub-four runners were from four or five schools, it would be impressive. Yet, that's not the case.

Runners from 52 different schools have run below the four-minute mark in the mile. Forty-seven schools come from Division I, four schools come from Division II and one school comes from Division III.

A deeper dive shows just 16 schools have multiple sub-four runners. See below:

No. of qualifying times
under a 4-min mile
Schools
4 Washington, Texas, Ole Miss, Northern Arizona, Georgetown
3 Virginia Tech, Villanova, Princeton, Oklahoma State
2 Wisconsin, Washington State, Wake Forest, Notre Dame, Michigan, Drake, Arkansas
1 36 schools

Among the group, no school stands out as a "powerhouse", with parity amongst the mile runners. That's not to dismiss programs with a history of producing great runners in the mile, but when looking at this unique year, multiple programs have runners with the sub-four feat.

A direct correlation between school and running below four minutes in the mile can't be drawn this season.

Could it be the experience?

Maybe the fast times are because the NCAA granted all athletes an extra "COVID-year" of eligibility after the pandemic took away so many athlete's seasons. It's a move that has led to many athletes returning for one more year. 

Could more experienced athletes be the reason behind it all?

Let's look at a breakdown by class

Division I sub-4 minute mile runners
No. of qualifying times
under a 4-min mile
Class
17 5th-year or graduate
6 True Senior
23 Junior
18 Sophomore
13 Freshman

In the table above, redshirted athletes are included in the junior, sophomore and freshman classes.

Seventeen DI runners with a sub-four-minute mile have been in school for five or more years. That's 22 percent of all DI athletes in the group. 

While that number is significant, it is less than the number of sophomores and juniors — athletes who would be in school currently regardless of COVID waivers — under a four-minute mile.

Athletes running under the four-minute mark in the mile are pretty balanced when it comes to class. The 13 freshmen under the mark might point to athletes being faster coming out of high school, rather than experience in college making runners faster.

At the Division II level, one runner from every class has run under the four-minute mile threshold. The lone Division III runner is a junior.

Across levels, no sign points to fifth-year seniors as the reason why athletes are running faster; there's variation across classes and athletes.

What is the reason?

After breaking down the many factors that could be the reason why 82 collegiate athletes have run a four-minute mile, what is the reason for such an impressive season in the event?

There's no correct answer.

It's a little bit of everything. What we are witnessing this season is greatness from the athletes running sub-four-minute miles.

A once-impossible feat is now more common than ever and that is a marvel in itself.

Every athlete under a four-minute mile

Division I

Here is the qualifying time of every Division I men’s indoor track and field athlete that has run under the four-minute mark in the mile during the 2021-22 season as of Feb. 19.

Athlete Class College Time Event Date
Beadlescomb, Morgan SR Michigan State 3:52.03 The Badgers Windy City Invite Feb 11, 2022
Garcia Romo, Mario JR Ole Miss 3:53.36 Music City Challenge Feb 11, 2022
Young, Nico FR Northern Arizona 3:54.07 Lumberjack Team Challenge Jan 21, 2022
Kipsang, Eliud FR Alabama 3:54.36 Music City Challenge Feb 11, 2022
Nuguse, Yared SR Notre Dame 3:54.46 Notre Dame Invitational Jan 22, 2022
Davis, Jonathan SR Illinois 3:54.59 Music City Challenge Feb 11, 2022
Dorenkamp, Evan SO Penn State 3:55.02 Music City Challenge Feb 11, 2022
Fay, Brian JR Washington 3:55.14 UW Invite 2022 Jan 28, 2022
Young, James SR Ole Miss 3:55.20 Music City Challenge Feb 11, 2022
Lumb, Kieran SR Washington 3:55.53 2022 UW Preview Jan 15, 2022
Payamps, Matthew SO Georgetown 3:55.53 2022 Boston University Bruce Lehane Scarlet and White Invite Feb 5, 2022
Johnsen, Colton SR Washington State 3:55.74 2022 UW Preview Jan 15, 2022
Dahl, Nick SR Duke 3:55.89 Music City Challenge Feb 11, 2022
Nur, Abdihamid SO Northern Arizona 3:55.94 UW Invite 2022 Jan 28, 2022
Carrozza, Crayton SO Texas 3:55.95 Camel City Invitational Feb 4, 2022
Basten, Isaac SO Drake 3:56.10 Arkansas Qualifier Feb 18, 2022
Osterstock, Nate SR Southern Utah 3:56.16 Lumberjack Team Challenge Jan 21, 2022
Bove, Davis SO LSU 3:56.38 Music City Challenge Feb 11, 2022
Dolan, Sean FR Villanova 3:56.39 Music City Challenge Feb 11, 2022
Waskom, Joe SO Washington 3:56.43 Arkansas Qualifier Feb 18, 2022
Maier, Alex SO Oklahoma State 3:56.44 2022 Husky Classic Feb 11, 2022
Houser, Luke SO Washington 3:56.57 2022 Husky Classic Feb 11, 2022
Fogg, Adam SR Drake 3:56.60 Cyclone Open Jan 22, 2022
Hacker, Olin SR Wisconsin 3:56.66 Larry Wieczorek Invitational Jan 21, 2022
Ibrahim, Abdirizak SO New Mexico 3:56.69 New Mexico Team Open Jan 29, 2022
Lopez Segura, Antonio SR Virginia Tech 3:56.79 2022 Darius Dixon Memorial Invitational Feb 11, 2022
Ellis, Sam SR Princeton 3:56.87 2022 Boston University David Hemery Valentine Invitational Feb 11, 2022
Hamilton, Duncan SO Montana State 3:56.89 Bobcat Challenge Jan 13, 2022
Stallings, Zach JR Washington State 3:57.00 2022 Husky Classic Feb 11, 2022
Miller, Duncan JR Princeton 3:57.04 2022 UW Preview Jan 15, 2022
Gomez, Cruz SO Texas 3:57.09 2022 Boston University David Hemery Valentine Invitational Feb 11, 2022
Spencer, Adam FR Wisconsin 3:57.29 The Badgers Windy City Invite Feb 11, 2022
O'Donovan, Charlie JR Villanova 3:57.46 Sykes & Sabock Invitational Jan 29, 2022
Gilman, Sam JR Air Force 3:57.52 Air Force Invitational Jan 20, 2022
Abdalla, Yaseen FR Texas 3:57.53 2022 Boston University David Hemery Valentine Invitational Feb 11, 2022
Bracken, Shane JR Ole Miss 3:57.57 Music City Challenge Feb 11, 2022
Herrera, Eduardo SR Colorado 3:57.60 Colorado Invitational Jan 28, 2022
Jacobs, Dylan JR Notre Dame 3:57.67 Notre Dame Invitational Jan 22, 2022
Schreml, Elias FR Arkansas 3:57.85 Razorback Invitational Jan 28, 2022
Sellaro, Ray JR Penn 3:57.89 Sykes & Sabock Invitational Jan 29, 2022
Stokes, Parker SO Georgetown 3:58.02 2022 Boston University David Hemery Valentine Invitational Feb 11, 2022
Magnusson, Baldvin JR Eastern Michigan 3:58.08 Meyo Invitational Feb 4, 2022
Salisbury, Jack SR Georgetown 3:58.17 2022 Boston University David Hemery Valentine Invitational Feb 11, 2022
Vanoppen, Thomas JR Wake Forest 3:58.21 Camel City Invitational Feb 4, 2022
Bedard, Simon SR Butler 3:58.34 Meyo Invitational Feb 4, 2022
Gilmore, Camden SO Georgetown 3:58.36 2022 Boston University Bruce Lehane Scarlet and White Invite Feb 5, 2022
Foster, Nick JR Michigan 3:58.49 The Badgers Windy City Invite Feb 11, 2022
Warnick, Tracen SR Weber State 3:58.52 2022 Husky Classic Feb 11, 2022
Schoppe, Ryan FR Oklahoma State 3:58.71 Arkansas Invitational Jan 14, 2022
Prodanov, Martin JR Missouri 3:58.72 Tyson Invitational Feb 11, 2022
Fischer, Camren SO Princeton 3:58.73 Arkansas Qualifier Feb 18, 2022
Van Der Els, Eric SR Connecticut 3:58.76 2022 Boston University John Thomas Terrier Classic (Sunday) Jan 30, 2022
Schaffer, Dan SR Binghamton 3:58.84 Penn State National Open Jan 21, 2022
Ewing, Joe FR Harvard 3:58.87 2022 Boston University Bruce Lehane Scarlet and White Invite Feb 5, 2022
Priddey, Isaiah JR Oklahoma State 3:58.93 Arkansas Qualifier Feb 18, 2022
Becker, Robert JR Stony Brook 3:58.98 2022 Boston University Bruce Lehane Scarlet and White Invite Feb 5, 2022
Bosley, Drew FR Northern Arizona 3:58.99 Lumberjack Team Challenge Jan 21, 2022
Cook, Elliott FR Oregon 3:59.02 Razorback Invitational Jan 28, 2022
Quax, Theo SO Northern Arizona 3:59.13 2022 Husky Classic Feb 11, 2022
Strangio, Matt FR Portland 3:59.19 UW Invite 2022 Jan 28, 2022
Anthony, Seb SR Virginia Tech 3:59.26 2022 Darius Dixon Memorial Invitational Feb 11, 2022
Miranda, Robert JR Yale 3:59.27 2022 Boston University Bruce Lehane Scarlet and White Invite Feb 5, 2022
Kibet, Andrew SO Arkansas 3:59.38 Razorback Invitational Jan 28, 2022
Akers, Isaac JR Tulsa 3:59.39 The Badgers Windy City Invite Feb 11, 2022
Shields, Jonathan SR Boise State 3:59.39 UW Invite 2022 Jan 28, 2022
Henderson, Nathan JR Syracuse 3:59.43 2022 Boston University John Thomas Terrier Classic (Sunday) Jan 30, 2022
Elkins, Dereck JR Ole Miss 3:59.46 Vanderbilt Invitational Jan 21, 2022
Raimond, Oli SO Michigan 3:59.47 The Badgers Windy City Invite Feb 11, 2022
Fleming, Ben JR Virginia Tech 3:59.47 2022 Darius Dixon Memorial Invitational Feb 11, 2022
Ponder, Cameron JR Furman 3:59.48 114th Millrose Games Jan 29, 2022
Nelsen, David SR Navy 3:59.52 2022 Boston University David Hemery Valentine Invitational Feb 11, 2022
Murphy, Liam FR Villanova 3:59.63 Sykes & Sabock Invitational Jan 29, 2022
Veatch, Ben SR Indiana 3:59.73 2022 Gladstein Invitational Jan 21, 2022
Jaziri, Ahmed JR Eastern Kentucky 3:59.87 Camel City Invitational Feb 4, 2022
Malebana, Dais SR Nebraska 3:59.88 Tyson Invitational Feb 11, 2022
Tewalt, Luke FR Wake Forest 3:59.94 2022 Darius Dixon Memorial Invitational Feb 11, 2022
Hebert, Brendan JR Texas 3:59.96 2022 Boston University David Hemery Valentine Invitational Feb 11, 2022

Division II

Here is the qualifying time of every Division II men’s indoor track and field athlete that has run under the four-minute mark in the mile during the 2021-22 season as of Feb. 19.

Athlete Class College Time Event Date
Ahl, Aaron JR Simon Fraser 3:57.95 2022 Boston University John Thomas Terrier Classic (Sunday) Jan 30, 2022
Strader, Mason SO Pittsburg Stte 3:58.47 Arkansas Qualifier Feb 18, 2022
Noble, Christian SR Lee (Tenn.) 3:59.70 Vanderbilt Invitational Jan 21, 2022
Elson, Callum FR American International 3:59.71 2022 Boston University David Hemery Valentine Invitational Feb 11, 2022

Division III

Here is the qualifying time of every Division III men’s indoor track and field athlete that has run under the four-minute mark in the mile during the 2021-22 season as of Feb. 19.

Athlete Class College Time Event Date
Ryan, Aidan JR Williams 3:59.92 2022 Boston University John Thomas Terrier Classic (Sunday) Jan 30, 2022

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