BYU’s Anna Camp, who was not included on anybody’s pre-race favorite list, came out of nowhere to win the 1,500-meter run Saturday afternoon at the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships in Eugene, Oregon.
Displaying remarkable patience and race savvy, Camp claimed BYU’s first outdoor championship since Nachelle Stewart won the 800-meter run in 2012. In the process, Camp broke the BYU school record for the second time in three days. Her time of 4:08.53 broke the record she set in Thursday’s semifinals of 4:09.22, which broke teammate Whittni Orton’s record of 4:09.31 set six weeks ago.
Camp was one of three BYU runners who finished in the top four of their events Saturday, the final day of these championships. Courtney Wayment and Claire Seymour placed fourth in the steeplechase and 800-meter run respectively.
Bolstered by their performance in the distance and middle-distance events, the BYU women’s team finished 10th in the team standings, quite an improvement for a program that, since 2016, finished 51st, 43rd, 67th and 25th, respectively, in the team standings of the outdoor championships (the 2020 championships was canceled because of the pandemic).
Camp delivered perhaps the day’s biggest upset in claiming BYU’s lone national championship during the four-day meet. She was not even mentioned on Track & Field News’ list of the top 10 favorites for the race, but that was understandable. Camp had not won a single 1,500-meter race this season. She placed sixth at the West Region meet, the qualifying competition for the NCAA championships. Her best time before this week was 4:11.63, which she produced on April 30.
Camp, a senior from tiny Fillmore, Utah, (pop. 2,500), stayed in the hunt the entire race, running in fourth place through the early going and tracking Colorado’s heavy pre-race favorite Sage Hurta, the NCAA indoor mile champion. It was still a four-woman race on the backstretch of the final lap, and shortly after they came out of the final turn into the homestretch, Camp, timing her kick perfectly, raced into the lead and pulled away for a relatively comfortable win. Hurta was second in 4:09.22, and Stanford’s Ella Donaghu was third in 4:09.66.
At the outset of the meet, two BYU athletes were considered heavy favorites. Orton and Wayment had by far the fastest times in the nation in the 5,000-meter run and the 3,000-meter steeplechase, respectively. Neither of them came away with a win.
Wayment, the indoor NCAA champion over 3,000 meters and the fifth fastest collegiate steeplechaser ever, won the NCAA West Region a week earlier to maintain her unbeaten streak in that race. But on Saturday she finished fourth after stumbling on several of the water jumps (including the final one). She clocked a time of 9:32.93. The race was won by Air Force’s Mahala Norris in 9:31.79. Weber State’s Summer Allen, a senior from Orem, was eighth in 9:40.37.
Likewise, Seymour, a senior from California, finished fourth in the 800-meter run with a time of 2:01.91 — the fourth fastest time in school history. The race was won by Virginia’s Michaela Meyer in 2:00.28. When the NCAA championships began, Seymour had only the 11th fastest time in the nation.
Orton, who earlier this season produced the seventh fastest time in collegiate history in the 5,000-meter run (15:12.91), shot into the lead from the start and held a lead of nearly meters for much of the first half of the 12 ½-lap race. The rest was fait accompli — the field reeled her in and she wilted in the final laps, undone by her fast start. She finished 16th with a time of 16:05.33. The race was won by Elly Henes of North Carolina State with a time of 15:28.05. Utah’s Poppy Tank was 22nd in 16:15.88.
BYU’s Cierra Tidwell was 14th in the high jump with a leap of 5 feet, 10 inches.