Andersen Wins Steeplechase; Breaks NCAA Record

<b>SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- For the third straight year, a BYU athlete has won the women's 3,000-meter steeplechase title at the NCAA National Track & Field Championships, and set the NCAA meet record in the process. Sophomore <b>Kassi Andersen</b> turned in the third fastest time in U.S. history (9:44.95), and eclipsed BYU's <b>Michaela Manova's</b> 2002 NCAA Meet record by a second, to win her first national championship in the event.

"It hasn't really sunk it yet," Andersen said. "I'm so excited, I still can't believe it. It's like a dream come true. Coming into the race, I just wanted to PR and be in the top three. I definitely wanted to win, but I was going to be happy if I just did my best.

"You can't plan on being the National Champion, I just kept that thought in the back of my head. I was thinking of all the hard work and effort I have put into this before the race. I told myself to just put it all on the line right now because I didn't want to have any regrets."

Andersen was in 14th place -- dead last -- after the first 250 meters, but as scripted, began to reel in each and every competitor on her way to the title. Sticking to her assigned pace (9:45.00), Andersen moved in to eight place with four laps to go, and stayed tucked in the pack to conserve energy for the finish.

With three laps remaining, the Provo native moved in to second and followed Northern Arizona's Ida Nilsson for the next 650 meters. Then, on the bell lap, the two pulled away from the rest of the field. As she had planned, Andersen went by Nilsson at the water jump and coasted down the home stretch to victory.

"I knew I had the race at the water jump," Andersen said. "At the bell, she started to kick, and I just went with her. Prior to the race, Coach Shane told me to stay with the leader, and if I was close at the water jump, pass her and go. That's exactly what I did.

"Coming down the home stretch, it was almost easy. I was so relaxed, and was thinking, 'Wow, it's almost over. This is totally awesome."'

Teammate Lisa Antonelli also earned All-America honors as the eighth-place American finisher (12th overall) in the event in a personal-best of 10:14.37.

In the pole vault, Robison Pratt, who entered the competition as the favorite, passed on the opening height, and failed to clear 17-04.5 on three straight attempts.

Taking advantage of Pratt's miscue, and looking to carry the torch for the Cougars, teammate Trent Powell recorded a personal-best mark of 17-10.5 to edge Florida's Brian DaCunha for a second-place finish and earn All-America honors.

"Anytime you can PR, you're feeling pretty good," Powell said. "My goal was to just keep my shoulder from popping out and hopefully clear my season-best."

Powell, who has suffered through four should dislocations during the season, will undergo shoulder surgery on Thursday.

On Saturday, the last of the four-day of competition, the Cougars will compete in three final events. Junior Aneta Lemiesz will run the 800 meters, senior Jaime Cottle will compete in the 1,500 meters and Lindsey Metcalf will compete in the high jump tomorrow afternoon.

Copyright © 2003

Total Blue Sports Top Stories