AMES, Iowa – For nearly all collegiate distance runners, a runner-up finish in the 5,000 meters and a fourth-place effort in the 3,000 meters at the NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships would make the weekend one to remember. But that was not the case for two-time NCAA champion distance runner Betsy Saina. She was disappointed and resolved to do better at the Stanford Invitational Friday, where she opened the outdoor season in the 5,000 meters.
“I felt I was in better shape that what I showed (at the NCAA indoor meet),” Saina said. “But I knew that this could be a long season so I dropped my mileage, which is unusual for this time of year. Going in I felt good and was going to try to run somewhere between 15:07 and 15:15.”
What followed was an effort of 15:12.05 that saw her finish second to veteran Alisha Williams of BRC/Adidas (15:09.73). The time made Saina the fourth-fastest collegiate runner ever at 5,000 meters. More importantly, the NCAA cross country champion eclipsed the 2013 World Championships “A” standard of 15:18. Meeting the standard means the senior can compete in August’s world meet in Moscow if she is selected to run for her native Kenya.
“Getting the “A” standard gives me confidence to do the same in the 10,000 meters,” Saina said.
Saina had led some of the Saturday’s race, working to get the World Championship standard. During the event, Williams asked the Cyclone if she could take the lead.
“One runner alone can’t set a good pace,” Saina said. “When (Williams) took the lead I said ‘this is good.’ To have someone else who wanted to work for a good time was great for me. I was excited.”
Iowa State head coach Corey Ihmels affirmed that Saina’s disappointment after the NCAA indoor meet motivated her Friday.
“Betsy bounced back and ran like she was ready to compete,” Ihmels said. “She ran with confidence and getting that “A” standard was a major goal for this part of the season.”
Williams’ time is the world’s fastest this season. Saina’s is second. Former Iowa Stater and 2012 Olympian Liza Koll-Uhl, running for NIKE, was fifth in the Stanford race in 15:29.84. Cyclone senior Meaghan Nelson was 15thin 15:51.63, one of the nation’s top collegiate times and a major personal best.
“I don’t think Meaghan was really happy with her season indoors and just like Betsy I think this is a great start to the outdoor season.”
Ihmels pointed to other top notch Iowa State efforts, included Ejiro Okoro’s 4:23.16 personal best in the 1,500-meters.
“Mohammed Hrezi and Rico Loy did a good job, both running under 14 minutes in the men’s 5,000 meters.”
The Cyclones ran at several meets across the country.
“Ese Okoro placed second in the 400-meter hurdles at the Texas Relays,” Ihmels said. “Our throwers had good early performances as well. It was the first chance for most of our team to run outdoors and they demonstrated that we will ready to compete as the season progresses.”
All-time Collegiate Peformers List – 5,000 meters
1. Jenny Barringer, Colorado, 15:07.64, May 2, 2009
2. Kim Smith, Providence, 15:09.72, April 16, 2004
3. Sally Kipyego, Texas Tech, 15:11.88, April 18, 2008
4. Betsy Saina, IOWA STATE, 15:12.05, March 29, 2013
5. Michelle Sikes, Wake Forest, 15:16.76; June 8, 2007
6. Liza Koll, IOWA STATE, 15:17.76, May 1, 2010
All-time Iowa State Peformers List – 5,000 meters (outdoors)
1. Betsy Saina, 15:12.05, 2013
2. Lisa Koll, 15:17.76, 2010
3. Meaghan Nelson, 15:51.63, 2013
4. Dani Stack, 15:55.69, 2011