By NewsPress Staff
EUGENE, Ore. —
Natalja Piliusina made an incredible charge on the home stretch to win the women’s 1,500-meter national title on the final day of the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships here Saturday.
Piliusina becomes the second women’s individual outdoor NCAA champion in school history, joining Jackie Goodman, who won the 10,000 meters in 1989. She is the 10th OSU athlete to win an outdoor NCAA title overall.
Piliusina (4:13.25) stayed in the middle of the pack for the majority of the race and was boxed in on the inside of the track heading into the final turn, but with a huge kick, she was able to fight to the front and win her first NCAA title.
“I can’t believe this is happening,” Piliusina said. “I was in sixth or seventh on the last turn, and I didn’t know what was going to happen, but I wanted to win so badly. I started to kick and I was able to win. I can’t believe it.”
Piliusina already had two NCAA runner-up finishes in the 800 meters, and was disappointed with her 10th-place finish in this event at the outdoor championships in 2012, but was able to get it done this time around.
“What an incredible race,” OSU Coach Dave Smith said. “The plan going in was to not get boxed in, be in second or third on the final lap and don’t give up that position. She broke all of those rules and still won because she is such a great athlete. Last year was so important. She was the favorite, but she wasn’t emotionally ready to win. Because of that, she was ready this time. She is an incredible athlete, she always does the right thing and she is so fun to coach. It couldn’t happen to a better person.”
Along with Piliusina, Kirubel Erassa finished ninth in the men’s 5,000 meters Saturday.
Erassa stayed in the coveted top eight for the majority of the race, but finished just out of the scoring positions, taking ninth, with a time of 14:00.31. He earned second-team All-America honors to go with his two first-team All-America awards he won in the indoor season.
“You can do one of two things,” Smith said. “You can sit back and run for sixth or seventh, or go for it. This was his first time at outdoor nationals and he told me he was going to go for it. It backfired a little bit, and I wish he would have been more conservative, but I’ll never fault a guy for aiming high. You want a guy who will go down swinging.”
In the men’s team race, OSU finished in a tie for 65th, with the two points Girma Mecheso earned in the 10,000 meters.
As a team, Piliusina’s 10 points helped the Cowgirls tie with Colorado, Dartmouth and TCU for 25th. Fellow Big 12 member Kansas won the championship with 60 points.