UAA’s running phenomenon: Caroline Kurgat

credit- western oregon athletics.JPG
Caroline Kurgat leads the pack at the West Region Championships on Nov. 4, 2017 in Monmouth, Oregon. Kurgat has been named the Division II Female Scholar Athlete of the Year by the U.S. Track and Field and Cross-Country Coaches Association. Photo credit: Western Oregon Athletics

Starting off as Great Northwest Athletic Conference freshman of the year in 2015, senior Caroline Kurgat has worked her way up the ladder of success to seize many more awards and records. The nurse-to-be is set to compete in her final outdoor track season starting this March after competing in her final season of cross-country in Fall 2017. She will also have one more season of indoor track left to compete in next year.

Currently balancing a major in both medical laboratory science and nursing, Kurgat was honored with the prestigious title of NCAA Division II Female Scholar Athlete of the Year. This was the first time in UAA history that a track and field or cross-country athlete was awarded the title.

That award came only after her NCAA DII Cross-Country Championships first place finish. In November of 2017, the Seawolves took off to Indiana to compete in Kurgat’s last cross-country championship.

“Receiving the Scholar Athlete of the Year award on top of that was so amazing. After being in the top 10 the past two seasons, I was motivated to go for the win,” Kurgat said.

With a time of 20 minutes and 32 seconds, Kurgat finished the 6-kilometer race with a 20 second lead and became the first Seawolf to ever win a cross country title. She also had other members of Seawolves trailing in behind her and cheering her on.

“My friends [and teammates] have been challenging me to make it happen, too. 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.

That race was only the eighth appearance that Kurgat had made at a national meet, including four cross-country championships, two outdoor track championships and two indoor track championships.

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Throughout her eight appearances and three and a half years at UAA, Kurgat has managed to accumulate 14 awards in 2017 alone.

Among those awards, the ones with the most prestige include: National Scholar Athlete of the Year, National Athlete of the Year, West Regional Athlete of the Year, GNAC Runner of the Year, and DII Honda Athlete of the Year nominee for cross-country.

In addition, Kurgat has made twelve separate first place finishes during her time so far at UAA, with an additional ten runner-up finishes and nine third place finishes.

These top finishes all helped her improve her personal best times for her track events which include a 4:53 mile, a 9:27 3-kilometer, a 16:44 5-kilometer and a 33:38 10-kilometer.

As for cross-country, Kurgat holds a 18:15 5-kilometer and a 20:14 6-kilometer.

As for now, Kurgat is only training and focusing on her schoolwork, but she will be back in action for the 2018 outdoor track season which starts in March. The nursing major is thankful for the time she has to focus on school.

Her main goal is to graduate with her degree, but Kurgat wants to make a difference in people’s lives.

“School always comes first, I have learned to be organized and to stay on top of things at all times. My coaches and professors have been so understanding and supportive to contributing much to my success,” Kurgat said.

Despite the break, she said she is looking forward to getting back into the swing of running.

“I have two outdoors and one indoor left and those are my focus points right now [as for running]. I don’t have any cross country which is sad because I liked it better but I am excited for the remaining few seasons,” Kurgat said.

Kurgat and the Seawolves will debut their 2018 outdoor track and field season on March 16 in Oregon for the Willamette Invitational.