DES MOINES, IA -- An amazing run 32:41.63 by junior Natosha Rogers earned Texas A&M’s first ever NCAA gold in the women’s 10,000 meters on Thursday evening at the national championship meet at Drake Stadium. It was just Rogers third race at this distance in her career, all taking place this season.
“I really have been wanting to contribute to this team for a long time,” stated Rogers. “We are a very successful team and I really want to be part of that. I put in the hard work to do it.”
Earlier in the afternoon a school record javelin toss of 261 feet, 3 inches (79.62) claimed a silver medal for Aggie junior Sam Humphreys.
“I’m superbly happy with my career best throw,” stated Humphreys, who scored eight points for the Aggies. “I still have a lot to work on, but I’m feeling better since I’ve lost some weight. Now I can move better and my body feels better.”
Even qualifying from semifinal races on the track went much smoother for the Aggies amid a crowd of 4,877 on the second day of the national championship meet.
Texas A&M advanced six of seven athletes to Saturday finals of the men’s and women’s 200, the 110 hurdles, 100 hurdles and men’s 3,000-meter steeplechase. The Aggies also had both 4 x 400 relays make the finals.
With her career best time of 32:41.63, which betters the Olympic Trials A standard (32:45.00) and the Aggie school record (33:03.03), Rogers posted the fourth fastest winning time in NCAA history.
Rogers’ mark only trails Sylvia Mosqueda of Cal State LA (32:28.57 in 1988), Wisconsin’s Stephanie Herbst (32:32.75 in 1986) and Stanford’s Alicia Craig (32:40.03 in 2003). She moves ahead of Oregon’s Kathy Hayes (32:43.81 in 1984) and Iowa State’s Lisa Koll (32:44.95 in 2008).
Throughout the race Rogers was among the top three, leading the race at 3,000 and 4,000 meters and later after 9,000 meters. When a pack of 12 dwindled to four it included Rogers, Deborah Maier of California, Wichita State’s Aliphine Tuliamuk and Iowa State’s Meaghan Nelson.
Rogers clipped through splits of 3:09.9, 3:12.4, 3:21.6, 3:27.6 and 3:21.8 through the first 5,000 meters (16:33.3). Then she covered the second half of the race with splits of 3:20.3, 3:20.6, 3:17.3, 3:08.0 and finished with a 3:02.1. She ran her last lap in 68.8 seconds.
“I didn’t want to lead the whole race at all,” noted Rogers. “I was definitely ready to go when anyone else was.”
Maier challenged Rogers a couple of times in the final 500 meters, but Rogers covered the move each time. Then with 200m remaining, Rogers pulled away to win by nearly four seconds over runner-up Tuliamuk (32:45.43) and third place Maier (32:47.20) with Nelson taking fourth (32:47.43).
“I was just thinking about all the hard work that I’ve put into this all year long,” said Rogers of her final lap. “I just said I’m going to do it.
“I’m very surprised that I won, it’s one of the biggest surprises of my life. It was great. I love the 10k. Now, I look forward to running at the Olympic Trials, I really want to get some experience with that field.”
In Aggie history the top finish in a NCAA final was fifth place by previous school record holder Melissa Gulli in 2004. Rogers debut in the 10,000 earned her the Big 12 title in a time of 34:18.66. Then she finished second at the NCAA West preliminary round, improving to 33:47.12.
Rogers faced a field that included the defending champion in Duke’s Juliet Bottorff, who finished 14th, as well as a returning bronze medalist in Arizona’s Jennifer Bergman, who placed 12th.
“I was glad we had that pace (5:04) in the first mile to narrow out the field,” said Rogers. “I felt really comfortable at that stage. I knew I could put a fast last mile (4:56) down since I did that to win the Big 12 title. I like to think that I have a good kick, but I didn’t know it was that fast though.
This marks the third consecutive year for Humphreys to score at the NCAA Outdoor meet, having placed fifth as a freshman and third as a sophomore. Humphreys bettered his school record of 259-1 (78.98) set in winning the Big 12 title earlier this season.
“The same with last season I wanted to be consistent around 75 meters,” noted Humphreys. “This year, though, by throwing over 250 several times I want to more consistent around 77 and 78 meters.”
Humphreys faced a field that included the top four finishers from a year ago. Through the first three rounds of competition with two flights of 12 throwers, Humphreys led the field with an opening round mark of 252-5 (76.93). In rounds two and three, Humphreys tossed the javelin 246-1 and 251-10.
“I knew my throw in the first round wasn’t going to last as the leader for very long since the top five guys coming in had PRs farther than that mark,” said Humphreys.
Defending champion Tim Glover of Illinois State won another title with a throw of 268-0 (81.69) in the fourth round while his second best effort measured 250-4. Glover’s mark is the third best effort at a NCAA Championship, trailing the meet record of 268-7 from 1998 and a 268-4 mark set in 2009.
“That’s what pushed me along, being in this type of competition,” explained Humphreys. “As soon as Glover threw his 81-meter throw, I knew I had to work and push harder. You can’t get down once you see someone else have a big throw. I’ve seen it done so I know it can be done in this weather and in this field. You just have to go do it.”
Round four for Humphreys had him throwing 239-6, his shortest mark of the day. Then he unleashed the javelin and nearly surpassed his goal of 80 meters with a 79.62 distance that measured 261-3. The sixth round had Humphreys finishing with a 240-6 toss.
“I’m glad I’ve been improving in place at the NCAA final every year, from fifth to third to second,” said Humphreys. “Hopefully, I can take out Glover next year and get first place.”
Humphreys’ mark is the farthest in NCAA Championship meet history to place second. The previous second place mark in the NCAA final was 258-1 (78.66) by Florida’s Derek Trafas in 1994.
Matthias Treff of Virginia Tech placed third after finishing second a year ago. His best mark on the day traveled 248-9 (75.83). Ignacio Guerra of Western Kentucky, seventh in 2011, finished fourth with a 245-6 (74.84).
A&M frosh Devin Bogert had a mark of 232-11 that placed him fourth among the first flight of throwers. Following the next dozen throwers in flight two, Bogert placed 12th overall. Jon Gomez finished 23rd with a mark of 187-11.
“I’m happy that I had other teammates qualify with me in the javelin,” noted Humphreys. “I was able to hang out with them during time off the track, which is a big positive since you can get your mind off competition for a while. Then once the competition starts it has your complete attention.”
Ameer Webb (20.59), Dominique Duncan (22.70) and Ashley Collier (23.01) each advanced in the 200 meters, but Prezel Hardy, Jr. (20.64) wasn’t as fortunate.
In the hurdles, Wayne Davis II sped to his career best under any conditions as he led the semifinal field with a windy 13.26 (2.2). In the 100 hurdles, Donique’ Flemings was the last time qualifier with a 13.05 clocking.
For the 4 x 400 relays the Aggie men posted a heat winning time of 3:02.28 while the A&M women advanced with 3:29.98 as runner-up in their heat.