Bland Earns Third AA Honor of Year

West Virginia University track & field sophomore Keri Bland placed 10th in the 1,500-meter finals at the NCAA Championships to earn All-America honors Saturday afternoon at Drake Stadium in Des Moines, Iowa. It was her third such award of the 2007-08 school year.

As a result of her performance, the Fairview, W.Va., native was named a 2008 USTFCCCA Women's Outdoor Track and Field All-American in the 1,500m. Bland, who was an All-American during fall cross country season and winter indoor track season, becomes the first female in WVU history to be named an All-American in three sports in the same school year.

"It's awesome," Bland said. "I wasn't expecting this much success this soon. I'm excited for next year."

Former distance running standout Bob Donker was the first WVU athlete to ever accomplish this feat after earning the honor during the 1993 cross country season and 1994 indoor and outdoor track seasons. Former 2005 5,000m national champion Megan Metcalfe was an All-American in all three sports, but never in the same school year.

Bland ran the race in 4:18.18 and finished just behind ninth-place finisher and 2007 1,500m national champion Brie Felnagle of North Carolina, who crossed in 4:17.76. Florida State's Hannah England edged out Texas Tech's Sally Kipyego at the finish line to set a new NCAA meet record of 4:06.19.

"It was a hard race," Bland says. "There were only a few American-born runners that beat me. That was my fastest 800m split and 1,200m split ever, but I just couldn't keep that pace down the stretch."

Bland kept a blistering pace early on and roamed in the No. 5 through No. 8 spots for the first two laps. Late in the second lap, Bland made a move to the outside and sprinted past the group in order to get up with the leaders. However, she wasn't able to keep up the record pace with England and Kiepyego in the final lap and fell back to where she would finish in 10th.

"That was the fastest NCAA 1,500m ever," Head Coach Sean Cleary said. "I was really pleased how she fared. Afterwards, she was laying on the track due to exhaustion because it's been three long seasons this year. That's all you can ever ask for at this level as a coach. Keri will be in position to win this event before she graduates."

Other than Bland, West Union, W.Va., native Clara Grandt placed 11th in the 10,000m earlier in the week for the Mountaineers. Saturday was the final day of the NCAA Championships, marking the end of the 2008 WVU track season.

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