Abbey D’Agostino Wins NCAA 5000m Title

Dartmouth's Abbey D'Agostino, shown here at last summer's Olympic Trials, easily won the NCAA indoor 5000m on Friday night. Photo: PhotoRun.net

The junior from Dartmouth won by 5 seconds. 

(c) 2013 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved. Used with permission.

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Dartmouth’s Abbey D’Agostino and Texas Tech’s Kennedy Kithuka both scored convincing wins in the 5000m on Friday night, the first day of the NCAA Division I Indoor Championships at the Randall Tyson Track Complex at the University of Arkansas.

D’Agostino, a junior psychology major from Topsfield, Mass., ran a patient race, guided each of the 25 laps by her coach, Olympic marathoner Mark Coogan, who stood at the edge of the track. Each time D’Agostino entered the homestretch, she shot a glance at Coogan who shouted instructions or encouragement.

“Abbey, you’re the best miler in the field!” Coogan shouted with eight and one-half laps to go when D’Agostino was following on the shoulder of Iowa State’s Betsy Saina, the reigning NCAA cross country champion. Half a lap later, D’Agostino surged to the lead, and stayed there until the end of the race, gaining a small margin with each circuit.

“I was making eye contact with him,” D’Agostino told Race Results Weekly. “When he said that I knew I could take the lead. Then I thought, ‘I can take this.’”

Closing with a 32.8-second lap, D’Agostino glided to victory in 15:28.11, more than five seconds up on Saina’s 15:33.66. Wichita State’s Aliphine Tuliamuk-Bolton took third in 15:38.00 while D’Agostino’s good friend, Jordan Hasay of the University of Oregon, finished fourth in 15:40.30.

“Yeah, it feels great,” D’Agostino said of following her NCAA outdoor title last year at the same distance with her indoor crown. “This is my favorite event.”

D’Agostino said she would celebrate Friday night by eating pizza with her parents, who watched the race. She will come back to race the 3,000m on Saturday night.

KITHUKA TAKES WIN FROM THE FRONT

Kithuka, a senior, from Thika, Kenya, who came to Texas Tech by way of Wayland Baptist, was the only leader in the men’s contest. The top-seeded athlete in the race, who had qualified with a 13:26.65 mark set on the same track, went right to the front and quickly opened up a big lead.

“I’m in a good place now,” Kithuka recalled telling himself. “I can just run my race.”

Although his lead was never seriously threatened, second-seeded Diego Estrada of Northern Arizona never gave up, even slightly closing the gap in the latter stages of the race. He would ultimately finish second in 13:30.24 to Kithuka’s 13:25.38, a bittersweet result given that it was his last NCAA Indoor Championships.

“I was definitely hurting,” said Estrada, who competed for Mexico in the London Olympics at 10,000m. “I knew what was going to happen and I was ready for it. I was stuck in no-man’s land, but I refused to give up thinking he was going to break, but the guy’s too good.”

Oklahoma State’s Girma Mecheso finished third (13:40.28), and Wisconsin’s Maverick Darling (13:41.25) and Mohammed Ahmed (13:41.84) finished fourth and fifth, respectively.

SOME SURPRISES IN MIDDLE-DISTANCE QUALIFYING

In middle distance qualifying, there were several surprises. The University of Florida’s Cory McGee, the second-seeded woman in the mile, ran behind Florida State’s Amanda Winslow for most of the race before fading badly in the final two laps to finish fifth. Winslow won the heat and ran the fastest qualifying time of the night (4:36.48), while McGee did not advance.

“I’ve been here a couple of times and I’ve finally learned you’ve got to respect the heats, but you’ve also got to stay relaxed when you’ve got other races coming up,” Winslow told Race Results Weekly. “So just be aware of your surroundings and stay as relaxed as possible for the finish.”

Top-seeded Emma Coburn of the University of Colorado, last summer’s Olympic Trials steeplechase champion, won the first heat with relative ease in 4:37.47, just ahead of Oregon’s Anne Kesselring (4:37.69) and Becca Friday (4:37.80).

The four best men’s milers in the meet –Arizona’s Lawi Lalang, Tulsa’s Chris O’Hare, North Carolina State’s Ryan Hill and Penn State’s Robby Creese– all advanced to tomorrow’s final. Lalang won the first heat from the front in 3:58.52, holding off a hard-charging Hill (3:58.91). Creese nipped O’Hare in the slower second heat, 4:01.67 to 4:01.76.

The women of Louisiana State University dominated the women’s 800m qualifying. LSU’s Natoya Goule won the first heat in 2:05.68 over Iowa State’s Ejiroghene Okoro (2:06.10) and Illinois’s Samantha Murphy (2:06.14). Stanford freshman Amy Weissenbach finished fourth and did not advance. Goule’s teammate Charlene Lipsey, the top-seeded athlete in the event, won the second heat from the front over Oregon’s Laura Roesler (2:05.42) and Oklahoma State’s Natalja Piliusina (2:05.78).

“Me and my teammate looking pretty good this year,” Lipsey told Race Results Weekly. “I’m pretty excited and looking forward to tomorrow.”

Oregon juniors Elijah Greer (1:48.13) and Boru Guyota (1:48.84) won their respective heats of the 800m, which also saw potential champions Patrick Rono of Arkansas and Casimir Loxsom of Penn State advance.  Leoman Momoh, the top-seeded athlete in the race with a 1:46.07 season’s best, finish last in 2:07.10 after taking a bad fall.

EXCITING DMR’S CLOSE THE EVENING’S ACTION

Both the men’s and women’s distance medley relay’s produced exciting racing and one record. The women of Michigan produced a facility record 10:56.46 on the strength of a steady closing 1600m-leg by senior Amanda Eccleston. Villanova’s Emily Lipari was right behind Eccleston with two laps to go, but couldn’t hold the pace, leaving coach Marcus O’Sullivan’s team to finish second (10:57.96).

The men’s contest was much closer. Heavily favored Penn State led nearly the entire race. Freshman Za’Von Watkins handed over a slight lead to closer Robby Creese who ran at the front for most of his eight laps. But just before the bell, Princeton’s Peter Callahan shot around the field on the outside, took the lead, and ran away with the win in 9:33.01 to Penn State’s 9:34.00.

“The first three guys got me in great position, and I just really wanted to bring it home for them,” Callahan told Race Results Weekly. “When you’re following-up an act like the first three guys it’s easy to look good.”

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