The increased professionalization of track and field has made it increasingly difficult for college athletes to be competitive at the national level, but the women’s 5000 meters set to go off on Thursday is a big exception. Five of the 16 competitors still have NCAA eligibility remaining and one – Loyola Marymount’s Tara Erdmann – just completed her collegiate career. Although none of the women have the Olympic ‘A’ standard needed to qualify for London, a top three finish and a time under 15:20 can earn one of these women a berth to the Olympic Games.
Abbey D’Agostino has been on fire this spring. After just missing out on national titles in cross country and indoor track, the Dartmouth sophomore broke through with her first national title outdoors in the 5000 meters. She also has the fastest seed time among the NCAA runners with the 15:23.35 she ran at Mt. Sac. D’Agostino ran with confidence in the prelims and just edged out Julie Culley to win her heat in 15:41.14.
Erdmann ran impressively in the 10,000 meters on the first day of competition, gamely hanging on with the leaders under the final 600 meters. Erdmann held on for sixth place, her highest finish to date at a U.S. championships.
Georgetown’s Emily Infeld, the indoor 3k national champ, is coming off a strong second place finish in the 1500 meters at the NCAA Championships but has chosen to contest the 5000 meters at the Trials. Infeld has experience in the event having finished second at NCAA’s last year and owning a PR of 15:34.26. She’s also performed well on the national stage with a fifth place finish in the 1500 meters at last year’s U.S. championships.
Since setting the high school record for 5k, Emily Sisson has been a bit quiet on the elite scene but has really emerged in 2012 as a force to be reckoned with in the NCAA. After setting a PR of 15:34.54 at Mt. Sac, the Providence sophomore utilized her front-running style to earn victories at the Big East and East Regional before finishing fourth at the NCAA Championships.
Deborah Maier went for it in the 10k but was slowly reeled in by the pack and ultimately finished ninth. She’s back for vengeance in the 5k, an event in which she finished second in at the NCAA Indoor Championships. Before her injury struggles this spring, Maier ran 15:29.24 indoors, the fastest time in the NCAA.
Maier’s cross-bay rival Kathy Kroeger has established herself as a constant presence among the best runners in the NCAA. The former Foot Locker national champion was seventh for 5000 meters at the NCAA’s and set a massive personal best of 15:33.76 at Payton Jordan.