Saina dominates remains 2-time champion in 5,000-meter run


Aliphine Tuliamuk (left) and Betsy Saina race the final lap during the women’s 5,000-meter run during the indoor season. 

Stephen Koenigsfeld

First, third, fifth. It could be argued that this is how distance runners Betsy Saina, Meaghan Nelson and Dani Stack placed in the 5,000-meter run or the 3,000-meter run.

Saina placed first in the women’s 5,000-meter run as well as the 3,000-meter run, with her counterparts placing in the same positions in both the events on Saturday at the Big 12 Indoor Championships in College Station, Texas.

“My goal was to win the 3[K] and the 5[K],” Saina said. “I was so nervous going into the race; I just wanted to win the 5K, I didn’t try so hard in the 3K.”

Her time placed her at the top of the podium of the Big 12 Conference for the second year in a row along with a stadium record. Saina had not found out she set a stadium record until someone contacted her the next day to congratulate her.

“I didn’t even know that until one of my friends told me, ‘Hey, I just heard you broke a record,’ and I said, ‘What are you talking about?’” Saina said.

Heading into the event, the runners had a very detailed strategy that was later foiled by conference adversary Natosha Rogers.

“In the 5K we had a big strategy, a big plan, and that didn’t really go to form,” Stack said. “That was partially because Natosha Rogers took it out. But then Betsy made the move and neither Meaghan nor I [went with her].”

Saina and Rogers contested for first place, but with two laps left, Saina pulled away to keep her 5,000-meter crown.

Coaches said they have been impressed with the performances Saina has been kicking out and are eager to see what comes next this outdoor season.

“At nationals, it will be between her and a [University of California] girl for the national title,” said assistant coach Travis Hartke. “Then we take our training to the outdoor season. And as fast as she’s running indoors, she can run a lot faster outdoors.”

Hartke put it in terms that said this is just the beginning. Even being done with the outdoor season, the team does appears to perform better outside than inside, when looking at the results from the fall cross-country season.

As a team that is coming off a seventh-place finish at the national cross-country meet, the coaches said they are ready to see what the outdoor season has in store.

“We’ll be better in the outdoors because we’re an outdoor team,” Hartke said. “That’s where we put most of our emphasis, the main outdoor season.”