Karissa Schweizer finishes indoor season with two national championships

Ja’Mari Ward also finished seventh in the men’s long jump at the meet.
Courtesy of Mizzou Athletics

Boise State University’s Allie Ostrander had hung with Karissa Schweizer for several minutes, but she could only watch as the Missouri senior pulled away during the final lap of the women’s 3,000-meter race on Saturday at the NCAA indoor track and field championships in College Station, Texas.

Schweizer would win the race in 8:53.36, securing her fifth national title and her second of the weekend after winning the 5,000-meter race for the second straight year on Friday in 15:43.23. She surpassed wrestler J’Den Cox to become the winningest student-athlete, in terms of individual national championships, in Missouri history.

Although Schweizer entered the meet with the top times in the country this season in both of her distances, the two races each transpired in a manner different than regular season results would have suggested.

In the 5,000, a showdown was expected between Schweizer and the University of New Mexico’s Ednah Kurgat, who had closely tested Schweizer in the 5,000 at a meet in Boston in December. Schweizer and head coach Brett Halter even concurred in a press conference last week that it could take an NCAA record performance for either runner to come out on top in College Station.

Instead, Schweizer pulled away from Kurgat over the final several laps to win by more than four seconds in a relatively slow race that did not threaten the NCAA record time of 15:12.22 nor Schweizer’s December time of 15:17.31.

In the 3,000, Schweizer seemed to be peerless entering the weekend after setting the NCAA record at the Millrose Games in New York City on Feb. 3 with 8:41.60, a time that led the country by more than 14 seconds in the regular season.

But Ostrander, a sophomore who boasted the country’s 10th-best time from the regular season, remained on Schweizer’s heels for nearly the entire second half of the race before a final burst of speed gave the Tiger the win by just under a second.

“When someone is on you like glue, you are always going to be worried,” Schweizer said in a press release after the meet. “Seeing that someone was still with me, I just had to keep the confidence that pressing from this far out was going to kill a lot of people's [final pushes].”

Schweizer became the fifth woman to win national championships in the indoor 3,000- and 5,000-meter races in the same year. In addition to the NCAA record in the 3,000, she also set program records in the mile and 5,000 over the course of the season and anchored the Tigers to a Southeastern Conference title in the distance medley relay.

“This year is a high, way higher than I expected it to be,” she said in the press release. “It's been awesome and I'm just taking it all in.”

Missouri’s lone men’s entry at the championships, sophomore Ja’Mari Ward, finished seventh in the men’s long jump with 7.82 meters. Ward entered the meet tied for fifth in the country in the event after setting a program record with 7.97 meters at the Missouri Collegiate Challenge on Feb. 16.

The result marked Missouri’s highest NCAA indoor finish in the men’s long jump since 1978.

With indoor competition in the books, the Tigers’ attention will turn to the outdoor season, which will begin March 23-24 in Fayetteville, Arkansas, at the Arkansas Spring Invitational.

Edited by Joe Noser | jnoser@themaneater.com

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