Another chapter was added to the Border War on Thursday evening at the NCAA Division I Outdoor Track and Field Championships in Eugene, Ore.
Missouri’s Karissa Schweizer was favored to take home gold in the 10,000-meter run, with a season-best time of 32 minutes and 0.55 seconds, leading all other runners in the nation by at least 15 seconds.
But Kansas’ Sharon Lokedi beat Schweizer by 5.74 seconds and took home her first national championship, finishing in a meet-record 32:09.20. Schweizer was third behind Louisville’s Dorcas Wasike.
“It was just pure joy, just finishing, I was like ‘I’m a champion, I’m just so happy, I did not expect that,” Lokedi said soon after the race, with the composure of somebody who had just finished a light jog, and not a collegiate 10K championship.
The Eldoret, Kenya, native had come close to national championships in the past, finishing third in the 2017 NCAA outdoor 10K, and third in the 2018 NCAA indoor 5K.
But the disappointment of the past wasn’t a negative factor for Lokedi, who instead used positive reinforcement to spur herself on through the race.
“I just believe in myself,” Lokedi said. “With like 600 (meters) to go, I was like ‘just believe in yourself, just go.’ And I just took it. I just took them to it and went for it.”
Lokedi sat within the top six from start to finish, in a tight pack that included Schweizer. The Missouri runner led for parts of the race, including with as few as 800 meters — two laps — remaining.
But as the bell sounded for the final lap, Lokedi turned on the jets, opening up a gap between herself, Schweizer and Wasike. The final burst of pace was especially important for Lokedi, with Schweizer also known to possess a strong ability to finish.
“It’s just how it happened,” Lokedi said, laughing. “I got out there and was like ‘girl, go for it.’ I just went for it, fought for it.”
Lokedi was asked by Kansas coach Stanley Redwine to stick with the pack for the whole race. It was this attitude, which was employed by the top-six finishers, that paved the way for a historic race.
Heading into the race, a 30-year-old record sat over the event — 32:28.57, set by Cal State Los Angeles’ Slyvia Mosqueda in 1988. That record was broken, not just by Lokedi, but five other runners.
A record that stood for 30 years was wiped out by six runners, in one race.
Naturally, Lokedi’s time was also a personal best and school record, beating out her time of 32:21.19 at the Stanford Invitational on March 30.
“It feels great. I’m just excited to run,” she said. “It’s been a really long time, I’ve worked for it all those years, and just to get it with my last outdoor race, I feel so happy and I’m just grateful for everybody who was there.”