BYU pulled off what might prove to be the biggest upset of the 2021 NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships Friday in Fayetteville, Arkansas, by winning the distance medley relay (DMR). They didn’t just win it; they ran away from the field in record-setting fashion.

Sisters Alena and Lauren Ellsworth teamed with Olivia Hoj Simister and Courtney Wayment to win by more than four seconds, clocking 10:52.96, the second fastest time in NCAA history.

They also broke the school record set a year ago in Seattle by almost exactly one second.

Distance medley relay final team times


10:52.96 — BYU


10:57.19 — Arkansas


10:59.16 — Florida St.


10:59.41 — Alabama


10:59.75 — Oklahoma St.


They entered the meet with only the eighth fastest time in the nation, 11:03.62, set in Seattle earlier this season by the same team.

BYU coach Diljeet Taylor knew they had more. Wayment and Simister have the fastest and third fastest times, respectively, in the mile, and Lauren Ellsworth is ranked in the 800, but Taylor held them out of their open races and put them in the DMR.

“We knew we had a shot for the win, which is ultimately why we went DMR/3K for Courtney and Olivia and kept Lauren only in the DMR and not the 800,” Taylor explained.

The distance medley is a mix of four distances. In order — 1,200 meters, 400 meters, 800 meters and 1,600 meters.

Simister, a senior from Olympus High, led off for the Cougars on the 1,200-meter leg. She ran on the shoulder of the leader early from the start of the race, and when Arkansas’ Lauren Gregory swept into the lead at about 500 meters, Simister followed. Together they gapped the field as Simister continued to shadow Gregory until she faded on the final lap. She handed off the baton in third place.

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Alena Ellsworth, a senior from Gilbert, Arizona, pursued the leaders aggressively on the 400-meter second leg, and on the backstretch of the second lap she moved into second place. She handed the baton to her sister, Lauren, for the 800-meter (four-lap) third leg, down 12 to 15 meters to Arkansas. Lauren wisely chose to chip away at the Arkansas lead, rather than attempt to make it up all at once and her patience paid off. She caught Arkansas’ Quinn Owen heading into the homestretch of the final lap and they handed off the baton dead even.

Wayment, a senior from Davis High, chose to slide in behind Arkansas’ Krissy Gear and bide her time at the outset of the final 1,600-meter leg (a metric mile).

Wayment, who possesses a smooth, long stride, glided along behind Gear for a couple of laps and then strided past her and pulled away. She opened up a lead of some 30 meters and with a half-mile to go it was clear that no one was going to catch her.

Simister’s opening 1,200-meter split was 3:21.92; Alena Ellsworth’s 400-meter split was 52.41; Lauren Ellsworth’s 800-meter split was 2:05.74; and Wayment’s 1,600-meter was split 4:32.90.

 “I am extremely proud of how all four women battled for this title,” said Taylor. “The confidence displayed, the trust in each other and the dominating fashion in which they won is a testament to years of hard work, faith and dedication. A great day for the women of BYU.”

It marks the first time in school history that a women’s relay team from BYU has won a national championship. BYU’s men’s team has won two national championships in the relays — the DMR in 1978 and 2011.

Wayment, who also owns the nation’s fastest time at 3,000 meters, will contest that event Saturday, as will Simister, who ranks fourth.