The UAA track and field team took nine athletes to Pittsburg State University to compete in the NCAA Division II Indoor Track and Field Championships to wrap up the indoor season over the weekend of March 8.
Only three women qualified for individual events but both the men’s and women’s relay medley teams qualified as well.
Previous national champions Danielle McCormick and Caroline Kurgat, both seniors, qualified for individual events. Freshman Nancy Jeptoo also qualified for an individual event.
Kurgat earned two more national champion titles, one in each of her events which marks five total national titles.
She started the meet off strong with the 5,000-meter. Kurgat completed the first mile of the race in just around five minutes until she expanded the gap between herself and the other racers.
Kurgat finished the race in first place with a time of 16 minutes and 6 seconds, for an average mile pace of 5:10. Her time set a new NCAA Division II meet and facility record. The previous meet record was 16:07, set in 2012. The previous facility record was 16:09, set in 2016.
Kurgat’s second individual race was the 3,000-meter. In contrast to her first event, she had a slow start to the race, pacing herself near the back of the pack.
It wasn’t until nearly halfway through the race that she pushed her way to the front to finish her last 1,500 in 4:29, a time that would already be impressive by itself.
She completed the entire race in 9:15.45 to again finish first. Her time set a new meet and facility record. The previous meet record was 9:16.81, set in 2012. The previous facility record was 9:26.76, set in January of this year.
“I am [now] really excited for outdoor season because I feel like I am more ready for the 5K and 10K, just to see where I am going to be this year. Indoor just felt like the beginning of outdoor, so now I just feel like I am in a better position for outdoor,” Kurgat said.
In addition to Kurgat, McCormick and Jeptoo also competed in individual events. McCormick, who won the indoor 800m last year, finished at No. 3 overall with a time of 2:06.28. Her time broke her own school record.
Jeptoo competed in the preliminaries for the women’s 1 mile run; she finished at No. 14 with a time of 5:01.15. She did not qualify for finals.
In addition to the individual events, McCormick and Kurgat also joined two other teammates to compete in the women’s distance medley.
The medley is broken down into 1,200m, 400m, 800m and 1,600m.
Sophomore Ruth Cvancara opened the race up for the Seawolves, completing the 1,200m in third place before handing off to junior Vanessa Aniteye for the 400m.
After the completion of the 400m on Aniteye’s part, she handed off to McCormick in fourth place. During McCormick’s 800m, she pushed her way up to second to hand off to Kurgat.
Kurgat held strong and closed in on the gap to first place, but ended up finishing No. 2 overall.
“Honestly, I love the [distance medley relay] more than anything else. It is just really awesome to have a team that is really passionate about something and it was just time to pull them along and help them get there and to make something huge as a team, not just an individual,” Kurgat said.
UAA also qualified a men’s team for the distance medley.
Sophomore Felix Kemboi opened up the race in the back of the pack for the 1,200m before handing off to freshman Nathanial Brunett for the 400m. The team fell even further behind during Brunett’s leg and senior Eduardo Orozco’s 800m.
The final 1,600m was run by freshman Drew Johnson, who was able to sprint his way through the last 600 meters to finish off in seventh place.
“I am amazingly proud of our team. A total of 11 American performances and an amazing podium finish for the women’s team. We are bringing back a trophy. It was an amazing weekend for UAA track and field,” Head Coach Michael Friess said.
The women’s team ended up finishing fourth overall while the men tied for 52nd.
The track and field team will be back in action for the outdoor season on March 23 at the Willamette Invite in Salem, Oregon.