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A Canadian just ran the NCAA lead in the steeplechase

Ryan Smeeton has no Canadian national medals and no NCAA accolades, and he's just run the fastest collegiate time in North America

Ryan Smeeton is a Calgary native and junior at Oklahoma State University, and he just ran the NCAA lead in the 3,000m steeplechase on Thursday evening at Payton Jordan. The 20-year-old ran an 8:27.90, with a final lap of 62 to win the race.

Smeeton pictured right. Photo: @drifting_crackerjack

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Not only is his 8:27 an NCAA lead, but it is also under the Doha 2019 World Championship standard of 8:29.00 and the second fastest time in the world for the 2019 outdoor season. Smeeton describes Thursday’s performance as a big surprise. “I totally exceeded my expectations. On a good day I thought I’d run 8:37 or 8:36.”

He’s shaved nearly 30 seconds off his personal best since the beginning of the 2019 outdoor season. “Coming into this season my personal best was 8:54 and then I ran 8:41 at the Stanford Invitational, before running the 8:27 at Payton. Stanford is my lucky track.”


Dave Smith is Smeeton’s current coach. Smeeton’s been at Oklahoma since his freshman year and really likes it there. “When I was being recruited I really liked the coaches and the guys on the team. We’ve got a blue-collar work ethic, paying our dues and working consistently.” He attributes his breakthrough to that consistency. “A year ago I broke my foot, so I didn’t run the 2018 outdoor season. Since that injury I’ve just been very consistent and run the miles. All of the hard work I put in during my freshman year is beginning to pay off.”

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Smeeton beat defending NCAA steeplechase champion Obsa Ali on Thursday evening, which is big for his confidence heading into the collegiate championship season. “Winning NCAA’s is in the back of my mind. At the same time, there’s a lot of good guys and you can’t underestimate the competition. I’ll keep it in my mind [winning] heading in.”

The runner has no Canadian national medals at any level and no major NCAA accolades, but he’s run the second fastest mark in the world for the 2019 outdoor season. “I’d say this was my breakout race. I’ve never made any Canadian team, so I’m hoping to sneak onto a team this summer. We’ll see how I’m feeling following the NCAA season.” With Smeeton’s season starting the way it did, his 2019 race lineup is certainly one to follow.