Garcia Romo and Suliman Advance to NCAA 1500-Meter Final
Rebel Duo to Represent Ole Miss in Potentially Historic NCAA Final
EUGENE, Ore. – The Ole Miss men’s track & field dynamic duo of Mario Garcia Romo and Waleed Suliman punched their tickets for what is sure to be a wild NCAA men’s 1500-meter final after taking care of business on Day One of the 2021 NCAA Outdoor Championships at Hayward Field on Wednesday.
The weather was all over the place on Wednesday, cold and breezy with periods of abundant sunshine being washed out by torrential downpour, only to be replaced again by the opening of the skies.
Both Rebels didn’t let their first race on the brand-new Hayward Field deter them, running amidst the fastest national semifinal round in NCAA history to earn their spot in the final. Garcia Romo – the reigning SEC Cross Country Champion – faced perhaps the most difficult task in his heat, having to stay on-pace with the likes of collegiate record holder Yared Nuguse of Notre Dame and SEC champ Eliud Kipsang of Alabama. Kipsang took it out, but not as briskly as he did in the SEC prelim and final, and Garcia Romo helped lead the chase pack the entire race. Nuguse took the lead late via a 55.59 final lap and clocked the fastest time at 3:37.36, but Garcia Romo was not far behind, ending up with the second-best time at 3:37.59 after a blistering 55.63 last 400 of his own.
In Heat Two, it was Suliman against Oregon freshman Cole Hocker from the gun and until they crossed the line. The two were neck-and-neck until the very end, when Hocker created some separation over the final 200 meters to take the heat at 3:38.34. Suliman – who split 56.49 over his final lap – was second at 3:38.92.
This is the first NCAA Outdoor final for both Garcia Romo and Suliman, who put together an excellent indoor campaign this year in which they scored 14 combined points to contribute to the Rebel men’s 10th-place finish. This is the second time in school history multiple Rebel men have made the NCAA 1500-meter final, joining the 2016 season when Robert Domanic (sixth) and Craig Engels (seventh) represented Ole Miss and scored. Furthermore, Ole Miss is the only school with multiple representatives in the final this year.
Allen Gordon opened the first of his two events at the national meet on Wednesday, finishing 11th in the long jump at 7.64m (25-00.75) and falling just short of making the final by less than two inches. For his efforts, Gordon earns Second-Team All-American status – his third this season and his first outdoors in his career. Gordon will complete his double attempt on Friday in the men’s high jump final at 6:30 p.m. CT.
The Rebel men’s 800-meter duo of Baylor Franklin and John Rivera Jr. wrapped up excellent seasons with Second-Team All-American finishes of their own on Wednesday. Franklin and Rivera finished back-to-back, with Franklin taking 13th at 1:48.28 and Rivera 14th at 1:48.45. Both would have needed to run a new PR in order to have a shot at the final time qualifier slot, which was awarded to Texas A&M’s Brandon Miller at 1:47.50. Today’s races wrap up strong 2021 seasons for the pair, with Franklin having broken the four-minute barrier in the mile indoors before a 12th-place finish in the 800-meter at the indoor national meet, and Rivera running the 800-meter leg on the Rebel men’s NCAA runner-up distance medley relay squad.
Kenney Broadnax wrapped up his second outdoor season and his comeback story with a 21st-place finish and Honorable Mention All-American nod in the 110-meter hurdles. Broadnax – who in January 2020 tore his Achilles before rehabbing back to qualify for this NCAA meet – ran during the peak of the deluge, and wound up in that 21st position overall at 14.24 (+0.2).
Speaking of rain, senior Cole Colozzo caught a tough break in what wound up as his final meet as a Rebel. The men’s pole vault had just started when the first outbreak of rain began to fall. The vaulters jumping would end up starting and stopping a total of three times over the next 45 minutes. Colozzo was unable to clear the first bar of 5.15m/16-10.75, despite two close tries in the rain on his second and third attempts. Wednesday concludes a great career by Colozzo, who leaves Ole Miss as its fourth-best vaulter outdoors and third-best indoors – as well as its first NCAA qualifier since Olympian Sam Kendricks won the 2014 NCAA title.
Up next, the Rebel women hit the stage on Day Two of the 2021 NCAA Outdoor Championships, with the women’s hammer set to open the day at 3 p.m. CT.
Day One Finals Qualifiers
Mario Garcia Romo – Men’s 1500-Meter
Waleed Suliman – Men’s 1500-Meter
Day One Second-Team All-Americans
Allen Gordon – Men’s Long Jump, 11th Place
Baylor Franklin – Men’s 800-Meter, 13th Place
John Rivera Jr. – Men’s 800-Meter, 14th Place
Day One Honorable Mention All-Americans
Kenney Broadnax – Men’s 110-Meter Hurdles, 21st Place
REBELS IN COMPETITION
Men’s 800-Meter Semifinals
13. Baylor Franklin – 1:48.28
14. John Rivera Jr. – 1:48.45
Men’s 1500-Meter Semifinals
2. Mario Garcia Romo – 3:37.59 – AQ
8. Waleed Suliman – 3:38.92 – AQ
Men’s 110-Meter Hurdles Semifinals
21. Kenney Broadnax – 14.24 (+0.2)
Men’s Pole Vault
NH Cole Colozzo
Men’s Long Jump
11. Allen Gordon – 7.64m/25-00.75 (+1.9)