EUGENE, Ore.--Middle distance runners Jordy Williamsz (Melbourne, Australia) and Ben Malone (River Vale, N.J.) were on the track for Villanova in the semifinal heats of the 1500 meters as the NCAA Championships got underway at Hayward Field on Wednesday afternoon. Both runners finished sixth in their respective heats and Williamsz advanced on time to Friday evening’s final, where he will compete for the national title in the 1500 meters for the third consecutive season. Malone, who came on strong this season to earn his first individual qualifying spot at the NCAA meet, had an incredible final lap but came up just short of moving on to the final by the most miniscule of margins.
Williamsz ran in the second of the two semifinal heats and crossed the finish line in 3:41.16, coming in well under the equivalent of a four-minute mile. He was in fourth place when the bell sounded for the final lap of the race and wound up sixth in a tight scramble at the finish line. Less than half a second separated the runners in second through ninth places in the heat, with an even smaller separation of 0.27 seconds separating fifth place through ninth.
The top five finishers in each heat and the next two fastest times advanced to the final. Williamsz was caught at the line for fifth place but his heat was the faster of the two sections and he put himself in good position during the race to be an “on-time” qualifier regardless of whether he hung on to a top-five spot.
Williamsz has finished fifth in the 1500 meters at the NCAA Championships in each of the last two seasons. His time of 3:41.16 marks the seventh time he has run a sub-four minute mile or the metric equivalent during his collegiate career; he has accomplished the feat additional times outside of the official collegiate season.
In the first heat of the 1500 meters earlier on Wednesday afternoon, Malone closed with a split of 52 seconds and change for the final 400 meters. He was pushed towards the back of the pack when the race began and was still in ninth place with a lap to go. Malone’s surge during the bell lap pulled him all the way up into fifth place with less than 20 meters to go. The mad dash for the finish line was even tighter than in the heat which would follow. The runners that placed third through sixth in the opening heat were separated by only 0.14 seconds.
Malone and Blake Haney from Oregon finished in a virtual tie for fifth place, and their times were extended out to the thousandths of a second to determine where they would finish. Haney’s official time was 3:49.533 and Malone’s was 3:49.540, a difference of just seven thousandths of a second. The margin was so small that the unofficial results initially showed Malone in fifth place and Haney in sixth, only to switch moments later and then be confirmed upon review.
Despite not advancing to the final, Malone’s race in the semifinal heats was a successful finish to his impressive outdoor campaign. Malone lowered his personal best time in the 1500 meters twice during the season, including to his current mark of 3:43.28 during the national first round of the event at the NCAA East Preliminary two weeks ago. He was an automatic qualifier after the first round and the quarterfinal round of the 1500 meters to reach the NCAA Championships, and also scored individually in the 800 meters at the BIG EAST Championships. Malone ran a leg of the Wildcats conference champion 4x800 meter relay and was a part of the team’s lineup in both the distance medley relay and the 4xMile relay at the Penn Relays.
The final of the 1500 meters takes place on Friday at 8:42 p.m. Eastern time and the race can be seen live on ESPN and the WatchESPN app. Later that night, senior Patrick Tiernan (Toowoomba, Australia) will run in the final of the 5000 meters for the third straight year. That race is at 10:25 p.m. Eastern time on Friday night.