DES MOINES, Iowa — Canadian distance runner Cameron Levins owned the recent Summit League meet, winning the 800, 1,500, 5,000, and 10,000 meters to give Southern Utah University a staggering 40 points all by himself.
Levins gave the Thunderbirds something much bigger Wednesday night, becoming the school's first NCAA champion.
Levins blazed to a first-place time of 28:07.14 in the men's 10,000 meters, earning the title by running his final lap in 58.1 seconds.
The SUU star entered the race with the second-fastest time in NCAA history, running 27:27.96 earlier in the year. Levins stayed true to form and remained with the leaders from start to finish.
The race opened with an average pace of 67 seconds per lap, but then dropped to 64 seconds per lap as Arizona's Stephen Sambu, Oregon's Luke Puskedra, Stanford's Chris Derrick and Levins, each an All-American this season, formed a lead pack of four.
Sambu led a majority of the laps during the middle of the race with Levins hanging in fourth place before the trio of Levins, Derrick and Sambu made another break with three laps to go. The trio stayed bunched entering the final lap, but Sambu and Levins broke away with 300 meters remaining.
Levins then dropped the hammer at 250 meters and finished more than two seconds ahead of Sambu (28:09.52) with a facility-record time of 28:07.14. In winning his first NCAA championship as well as the first NCAA title for the school, Levins broke the 32-year-old Drake Stadium record of 28:07.40 set by Kipsubal Koskei of the Albuquerque Track Club in 1980.
Derrick finished third with a time of 28:17.28.
"I knew who the contenders were going to be," Levins said. "I knew Puskedra, Chris (Derrick) and Sambu were going to be up there.
"I felt like I had the strongest finishing speed. I just wanted to wait around. Everyone else had to build their strategy off my finish."
The finish gave Levins his fourth All-American citation this year after finishing fourth at the NCAA Cross-Country National Championships, fourth in the men's 5,000-meters and third in the men's 3,000-meters at the NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships.
He said giving Southern Utah its first national title was big motivation for him
"That was the big goal for me," Levins said. "I wanted to leave them with that. They gave me the opportunity to run and improve. I am so thankful for that and to give back to them."
Levins' victory also puts Southern Utah University (10) in fourth place in the team standings, trailing Texas (17), Nebraska (13) and LSU with 11 points.
Levins will be in the hunt for the men's 5,000-meter title on Friday, entering that race with the fastest time in the NCAA this year (13:18.47). The SUU senior will then represent Canada in this year's Olympic Summer Games in London.
WSU RUNNER REACHES NCAA FINALS: Weber State's Amber Henry, a junior from Mountain View, Wyo., was one of 14 runners who advanced to the finals of the women's 3,000-meter steeplechase.
Henry, the 2012 Big Sky Conference women's steeplechase champion, won her semifinal heat in a time of 10:06.08. She had the seventh-best time of the 24 runners in the two heats. The top eight finishers in Friday's finals will be accorded all-America honors.
Henry came into the meet with a broken clavicle bone, along with a torn meniscus and bruised femur bone, but held steady to hold off the field and win her heat.
"Most athletes with her injuries wouldn't even be here," said Paul Pilkington, Weber State assistant track and field coach who coaches WSU's long distance runners. "She's so mentally strong that she just put the pain away and ran. She came into the race with three days of rest but now she has to run again in 48 hours and the knee was pretty sore after the race. Lots of ice and therapy are in store for her tomorrow."
Weber State sophomore Mike Hardy will run in the semifinals of the men's steeplechase Thursday at 5:40 p.m. (MDT). Hardy is the 2012 Big Sky Conference men's champion.
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