UAA's Micah Chelimo racks his third national title with victory in indoor 5,000 meters

Doyle Woody

Micah Chelimo is the standard against which all other Seawolves runners will be measured.

The Kenyan seized his third individual national championship when he controlled Friday's 5,000-meter race at the NCAA Division II Indoor Track & Field Championships to highlight a strong team performance in UAA's first season of indoor track.

Chelimo's victory in Birmingham, Ala., came after UAA's Ruth Keino and Susan Tanui finished second and third in the women's 5,000, respectively, and preceded the Seawolves' women's distance medley team, which finished fifth.

Those efforts earned All-America honors for Chelimo, Keino, Tanui and relay members Susan Bick, Haleigh Lloyd, Jessica Pahkala and Ivy O'Guinn.

Still, Chelimo's victory puts him on a pedestal.

Chelimo's three national titles are the most by a UAA runner -- he won the national cross-country title last fall and seized the 5,000 meters at last spring's outdoor national track meet. He has bagged nine All-America honors -- four in cross country, four in outdoor track and one in indoor track. Also, he finished runner-up at outdoor nationals last spring in the 3,000-meter steeplechase.

Chelimo on Saturday will run the 3,000 meters.

When the field ran conservatively through the first mile of Friday's 3.1-mile race, Chelimo positioned himself well. He said he was relatively calm, which he attributed to his experience in big races.

"It feels like 5-K is my race,'' Chelimo said by cellphone. "I've come to trust myself in it.''

When the pace quickened -- Western State's Gabriel Proctor, the eventual runner-up, pushed the tempo -- Chelimo never faltered.

"He reacted like, 'I've been here before -- this isn't my first rodeo,' '' said UAA coach Michael Friess. " 'I'm going to cover any moves you make and turn it into a 400-meter race,' which he did.''

Chelimo never surrendered the lead in the late going and finished in 14 minutes, 12.82 seconds to Proctor's 14:13.46.

Keino delivered her third runner-up finish at a national meet -- she was second at the national cross-country meet this season and second in the steeplechase last spring. Friday, she was clocked in 16:36:27, ahead of Tanui's 16:37.03. Ferris State's Anna Rudd won in 16:28.18.

"We knew both Ruth and Susan had a chance to win it,'' Friess said. "That's the goal. But the girl from Ferris State made a strong move and they didn't cover it. Still, second and third in the nation.''

UAA's women's medley relay team clocked 11:37.62, to slash nearly 11 seconds off its previous best. Bick, a sophomore, led off with a leg of 3:33.58 over 1,200 meters. Lloyd, another sophomore, blistered 400 meters in 57.27, and freshman Jessica Pahkala ripped through 800 in 2:14.04. Sophomore O'Guinn covered the anchoring 1,600 in 4:52.74.

The Seawolves' men's distance medley relay did not finish after their third-leg runner, freshman Joe Day, suffered a pulled hamstring on the 800 leg.

With 18 points, UAA's women sit third in the team standings entering Saturday's final day of the meet. The Seawolves men are tied for seventh with 10 points.

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