The Women’s 10,000m was stories weaved within stories. It is a race of 25 laps of the Beynon 400m track. It is also a moving chess game, where one must have the mortal engine to handle the red lining pace for twenty-four laps and then kick like a mad person for the last 400 meters.
Sean MacPherson took this story a different way, we learn about Mercy Chelengat and her desire to gain an NCAA title. It is a great story, and after all, dear readers, our sport is about the stories told, and heroics celebrated.
Mercy Chelangat, 10,000m winner, 2022 NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Champs, photo by Sean MacPherson
By Sean MacPherson RunBlogRun
Thursday’s NCAA Women’s 10K final played out very similarly to what viewers saw 24 hours in the men’s race. Both races saw patience and restraint pay off for the winner.
Mercy Chelangat of Alabama took the victory in a time of 32:37.08. Rice’s Grace Forbes placed second in 32:48.07, and Jenna Magness came in third with a personal best of 32:59.96.
Similar to the Men’s 10K on Wednesday night, Chelangat and the rest of the field had to practice forbearance as a lone runner, Washington’s Haley Herberg, took a commanding lead from the gun. Halfway through the race, Herberg held a 23-second lead over the rest of the field.
“I wasn’t worried because I actually watched yesterday’s matches,” said Chelangat. “10K’s are really long, so you have to be patient most of the time because you can not do the work by yourself.”
Chelengat and Forbes worked together to slowly close in on Herberg, and the Alabama junior made a big move to take sole possession of the lead with six laps to go. Once Chelangat made that move, she turned on the jets and gradually made the race less and less competitive as the finish neared.
“I know my strengths, so I know if I have five laps to go, I can survive that pace to get to the end,” said Chelengat, “So I was just like, well, if it’s time to go, it’s time to go.”
Similar to Athanas Kioko of Campbell in the Men’s 10K race, the gutsy performance from Herberg didn’t prove to be too much of a detriment. The junior from Washington ultimately placed 7th in a time of 33:20.33.
“I just kind of went out at what felt right,” said Herberg, who indicated that her giant lead was not part of the race plan. “It ended up getting really tough in the end, but I’m proud of how I raced and that I at least went for it.”
Last year, Chelengat finished second in this event as her brother, Vincent Kiprop, cheered her on in the stands. Despite the impressive accolades, neither sibling had been able to break through and win a title. This year, however, Chelengat’s patience paid off as she secured the first NCAA 10K title in school history.
“It made it sweeter to get it,” said Chelengat. “I am really proud of what we did today.”