On, Wisconsin! Badgers Morgan McDonald & Alicia Monson Sweep 2019 NCAA 5Ks

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By LetsRun.com
March 8, 2019

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. —A pair of Wisconsin runners won the 5000s tonight at the 2019 NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships as senior Morgan McDonald lived up to his favored status and won the men’s 5000 in 13:41.76 and junior Alicia Monson, the third-fastest collegian ever at 3000, took down four of the 10 fastest women in NCAA history in the women’s race by running 15:31.26. It was the first NCAA track title for both Monson and McDonald (McDonald won the NCAA cross country title in the fall as well).

Women’s Race

After a 5:07 first 1600, the pace got a little quicker during the second mile as two-time NCAA steeplechase champ Allie Ostrander did most of the leading, taking the field through 3200 in 10:09. However, the real racing didn’t begin until Weini Kelati of New Mexico, the 2018 NCAA XC runner-up, made her bid for glory with 1600 to go. Only 2 of Kelati’s first 17 laps were under 37 but she’d run sub-37 all the way home. Her surge in pace turned the race into a two-person battle between her and Monson with 1k to go.

Monson ran right on Kelati’s shoulder and at times looked impatient. On the final lap, we found out why as Monson took the lead as she rounded the first turn and never looked back. Monson had another gear and closed off her 4:44.21 final 1600 with a 33.65 final 200 (Kelati only could manage a 35.40 — her fifth straight 35).

Watch the last lap here:

Behind them, Stanford sophomore Fiona O’Keeffe, the four-time first-team All-American (three in XC, one in outdoor track), had the second-fastest last lap of the night, 34.58, to grab third in 15:37.61 as 2017 NCAA cross country champion Ednah Kurgat was 4th in 15:39.04, the same time credited to her teammate Charlotte Prouse as the New Mexico Lobos scored 17 points in the event.

Ostrander, the 8th fastest collegian in history indoors at 5000, only ended up 8th (15:46.69) while 2018 NCAA 10,000-meter champ Sharon Lokedi of Kansas, the 7th fastest woman ever in the indoor 5000, didn’t even score as she was just 11th (16:06.21)

Monson’s victory today was the first NCAA indoor track title for a Wisconsin Badger since Amy Wickus won the last of her three straight titles in the 800 in 1995.

1Alicia MONSONJRWisconsin15:31.26 PB 
2Weini KELATISONew Mexico15:32.95
3Fiona O’KEEFFESOStanford15:37.61
4Ednah KURGATSRNew Mexico15:39.04 (15:39.031)
5Charlotte PROUSEJRNew Mexico15:39.04 (15:39.036)
6Jaci SMITHSRAir Force15:40.26
7Makena MORLEYJRColorado15:41.67
8Allie OSTRANDERJRBoise State15:46.69
9Dorcas WASIKESOLouisville15:55.84
10Aubrey ROBERTSSONorthwestern16:04.47
11Sharon LOKEDISRKansas16:06.21
12Isobel BATT-DOYLEJRWashington16:06.38
13Lauren LAROCCOSRPortland16:07.96
14Elly HENESJRNC State16:20.65
15Abbie MCNULTYSRStanford16:29.56
Jessica PASCOEJRFloridaDNF

Men’s Race

Coming into the men’s 5000, it sure looked on paper that McDonald, who has a lifetime best of 13:15 in the 5000 whereas no one else in the field had ever broken 13:30, was way better than everyone else and when the race was over that had been confirmed.

BYU’s Clayton Young, who was only 72nd in cross country last fall and had never scored before on the track, did most of the leading through the first half of the race (1st 1600 was 4:27.57) before Campbell’s Amon Kemboi, the #2 seed with a 13:33 sb, took over (3200 in 8:59.31) and led until less than 2 laps remained. McDonald was right on his shoulder virtually throughout and coming off the 4th to last turn with just over 350 meters remaining, McDonald finally had had enough and shot to the lead.

The only people that could even stay relatively close to McDonald were Colorado’s Joe Klecker (13:35 pb, 8th at 2018 NCAA XC) and Young, but by the time McDonald got to the bell, it was clear the last lap was going to be his coronation. Despite looking over his shoulder several times in the homestretch and letting up before the line, McDonald ran his final 200 in 26.58 to win by a more than a second in 13:41.76 as Klecker took second in 13:42.79 with Young third in 13:45.34.

Watch the last 100m here:

McDonald is Wisconsin’s first NCAA men’s champion in an indoor track (not field) event since Chris Solinsky won the 5000 in 2007.

1Morgan MCDONALDSRWisconsin13:41.76 FR 
2Joe KLECKERJRColorado13:42.79
3Clayton YOUNGSRBYU13:45.35
4Connor MCMILLANSRBYU13:46.88
5Vincent KIPROPSRAlabama13:47.38
6Amon KEMBOIJRCampbell13:47.44
7Ben VEATCHSOIndiana13:49.50
8Robert BRANDTJRUCLA13:50.74
9Edwin KURGATJRIowa State13:51.06
10Conner MANTZSOBYU13:51.45
11John DRESSELJRColorado13:54.58
12Gilbert KIGENSRAlabama13:55.10
13Tyler DAYJRNAU13:55.40 SB 
14Luis GRIJALVAFRNAU14:10.44 PB 
15Obsa ALISRMinnesota14:18.36

Quick Take: We can’t wait for the men’s and women’s 3000 finals

McDonald was clearly the best man in the 5000 tonight and while Stanford’s Grant Fisher didn’t anchor Stanford to victory in the DMR, he was pretty spectacular as he split 3:54. We can’t wait to find out who is the best in the 3000 tomorrow.

To be honest, as dominant as Monson was tonight, it’s hard for us to imagine her losing the 3000 tomorrow but then we remind ourselves that Oregon’s Jessica Hull won the 1500 outdoors last year and anchored Oregon to DMR glory tonight.

Quick Take: Alicia Monson completes her journey to the top of the NCAA ranks

One year ago, Monson finished 13th in this race, 32 seconds behind Kurgat and 27 seconds behind Lokedi, both of whom won NCAA titles in 2017-18. Outdoors, Monson was 16th, 23 seconds behind winner Karissa Schweizer. She was one of the better runners in the country, but there wasn’t much to indicate that she would become the best within a year.

Then came the cross country season, and when Monson surprisingly won the Nuttycombe Invitational in September, everyone in the country knew she had reached a different level. But Monson knew she was ready make the jump after finally logging a good summer of training. Now she knows how hard she can push her body without surpassing her limits, which has allowed her to continue building fitness, season on top of season.

“I hadn’t really gotten a major [training] block before,” Monson said. “As I got better, I had to learn where I could give and take and where I could go easy. I’m just learning how to train efficiently and consistently.”

Tactically, Monson was right on the money tonight — she knew she had the best kick in the field, and she used it — but tomorrow’s 3k will be a bigger challenge. Monson said she’s well aware of Hull’s speed at the end of the race, but added that “weird things happen” and isn’t counting herself out.

Quick Take: McDonald tried to run back his winning XC strategy, though he didn’t leave it quite so late this time

McDonald’s plan was simple tonight, but when you’re the best guy in the field, sometimes a simple plan is all you need. Similar to NCAA XC, he said that his strategy was to get in good position, respond to any moves that were made, and when he felt the time was right, make his winning move. That’s exactly how it played out, and though he moved later than he did in XC — where he waited until midway down the final straight — the outcome was the same.

The big difference between this win and cross, McDonald said, was that he has another NCAA final to run tomorrow.

“I’m super stoked but I know now I’ve gotta go get ready for a 3k and stuff,” McDonald said. “Cross, we’d been building up that for months, and I knew that we were going to have a mad party that night. So it’s a little different.”

McDonald’s win also continued the streak we pointed out in our preview: the last six times the NCAA XC men’s champ has run the 5k at NCAA indoors, he’s won that race as well.

Quick Take: Weini Kelati is pleased with the progress she is making

Kelati ran a fine race tonight and did what she had to do to give herself a chance to win, driving the pace hard from a mile out. Perhaps she could have taken off even earlier, but leading that much is tough, and there’s no guarantee it would have worked against the sensational Monson. Realistically, Kelati did all she could do; she was simply beaten by a superior runner.

Kelati was pleased with her performance after the race, noting that she was 5th last year. She wanted to be first tonight, but at least she is moving in the right direction.

“I want to improve every year,’ Kelati said. “I [didn’t win tonight], but I know I can progress and get there.”

Kelati was a little lucky to be in the race considering she false-started, but she was only given a warning and allowed to run.

Talk about the 2019 NCAA champs on our world-famous messageboard / fan forum:

MB: Official 2019 NCAA Indoor Day 1 Discussion Thread

MB: Grant MF Fisher splits 3:54.24 and loses!!!