March 9, 2018
COLLEGE STATION, Texas — The favorites delivered in the 5000 finals tonight at the 2018 NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships. Syracuse’s Justyn Knight, the 2017 NCAA men’s XC champ, easily sprinted away from the competition over the final 200 and captured his first NCAA track title in 14:14.47 as 2016 NCAA women’s XC champ Karissa Schweizer of Missouri won the women’s race by going wire to wire in 15:43.23.
Knight’s victory came with total ease as he was looking over his shoulder coming off the final turn as he’d gapped everyone else thanks to a final 1600 of 4:09.75, final 800 of 2:00.48, final 400 of 56.63 and final 200 of 27.54. Alabama junior Vincent Kiprop, the DII transfer who was 3rd in the SEC 3k and 5k this year (7th at NCAA XC), ended up second in 14:15.01 with Oklahoma State’s Hassan Abdi third in 14:15.38, and Southern Utah’s Mike Tate fourth in 14:15.67.
Schweizer’s victory was even more dominant but it required more work as she went wire-to-wire to win, literally leading at the end of every single lap. In the end, it was a battle between the last two NCAA cross country champs as 2017 NCAA XC champ Ednah Kurgat hung on to Schweizer until about 600 meters remained but by the tape Schweizer won by a commanding 4.23 seconds in 15:43.23. Schweizer got the win by tightening the screws and squeezing the life out of the rest of the field as she ran her first 1600 in 5:20.59, ran her second 1600 in 5:06.04 and her final 1600 in a spectacular 4:38.33.
“I just had to take it and take it confidently,” said Schweizer to ESPN after the race. “I knew I just had to cut it down at the end.”
Interviews and analysis below.
|3||Hassan ABDI||SR||Oklahoma State||14:15.38|
|4||Mike TATE||SR||Southern Utah||14:15.67|
|5||Andy TROUARD||SR||Northern Arizona||14:16.39|
|14||Grant FISCHER||SR||Colorado St.||14:21.82|
|2||Ednah KURGAT||JR||New Mexico||15:47.46|
|5||Weini KELATI||FR||New Mexico||15:56.73|
|7||Elly HENES||SO||North Carolina St.||16:00.80|
|9||Alice WRIGHT||SR||New Mexico||16:07.66|
|14||Clare O’BRIEN||SO||Boise State||16:23.66|
|15||Paige GILCHRIST||SR||Northern Arizona||16:38.42|
If you are wondering why the win looked so easy for Knight, here’s why.
Knight looked almost bored over the final 100 as he was glancing over his shoulder multiple times. He clearly had another gear or two or three if he needed it. And for good reason. The close was very modest by someone of his standard and yet no one in the field was close to challenging him late. As we mentioned above, Knight closed a 14:14 race in 4:09.75, by running a final 800 of 2:00.48, final 400 of 56.63 and final 200 of 27.54. His opening 1600 was a 4:43.02 and his 2nd 1600 was a 4:48.94.
Last year, Edward Cheserek closed off a 13:41 race in 4:09.79 by running a final 800 of 1:56.76, final 400 of 53.89, and final 200 of 27.06. His opening 1600 was 4:29.38 and his second 1600 was a 4:28.33.
Once saw it going slow, Vincent Kiprop wanted to be the one to make the move
Kiprop was the one who finally got things going with 1200 to go, and he explained that he did it to ensure he got good position for the inevitable kick. He felt comfortable as well, so ratcheting up the pace didn’t take that much extra effort.
It was smart running from Kiprop. He wasn’t beating Knight under any circumstances, but he made sure that he ran the shortest distance at the end of the race and he was perfectly positioned to respond to any big moves should anyone try to come from behind. Third placer Hassan Abdi (27.53) actually closed faster than Kiprop (27.94) over the final lap but Kiprop held on to second as he was better-positioned entering the bell lap.
Southern Utah’s Mike Tate takes 4th in first NCAA track appearance
Tate was the NCAA leader this year at 13:37 but before today had never run at NCAAs on the track (he has run NCAA XC three times, with a best finish of 77th last fall). Tate did run 13:34 last spring, but he did not qualify for nationals as a nasty case of plantar fasciitis derailed him at regionals. Tate also said that he felt he spent too much time at that meet being a cheerleader for his teammates and so today he stayed in his room while teammate Kasey Knevelbaard ran the mile prelims. The approach worked as Tate came away with his first All-American certificate.
Karissa Schweizer didn’t intend to lead the race, but she went with the flow
Last year, Schweizer won this race easily by doing the same thing she did tonight and kicking away with a couple laps to go. But in the 3k a night later, she still showed some tactical naivete as she left it too late to get to the lead, allowing Colorado’s Dani Jones to win it over the final 200.
Tonight, Schweizer showed an ability to adjust her plan on the fly and the result was her fourth career national title (1 XC, 1 outdoor, 2 indoor). She had planned on sitting in the pack and waiting until 800 before starting to cut down the pace, but once she found herself in front, she decided to stay there, controlling the pace until making that move with four laps left.
“The gameplan was to sit back and I got pushed into the lead and I just, I handled it in that way,” Schweizer said. “I had a lot of confidence in the pace I was running and I had to make sure that I was just feeling comfortable and ready for a change of gears at the end.”
Of course, any strategy looks good when you’re the fittest woman in the field, but Schweizer has shown an impressive ability to win NCAA titles in a variety of manners (remember last year outdoors, she made a big mid-race move to drop the field). Perhaps she’ll debut a new one when she goes for the 3k/5k double tomorrow?
Ednah Kurgat was happy to place 2nd today
Kurgat won the NCAA XC crown in dominant fashion four months ago, but she said that for whatever reason, she’s much better at cross country than indoor track. That may be true, but she also had to face Schweizer at her best today, which was not the case in Louisville in November.
Hassan Abdi of OK State after placing 3rd
Sharon Lokedi of Kansas after placing 3rd
— LetsRun.com (@letsrundotcom) March 10, 2018