Updated: Apr 21
#1 Lawi Lalang (Arizona '14)
#16 Mo Ahmed (Wisconsin '14)
Lawi Lalang had one of the most successful careers of any NCAA athlete and it is no surprise that he has a #1 seed. The Wildcat ace is a seven-time national champion and a 14-time All-American. According to USTFCCCA, he is ranked NCAA #2 all-time in the mile (which was a collegiate record before Cheserek broke it), is NCAA #4 all-time in the 3000 meters, and is NCAA #1 all-time in the 5000 meters.
While some runners struggle at championship meets, Lalang thrived. During his junior year in 2013, he went undefeated at national meets as he won the 3k and the mile at the Indoor National Championships and won the 5k and 10k at the outdoor National Championships. Lalang eventually left the NCAA with collegiate bests of 3:36 (1500), 3:52 (mile), 7:42 (3k), 13:08 (5k) and 28:14 (10k).
Mo Ahmed was a consistently great figure at national meets between 2010 and 2014 for the Badgers. The Canadian was a five-time All-American, mostly in the long distance events. He made the national meet in all eight of his collegiate seasons, finishing between 3rd and 14th place in 5k and 10k races. Ahmed, however, never secured a national title.
His collegiate 10k PR of 27:34 ranks him at NCAA #7 all-time according to USTFCCCA for in-season races. It is also the Wisconsin school record and a BIG 10 record. Ahmed also left the NCAA with a collegiate PR of 13:28 for 5000 meters.
#8 Matthew Centrowitz (Oregon ‘11)
#9 Daniel Lincoln (Arkansas ‘03)
When you think of Matthew Centrowitz, you likely remember him as one of the most decorated recent USA distance athletes, but his NCAA career was a bit different.
Centrowitz left Oregon after grabbing only one NCAA title - the 2011 1500 meter national title. His next best finish at the NCAA Championships came the year prior when he placed 3rd in his signature event. Centrowitz also earned a 10th place finish at the 2010 NCAA XC Championships and a 4th place finish in the 2011 Indoor National Championships in the 3000 meters.
However, Centro's most impressive performance didn't come on a collegiate stage. Instead, it was his bronze medal performance at the 2011 IAAF Championships in Daegu (while still technically in college). That success led Centrowitz to eventually forego his remaining eligibility and turn pro. Although Daniel Lincoln might not carry the name recognition of Matt Centrowitz, Lincoln was the one who emerged with four NCAA titles. Lincoln was a back-to-back-to-back NCAA Champion in the steeplechase in 2001-2003. At the 2003 outdoor national meet, Lincoln was a double champion as well, taking the 10k national title during outdoors in addition to his steeplechase win.
Lincoln’s best NCAA Championship time was 8:22 (in the steeplechase) while his winning 10k time was 28:20.
Overall, Lincoln grabbed 14 All-American honors throughout his career to go down as one of the most consistent and event-dominant distance runners of the early 2000's. A full set of Lincoln’s personal bests could not be found.
#5 Cam Levins (Southern Utah '12)
#12 Thomas Staines (CSU-Pueblo '21)
Southern Utah's Cam Levins was a star in the collegiate realm in the early 2010's. The 2012 graduate had outstanding personal bests of 3:57 (mile), 7:48 (3k), 13:18 (5k) and 27:27 (10k) which paired nicely with his 10k/5k double gold at the 2012 NCAA Outdoor National Championships.
Despite being named the 2012 Bowerman Award winner, Levins' national title count was capped at only two. Still, the Southern Utah legend has the times and accolades to be seeded in the upper third of our April Anarchy bracket.
One of the greatest D2 800 meter runners ever, Thomas Staines has been a wrecking ball in the middle distances for CSU-Pueblo. The half-mile specialist has won four straight national titles in the 800 meters between indoor and outdoor track. His in-season best of 1:46.27 is the fastest all-conditions time in D2 history for indoor track. Only one other D2 runner (Drew Windle) has ever run under 1:47 on an indoor track as a collegiate. His overall personal best of 1:45.57 was run out of season at the 2018 Music City Distance Carnival.
With another year of eligibility still left, Staines isn't done rewriting history quite yet.
#4 Morgan McDonald (Wisconsin ‘19)
#13 Tabor Stevens (Adams State ‘15)
Morgan McDonald came to Wisconsin from Australia and made a huge impact for the Badgers. He was a five-time BIG 10 Champion on the track and a five-time All-American.
After a brief hiatus to race for Australia in international competition (where he ran an out-of-season 13:15 5k PR), McDonald came back as the best runner in the NCAA. After winning the cross country national title on his home course, he went on to win the indoor 3k national title, the indoor 5k national title and the outdoor 5k national title. McDonald holds the Wisconsin school record and the BIG 10 record in the indoor 3k when he ran 7:42 at the Millrose Games.
Up against McDonald we have Tabor Stevens who comes from D2 powerhouse Adams State. A 12-time All-American in D2, Stevens competed mostly in the mile, steeplechase and the 5000 meters. The Adams State star was a three-time national champion in the steeplechase and holds the D2 national record with a time of 8:26.81. Stevens also won national titles in the mile (2013) and the outdoor 5k (2015).
That makes him a five-time national champion, just on the track.
Stevens left Adams State with personal bests of 3:45 (1500), 4:00.90 (mile), 7:57.56 (3k), 8:26 (3k steeple) and 13:49 (5k).
#6 Anthony Rotich (UTEP '15)
#11 Chris Derrick (Stanford '12)
Despite running in the same era as Lawi Lalang and leaving the NCAA just after Cheserek entered the collegiate scene, Anthony Rotich still has a place among the greatest runners of the new century.
Not counting national titles, Rotich owns seven All-American honors, including a 4th place finish at the 2012 NCAA Cross Country Championships. However, Rotich's ability to win national titles in multiple events is what truly impressed us. He was a three-time steeplechase champion between 2013, 2014 and 2015 which resulted in a personal best time of 8:21 (NCAA #9 all-time). Rotich also won the 2014 mile national title against the likes of Lawi Lalang and Mac Fleet.
Chris Derrick is yet another Stanford superstar who secured a total of 14 All-American finishes during his time with the Cardinal. Unfortunately, Derrick was never able to secure a national title despite numerous top five finishes against some of the country's greatest talents. Even so, Derrick's personal bests of 3:59 (mile), 7:46 (3k), 13:19 (5k) and 27:31 (10k) put him in elite all-time company. He is arguably the greatest collegiate distance runner to never win a national title.
#3 Chris Solinsky (Wisconsin ‘07)
#14 Will Leer (Pomona Pitzer ‘07)
While many fans of the sport may remember him for his historic 10k American Record, Chris Solinsky's career at Wisconsin was also loaded with highlights. A 14-time All-American, he won five national titles for the Badgers in the indoor 3k (2005-2006), indoor 5k (2007) and outdoor 5k (2006-2007). Many of his titles were against some stiff competition (many of whom are in this bracket) which gives him a very deserving spot as a #3 seed.
Hailing from Pomona Pitzer, Will Leer rose to the professional ranks after a successful career on the D3 level. He took home two indoor mile titles in 2006 and 2007, placed 2nd in the 1500 meters at the 2006 outdoor national meet (behind Nick Symmonds), and performed a successful 1500/5k double at the 2007 D3 National Championships.
Leer sits at NCAA #2 all-time in the D3 1500 meters with his mark of 3:41.98.
#7 Michael Saruni (UTEP ‘18)
#10 Brad Hauser (Stanford ‘00)
Michael Saruni’s career at UTEP did not last long, only running for two years before signing a professional contract (which is why isn't seeded any higher). However, he made a massive impact during that time, becoming one of the most dominant 800 meter runners ever.
Saruni won the 2018 indoor national title in the 800 meters and later placed 3rd in the same event at the outdoor national meet. Of course, those two finishes are hardly what stands out on Saruni’s resume.
In 2018, Saruni set the current NCAA 800 meter record with a time of 1:43.25. He also holds the second fastest indoor 800 meter time in NCAA history at 1:45.15. Saruni might not have spent much time in the NCAA, but he made an impact on the record books that will likely be felt for a long time.
Brad Hauser put together a very impressive run of titles and top finishes between 1997 and 2000, including five wins at the NCAA level. However, for the purpose of this competition, we are emphasizing performances from 2000 or later. While this doesn't exactly help Hauser due to the fact that he graduated from Stanford in 2000, his indoor and outdoor seasons that year were impressive enough that they warrant a spot on this list.
At the 2000 NCAA Outdoor National Championships, Hauser pulled off the 5k/10k double gold like few others have, before Hauser’s time or after. Even in a historic Stanford program, Hauser stands out as an all-time great.
#2 David Kimani (South Alabama / Alabama '03)
#15 Sean McGorty (Stanford '18)
The late David Kimani earned himself a #2 seed for what he was able to do at South Alabama and the University of Alabama. While still at South Alabama, Kimani took the title at the NCAA D1 XC Championships as just a freshman, winning by three seconds.
Throughout his collegiate career, Kimani was eventually able to corral six NCAA Championships. In 2000 and 2001, he was able to go back-to-back in both the indoor 3000 meters and the indoor 5000 meters as well as take the 5000 meter national title at the NCAA Outdoor Championships that year. Kimani's college career ended as a 14-time All-American.
Stanford's Sean McGorty was one of the best collegiate distance runners in the NCAA who had to battle the likes of Edward Cheserek, Futsum Zienasellassie, Patrick Tiernan, Justyn Knight and even teammate Grant Fisher for most of his career.
McGorty competed at the NCAA D1 XC Championships with all four years of his eligibility and finished in the top 25 three of those times. He was the 5000 meter national champion at the 2018 NCAA Outdoor Championships and beat names such as Justyn Knight and teammate Grant Fisher in the process.
McGorty was also able to leave Stanford with some of the best all-around PR’s of any collegiate athlete of his era. He left the NCAA with times of 3:53.95 (mile), 7:48 (3k) and 13:24 (5k).