Lalang, D’Agostino Complete NCAA Distance Doubles

Lawi Lalang of Arizona takes the lead in the 3000m final. Photo: NCAA Photos

Lalang also set two meet records in the process. 

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

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Arizona’s Lawi Lalang and Dartmouth’s Abbey D’Agostino completed impressive distance doubles on the second and final day of the NCAA Indoor Championships at the Randall Tyson Track Complex at the University of Arkansas on Saturday. Lalang, the lanky junior from Kenya, set meet records in both the mile and the 3,000m in a span of one hour and 40 minutes, while D’Agostino won the 3,000m going away after taking the 5,000m crown on Friday night.

“So amazing, you know?” Lalang told reporters of running 3:54.74 in the mile followed by 7:45.94 in the 3,000m.

In the shorter race, Lalang knew he needed to go hard from the bell in order to neutralize the strong kicks of Tulsa’s Chris O’Hare and North Carolina State’s Ryan Hill. He quickly had the field running single file behind him, clocking steady sub-30-second laps. O’Hare, the NCAA indoor mile record holder, tried to chase, but soon fell back and out of contention. Hill, however, was still trying to contend for victory, but Lalang had a seemingly insurmountable lead of over 20 meters.

“After 800 meters, no one was following me,” said Lalang, who broke Kevin Sullivan’s 1995 meet record of 3:55.33. “I did not feel Ryan Hill coming until I heard the crowd making a lot of noise. I was like, there must be someone coming.”

Hill had gone into high gear and was rapidly making up ground on Lalang. Rounding the final turn, he got within striking distance, but came up just half a second short. Hill ran an impressive 26.4 seconds for the final lap.

“I felt the crowd kind of come to their feet, and that’s what it’s all about,” Hill told Race Results Weekly. “I wish I could have won. But, obviously, Lawi, he was the man today. He made it happen. He won. Good for him.”

O’Hare, the defending champion, would finish a distant seventh in 4:05.56. Visibly disappointed, he was gracious in defeat.

“I’m happy for Lawi and Ryan,” he said. “They ran to form. That’s what track is all about: running well when it counts.”

In the 3,000m, Lalang was mostly concerned about Texas Tech star Kennedy Kithuka, who won the 5,000m title on Friday. Kithuka was indeed the leader after the first kilometer (2:38-flat), and remained there until 1,600 meters when Lalang took over and kept the lead through 2,000m (5:15.47). At the bell, Lalang was boldly challenged by Northeastern’s Eric Jenkins and Oklahoma State’s Kirubel Erassa, who came up on his shoulder. He knew what he needed to do.

“When it came to the bell I’m courageous to go for it, because I knew I had the mile speed,” Lalang explained.

Lalang ripped a 26.6-second final lap to put the race away and break Adam Goucher’s 1998 meet record of 7:46.03. Jenkins would finish second in 7:46.21, but was later disqualified for impeding another runner. Instead, second place went to Arkansas junior Kemoy Campbell, a Jamaican, who ran a national record 7:46.95. Erassa got third in 7:49.17, a personal best.  Kithuka would finish ninth.

D’AGOSTINO MAKES IT LOOK EASY

As in the 5,000m on Friday night, Abbey D’Agostino made eye contact with her coach Mark Coogan every time she entered the homestretch. When Coogan shouted to her, “don’t be afraid Abbey!” just before the 2,000-meter mark on Saturday, D’Agostino jumped into the lead and was never seriously challenged. She ran the last kilometer in 2:49.9 to win in 9:01.08, nearly six seconds up on her friend and rival, Oregon’s Jordan Hasay (9:06.61). Kentucky’s Cally Macumber went from 14th place at 2,000m to third by the finish by running a 31.7-second closing lap, the fastest in the field.

“The goal, as I said yesterday, is to give yourself an opportunity,” said the always thoughtful D’Agostino. “It’s one of those races where people come into it tired –a lot of us had doubles– and who wants it the most. I felt like I wanted it tonight.”

Coogan’s daughter, Katrina, the only freshman in the field, finished seventh in 9:11.79.

COBURN, GREER, GOULE TAKE REMAINING MIDDLE DISTANCE HONORS

In the night’s least surprising result, Colorado senior Emma Coburn fended off an honest challenge from Florida State senior Amanda Winslow to win the women’s mile, 4:29.91 to 4:31.08. Coburn, the U.S. Olympic Trials steeplechase champion, ran three one-mile races during the indoor season, setting a personal best in the first at the Millrose Games and winning both her heat and final here. She was clearly pleased.

“Meat Loaf had a song called “Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad,” quipped Coburn, who nearly broke Sarah Bowman’s 2009 championships record of 4:29.72.

The 800m titles went to Oregon’s Elijah Greer and LSU’s Natoya Goule. Greer stayed behind Penn State’s Cas Loxsom for the first three laps, then ambushed the field with a last lap surge which Loxsom nearly covered. At the line, Greer was timed in 1:47.13, just one-tenth of a second ahead of Loxsom.

“I made a hard move,” said Greer, who was tired from yesterday’s preliminary round. “When I passed him, I just wanted to blow by him.  I didn’t want to give him any chance to push me to the outside.”

Goule, a petite Jamaican who was competing in her first NCAA Indoor Championships, burst to the lead from the gun and the field simply couldn’t catch her. She got to 400 meters in 59-flat, then ran to the finish in 2:02-flat, leaving her better-known teammate Charlene Lipsey to finish third. Oregon’s Laura Roesler got second.

“Today was different,” Goule said, explaining that she usually runs a more tactical kind of race. “I don’t know. I just feel stronger, and felt like I could go, so I go.”

In the all-important team competition the women of Oregon beat the University of Kansas, 56 to 44 points. LSU was third with 43. The Arkansas men got a victory for the home crowd, easily beating the University of Florida, 74 to 59.  The University of Wisconsin was a distant third with 33 points.

The 2014 NCAA Division I Indoor Championships will be held in Albuquerque on March 14-15.

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