Erassa Honored As Big 12 Performer Of Year

Oklahoma State swept postseason honors in men's indoor track it was announced by the Big 12 on Thursday after the Cowboys captured the conference title last weekend in Ames, Iowa. It was the first time Oklahoma State had ever won an indoor conference championship in track and field.

"It was a real exciting weekend," Big 12 Coach of the Year Dave Smith said. "We had something going on in every single event whether it was watching our athletes competing or watching someone else we were competing against."

For Smith, it is his first honor as Indoor Coach of the Year, but he can add it to his six straight Coach of the Year awards in cross country.

In points the Cowboys were paced at the Big 12 meet by the Big 12 Performer of the Year Kirubel Erassa, who was also named Co-Athlete of the Week nationally by the National Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association.

Erassa is truly a special story as he and teammate Shane Moskowitz ran the rare triple in an indoor or outdoor meet of the mile, 3,000 meters and 5,000 meters.

"They like to run together and they gain confidence from staying on contact with each other," Smith said of the pair. "Lost in that was our freshman Luis Martinez who finished sixth and picked up points for us.

"But, yes, Kirubel and Shane running one-two in the mile and one-two in the 5,000 meters that had never been done before. Then they came back and ran one-eight in the 3,000 meters."

Erassa winning all three was amazing and he accounted for a meet-high 30 points.

"Most people can't do that (those three events) physically and if they can then they can't handle it emotionally," Smith explained. "It is 11,000 meters of racing, if you include the prelim for the mile, in less than 24 hours. It is just... and I can't say enough about him."

No, Smith really couldn't because as Paul Harvey would say, there is more to this story. The Cowboys director of track and field and cross country continues telling it.

"I really need to tell a back story about him this weekend. Kirubel went into the weekend ranked eighth in the 3,000 nationally and the top 15 go to the nationals (NCAA indoors). He was a little concerned that he needed to run faster in the 3,000 in order to secure his spot in the nationals," Smith said.

"We all told him that there weren't nine runners that would pass him this weekend and that he was secure and he would be in the race. We said you're fine and run the triple and run to win. We convinced him we had a shot to win the Big 12 title and he decided to go ahead and run all three events, which we needed him to do to have a chance."

Smith was reasonably certain that Erassa's standing for the 3,000 meters would be fine. There were a lot of conference meets going on over the weekend. In the end, Smith had to deliver some bad news to his star performer.

"About five minutes before the gun went off in the 3,000 we learned from one of the guys at the meet that was watching results in other places that he had been passed by 10 people and he was now 18th for the 3,000," Smith continued.

"I had to go up and tell him bad news, you're bumped out of the 3,000 nationally and if you want it you have to do it right now. He was pretty emotional and it was a kick in the stomach too. He went out and ran faster than he had run all year and still missed the nationals by .19 seconds. That guy went out there and sacrificed his own dream to help his teammates win a Big 12 Championship."

Can you imagine the disappointment, the gut wrenching pain of losing that spot he had coveted? Kirubel Erassa will run at the NCAA Indoor Championships as part of the Cowboys distance medley, as part of a team, which actually fits Erassa well as he has shown he is the ultimate teammate.

The Big 12 Freshman of the Year in indoor track and that really should be Newcomer of the Year is Tyreek Hill. Only on the Oklahoma State campus since mid-January, Hill is a blazer that finished second by an eyelash in the 60-meter dash and won the 200 meters impressively and qualified to run the event in New Mexico at the NCAA Indoor meet.

"Tyreek Hill scored 18 points on his own," Smith said. "He was a big part of what we did. He is so fast and he doesn't know how to control his momentum yet. As he figures this out he will run faster."

A sweep of honors and a "rest of the story" finish to a huge Oklahoma State success in track and field. I would be tempted to nominate Kirubel Erassa as Male Athlete of the Year at Oklahoma State.

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