The greatest team performance in UAA track and field history was capped Saturday night by one of the grandest individual performances in the program's history -- junior Micah Chelimo seized the men's 5,000 meters at the NCAA Division II Outdoor Track and Field Championships in Pueblo, Colo.
Chelimo became the second national champion in program history, joining David Registe of Palmer, who won the men's long jump in 2008.
The Kenyan also tied countryman Marko Cheseto's school record with his fourth All-America result, and Chelimo's quad came one night after he finished runner-up in the 3,000-meter steeplechase to earn All-America status in that event for the third straight year.
Making Chelimo's feat all the more impressive is that Pueblo sits at 4,662 feet and Chelimo, who like all the UAA athletes trains at sea level, beat a field filled with runners from colleges situated at altitude and thus accustomed to the thinner air. The next five finishers behind Chelimo were all runners who train at elevation.
Chelimo earned a small gap on his pursuers with 300 meters to go, said UAA coach Michael Friess, opened up a bit more space with 200 to go and maintained that margin down the final straightaway. Chelimo clocked 15 minutes, 15.85 seconds to top senior Tyler Pennel of Western State (Colo.), who crossed in 15:16.56.
"He's just tougher than hell,'' Friess said by cellphone. "He's just a tough, tough runner.''
Chelimo's performance capped a day and night in which all seven Seawolves who competed earned All-America status. That gave the Seawolves a total of 10 All-America finishes in the meet, doubling the school's previous best output in a single national meet -- UAA had five track and field All-America honors last season.
"I can't express to you how proud I am of (Chelimo) and of our squad,'' Friess said. "I couldn't have asked for more. If I had, it would have been silly.''
The top eight finishers in each event earn All-America honors.
UAA's men finished ninth out of 56 schools in the team standings -- that topped their previous best finish of 14th in both 2009 and 2010.
UAA's women finished 11th out of 56 schools, and that crushed their previous best team finish of 33rd in 2006.
"We're absolutely jazzed,'' Friess said.
Like Chelimo, junior Susan Tanui followed her runner-up, All-America finish Friday in the women's steeplechase by earning All-America status in the 5,000. She finished eighth in 18:00.06, one spot behind junior teammate Ruth Keino (seventh in 17:57.33), who earned her second career All-America.
And one of the best performances from a Seawolves athlete at the meet came Saturday, when freshman javelin thrower Cody Parker uncorked a Great Northwest Athletic Conference record sling of 232 feet, 5 inches to finish third.
Parker's mark topped the 2009 GNAC record of 226-3 held by Northwest Nazarene's Josh Heidegger and also shattered Parker's previous personal best of 215-4.
UAA senior Alfred Kangogo finished fifth in the 1,500 meters in 4:15.18 to collect his third All-America in that event in the last three years.
In the women's 1,500, sophomore Ivy O'Guinn clocked 4:41.98 to finish seventh and seize her first All-America.
Also collecting her first All-America was sophomore Haleigh Lloyd, who finished seventh in the 400 hurdles in 59.91.
Friday, senior heptathlete Kelsea Johnson finished seventh in the multi-event to earn All-America.
Anchorage Daily News