10 Seawolves ran towards national titles

Ten members of the Seawolf track and field team traveled to Texas A&M University Kingsville to compete in the NCAA Division II Outdoor Track & Field Championships. They competed over the weekend of May 23-25.

While there were many returners to the national champions, several of the Seawolves went for their first time ever.

Marie Ries, a junior, was one athlete that competed in the championships for the first time.

“I’m really proud of how our team competed at the national meet. We had lots of All-American finishes, [Chrisalyn Johnson’s] GNAC record, Caroline’s [Kurgat] two national titles and just really great performances in general,” Ries said. “It was awesome to see everyone succeed, especially our seniors. All of them left a significant impact on our team and it was bittersweet to watch them compete at their last collegiate meet.”

UAA’s standout distance runner, senior Caroline Kurgat, earned her seventh national title at the championships.

She ran in both the 5,000-meter and the 10,000-meter, winning both. She is only the third woman to win both these events over multiple years.

Kurgat won the 5,000-meter by seven seconds; she finished in 17:10.10 with the runner-up behind her at 17:18.66. However, Kurgat won the 10,000-meter by a much more substantial time. While she finished in 36:34.31, the runner-up didn’t pass the finish line for nearly a minute, finishing in 37:20.46 (Leah Hanle, Mount Olive).

UAA’s standout distance runner, senior Caroline Kurgat, earned her seventh national title at the NCAA Division II Outdoor Track & Field Championships. Photo courtesy of UAA Athletics.
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“It’s bitter leaving a team that has become a family, but I am super excited for what is ahead. It is great to finally have a full focus on school. It was an honor to be part of the UAA team. I appreciate everyone that has helped me through my college running career,” Kurgat said.

Similar to Kurgat, senior Danielle McCormick ran in nationals for her third straight year. McCormick ran the preliminary 800-meter in 2:09.40 to qualify for finals as the fifth seed. She moved up one place in the finals to finish fourth overall in 2:09.71.

Sophomore Ruth Cvancara joined McCormick in the 800-meter prelims to finished 14th (2:15.24).

Another sophomore, Nancy Jeptoo, qualified for the 1,500-meter as the lone Seawolf in the event. She finished 17th in 4:41.83.

Also alone in her event, junior Vanessa Aniteye ran the 400-meter for the second year in a row, finishing 17th with a time of 56.63 seconds.

Chrisalyn Johnson, former standout UAA volleyball player and currently in her first track and field season, also qualified for an individual event. She competed at nationals in both long jump and triple jump.

She finished 19th in long jump, with a jump of 5.61 meters. However, she was substantially more successful in triple jump; Johnson managed a jump of 12.60 meters, putting her in seventh place overall.

“Every participant worked hard to get [to the national championships] and had to work even harder to place. Overall, it was a fun meet that I would like to return to with even more teammates,” Johnson said.

The final women’s event that the Seawolves qualified in was the 4x400m relay. The came into the meet ranked eleventh nationally.

Aniteye and McCormick were joined by Ries and freshman Tylantiss Atlas. They finished eighth in both the prelims (3:45.09) and finals (3:47.87), earning All-American.

“The meet was more competitive than many of our regular season meets and it was a great experience to compete with all these outstanding athletes. The conditions were somewhat challenging because of strong winds, heat and humidity, but I think we did a good job of handling this,” Ries said.

On the men’s side, sophomore Wesley Kirui and senior Edwin Kangogo were the only Seawolf men to qualify for an individual event. They both qualified for the 3,000-meter steeplechase, finishing side-by-side in both the prelims and finals.

“My goal was to improve from my previous steeplechase race, which was in 2017, and I was happy having accomplished it last week. Also, being my last collegiate career, I knew I had to give my best and I did exactly that,” Kangogo said.

Kangogo (9:14.55) outran Kirui (9:16.27) in the prelims by two seconds, to finish seventh and eighth respectively, both qualifying for finals.

However, Kirui beat out Kangogo in finals by just over a second. Kirui finished third in 8:56.33, while Kangogo was fourth, finishing in 8:57.86.

“Competing with Wesley [was beneficial] because we have been training and pushing each other during practice, so we had confidence that we would run our best races together,” Kangogo said.

Overall, the women’s team finished seventh, while the men’s team finished 27th.

The Seawolves have now concluded their 2018-19 season; they will be back in action in January 2020.