A great season keeps getting better for Caroline Kurgat, a junior at UAA who is rewriting the school record-book with times that rank among some of the best in Division II history.
On Thursday, in her first 5,000-meter outdoor track race in nearly two years, Kurgat posted a time of 15 minutes, 43.95 seconds at the Bryan Clay Invitational in Azusa, California.
It's the fastest Division II time of the season, the fourth fastest time in Division II history and the third fastest time by any NCAA runner this season.
On Friday, she ran the season's second-fastest Division II time in the 1,500 meters. Her time of 4:21.18 took four seconds off the previous UAA record of 4:25.19, held by Ivy O'Guinn.
But it was her 5,000-meter race that really opened eyes. Kurgat shaved more than 45 seconds off her previous best of 16:30.85.
"My goal was to break 16 (minutes)," Kurgat told runnerspace.com, "and I did much better than that."
Kurgat, who is from Eldoret, Kenya, hadn't run a 5,000 on an outdoor track since placing sixth at the Division II national championships in 2016. She sat out last season as a redshirt, and came back faster than ever.
Last fall, Kurgat captured the NCAA Division II cross-country championship. And she's been on fire the entire outdoor track season. On March 30 she ran the second-fastest 10,000-meter time in Division II history — 32:33.24.
Kurgat's 5,000 and 10,000 times are both Great Northwest Athletic Conference records. Her 1,500 time is the fourth-best in conference history.
Kurgat placed second in Thursday's 5,000 behind professional runner and 2016 Olympian Marielle Hall, who won the race in 15:39.42.
Kurgat ran nearly the entire race by herself after breaking away from the chase pack after about 800 meters. According to a race recap provided by UAA, Hall had a rabbit for the first two miles of the 3.1-mile race and built a 12-second lead over Kurgat while running with the pacesetter. Once the rabbit dropped out, Kurgat closed the gap to less than five seconds.
Coming into this week, only two college runners this season have 5,000 times faster than Kurgat's — Oregon's Lilli Burdon (15:42.65) and Indiana's Katherine Receveur (15:43.26), who are both Division I runners.
In Division II history, the only 5,000 times faster than Kurgat's are 15:33.83 (Neely Spencer, Shippensburg, 2011), 15:38.54 (Mandi Zemba, Grand Valley State, 2007) and 15:42.23 (Elva Dryer, Western State, 1996).
In the 10,000, the only D-II runner with a faster time than Kurgat's is Sylvia Mosqueda, who ran a 32:28.57 for Cal State LA in 1988. In 1987, Mosqueda won the Alaska 10-K Classic title with a then-record time of 32:46.