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CU's Wheeler Doubles Her Fun
Buff star nabs NCAA 3,000 title one night after winning, 5,000
DURHAM, N.C. -- There was no hanging back this time for Colorado’s Kara Wheeler.
After winning the 5,000 meters in a tactical race Friday night at the NCAA Track and Field Championships, Wheeler seized the lead early in Saturday night’s 3,000 and won by eight seconds.
Wheeler became the first Buff runner to win multiple national titles in the same meet (Adam Goucher won three overall) and just the second woman to sweep the 3k and 5k in the same year (Villanova’s Carrie Tollefson, who was third Saturday, turned the trick last year).
“(Friday) night was more trying to run a tactical race and save something,” said Wheeler, who won the 10,000 by 11 seconds with a time of 15:54.30, well off her Big 12 record of 15:29.79. “Today was go all out and do it.”
Wheeler, who finished second in last year’s 3,000, took the lead in the first lap and never was threatened, though she didn’t pull away until the last 800 meters. She ran 9:02.15 - well off her school record of 8:54.82 but her second-fastest time ever, as was her time in Friday’s 5k.
After she took the lead, Wheeler said, “I kept hitting my splits, just squeezing it down throughout the race. Some people stuck with me - they were right on my shoulders until the last 800 - but I was pretty confident and feeling pretty good. I knew I had something left if I needed it.”
Big 12 champion Korene Hinds of Kansas State (Wheeler did not run the 3,000 at the conference meet) was second in 9:10.10.
CU sophomore Lesley Higgins was eighth in a personal-best 9:24.32, earning All-America honors for the first time in her career.
In the men’s 5,000, Buff freshman Jorge Torres placed eighth in 14:04.18. Stanford’s Brad Hauser won in 13:48.80. CU’s Ron Roybal did not finish the race due to a sprained left foot, which has plagued him for about a month.
“It’s amazing, I can’t really describe it. It definitely hasn’t hit me,” Wheeler, a junior, said of her first two NCAA titles.
As for her times being slower than her school records, Wheeler said she was not disappointed.
“First, the weather conditions - it’s been very hot and humid - don’t really allow you to run that fast. And there was no way I could go all out last night and come back. I’m very pleased, especially with the time tonight.”
Wheeler ran her school records in two meets in California about three weeks apart.
At the NCAAs, she was less concerned with her times than winning and running without feeling pressure. She came into the meet with the top times in both races.
“In cross country, I let myself get caught up in the pressure (to win),” Wheeler said of placing ninth in the NCAA meet last fall. “I knew I was strong enough, what my times were and what I could do. But I didn’t put that pressure on myself that I had to win both. But that’s what I wanted, and I knew it would be possible if I ran well.”
Wheeler also recovered in time from what she said was a kidney infection that kept her in bed all last weekend. “I took medication every day, and by Wednesday, I felt fine. It didn’t affect me at all.”
Led by Wheeler, the CU women posted their highest NCAA finish ever, taking eighth place with 26 points.
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