Boston University senior Andrea Walkonen’s time of 16 minutes, 3.04 seconds in the 5,000-meter run at Friday’s NCAA Championships was fast enough to earn her an All-American award, but only by the slimmest of margins.
Walkonen, who led for much of the run, dropped to the ninth spot down the race’s final stretch ‘-‘- only the top eight earn All-American recognition. As the pack crept closer to the finish line, Walkonen passed College of William and Mary junior Emily Anderson, clinching eighth place by a meager .11 seconds.
The 16:03.04 time set a new BU record, eclipsing the mark Walkonen set one month ago at the America East Championships by 1.45 seconds.
‘[Walkonen] ran a gutsy race at nationals,’ BU coach Robyne Johnson said. ‘She went out and set the pace for everybody else and did a lot of the work for [Texas Tech University senior Sally Kipyego].
‘She showed a lot of heart in the last part of the race, really picking it up to grab that last eighth place. I was really proud of her, and she deserved to be an All-American.’
For Kipyego, who won the race in 15:51.14, the NCAA crown was her third in three tries in the 5,000m, and her ninth title overall, tying an NCAA Division I women’s track and field record in just two and a half years of service. The Marakwet, Kenya native also earned her 12th All-American award.
Walkonen and Kipyego flew out of the gates, and by the racers’ second turn around the track, Walkonen’s pace was a third of a lap ahead of the pack, with Kipyego halfway between the two. Kipyego stalked Walkonen from a distance until about the four-minute mark, when she began chipping into the Terrier’s lead. Kipyego passed Walkonen and took a lead she’d hold until the races end at about the 9:25 mark.
Walkonen maintained a sizeable lead ahead of the pack until the final two laps, when the peloton finally ate her up. Walkonen fell a handful of strides behind Anderson before staging a charge down the final straightaway.
All-American territory isn’t new to Walkonen, who earned the honor with a 21st-place finish at the NCAA Cross Country Championships in November. Walkonen, who won the New Hampshire state championship in cross country, the 3,200-meter run and the 1-mile run in high school, will graduate with four America East individual titles in the 5,000m.