Boise State’s Emma Bates Captures 2014 NCAA 10,000m Title After Great Stretch Battle With Elinor Kirk

June 12, 2014

EUGENE, OR –.After a string of near-misses, Boise State’s Emma Bates claimed her first NCAA title on Thursday night at the University of Oregon’s Hayward Field at the 2014 NCAA Track and Field Championships, pulling away from UAB’s Elinor Kirk in the final 25 meters to win a historically fast women’s 10,000 meters in 32:32.35, the second fastest winning time ever.

Bates was 3rd in the 10,000 last spring, 2nd at NCAA XC and 4th in the 3,000 and 5,000 indoors. With Dartmouth’s Abbey D’Agostino electing to run only the 5,000 at NCAAs, the 10,000 title was up for grabs and Bates seized it with a 67.74 last lap and strong final 100m. Bates and Kirk battled side by side for much of the final 100m with Kirk taking the lead from Bates, only to have Bates take the lead for good with 25 meters to go. Bates will go for NCAA title #2 in Saturday’s 5,000, but she’ll have D’Agostino and Stanford’s Aisling Cuffe waiting for her fresh in that one.

The Race

The pace was honest from the start, with William & Mary’s Elaina Balouris leading a big pack of women through 3k in 9:54. That’s exactly 33:00 pace, a solid pace for a field in which only seven runners entered having broken 33:00.

Erin Finn Leads Emma Bates (click for photo gallery) Erin Finn Leads Emma Bates (click for photo gallery)

At that point, Balouris began to slow down and not wanting to let the pace drop, Michigan’s freshman Erin Finn took the lead at 4k and began to pick it up as they hit halfway in 16:33. After a 5:21 third mile, the leaders ran 5:12 to pass 6400 in 21:06. By then, the pack had begun to splinter and the field was spread out single-file. Seven women remained in the top group: Finn, Bates, Kirk, 2011 champ Juliet Bottorff of Duke, Arizona’s Elvin Kibet, Balouris and Sarah Pagano of Syracuse.

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Pagano fell off with six to go and after a 5:14 fifth mile, Bottorff took the lead with four laps to go and really began to turn the screws. Laps 21-23 were the three fastest of the race to that point as the leaders were now running 76s instead of 77s and 78s as they had while Finn was leading. WIth three to go, it was down to Bottorff, Bates, Kirk and Balouris. On the penultimate lap, Balouris fell off as well, and at the bell, it was down to Bottorff, Bates and Kirk for the championship.

With 300 to go, Bates made her move. Kirk immediately responded and moved out to Bates’ shoulder, with Bottorff falling back. But instead of staying behind Bates for the final turn, Kirk unnecessarily ran extra distance on Bates’ outside. She and Bottorff were stride-for-stride coming off the final turn, setting up an exciting final 100.

Kirk moved past Bates slightly early on the homestretch but could never gain real separation. With 25 meters to go, Bates summoned one last burst and that was all she needed to create a gap and claim the title.

Results, post race reaction, video interviews and analysis below

1   Emma Bates  JR  Boise State 32:32.35
2   Elinor Kirk SR  UAB 32:32.99
3   Juliet Bottorff SR  Duke    32:37.46
4   Elvin Kibet JR  Arizona 32:43.39
5   Elaina Balouris SR  W&M    32:46.57
6   Erin Finn   FR  Michigan    32:50.14
7   Sarah Pagano    SR  Syracuse    33:00.46
8   Jana Soethout   SR  San Fran.   33:02.02
9   Kaitlyn Fischer FR  Missouri    33:12.37
10  Emily Stites    SO  W&M    33:12.74
11  Megan Curham    FR  Princeton   33:29.03
12  Katy Moen   JR  Iowa State  33:32.18
13  Sheree Shea SR  Loyola Mary.    33:32.29
14  Lindsay Flanagan    SR  Washi. 33:32.33
15  Megan Goethals  SR  Washington  33:32.66
16  Olivia Mickle   SR  Texas   33:33.30
17  Allison Lasnicki    JR  W. VA.   33:46.22
18  Kristen Busch   SO  Bradley 34:01.35
19  Margo Malone    SO  Syracuse    34:03.08
20  Hannah Walker   JR  FSU   34:08.21
21  Sarah Rapp  JR  Virginia Tech   34:10.96
22  Cali Roper  FR  Rice    34:34.33
23  Jennifer Flack  FR  Virginia    35:22.42
Kelsey Santisteban  JR  California  DNF

Bates: “I just wanted it that bad”

Afterwards, Bates spoke about the dramatic last lap and battle with Elinor Kirk over the last 150m. She admitted that she had a little self-doubt when Kirk passed her because she didn’t think she had anything left, but said, “I just wanted it that bad. I think it was like a mental push that just kind of pulled me to the finish line. And I think that’s what I needed in that last stretch, was my self-belief that I could do it.”

Asked if when Kirk was moving on her if she was afraid she might have gone too early, Bates said definitely not because usually she has the opposite problem and feels she waits too long and loses at the line. Here she was “really proud” that she made the move at 300 and figured, “if anyone was going to beat me they were going to have to really try hard to do it.”

Talking about finally getting an NCAA win (she has a four top 5 finishes including runner-up in XC), she said even though people say she’s always at the edge of glory she still considers herself an underdog in these races even if it isn’t the case, so to say she’s excited with this win is an “understatement”.

Looking ahead to the 5K, she said she just wants to improve on her 7th place finish from last year and feels anything she can do there is icing on the cake.

Emma Bates 2014 NCAA Champion  Emma Bates pulled away from Elinor Kirk very late (more photos)

Elinor Kirk: “Over the Moon”
Runner-up Elinor Kirk of UAB of Wales was “over the moon” with her second-place finish. She said she gave it her all and was quite happy. That being said, when we asked her if she could would run the last lap differently if given a do-over, she admitted that she would. She said after she finished she realized she ran a lot of extra ground on the final turn. Perhaps it would have been better to save ground and wait until the final stretch.

After Saturday’s 5,000 final, Kirk will run the 10,000 and 5,000 at the Commonwealth Games.

Bottorff Proud
The third-placer Julie Bottorff of Duke was proud of the effort she gave and not disappointed that she didn’t win. She said Duke coach Kevin Jermyn joked with her after the race that she deserved to win given her fitness this year but not in 2011 when she won in a pedestrian 34:25.86 in a year when her pb was just 33:18.45.

Frosh Erin Finn
Even though Michigan freshman Erin Finn faded to 6th, she was happy with her race and was proud to be an All-American as a freshman. She said she had a small foot tendonitis issue that flared up after Regionals and caused her to lose a bit of training time. She felt that plus the long season “took a little bit of the pop” out of her legs today. Asked about taking the lead during the race and if she had feared a fast finish from the women with faster closing speed, Finn said that wasn’t it at all because she knows she is capable of a much faster 1500 PR than she has on paper so she wasn’t scared of the speed of her competitors. On taking the lead and trying to run a bit faster she said, “I just feel like we’re in a 10K, we’re not in a 1500, so why race it like a 1500? It’s a lot entertaining I think for the crowd when it’s faster and it’s more satisfying.”

Elvin Kibet of Arizona
Arizona’s Elvin Kibet was extremely happy with her 4th place finish and was even finding it hard to stop laughing and smiling for her interview. She was sitting at the back of lead group for a long time and said that she missed the move when the top group broke away, but was happy she was able to make up a lot of ground with a good kick at the end.

Megan Curham’s Mom Knows Best
We also spoke with Princeton’s Megan Curham, who ended a fantastic freshman campaign with an 11th-place showing. Curham talked about how great it is to compete with Abbey D’Agostino and how she was thrilled to have made it to NCAAs in both cross country (All-American, 34th) and outdoors as a rookie.

She said that as she prepared to head off to college that her mom, who attended all of her races this year, looked at the schedule and said she’d look into making flight and hotel arrangements for Eugene. Megan told her mom not to get ahead of herself, but in the end, we guess Mom knows best:

Quick Take #1: This was a historically fast collegiate women’s 10,000.

The coaches association – the USTFCCCA – issued a release stating how Bates’ winning time was the second fastest in meet history, only eclipsed by the 32:28.57 was set by Cal State LA’s Sylvia Mosqueda in 1988. Even more impressive is the fact that the race set “best marks ever for places 2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10” and it was the “first time in meet history first 10 runners all under 33:21.”

Quick Take #2: Despite point #1 and even though this ended up as a closer race than last night’s men’s 10,000 final, it didn’t feel as exciting. 

The women’s 10,000 was a great race — you can’t ask for much more than a pair of runners going stride-for-stride over the last 100 and two lead changed during that time frame. But compared to Edward Cheserek’s electrifying burst of speed in the men’s 10,000, it wasn’t as exciting. Cheserek’s 24.8 last 200 was world-class and he had the added bonus of racing in front of the hometown crowd. With colder conditions on Thursday and no Ducks in the race, there were fewer fans in the stands for the women’s race and less crowd noise at the finish. Many of the Hayward faithful left before the start of the 10,000m final with no Ducks in the final.

Quick Take #3: Is Bates the favorite for NCAA XC this fall?

Bates still has the 5,000 on Saturday, where she’ll face fellow junior Cuffe. If Bates can somehow double back and beat Cuffe (whose 15:11.13 5,000 PR is #3 all-time in the NCAA), she has to be the favorite for the XC title in the fall. If not, the two will likely enter as co-favorites.

(Editor’s note: This story was initially published without quick take #1)

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