Name: Kyle Cottam
Southern Utah University picked up its second NCAA national title Friday night when Cameron Levins kicked the competition over the final 150-meters to finish first in the men's 5k on at the NCAA National Track and Field Championships.
Just days before, on Wednesday evening, Levins earned his first individual NCAA title in the men's 10,000-meters.
Though Levins seemed to approach Friday's race with a different strategy, the results were still the same, with another national championship and a bright future.
As opposed to the 10k, where Levins stayed among the leaders throughout that race, SUU's championship runner showed patience in the 5k, lurking among the last five to six runners with a pace between 65 to 67 seconds per lap, allowing Levins to bide his time.
As the laps increased so did Levins' position, and he moved up among the top five with three laps to go. Joining him in the lead group were Arizona's Stephen Sambu, second in the men's 10k on Wednesday night, and Lawi Lalang, the 2011 NCAA Cross Country national champion and the 2012 NCAA 3,000-and 5,000-meter champion during the indoor season. Also in the group were UNC-Greensboro's Paul Chelimo, 13th at the cross country national championships and Minnesota's Hassan Mead, a seventh-place finisher in the 5k during the indoor season.
Levins moved to the front of the pack on the bell lap and was pushed by Chelimo at the 150-meter mark. The duo broke away from the leaders, but at 75-meters Levins looked as through he threw on the after burners and finished in 13:40.05 for his second national title. Chelimo finished second with a time of 13:41.04 with Lalang (13:42.20), Mead (13:42.53) and Sambu (13:43.76), rounding out the top five.
"I was just aiming to sprint, basically," Levins said of his final lap of 54.4 seconds. "I was waiting for someone to make a move on me. I didn't do it at 200, and then Paul Chelimo came up on me and I'm like 'okay, I have to go', you know, he's going to be by me and have the advantage entering the final 100-meters, so I just held him off and gave whatever I could on the final 100-meters."
Before Levins, the 5k/10k double title in the National Championship has not happened since the 2009 season, when All-American Galen Rupp did it running for the University of Oregon. Rupp is currently considered one of the top distance runners for the United States and will likely face Levins this summer in London at the 2012 Summer Games.
And though Levins will be competing for Canada, his collegiate career has certainly earned the Black Creek, B.C. native quite a following in the U.S.
As explained by SUU Track and Field Head Coach Eric Houle, "To win at any level in any field and then be consistently humble about the success and victories is what true humanity and sportsmanship is all about. This is what makes a great athlete's legacy endure throughout time."
Houle continued, "To have someone from Southern Utah win a national championship, let alone two national championships, is huge for him and his future, it's huge for the coaching staff and it's huge for the University. This speaks to all athletes in all sports at SUU, that you dreams can come true, you can win a national championship at Southern Utah."
"It inspires all of us in all arenas to believe in dreams and hard work."
With great anticipation, the entire Southern Utah community is counting the days to the Olympic Summer Games in London, grateful to be part of something so spectacular and happy to cheer for one very exceptional Thunderbird.
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