Wisconsin's Adam Spencer Wants An NCAA Title And To Solidify His Olympic Team Spot After Winning The Australian 1500m Title

"There was no pressure – I had everything to gain and nothing to lose. So I was like, 'Alright, let's go out here and have a crack at it.' I think it was kind of a blessing in disguise almost."

Wisconsin's Adam Spencer is the Australian 1500m national champion. He was the runner-up in the mile at the NCAA Indoor Championships back in March. In Adelaide, he just narrowly beat out fellow Badger legend and Olympic finalist Olli Hoare. It was widely considered the best 1500m field in Australian history and it delivered with a tactical race that came down to the final 100 meters.

Adam has the Olympic standard from his 3:31 personal best at last summer’s London Diamond League. Now, he’s just got to prove his fitness to selectors and he’ll be squared away to make his Olympic debut in Paris. He did represent Australia at last summer’s World Championships in Budapest.

We recorded this a few weeks ago and since then, he just won the Big Ten title in the 800 meters. Watch for him as the NCAA season heads into its championship run, where he’ll be looking to win his first NCAA title.

Host: Chris Chavez | ⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠@chris_j_chavez on Instagram⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠

Guest: Adam Spencer | @adam.spencer on Instagram

The following interview excerpt has been edited lightly for clarity. You can listen to the full interview with Adam Spencer on the CITIUS MAG Podcast – available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or wherever you get your shows.

Adam Spencer Adam Spencer

Kevin Morris / @KevMoFoto

Adam Spencer at the 2024 NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships in Boston, where he finished 2nd in the mile.

CITIUS MAG: Was it different for you going into an Australian national championship a little more under the radar?

Adam Spencer: I feel like I was underlooked a little bit on social media. Everyone was talking about Cam (Myers) and Olli (Hoare) and Stewie (McSweyn), but I think that kind of worked in my favor. There's no pressure – I had everything to gain and nothing to lose. So I was like, “Alright, let's go out here and have a crack at it.” I think it was kind of a blessing in disguise almost.

CITIUS MAG: What else do you think you need to do to solidify your spot on Team Australia for the Olympics?

Adam Spencer: I already have the standard technically, but I might need to go run something fast again. There's the saying that comparison is the thief of joy – but in reality, what I will do will depend on how the other guys are running. If we have three or four guys go run 3:30 or quicker, I might need to prove that I'm in that sort of shape. So it is tricky. There's no automatic spots. You can do all the right things, you can have the standard, you can win nationals, but they don't have to pick you…

I'll probably need to have a few more conversations with Athletics Australia to really find out what I need to do to be selected. But everything up until this point, I can't do anything more. I've won nationals, I've got the time. But I might need to prove that I'm in 3:31 type of shape come June. So we'll see what happens.

CITIUS MAG: What did you learn from racing at the 2023 London Diamond League?

Adam Spencer: You've got to be adaptable. I only got the call for London the night before. I had in my mind another race, which was later in the week. Literally 5:30 p.m. the night before I got a call saying: “You're in. Do you want to go run?” I was like, “yeah, I've got to take this opportunity. It might never come again.” I think I was in Leicester Square or something, just walking around the city and then had to go straight to the hotel. I hadn't run that day. I was planning on taking a day off and I had to do a quick pre-meet at like 9 p.m. and find dinner. That's the thing that I think worked well. I can sort of go with the flow and I'm a bit more relaxed than some other runners. I'm a bit more adaptable. So I think that really worked out well.

CITIUS MAG: What did you pick up from getting to compete against the best in the world at the 2023 World Championships?

Adam Spencer: It was the cherry on top just to be at Worlds. Obviously once I got there, I wanted to do something. I worked hard that season and really wanted to show off all my training and what I was capable of doing. That first round, in my mind I was like, “this is the equivalent of an NCAA final. I'm going to have to run my heart out here just to make it…”

The biggest takeaway was obviously the semifinal, which was really disappointing. I just had nothing in the legs. But what I learned from that was that the semifinal was less than 24 hours after the first round, and that first round was just so much excitement. I had so much adrenaline. I didn't get to sleep until pretty late that night… But that was the biggest thing. It's like, I've still got a long way to go to compete with these guys, and I've really got to learn how to, especially at these high level meets, go through round after round… I learned a lot from that meet and I'm just going to get stronger and just get better. At the end of the day, that’s what it is.

CITIUS MAG: How tired was your body after a full year of racing in the NCAA and then racing all the way into August?

Adam Spencer: I love doing it. I love racing. I think if I go for a long period without racing, I just get so bored. So racing's good fun. I have raced quite a bit, but that's why we do the sport. Sometimes people get caught up in training, but Mick always talks about, “you want to be a champion in racing, not a champion in training.” But I love racing and cross country was always something I wanted to do. We had a pretty good team last year and I almost prefer cross country over track just because it's so fun. It’s a lot more relaxing and more team-based. That was something I wanted to be a part of. It's a long year, but when you enjoy it, it doesn't take as much out of you, I think.

CITIUS MAG: How badly do you want to win an NCAA title?

Adam Spencer: They don't hand those out for free, but I really want one. I might come back next year, but this would make it a great season if I win an NCAA title. It's going really well so far, but that would just be an absolute cherry on top. If it doesn't happen, it doesn't happen. It's not the be-all end-all. There's still lots of other opportunities, but I mean you only have four years to win an NCAA title and I’m in my third year now. I really want one, but if it doesn't happen that's all good.

CITIUS MAG: What’s the best advice you’ve received from Coach Mick Byrne?

Adam Spencer: One of the big things I've learned from Mick is taking things with a more relaxed approach – like not every single workout has to be hard or has to be anything special. He's really big on making sure you recover from big races and big workouts as well. That's something that I've really learned over the past couple years and has helped me a lot to become better. You can be really good at training and train hard day in and day out, but if you're not recovering, there’s no point.

Time stamps:

  • 4:44 - Thoughts on becoming the 1500m champion at the 2024 Australian Championships.
  • 5:38 - Thoughts on being overlooked heading into the Australian Championships.
  • 6:42 - How the NCAA system helped him improve at racing tactics and competing in multiple rounds.
  • 9:10 - How he and his coach built out his training to prepare for both the NCAA season and the Australian Championships.
  • 11:20 - What shape he thinks he’s in right now.
  • 15:49 - What he thinks it’ll take to qualify for the Australian Olympic team.
  • 17:44 - What he learned from racing at the 2023 London Diamond League, where he ran 3:31 in the 1500m.
  • 19:50 - His biggest takeaways from competing at the 2023 World Championships in Budapest.
  • 22:28 - Why he loves racing so much + his perspective on cross country season.
  • 23:44 - Thoughts on trying out the 5K.
  • 25:42 - Why he decided to run for the University of Wisconsin.
  • 29:44 - How he got his start in track and field.
  • 32:12 - What a typical week of training looks like for him.
  • 33:35 - His racing plans for this season.
  • 35:08 - His aspirations to win an NCAA title.
  • 37:52 - Who his toughest competitors are.
  • 39:00 - Thoughts on Australian running culture + Cam Myers.
  • 41:28 - Best advice he’s received from Coach Mick Byrne.
  • 42:42 - What he’s most excited about this season.

For more from Adam Spencer, listen to the full interview on the CITIUS MAG Podcast.

Support The Sponsor

Chris Chavez

Chris Chavez launched CITIUS MAG in 2016 as a passion project while working full-time for Sports Illustrated. He covered the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro and grew his humble blog into a multi-pronged media company. He completed all six World Marathon Majors and is an aspiring sub-five-minute miler.

Related Episodes

OAC’s Yared Nuguse On His World Championship Experience, Lessons From Racing Jakob Ingebrigtsen/Josh Kerr

April 22, 2024

View Episode

Olli Hoare On His Comeback From Injury Before Competing At Australian Nationals

April 5, 2024

View Episode

Morgan McDonald's Lessons Learned From An Injury-Ridden 2023 And Returning To The World Stage

April 8, 2024

View Episode

Ben Flanagan After Running 13:04 For 5000m To Hit The Olympic Qualifying Standard For Canada

February 5, 2024

View Episode