How do you top a NCAA Div. 1 10K championship? With a NCAA Div. 1 5K crown just two days later.
That was the remarkable achievement recorded by Black Creek’s Cameron Levins at the NCAA national championships in Des Moines, Iowa last week.
As noted on the Southern Utah University website, Levins’ closing speed was on full display for a second night as the Thunderbirds’ senior out-kicked the competition over the final 150-metres to win Friday’s 5K race. Another big closing sprint Wednesday helped Levins claim the 10K title.
“Levins looked as though his approach changed from his 10K when he stayed among the leaders throughout that race, this time showing patience and lurking among the last five to six runners. The pace remained between 65 to 67 seconds per lap, allowing Levins to bide his time,” the SUU website noted. “As the race continued so did the Canadian’s position as he moved up among the top five with three laps to go. Joining him in the lead group were Arizona’s Stephen Sambu, second in the men’s 10K on Wednesday night, and Lawi Lalang, the 2011 NCAA Cross Country national champion and the 2012 NCAA 3,000- and 5,000-metre champion during the indoor season. Also in the group were UNC-Greensboro’s Paul Chelimo, 13th at the cross country national championships and Minnesota’s Hassan Mead, a seventh-place finisher in the 5K during the indoor season.”
Levins moved to the front of the pack on the bell lap and was pushed by Chelimo at the 150-metre mark. The duo broke away from the leaders, but at 75 metres Levins threw on the afterburners and finished in 13:40.05 for his second national title. Chelimo finished second with a time of 13:41.04 with Lalang (13:42.20), Mead (13:42.53) and Sambu (13:43.76), rounding out the top five.
“I was just aiming to sprint, basically,” said Levins of his final lap of 54.4 seconds. “I was waiting for someone to make a move on me. I didn’t do it at 200, and then Paul Chelimo came up on me and I’m like ‘okay, I have to go’, you know, he’s going to be by me and have the advantage entering the final 100-metres, so I just held him off and gave whatever I could on the final 100 metres.”
The 5K/10K double title hadn’t happened since the 2009 season with All-American Galen Rupp did it running for the University of Oregon. Rupp is currently considered one of the top distance runners for the United States and will likely face Levins this summer in London at the 2012 Summer Games.
SUU head track and field/cross country coach Eric Houle was definitely impressed by Levins’ championships.
“To win at any level in any field and then be consistently humble about the success and victories is what true humanity and sportsmanship is all about. This is what makes a great athlete’s legacy endure throughout time,” the coach said.
“To have someone from Southern Utah win a national championship, let alone two national championships, is huge for him and his future, it’s huge for the coaching staff and it’s huge for the university,” Houle said.
SUU picked up its first individual NCAA national title in track and field on Wednesday night when Levins blazed to a first-place time of 28:07.14 in the men’s 10K. Levins earned the title by running his final lap in 58.1 seconds.
Levins entered the race with the second-fastest 10K time in NCAA history (and fastest in the world this year), running 27:27.96 in late May at Stanford’s Payton Jordan Invitational.
The Des Moines race opened with an average pace of 67 seconds per lap but then dropped to 64 seconds per lap as 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 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 metres remaining. “I knew who the contenders were going to be and I felt like I had the strongest finishing speed,” Levins told a reporter. “I just wanted to wait around; everyone else had to build their strategy off my finish.”
Levins dropped the hammer at 200 metres, finishing more than two seconds ahead of Sambu (28:09.52) and breaking the 32-year-old Drake Stadium record (28:07.40) with his 28:07.14 finish.
The 22-year-old 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.”
Levin’s victory was also motivation for many of the students at his alma mater in Courtenay, G.P. Vanier Secondary School, who, as luck would have it, were attending their annual athletic banquet and watching the race on the big screen.
“We had a packed gym of students, parents and coaches who witnessed the race,” said Larry Street, Vanier’s athletic director. “As fate would have it, we were also inducting Cam into our Sports Wall of Fame, and did that immediately after the race. As you can imagine there were many tears of joy, and hearts pumping big last night.”
Levins’ finish earned him his fourth All-American citation this year after finishing fourth at the NCAA Cross Country National Championships, fourth in the men’s 5,000-metres and third in the men’s 3,000-metres at the NCAA Indoor Track & Field Championships.
FINISH LINES Levins has A-plus Olympic-qualifying times in both the 5K and 10K and need only finish third in either event at the Canadian Olympic trials in Calgary in late June to clinch a spot in London … he is considering running both events in London, although he favours the 5K … the Olympic 10K is Aug. 4 with the 5K heats four days later … Levins was added the Bowerman watch list Wednesday — the equivalent of the Heisman for long-distance runners …
It takes a lot of talent to get to the Olympics.
It also takes a lot of money.
Cameron Levins’ talents booked him a ticket to London for the 2012 Summer Games, now his hometown community of Black Creek is holding a fundraiser to help get his family members to England.
Everyone is welcome to the Black Creek Hall on Friday, June 22 (beginning at 6 p.m.) for a barbecue to help celebrate Levins’ accomplishments
Admission is free, fundraising will include the food and a silent auction. For more information, contact 250-337-5671.