DES MOINES, Iowa — Wichita State distance coach Kirk Hunter hugged Aliphine Tuliamuk and said, "I told you, you can kick."
Then he hugged Tonya Nero, who hid her disappointment through interviews and the awards ceremony. In Hunter's embrace, Nero broke down briefly before a smile returned.
Wednesday's 10,000-meter run at the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships went well for WSU, just not as well as the Shockers hoped. Tuliamuk, a sophomore from Kenya, finished fifth with a time of 34 minutes, 32.77 seconds. Nero, a senior from Trindad and Tobago, finished seventh at 34:39.56. Both earned All-America honors at Drake Stadium on a cloudy night with the temperature in the 80s and the wind around 15 mph. Nero entered the race one of the favorites after winning the NCAA West Preliminary, and had the best entry time of 33:24.12. Tuliamuk ranked fifth with her time of 33:32.11.
"I know Tonya has tears, but she's done great," WSU track and field coach Steve Rainbolt said. "That was a tough, tough race."
Tuliamuk, who ran near the front from the start, fell back before finishing strong over the final 250 meters.
"I was really happy about it, because I realized for the first time I can really kick," she said. "I'm not known for the kick."
Duke's Julie Bottorff won, coming from behind over the final 400 meters to clock a time of 34:25.36. She took advantage of a race that started slowly and got slower before picking up. She waited before making a move.
"Conserve, conserve, conserve," she said. "If girls want to stress themselves out and run in circles without going any where — go for it. I'm just going to tuck in back. It wasn't my favorite race strategy, but you've got to adapt to it."
Nero and Tuliamuk ran near the front for most of the race with Nero leading early and staying there deep into the race. The slow pace — a 5:47 mile — didn't suit her.
"It frustrated her," Hunter said. "When you're in a race of this caliber and the race is going slow, it's frustrating that nobody would take the lead, and she had to be out there doing it."
The pace picked up for the third mile, which Hunter said zapped some of Nero's strength. New Mexico's Ruth Senior and Iowa State's Dani Stack ran at the front for most of the race before dropping back. Stack finshed fourth; Senior ninth.
"I tried to hang in there as long as I could," Nero said. "In the last mile it got away from me."
Nero started to fall behind the leaders, dropping to eighth with about two laps remaining.
"I know it's because she was in front most of the time, and because of the wind she used a lot of energy," Tuliamuk said.
Tuliamuk's goal is to win All-America honors in two events. She runs the 5,000 on Friday night. She isn't concerned about fatigue.
"I don't think it's going to be that hard, because we didn't run that fast," she said.
Notes — WSU junior Brett Trudo, from Wamego, failed to qualify for the finals in the javelin. His best throw was 213 feet, 2 inches Johannes Swanepoel, a Kansas freshman from Shawnee Mission South, finished fifth with a throw of 237-0. Illinois State's Tim Glover won with a best of 263-6.... KU sophomore Mason Finley was third in the discus (197-4), and freshman Jessica Maroszek was eighth in the women's discus (173-11).... Kansas State's Moritz Cleve is 14th after the opening day of the decathlon.... The Wildcats' Nina Kokot, a junior from Slovenia, took sixth in the long jump (21-2 3/4).
WSU's Tanya Friesen begins the heptathlon today....