UAA runner Caroline Kurgat on Saturday raced to her third national championship of the school year and her second in three days.
The junior from Eldoret, Kenya, blazed to victory in the 5,000 meters at the NCAA Division II national championships in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Two days earlier, she won the 10,000-meter race. And in November, Kurgat claimed the DII cross-country running championship.
"It's a huge thing to me," Kurgat said by phone. "It means a lot."
With the sun coming out just in time to bake the track for the 3.1-mile race, Kurgat put down the hammer after one mile to pull away from Leah Hanle of Mount Olive and Alicja Konieczek of Western State.
She finished in 16 minutes, 22.62 seconds for an 11.37-second win over Konieczek (16:33.99). Hanle was third in 16:37.02.
In Thursday's 10,000 Kurgat and Hanle dueled for the lead until Kurgat made a decisive move late in the race. With 2,000 meters remaining, she put together a series of sub-80-second laps to leave Hanle in her dust.
The tactics changed for the 5,000, which featured some 1,500-meter runners with fast finishing kicks. Instead of waiting until the final few laps, Kurgat made her move during the fifth full lap of the 12.5-lap race.
"We felt she needed to do that," UAA coach Michael Friess said. "That was the game plan, because the Western State athlete has a lot of kick.
"Nobody had the courage to go with her."
Kurgat was one of two Seawolves who delivered All-America performances Saturday.
Soldotna's Dani McCormick claimed fourth place in the women's 800 meters. McCormick, who won the 800 at the NCAA Division II indoor championships earlier this year, finished in 2:06.34, four seconds off the pace of winner Skylyn Webb of the University of Colorado Colorado Springs.
Webb was declared the winner after Darroneshia Lott of South Carolina's Coker College was disqualified for stepping out of her lane. Lott crossed the finish line in 2:02, which would have been a Division II record.
With Lott setting a torrid pace, McCormick just missed beating her personal-best time of 2:06.17.
"It was definitely faster than I thought it was going to be," McCormick said.
McCormick trailed the lead pack during the first lap of the two-lap race but picked up her pace in the second lap.
"I've been dealing with minor injuries so I felt a little bit iffy," she said, but she was happy with her effort. McCormick spent much of the outdoor season battling with a stress fracture on her fibula that keeps her off spikes during workouts, but managed to finish second in her heat on Friday to qualify for Saturday's final.
As a sophomore last season, McCormick placed seventh in the 800 at the national championships, and then she upped her game this school year. "It's an amazing year that Dani's had," Friess said.
Ditto for Kurgat, who seized control Saturday by unleashing two consecutive sub-75-second splits.
The first one (1:14.83) gave her a one-second margin and the lead for good at the 1,800-meter mark. She followed that with a 1:14.55 split to create a five-second gap, and she extended her lead from there.
"I didn't expect anything," Kurgat said. "I just wanted to go out and do my best."
Kurgat and McCormick helped the UAA women finish eighth in the team standings.
Kurgat's three championships this school year gives UAA a total of 11 individual national championships in cross country and track. Only one UAA athlete has won more individual championships — Micah Chelimo, who raced to four track and cross country titles from 2012 to 2014.
UAA track/cross country national champions
2018 — Caroline Kurgat, 5,000 meters (outdoors)
2018 — Caroline Kurgat, 10,000 meters (outdoors)
2018 — Dani McCormick, 800 meters (indoors)
2017 — Caroline Kurgat, cross country
2016 — Cody Thomas, decathlon (outdoors)
2014 — Micah Chelimo, 3,000 meters (indoors)
2013 — Cody Parker, javelin (outdoors)
2013 — Micah Chelimo, 5,000 meters (indoors)
2012 — Micah Chelimo, 5,000 meters (outdoors)
2012 — Micah Chelimo, cross country
2008 — David Registe, long jump (outdoors)