Five women represented UAA at track and field nationals

Five standout runners from UAA traveled to Charlotte, North Carolina at the end of May to compete in the Division II Outdoor National Championships.

Caroline Kurgat, a frequent record setter and meet winner, was the only Seawolf to qualify for three separate individual events, but only competed in the 5K and 10K.

Kurgat entered the meet with the top times in both her events; her 10K time of 32:33.24 was also the second fastest time in Division II history.

Caroline Kurgat wins her first West Regional Championship title at the NCAA Division II West Region Cross-Country Championships on Nov. 4, 2017. At the Division II Outdoor National Championships at the end of May, Kurgat was the only Seawolf to qualify for three separate individual events, but only competed in the 5K and 10K. Photo credit: Nick Danielson

For the first half of her 10K, she stayed back and ran with the rest of the runners. Eventually, she broke away and with another runner following, the two eventually pulled ahead by a substantial distance.

Kurgat continued to play it safe and stay in the pair until, with only a few laps left, she took off and created a second substantial gap between her and the runner-up. Kurgat won the national title with a time of 34:13.80; the runner up finished 36 seconds later.

Head coach Michael Friess was pleased with Kurgat’s performance.

“[The 10K] race featured a very talented group of runners. Caroline [Kurgat] ran a very smart race and made her moves at the right time. I am very proud of her and the work she has put in to make this a reality,” Friess said.

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Kurgat had one day of rest after the 10K, then she was back up and running her 5K. Again, Kurgat had the fastest 5K seed time coming into the meet at 15:41.21.

Towards the start of the race, Kurgat played it safe and raced similarly to her 10K. She stayed with the pack for the first third of the race. Eventually, she pulled away and created a substantial gap when she ran her two fastest laps of the meet. She continued running faster and pulling away until she had over a 10 second lead in a field of the fastest Division II women in the nation.

Kurgat won the race with a time of 16:22.62, which was 11 seconds faster than the runner up. This was her second national title of the meet and her third national title ever, after winning the 2017 cross country nationals.

Kurgat said that without her teammates, coaches and professors, she would not be able to do what she has done.

“My friends have been challenging me to make [this] happen. I was very happy when it actually happened, because I proved to those who believed in me that they had seen something positive which was slowly coming to a reality,” Kurgat said.

In between Kurgat’s national wins, four other women came to compete in one individual event each.

Sophomore Vanessa Aniteye was the only Seawolf to qualify for the 400m and the only sprinter from UAA to make it to the national meet.

Aniteye finished off the meet with the 15th fastest time in the nation, at 55.11 seconds.

In the 800m, two UAA runners qualified for a position in the meet. The 2018 indoor 800m champion Danielle McCormick and junior transfer Yemi Knight competed in the preliminary race for the 800m together.

In the same heat, both runners were crowded in the pack for the majority of the race. Once some space developed, McCormick ended up near the front of the pack, while Knight trailed behind her in the middle.

While McCormick secured a place in the final race, Knight placed third in the preliminary race and failed to advance. She did, however, manage to finish the race in a new personal best time. Knight ran a time of 2:08.36.

In the final race, McCormick went out and immediately found herself stuck near the back of the competitors. After one lap, she slowly moved herself forward but remained only in the middle.

McCormick placed fourth with a personal best of 2:06.34.

Senior Tamara Perez was the fifth and final runner from the Seawolves to qualify for the meet. She competed in the 1,500m to finish at 20th with a time of 4:34.67.

Four of the women, not including Kurgat, also competed in the 4x400m relay. Aniteye, Knight, McCormick and Perez ran a time of 3:43.47 to finish 10th overall.

Aniteye explained that, although they had some of the best runners for the relay, they were all already fatigued from running their individual events, which made it much more of a challenge.

Overall, the women helped UAA to an overall team standing of eighth place with 25 points total.

Track and field will not begin again until January 2019, but the distance runners will begin competing again next fall for the cross country season.