EUGENE — Iowa State senior Betsy Saina was so disappointed by her second-place finish in the 5,000 meters at the NCAA indoor championships that she resolved to end her college career on a better note.
Pressured all the way by Wichita State's Aliphine Tuliamuk-Bolton, Saina pushed at the end to win the 10,000 at the NCAA outdoor track and field championships Wednesday night.
“I needed my happiness back,” she said. “I needed my smile.”
Saina took the lead for good with about four laps to go and surged down the stretch to win in 33 minutes, 8.85 seconds. Tuliamuk-Bolton was second in 33:14.12.
The Kenyan also won the 2012 indoor 5,000 and the individual cross country championship last November. She ran the 10,000 this year at the Payton Jordan Cardinal invitational in 31:37.22, the third-best collegiate time ever run.
And she's not done quite yet: Saina also plans to compete Friday in the 5,000.
Other winners on the meet's opening day at Hayward Field included senior Chelsea Cassulo of Arizona State, who won the women's hammer with a throw of 226 feet, 9 inches, the first title in the event in Sun Devils' history.
Mississippi sophomore Sam Kendricks won the pole vault at 18-8¼, also for the first title in the event for Ole Miss. Earlier this year at the Texas Relays, Kendricks cleared over 19 feet, giving him confidence for the championships at Hayward Field.
“The plan was to make first attempts on every jump,” said Kendricks, who is coached by his dad, Scott. “And if you make first attempts on every jump, you never lose, right?”
TCU junior Lorraine Ugen won the long jump with a leap of 22-2½, while Georgia freshman Freya Jones won the javelin with a throw of 180-3. Oregon sophomore Liz Brenner, who has taken part in four sports for the Ducks, finished an unexpected eighth in the javelin with a personal best of 168-8.
Oregon native Ryan Crouser, a sophomore at Texas, won the shot put at 66-7¾.
Southern California senior Bryshon Nellum easily advanced in the 400, finishing first in his preliminary heat in 45.42. He's doubling up in the meet and will run in the 200 semifinals Thursday.
“The first one's always the hardest one, you know? You've got to get it out of your system,” he said.
Nellum redshirted his 2009 season for the Trojans after he was shot in the legs at a party by gang members who thought he was someone else. Told he might not ever reach an elite level on the track again, Nellum beat the odds and finished third at the U.S. Olympic trials in Eugene last year — earning a spot on the team for the London Games. Nellum was part of the 1,600 relay team that won the silver medal.
In the semifinals for the 100, TCU senior Charles Silmon topped the men's field in 9.92, and sophomore Octavius Freeman of Central Florida finished in 10.99 on the women's side.
Local favorite Elijah Greer, an Oregon native who runs for the Ducks, qualified seventh for the 800 in 1:48.76. Greer, considered a favorite in the event, won the 800 at this year's NCAA indoor championships.
Georgia true freshman Shaunae Miller of the Bahamas topped the field in the 400 prelims, setting up a battle in the final with Arkansas senior Regina George. Stanford junior Cori Carter and Arizona senior Georganne Moline each ran under 55 seconds in their heat in the 400 hurdles, making it one of the fastest NCAA preliminaries ever run.
In the prelims of the men's 400 relay, Oregon's team featured speedy running back De'Anthony Thomas but the Ducks came in sixth in their heat and failed to qualify.
Thomas, who is known for his speed, said he's gotten faster since Oregon defeated Kansas State in the Fiesta Bowl earlier this year.
“I take track really serious. I really wish I could do it all year and really enjoy it. I came here for football, but I contribute to the track team also,” he said.
Auburn's team advanced with the top time in the relay, running in 38.76.