Day 1 NCAA's, Men's 10,000: Cam Levins Is A National Champion

Cam Levins Wins His First National Championship as Stephen Sambu is Second and Chris Derrick Third

By LetsRun.com with Tom Davis in Des Moines
June 6, 2012

*Results/Splits

The first day of NCAA's was capped off with the men's 10,000, which was the highlight of the night. The race promised to be one for the record books as it featured some of the fastest collegiates all-time in Cam Levins, Chris Derrick, and Stephen Sambu. Levins came in not having lost a 10k or 5k this outdoor season while Derrick has the American collegiate record in the 10k. Neither had ever won an NCAA title.

The race went out moderately for the first couple miles, going through 3200 in 9:16 with Stanford's Brendan Gregg and FSU's Michael Fout as the early leaders. On lap 10, Sambu made the first big move, surging to the front and dropping to 66-second quarter pace. The pack quickly thinned out leaving only Sambu, Derrick, Levins, Oregon's Luke Puskedra, he himself of 61:36 half-marathon fame and another worthy senior without an NCAA title, and Oklahoma's Girma Mecheso holding on in 5th. They went through 5k in 14:18 and before they hit 6k, Mecheso had dropped out and the pack was down to a big 4.

Sambu, Puskedra, Derrick, and Levins ran single file with no order changes until 5 laps to go, at which point Puskedra, on the comeback trail from an appendicitis, made his bid for glory. He surged to the front and dropped the pace as Oregon coach Vin Lananna could be heard shouting, "Make it count Luke! Make it count!"

Then with less than 1200m remaining, Derrick took the lead for the first time, making a big surge which was immediately matched by Levins. They ran a 64.5 second quarter which broke Puskedra and turned it into a 3 man race. Derrick continued pressing, fighting off a challenge from Levins with 500 to go as they ran their second to last lap in 63.6.

As they enter the bell lap, Levins blew by Derrick on the outside and started to run away from the chasing Sambu as Derrick faded back. With 200 to go it looked like Sambu could still challenge, but Levins looked over his shoulder and then absolutely destroyed the last 150m winning easily in 28:07.14 over Sambu's 28:09.52. Derrick was 28:17.28 and Puskedra 4th in 28:24.24. Levins closed in a 58.06 and his time broke the 32-year-old stadium record of 28:07.40.

Before this race, neither Levins nor Derrick had a national championship to his name, but unfortunately only one of them could walk away with one tonight.

Post race, Levins said, "Coming into Cross Country season, I was even looking to try to win [a title] back then. I felt like I was right there every season, but I just couldn't quite pull it off. Indoors I felt like I got whooped pretty bad so I was like, 'I don't know if I'm going to be able to do this.' But outdoor season really turned around for me, and I'm so happy to have gotten a national title…I mean one is amazing in itself, so hopefully I can come back at the end of the week and do something else." He said the race went just as he planned, as he wanted to wait as long as possible to kick, taking advantage of his finishing speed and saving something for the 5k on Friday.

He also added a classy apology to Chris Derrick, saying as captured by flotrack, "I'm sorry to Chris. It's his last race; he's definitely the best collegiate to never win an NCAA title. I'm sorry to have taken that away from him; I know he wanted it so badly."

For Derrick's part, he made no excuses for his race, saying that he didn't feel good the entire race, but wasn't as mentally strong as he should be and thought he didn't handle not feeling good as well as he should have as he's always believed one should separate how they feel and how they race. "Tonight, I just didn't [focus]. I think I panicked a little bit, I think I felt sorry for myself, and that's not a way to race."

He said, "It was a rough way to go out" but that he stuck to his plan which was "to make a long drive and just keep accelerating every lap". He did do that for 2 laps, but ran out of gas at the bell and as he put it, "I was already slowing down by the time we hit the bell. They didn't even need to make a move to go around me." Derrick said his next race will be the Olympic Trials 10k and that this race doesn't change anything moving forward.

"At the end of the day, it isn't going to affect how I'm going to race at other times," explained Derrick. "I wanted to win; I didn't get it. I can't go back and win. Four years form now, I don't know if you can ever change a race or make that any different. It happened, and I need to just go and do as well as I can in every other race."

Quick Thoughts: Does Chris Derrick go down as The Greatest Runner never to win an NCAA Championship?

Q2: Great showing by Puskedra. He wasn't really mentioned much pre-race as his PR (28:13) was much slower than the other three, but he finished only 7 seconds behind Derrick and made a bid at the lead. Puskedrais obviously a talent as shown by his 61:36 half and three top six finishes at NCAA cross.

Q3: This was Cam Levins day. There is no doubting how good this guy is. And if you don't think strength equals speed how about this quote by Levins to Runnerspace describing the last lap, "I could hear everyone else huffing and puffing around me and I felt 'I'm still strong.'"

Results:

Place Athlete Name Yr Affiliation Time     Pts        
 1 Cameron Levins SR Southern Utah 28:07.14     10         
 2 Stephen Sambu SR Arizona 28:09.52            
 3 Chris Derrick SR Stanford 28:17.28            
 4 Luke Puskedra SR Oregon 28:24.24            
 5 Jared Ward JR BYU 28:59.74            
 6 Elliot Krause JR Wisconsin 29:02.89            
 7 Ryan Dohner SO Texas 29:05.11            
 8 Soufiane Bouchikhi JR Eastern Kentucky 29:09.08            
 9 Paul Katam SO UNC-Greensboro 29:10.65              
 10 Alden Bahr SR BYU 29:21.64              
 11 Scott Fauble FR Portland 29:30.57              
 12 Mark Dennin JR Georgetown 29:30.97              
 13 Miles Unterreiner SR Stanford 29:41.22              
 14 Zachary Mayhew JR Indiana 29:43.79              
 15 Michael Fout JR Florida State 29:47.25              
 16 Brian Leung SR Princeton 29:58.45              
 17 Brendan Gregg SR Stanford 30:10.50              
 18 Sean Keveren JR Virginia 30:15.40              
 19 Tito Medrano JR Syracuse 30:23.59              
 20 Martin Grady SO Notre Dame 30:32.93              
 21 Ben Cheruiyot SR Eastern Kentucky 30:45.06              
 22 Alexander Lundy SR Georgetown 31:00.68              
 DNF Girma Mecheso JR Oklahoma State                
 DNF Daniel Mutai JR UL-Monroe                

*Results/Splits

*LRC 800m and Women's Steeple Prelim Recaps: Cas Loxsom Goes Home

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