NCAA Men’s 10,000 — Phoenix-Like Samuel Finish

Frosh Habtom Samuel rose like Lasse Viren from a fall — with just over 900m left— to win. (MIKE SCOTT)

WITH NORTHERN ARIZONA’S Nico Young, the Collegiate Record holder, and XC champion Graham Blanks from Harvard opting for the 5000, one would think the path to a championship for New Mexico’s Habtom Samuel had become a bit easier. But as things rarely turn out as expected at the NCAA Championships, fate usually opens a door. Samuel saw his opportunity and grabbed it.

After entering the week as a presumptive favorite, sporting a 26:53.84 PR that ranks No. 2 in NCAA history, the Lobo frosh would still have his hands full with the likes of fellow East Africans Victor Kiprop from Alabama, Oklahoma State’s Denis Kipngetich, Texas Tech’s Ernest Cheruiyot, Louisville’s Ian Kibiwot and the Arkansas duo of Patrick Kiprop and Kirami Yego.

Samuel wasted no time and headed straight for the lead, passing 400 in 64.5 and from there had a steady diet of 67s. With no one willing to help with a quicker pace, Samuel surrendered the lead to Yego after crossing 3200 in 8:56.60 and slid back to the middle of the pack for a respite.

Following Yego were Kansas Jayhawk Chandler Gibbens, Arkansas’s Kiprop, Notre Dame’s Tyler Berg, Cheruiyot, Northern Arizona’s Aaron Las Heras, Kipngetich and the rest of the horde.

After laps in the 70–71 range, Samuel retook the lead just before 5000. He injected laps of 67 and 68, but then sauntered back a few places to see if others would be willing to shoulder some of the pace.

The pace had slowed again to 71s, so with 8 laps to go North Carolina’s Alex Phillip threw in a 65 to take the lead and open things up. A second 65 strung out the field and with 4 laps to go it was Phillip, Patrick Kiprop, Cheruiyot, Kipngetich, Samuel, Victor Kiprop and Gibbens.

With 1200 remaining, Cheruiyot, Patrick Kiprop had moved past Phillip and the rest were not far behind.

Kipngetich challenged the leaders another half-lap down the track and as they made their way to 900 to go, feet got tangled and Phillip, Patrick Kiprop and Samuel went down. Samuel was first to his feet and immediately sought to make up lost ground. He was followed by Kiprop, but the spill was devastating to Phillip.

The spill forced Kipngetich to increase his speed and with 800 to go the Oklahoma Stater led Cheruiyot, Gibbens, Alabama’s Kiprop, Oklahoma State’s Alex Maier, Iowa State’s Sanele Masondo and Samuel.

Samuel maneuvered himself into 3rd with 600 left and at the bell he was behind Cheruiyot and Kipngetich, with Victor Kiprop on his heels.

Those four had separated from the field and were speeding down the backstraight. With 200 to go Samuel jetted passed Cheruiyot and Kipngetich, as did Kiprop.

Samuel would not be denied and crossed in 28:07.82, utilizing his speed for a 14.0/28.4/58.16 finish, 0.78 ahead of Kiprop (28:08.59) with Kipngetich taking 3rd in 28:10.25, followed by Cheruiyot (28:10.81) and Gibbens (28:10.87).

A grateful Samuel would later say, “I’m lucky. When I’m falling down, I’m thinking many things in my mind… ‘Can I close the gap right now?’”

In the end, he said, “Two laps to go. God saved me today.”


(June 05)

1. ***Habtom Samuel’ (NM-Eri) 28:07.82 (14.0, 28.4, 58.16, 2:02.79, 3:10.82, 4:18.17);

2. *Victor Kiprop’ (Al-Ken) 28:08.59 (58.87, 2:04.17, 3:11.41, 4:18.73);

3. ***Denis Kipngetich’ (OkSt-Ken) 28:10.25 PR (60.85, 2:06.30, 3:13.50, 4:20.81);

4. ***Ernest Cheruiyot’ (TxT-Ken) 28:10.81 (61.59, 2:06.72, 3:14.23, 4:21.61);

5. Chandler Gibbens (Ks) 28:10.87 PR (59.69, 2:06.49, 3:13.56, 4:20.69);

6. Ian Kibiwot’ (Louis-Ken) 28:11.65 PR (59.94, 2:06.13, 3:13.48, 4:20.28);

7. *Sanele Masondo’ (IaSt-SA) 28:13.29 PR (62.37, 2:08.39, 3:15.55, 4:22.14);

8. Patrick Kiprop’ (Ar-Ken) 28:13.99 (63.63, 2:06.98, 3:17.32, 4:24.88);

9. Alex Maier (OkSt) 28:14.81; 10. Kirami Yego’ (Ar-Ken) 28:17.53 PR; 11. Aaron Las Heras’ (NnAz-Spa) 28:19.14; 12. Alex Phillip (NC) 28:21.16; 13. *Tyler Berg (NDm) 28:23.59 PR; 14. *Cael Grotenhuis (NnAz) 28:31.64 PR; 15. Tom Brady (Mi) 28:44.35; 16. *Valentin Soca’ (CalB-Uru) 28:54.67; 17. *Sam Lawler (Syr) 28:55.14; 18. ***Will Anthony’ (Va-NZ) 28:56.48; 19. Florian Lepallec’ (Butler-Fra) 29:14.30; 20. Nikodem Dworczak’ (EnKy-Pol) 29:25.68; 21. *Jack Jennings (Tul) 29:43.16; 22. ***Adisu Guadia’ (OkSt-Isr) 29:57.66; 23. Skylar Stidam (In) 30:23.47;… dnf—***Dennis Kipruto’ (Al-Ken).