Digits: Sub 3:40


There has been a ton to talk about this outdoor season. The return of Dani Jones, the 10k dominance from BYU, the overwhelming depth in the women's 800, and an array of transfer rumors have captured our attention for the past two months (and rightfully so).


However, there is one storyline that fans of the NCAA don't seem to be talking enough about. As we head into a weekend headlined by conference championship meets, no one seems to recognize the fact that there are 15 different men who have run under 3:40 for 1500 meters this season.


Yes, you read that correctly.


There are 15 men who have run 3:39 or faster for 1500 meters this season. All of those performances have been run within the past month.


But just how crazy is it to see this kind of depth at the top of the leaderboard? How does this season compare to year's past? Who were some relevant names that were also at the top of the country's collegiate 1500 rankings all those years ago? Luckily, you read TSR which means we've got all of those answer prepared for you...


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Between TFRRS and Athletic.net, collegiate 1500 rankings only date back to 2008. This means that we have 11 completed seasons of data (not counting 2019) to reference. We are excluding championship results since TFRRS does not compile that data or make it readily available. Any regional or national meet results are not counted. So keep in mind that this article only applies to the regular season + conference championships.


Side Note: We initially published this article based on Athletic.net data which said there were no sub-3:40 marks in 2008. However, Andrew Wheating ran 3:38 at the Oregon Twilight meet that year. We have since made the proper corrections...


Prior to 2019, there had never been a season where more than 15 men had run under 3:40 for 1500 meters. The previous high was 12 total men which was set all the way back in....2018. Before 2018, the highest total of sub-3:40 times we had ever seen was 10 which was in 2015.


Struggling to do the math? Don't worry, we've got you.


In the past two outdoor seasons, there have been 27 sub-3:40 marks on the NCAA leaderboard. From 2008 to 2017 (10 total seasons), there have been 43 sub-3:40 marks. That's a total of 70 regular season sub-3:40's in the past 12 years.


2018 and 2019 are responsible for nearly 39% of sub-3:40 marks that the NCAA has seen in the past 12 years. At that pace, it would take a little over five years to reach a total of 70 compared to the 12 years that it has taken us to hit that number.


In Lehman's terms, collegiate men are RAPIDLY improving at the 1500 meter distance.


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But is this just anomaly? Is there any additional data suggesting that the collegiate elites are actually getting faster in the 1500? Let's exclude 2018 and 2019 from consideration right now. Instead, let's examine two time periods: 2008 to 2012 (five years) and 2013 to 2017 (five years).


From 2008 to 2012, we had 17 men run under 3:40 for 1500 meters during the regular season.


From 2013 to 2017, we had 26 men run under 3:40 for 1500 meters during the regular season.


In fact, you can choose any consecutive five year period between 2008 and 2017. Any consecutive five year period you choose between 2008 and 2017 will fail to match the 27 sub-3:40's that we've seen in that past two years.


Just for perspective, if we were to maintain the same rate that we've seen since 2018 until 2022, we would end up with 67 men under 3:40. If we extended it until 2027 (10 years) then that number comes 134...more than three times what we saw between 2008 and 2017.


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Need some more historical comparisons? Here are some other fun facts we found while researching the men's 1500...


- 2019 NAU joins 2018 Oregon and 2015 Oregon as the only teams to have three sub-3:40 1500 runners in the same season (since at least 2008)


- The Oregon Ducks have (by far) the most sub-3:40 performances since 2008 with a total of 14. The next closest are Wisconsin, Ole Miss, & Arizona with five.


- There have been eight men who have run under 3:40 more than once since 2018. Those men are Justyn Knight, Josh Kerr, Lawi Lalang, Craig Engels, Waleed Suliman, Carlos Villarreal, Reed Brown, and Oliver Hoare. Not only are four of those eight men still running in the NCAA, but they still have eligibility for next year.


- Six different men have run under 3:40 as freshmen during the regular season since 2008. Those men are Edward Cheserek, Justyn Knight, Waleed Suliman, Matthew Maton, Reed Brown, and now Theo Quax. Not bad company to be in, huh?


- Payton Jordan has been responsible for 21 sub-3:40 marks by collegiates. Bryan Clay has been responsible for 25 sub-3:40 marks by collegiates. In total, these two meets make up roughly 66% of the sub-3:40 times on the NCAA leaderboard since 2008.


- Let's look even deeper into our dataset. There have only been 28 instances since 2008 where we've seen a collegiate run under 3:39 (in the regular season). All of them were run at either Bryan Clay or Payton Jordan.


- Let's filter the data even more. There have only been 17 instances since 2008 where we've seen a collegiate run under 3:39 (in the regular season). Oliver Hoare and Josh Kerr are the only men to have done it more than once. Makes you realize just how special last year's Outdoor National Championship 1500 was, huh?