NCAA Champion Sintayehu Vissa Signs Pro Deal

Published 10:00 am Saturday, August 20, 2022

NCAA Champion Sintayehu Vissa has signed a professional contract with On Running, foregoing her remaining eligibility with Ole Miss track & field and cross country.

Vissa, who rewrote the Ole Miss record books during two spectacular seasons in Oxford, had two full seasons of eligibility remaining through each of the cross country, indoor and outdoor seasons. She is the second Rebel in as many years to sign a pro contract early after fellow Ole Miss great Waleed Suliman did so last summer prior to the U.S. Olympic Trials.

Vissa also joins a successful list of Ole Miss track & field athletes to turn pro early, standing alongside Suliman and among the likes of Olympians Brittney Reese, Sam Kendricks and Raven Saunders. She also joins a growing list of Ole Miss middle distance specialists to sign pro contracts over the last several years alongside Suliman, Craig Engels, MJ Erb, Robert Domanic, and fellow NCAA Champion Mario Garcia Romo – who will once again be one of her teammates with the On Running Club in Boulder, Colorado.

Born in Ethiopia, Vissa spent a large part of her childhood and adolescence in Italy as a sprinter and hurdler before transitioning to the middle distance events upon her move to the U.S. for college at Division II Saint Leo University. Vissa wasted no time in establishing herself as one of the best distance runners in Ole Miss history, becoming a vital member of the Rebel team after transferring from Saint Leo as a mid-year enrollee for the Spring 2021 semester.

In her time as a Rebel, Vissa was a five-time All-American across both the cross country and track seasons with 19.75 career NCAA points highlighted by an outdoor national title in the 1500-meter and a runner-up finish indoors in the mile – both in 2022. She also was a two-time SEC Champion on the track with 37.75 career SEC points to her name, and she helped push the Rebel women to record national finishes in cross country (10th in 2021) and indoor track & field (tied for sixth in 2022).

Vissa was a trailblazer in the history of the Ole Miss women’s program, setting a staggering number of firsts in her wake. Her NCAA title in the 1500-meter this past outdoor season stands as the only national title in a track event in Ole Miss women’s history, and her national runner-up finish indoors in the mile made her the first runner-up in a track event as well. Vissa was the first All-American in the history of the Ole Miss women’s cross country program, finishing a record 33rd at the 2021 NCAA Cross Country Championships. She was the first Rebel woman to ever win an SEC individual track title indoors after shattering the SEC meet record in the mile, she helped lead the Rebel women to their first-ever SEC title in the distance medley relay in 2022, she was the first Rebel woman to ever qualify for the NCAA Indoor meet in an individual event higher than the 800-meter (mile), as well as the first woman to ever qualify for the NCAA Outdoor meet in the 1500-meter. She also helped lead the Rebel women to their first two national berths to the NCAA Indoor meet in the distance medley relay, where they earned First-Team All-America honors both years in 2022 (sixth) and 2021 (eighth).

Vissa’s name is littered across the Ole Miss record books as well, after breaking seven school records across 2022 alone: indoor mile (4:32.70), indoor 3K (9:04.95), indoor DMR (10:56.39), outdoor 800-meter (2:01.06), outdoor 1500-meter (4:08.72; No. 15 NCAA history), outdoor 4×1500-meter relay (17:24.46; No. 14 NCAA history) and outdoor DMR (10:55.61; No. 7 NCAA history). She set two SEC meet records in the indoor DMR (10:56.39) and outdoor 1500 (4:08.72), with her SEC 1500-meter time slotting her at No. 15 in NCAA history with the 16th-fastest time.

She also stands among the fastest in Italian history. Her 800-meter time of 2:01.06 from the Tom Jones Memorial on April 16, 2022 ranks 13th in Italian history and stands as the third-fastest ever run by an Italian woman on American soil and the best since Olympic gold medalist Gabriella Dorio’s 1:59.53 in the semifinal and 1:59.05 in the final to finish fourth in the 1984 Summer Olympic Games in Los Angeles. Additionally, her SEC meet record 4:08.72 is the fifth-best ever run by an Italian woman on American soil, and her latest PR of 4:04.20 from this past summer ranks No. 4 all-time on the USTFCCCA All-Dates list.

Vissa followed her final season with the Rebels by finishing as the Italian runner-up in the 1500-meter, punching her ticket to Oregon for the 2022 World Athletics Championships with Italy’s national team, where she finished 22nd overall.