Fantastic Finish Makes Phelan NCAA 1,500-Meter Champion

Fantastic Finish Makes Phelan NCAA 1,500-Meter Champion

Provided by U of M

June 10, 2017

» Jaimie Phelan went from last to first over the final 400 meters to claim the NCAA Outdoor Championships title at 1,500 meters in 4:13.78 by .02 -- the second-closest race in the event's history at NCAAs.

» Phelan's title is the first won by a Michigan woman at 1,500 meters, the first by a Big Ten woman in the event since 1995, and the first by U-M in any event since 2009.

» Gina Sereno placed 15th overall in the 5,000 meters final, bring her season to a close with just a single loss to her name.

Site: Eugene, Ore. (Hayward Field)

Event: NCAA Outdoor Championships

U-M Team Result: Tie-21st Place (10 Points)

Next U-M Event: Season completed

EUGENE, Ore. -- On the strength of a final 400 meters inside Historic Hayward Field on Saturday (June 10) that will go down in University of Michigan history, Jaimie Phelan now stands alone in the storied women's track and field record book as the program's very first NCAA outdoor champion at 1,500 meters.

Crossing the line at the bell with one lap to go as the very last woman in the 12-runner field, the junior summoned the full extent of what the locals call "Hayward Magic" over the final quarter-mile and passed three former national champions to claim the national title with the second-narrowest margin of victory in meet history -- .02 of a second -- in 4:13.78.

Only 61.62 seconds elapsed over the course of those final 400 meters, including a decisive surge on the backstretch with 300 meters to go that catapulted her from 11th to first, and a final straightaway blanket finish that saw Phelan in lane one just barely edge out Nikki Hiltz of Arkansas in lane four.

Never before Saturday had any Wolverine finished better than fourth in the NCAA Championships 1,500-meter final, with the most recent being Shannon Osika a year ago. Not since Amy Wickus of Wisconsin took the title in 1995 has any Big Ten school claimed the national crown in the metric mile.

With the victory Phelan earned 10 points for the Wolverines in the team standings as they finished tied for 21st overall with six other teams, including Big Ten team champion Purdue. Among Big Ten teams, only Indiana finished higher, in a tie for 19th with 11 points.

Entering the day undefeated, Big Ten 5,000- and 10,000-meter champion Gina Sereno ran her second-best time of the season in the 5,000 meters final at 16:03.55 after a strong first two miles, but she ultimately finished 15th overall.

Those not familiar with Phelan's signature sit-and-wait tactic -- the same one that won her the Big Ten title, clinched her berth to NCAAs, and earned her a new career-best 4:11.92 in Thursday's semifinal -- may have been uncomfortable with her positioning after the first 300 meters in 11th.

But that was the plan as it has been all postseason long, and she stuck to it as she came through with two laps and 800 meters left still in 11th place -- but less than a second off leader Jessica Harris of Notre Dame. Phelan was only off Harris' pace by .53 of a second, with the whole field separated by only .06 more.

The pack was just as close as it came around in front of a raucous Hayward Field crowd at the start of the last lap -- everyone was within .68 of a second -- but this time it was Phelan bringing up the rear in 3:12.16.

That was not a position she would hold for much longer. After running on the inside of lane one for most of the race to that point -- while much of the rest of the field was stretched wide into the second and even third lanes -- Phelan started moving toward the outside of the pack on the straightaway heading into the bell with 400 meters to go.

She gained one spot heading into the backstretch with 300 meters to go in front of the facility's iconic east grandstand, which is where the "Hayward Magic" began.

In one swift and decisive move, she overtook a full pack of 10 runners over the course of 100 meters and moved back onto the inside lane hugging the final curve. Not only had she positioned herself at the front of the pack, but she ensured that she would be running the shortest distance of anyone in the pack as her pursuers had to swing wide into the outside lanes to keep chase.

Enveloped in the roar of the entirety of the 12,992-strong crowd, Phelan barreled onto the homestretch with a narrow lead over 2017 indoor 3,000-meter national champion Dani Jones -- who also anchored the winning distance medley relay -- as well as Oregon standout Katie Rainsberger and 2017 indoor mile national champion Karisa Nelson of Samford.

Staying on the inside lane all the way down the backstretch, Phelan kept both Jones and Nelson at bay in lanes two and three but faced a hard-charging Hiltz out in lane four. Hiltz closed the gap in the final 20 meters or so, but Phelan held strong through the finish line as Hiltz stumbled ever so slightly in her attempt to lean at the line to seal the finish.

When the photo finish had been sorted out, it was Phelan who came away with the win by .02 of a second, second only to last year's .01 victory by Mississippi State's Marta Freitas over Stanford's Elise Cranny on the list of closest finishes in meet history.

All eight scorers in the race finished within about one second of one another -- eighth-place Amy-Eloise Neale of Washington crossed eighth in 4:14.89 -- with 2015 outdoor 1,500-meter national champ Rhianwedd Price ninth in 4:15.35.

By virtue of her win and ninth- and 11th-place finishes by Price and Fresno State's Annemarie Schwanz, Phelan is currently the only woman in the country who will enter the 2018 season as a back-to-back first-team All-American -- a top-eight finisher -- in the event. Her win extended Michigan's streak of years with first-team All-Americans in the event to five in a row, the longest such active streak in the nation for the 1,500 meters.

Less than two hours later, Sereno put her undefeated 2017 outdoor season on the line but came up short after showing up strong in the opening two-thirds of the race.

The two-time defending Big Ten outdoor 5,000- and 10,000-meter champion was among the leaders through the first two miles, moving up as close to the front as second with a mile to go in the race. After covering the first three kilometers in approximately 16:10 pace, multiple-time national champion Karissa Schweizer of Missouri ratcheted up the pace midway through the fourth kilometer to string out the pack with a 73-second lap -- just enough different from the 77-second circuits the pack had been covering to put a strain on the group.

Sereno held that pace for a quarter-mile before starting to fall off the pace to eighth place with 1,200 meters to go. She slipped back to 14th with half a mile to go and ultimately finished 15th, just one spot away from second-team All-America honors.

The collegiate season has concluded with these NCAA Championships, but several women could potentially compete at their respective national championships later this summer.

Communications Contact: Kyle Terwillegar