FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. - Senior Emma Coburn claimed the University of Colorado's first NCAA indoor mile crown on Saturday night; finishing the race with a blazing fast time of 4:29.91.
"We've had some great milers at Colorado, male and female, so it's such an honor to be the first NCAA Champion amongst them," Coburn said. "I'm proud and really happy. It's been a great season and I'm happy the way the race went."
Coburn's time is the seventh fastest ever by an NCAA runner and is the third fastest ever at the NCAA Indoor Track & Field Championship. She also owns the sixth fastest time in the event (4:29.86) which has her fifth on the all-time performers list. Coburn is just one of five NCAA women to finish the mile in less than 4:30 and she joins Sally Kipeygo as the only other collegiate athlete to run a sub-4:30 mile twice; both doing so in the same season.
"This feels great," Coburn said immediately following the race. "This was something I really wanted and the mile is not my specialty. I wanted to really conquer this distance and I think I made a step in the right direction."
With the victory, Coburn earned her second indoor mile All-American honor; she was eighth in 2011.
The race got off to a quick start and Coburn moved right to the front of the pack. Florida State's Amanda Winslow was right on her tail, but it was Coburn who would control the race all eight laps. Halfway through the race, the top six runners separated from the field. Coburn had a couple of strides on Winslow and two laps later the two started to put some distance between the other four in the chase pack.
With 300 meters remaining, Winslow moved on the outside and looked like she was getting ready to make her move; but Coburn saw Winslow and surged back ahead by a few meters and was able to sail to victory by running 32.43 in the final lap. Winslow finished second in 4:31.08. The two really left the field behind with the third-place finisher, Agata Strausa (Florida), crossing the finish in 4:36.91.
"I knew that she (Amanda) was going to be there," Coburn said. "I figured that was going to be her tactic. If I was in her position, I would have done that too and I was prepared for her to do that. I could hear her coach cheer for her throughout the race and she was yelling, 'Not yet,' so I told myself that I would be ready when she was ready to make her move."
Head coach Mark Wetmore was very pleased and happy about Coburn's race.
"Her result was the best we could have hoped for," Wetmore said. "She chose to do it in a difficult and courageous way by taking the lead right from the gun. It's very rare to run that way and it's scary. But Emma has learned to run that way in the steeplechase to get out of the collision course. She pulled the field and they started to fall off, although probably not as fast as she would have wanted them to; but she closed well to end her indoor career on a very high note."
Assistant coach Heather Burroughs had similar thoughts on Coburn's race, saying it was "poised, confident and pretty courageous."
"It's a difficult way to run a middle distance race," Burroughs said about Coburn taking the lead from the start. "Emma hadn't raced much this season; this was just her third race, so she really had to trust her fitness."
This is Coburn's second NCAA title; her first indoor title. She was the 2011 3,000-meter steeplechase champion, but the feeling of victory is still exciting and new for her.
"My first title was my first, so there was so much excitement; but this is my first indoor title, so there are a lot of those same feelings," she explained. "Winning both titles has been great. The steeplechase is my specialty, but this is a race that I don't do very frequently. It was actually just a few weeks ago that I decided to do the mile instead of the 3,000. This is definitely another sweet moment."
Senior Aric Van Halen also raced on Saturday night and placed 14th overall in the men's 3,000-meter run, finishing in 8:05.85 to earn his first indoor track All-America Second Team honor. Arizona's Lawi Lalang won the 3k with a meet record of 7:45.94.
Van Halen started the race near the back of the field and steadily started to work his way up. At about the middle of the race, he had moved into eighth and was leading the chase pack as the top seven runners had separated from the rest of the field. With about 1,000-meters remaining, Van Halen began to lose ground and eventually fell to 14th.
"I was pleased with how Aric ran," Wetmore said. "He was determined to get into the middle of the race and take his competition up the step. He was the last guy to get into the meet, so this was a good showing. It was a gutsy race for him. I'm very proud of him. He had another good season and can add another All-American certificate to his wall."
The Buffs will waste no time as they move directly to the outdoor season next weekend. CU will host the Jerry Quiller Classic, formerly the Potts Outdoor Invitational, March 15-16, at Potts Field.
2013 NCAA Indoor Track & Field Championships
Randal Tyson Track Complex
Women's Mile: 1. Emma Coburn, CU, 4:29.91; 2. Amanda Winslow, Florida State, 4:31.08; 3. Agata Strausa, Florida, 4:36.91; 4. Carly Hamilton, Georgia, 4:38.44; 5. Amanda Mergaert, Utah, 4:38.88; 6. Becca Friday, Oregon, 4:39.23; 7. Kelly Williams, West Virginia, 4:39.30; 8. Rebecca Tracy, Notre Dame, 4:39.48; 9. Rachel Schneider, Georgetown, 4:43.84; 10. Anne Kesselring, Oregon, 4:50.77.
Men's 3,000-Meters: 1. Lawi Lalang, Arizona, 7:45.94; 2. Kemoy Campbell, Arkansas, 7:46.95; 3. Kirubel Erassa, Oklahoma State, 7:49.17; 4. Diego Estrada, Northern Arizona, 7:49.53; 5. Henry Lelei, Texas A&M, 7:49.80; 6. Andrew Bayer, Indiana, 7:51.51; 7. William Mulherin, Virginia Tech, 7:55.08; 8. Zachary Mayhew, Indiana, 7:55.14; 9. Kennedy Kithuka, Texas Tech, 7:56.28; 10. Maverick Darling, Wisconsin, 7:58.43; 11. Ryan Hill, NC State, 8:00.44; 12. Anthony Rotich, UTEP, 8:03.76; 13. Thomas Farrell, Oklahoma State, 8:04.14; 14. Aric Van Halen, Colorado, 8:05.85; 15. Nick Happe, Arizona State, 8:14.46; Eric Jenkins, Northeastern, DQ