Chris Derrick Puts Up a Brave Fight in 5000m as Lawi Lalang Wins the Title, Betsy Saina Holds Off Deborah Maier

March 9, 2012

We'll have more coverage from Day 1 of the 2012 NCAA Track and Field Championships in Idaho later. We recap the men's and women's 5000m below.

Chris Derrick is one of the best 5000m runners ever in the NCAA. The problem for him is Lawi Lalang is even better. And as a result Derrick may leave the NCAA ranks without an NCAA title.

On Friday night, Derrick but up a brave fight, seizing the lead from Lalang with 800m to go and then again with 300m to go but it was to no avail. Lalang, the recent collegiate record holder at 5000m (13:07.15 at Millrose), roared past Derrick at the bell and would go on to win the title in 13:25.11. Derrick's consolation prize was getting the runner-up spot ahead of Lalang's teammate Stephen Sambu who beat Derrick convincingly at Millrose.

Oregon's Parker Stinson led the first 400m and then it was the Lawi Lalang and Stephen Sambu show. One of them would lead the rest of the race until Derrick made his move with 800 to go.

Lalang led at 1600 (4:28.73) and then he and Sambu really pushed the pace the next 1000m (every lap was under 32 seconds from 1600 to 2600). At that point the studs in the field, Lalang, Derrick, Sambu, Cam Levins of Southern Utah, Diego Estrada of NAU, and last year's champ Leonard Korir of Iona were clear of the field. Sambu led at 3200 (8:42.28) as the second 1600 was covered in a brisk 4:13.5.

With 1200 to go Korir was the first to crack but he was soon joined by Estrada. Also at this point, Derrick went ahead of Sambu into second for the first time, showing he was not going to let this be an all Arizona affair. Derrick then took the lead with 800m to go as Cam Levins went off the back and it was a 3 man race. Lalang quickly took back the lead but the pace had taken its toll on Sambu. It was now just Derrick and Lalang  battling for the title.

With 300m to go Derrick made one more push to the front opening a slight gap on Lalang. Just as the American opened up a little daylight, Lalang came roaring back at the bell to retake the lead. It was no contest the final lap as Lalang pulled away for the win with a 28.08 final lap to win in 13:25.11. Derrick was second in 13:26.88, followed by Sambu, Levins, Estrada and last year's champ Korir.

Quick thoughts: Moral victories aren't what Chris Derrick wants but he put up a brave fight to Lalang here. Lalang is the best EVER in the NCAA 5000m and Derrick gapped him with 300m to go. There's a reason Derrick is the #3 American of all time at 5000m indoors. He's very good even though he doesn't have an NCAA title.

Derrick talked to Lewis Johnson of ESPN about his move with 300m to go. Derrick said, "I heard the roar and thought 'maybe I'm dropping him.'" Then when Lalang came by him at the bell, Derrick said he realized, "No. That (roar)'s for him"

1 Lawi Lalang   Arizona 13:25.11   10       
 2 Chris Derrick   Stanford 13:26.88          
 3 Stephen Sambu   Arizona 13:33.61          
 4 Cameron Levins   Southern Utah 13:38.12          
 5 Diego Estrada   Northern Arizona 13:38.45          
 6 Leonard Korir   Iona 13:45.15          
 7 Hassan Mead   Minnesota 13:51.98          
 8 Donn Cabral   Princeton 13:53.14          
 9 Shadrack Kipchirchir   Oklahoma State 13:54.24            
 10 Girma Mecheso   Oklahoma State 13:57.28            
 11 Soufiane Bouchikhi   Eastern Kentucky 13:57.74            
 12 Jake Riley   Stanford 13:57.82            
 13 Parker Stinson   Oregon 14:08.63            
 14 Andrew Poore   Indiana 14:20.63            
 15 Brendan Gregg   Stanford 14:44.80            
 DNF Dustin Fay   UCLA              

*Lap by lap splits here

Women's 5000m: Betsy Saina Holds Off Deborah Maier

Deborah Maier of Cal and Besty Saina of Iowa State both brought their "A" games in the women's 5000m final. Coming in they were the favorites and they lived up to their pre-race billing. Maier had the top time in the country by 7 seconds and Saina had he #2 time and was the top finisher from the cross country championships in the field. They would battle mano-a-mano the final 1200m to see who would win their first NCAA title. In the end, Saina was too good the final lap as she got the win (15:38.83) over Maier (15:40.74).

Kathy Kroeger of Stanford led at 1600m (5:02.33) and when Saina took the lead just before 3200 (10:12.69) ten ladies were still in contention. That would change soon as Saina started pushing the pace the final mile and the field quickly fell apart. With 3/4 of a mile to go Wichita State's Aliphine Tuliamuk was trying to hang on to the back of Maier, but soon Tuliamuk cracked it, and it was a two woman battle between Saina and Maier for the crown.

Saina did all the leading with Maier staying on her heels. Maier made her move in the final 400m and passed Saina and led at the bell. Had Saina left something in reserve or had the front running tired her out? She definitely had something left in the tank as she had no trouble going back around Maier and getting the win in 15:38.83 with a 32.0 last lap. Maier settled for a convincing second nearly ten seconds ahead of Tuliamuk. Saina's Iowa State teammate Meaghan Nelson was 4th.

Quick Thoughts: The title was well deserved for Saina as she beat the top 5000m runner in the NCAA this year. Maier presented herself well as the #1 seed (the first time she's ever been seeded high at an NCAA meet) with a lot of pressure on her shoulders. She redshirted last year and her previous best was a 9th at NCAAs.

1 Betsy Saina   Iowa State 15:38.83   10       
 2 Deborah Maier   California 15:40.74          
 3 Aliphine Tuliamuk   Wichita State 15:50.12          
 4 Meaghan Nelson   Iowa State 15:52.37          
 5 Sara Sutherland   Texas 15:53.73          
 6 Elvin Kibet   Arizona 16:00.91          
 7 Natosha Rogers   Texas A&M 16:04.06          
 8 Sarah Waldron   New Mexico 16:07.04          
 9 Megan Goethals   Washington 16:12.89            
 10 Kathy Kroeger   Stanford 16:13.11            
 11 Lydia Kosgei   Eastern Kentucky 16:17.49            
 12 Juli Accurso   Ohio U. 16:24.23            
 13 Becky Wade   Rice 16:33.35            
 14 Alex Kosinski   Oregon 16:38.61            
 15 Bronwyn Crossman   Oregon 16:46.14            
 16 Dani Stack   Iowa State 16:48.04            

*Lap by Lap splits


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