Unpacking Parker Valby’s Dominance At NCAAs

By Kyle Merber

November 22, 2023

It’s Valbymania! This was one of the most anticipated head-to-head match-ups in recent NCAA history as Florida’s Parker Valby looked to avenge her second-place finish at last year’s championships and Katelyn Tuohy aimed to win another one. Valby’s mid-season performance at the Nuttycombe Invitational signaled that she had unlocked a new level of fitness as she took down the course record in wet and windy conditions. But it’s a long season, and it’s cross country, so we really shouldn’t get too caught up in times, right?

After getting off the line poorly, Valby initially found herself caught behind the pack. But once she made it to the front she let her presence be known. It ended up not even being close as the junior would go on to win by 10 seconds in 18:55, but like I said, what’s time worth anyway?

Well… To get a sense of how dominant this performance was over the field, the time difference between Valby to the last All-American finisher in 40th was 71.5 seconds. In the past 15 years, the only greater margin was by Kate Avery in 2014 (72.7 seconds). That gap may have been even wider had Valby not cramped up in the final kilometer – moments before starting her post-race interview for the broadcast she looked up to the booth and asked how to get rid of a side stitch.

(I believe I yelled something along the lines of, 'doesn’t matter now, you won!’)

Remember, last year Valby won the 5000m at NCAAs coming off the bench with injuries. You may not be super familiar with the freshman who finished second this week, but Doris Lemngole ran 14:40 for 5K last season before heading to Alabama. I’m not a firm believer in the transitive property as it applies to running performances, but hey, it never hurts your confidence heading into track season to know you’ve easily bested someone with a PB like that.

If there is an antithesis to the current zeitgeist around double threshold training, then it is the cross-training methods of Parker Valby, who has proven once again that hard work is still hard work no matter where it’s done. There aren’t enough podcasts in the world to make four to five days a week on the arc trainer tolerable, but who can argue with these results?

For more of the top stories and analysis from the biggest stories in track and field from the past week, subscribe to The Lap Count newsletter for free. New edition every Wednesday morning at 6:30 a.m. ET.

Kyle Merber

After hanging up his spikes – but never his running shoes – Kyle pivoted to the media side of things, where he shares his enthusiasm, insights, and experiences with subscribers of The Lap Count newsletter, as well as viewers of CITIUS MAG live shows.