It’s a sign of the times when BYU has not one, but two athletes who have run the mile in 3 minutes, 54 seconds this winter, and they’re not even in the conversation when it comes to pre-meet favorites for this weekend’s NCAA indoor track and field championships.

“I’m excited that we have the most number of qualified athletes (15) for the national championships in program history. Just making it to this point is an incredible honor because it represents the top 1% of all NCAA athletes. I’m just excited to see if we can level up.”

—  BYU track coach Ed Eyestone

Aidan Troutner clocked an altitude-adjusted 3:54.51 mile in Provo earlier this year and teammate Lucas Bons clocked 3:54.82 in Boston. Troutner’s time would’ve won every NCAA indoor championship going back to the start of the competition in 1965 except one (2021). Bons’ time would have won all but two of them. Troutner is .03 of a second behind the BYU school record set 12 years ago by Miles Batty — which was the national collegiate record at the time.

And yet the times produced by Troutner and Bons rank no better than 14th and 19th, respectively, heading into the NCAA championships, which will be held Friday and Saturday in Boston.

It’s all about the shoes. Ed Eyestone and Diljeet Taylor, the men’s and women’s head track coaches at BYU, have both commented on the impact of high-tech, carbon-plated shoes, which have supercharged performances since they arrived on the track and field scene in 2019.

“The shoes have completely changed what is considered fast anymore,” Eyestone once noted.

BYU has maintained a record board in the Smith Fieldhouse that lists the top 10 marks in each event. The board is constantly being updated in this era. In 2024 alone, on the women’s side there have been six additions to the mile, five additions to the 3,000 and five additions to the 5,000. On the men’s side, since 2021, there have been four additions to the mile, three additions to the 3,000 and seven additions to the 5,000 (the shoes are most impactful in the longer races). And this is at a school with a long history of national- and world-class distance and middle-distance runners

All that aside, BYU has qualified 15 athletes for the NCAA indoor championships, which promises more fast times.

The BYU women’s team, which has finished in the top 10 two of the last three years, has qualified five athletes in individual track events (some have qualified for more than one race but the schedule won’t allow enough rest to double).

Meghan Hunter, a junior from Provo, clocked 2:02.17 in the 800 last month — a time that would’ve won the majority of NCAA championships. She ranks 11th heading into the weekend’s competition.

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Hunter, who has taken years to recover from the physical and mental trauma of a rollover car accident shortly before her freshman year, returned to form at last year’s NCAA outdoor championships, where she was eighth in 2:04.05. She has run strongly all winter until a baffling 2:09.02, seventh-place finish in the Big 12 Conference finals.

Riley Chamberlain, a 5-foot-10 sophomore from California, looks like a star in the making. This season she has run the 800 in 2:03.94 (eighth fastest in school history), the mile in 4:30.26 (second fastest in school history) and the 3,000 in 8:51.21 (fourth fastest in school history). She will contest the 3,000 at the NCAA championships (she ranks 11th).

BYU’s other entries on the track: Sadie Sargent ranks 16th in the 3,000, Jenna Hutchins and Lexy Lowry rank 13th and 14th in the 5,000, and Carmen Alder ranks 24th in the mile. Lowry has also qualified for the 3,000-meter run.

Because of the team’s depth, BYU’s strongest event likely will be the distance medley relay, which consists of, in order, legs of 1,200, 400, 800 and 1600 meters. The team of Sargent, Sami Oblad, Hunter and Chamberlain ranks fourth with a time of 10:44.67, one second behind top-ranked Washington. Oblad, a junior from Stansbury Park, set a school record of 53.06 in the 400-meter dash this year and ran a 52.83 relay leg in the conference championships.

BYU’s top individual entry will be Cierra Allphin, who ranks sixth in the high jump. She cleared 6 feet, 2 ½ inches this season to break Chris Wilson’s 35-year-old school record by a half-inch. Allphin, who is 5-foot-8, cleared a bar that is 6 ½ inches over her head.

Besides Troutner and Batty in the mile, the men’s team will be represented by the 4x400 relay team of Trey Jackson, Josh Taylor, Abram Schaap and Eli Hazlett, which set a school record of 3:05.66 this season. They are ranked 20th.

“I’m excited that we have the most number of qualified athletes (15) for the national championships in program history,” said Eyestone. “Just making it to this point is an incredible honor because it represents the top 1% of all NCAA athletes. I’m just excited to see if we can level up.”

BYU's Meghan Hunter competes at the Big 12 indoor championships in Lubbock, Texas, on Feb. 23, 2024. 12 indoor championships.
BYU's Meghan Hunter competes at the Big 12 indoor championships in Lubbock, Texas, on Feb. 23, 2024. | Rebeca Fuentes, BYU Photo