Smith posts nation's third-fastest time

By Christi-Marie Butler published April 3, 2004

The 2004 Tom Benich Classic was held Saturday, April 3rd at University of Northern Colorado's Nottingham Field in Greeley, Colorado. With nationals about one month away, it would prove to be a definitive point in the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs women's outdoor track season.

Starting off the day with the 10,000-meter run, team captain and graduating senior Kelly Smith went out hard, focused on breaking thirt-eight minutes.

"It's a high goal," Smith said before her race. "But in order to qualify [for nationals] I have to run that time."

Thirty-seven minutes later, Smith blew through the finish line.

Planning to run sub 6:15 miles, Smith's knocked out her first mile in 5:51.

"The most notable part of my race was the consistency of my splits," said Smith. "I felt strong and I ran smart."

Right now, Smith has the third fastest time in the nation.

"I just want to be 15th or 16th after the Mt. Sac meet [on April 16th]. I'll still be a good position to go to nationals," said Smith.

In the 5,000-meter race, CU-Colorado Springs student-athlete alumni and current graduate student, Amanda Occhi, finished first overall with a time of 18:15 followed by junior Kari Samuelson at 19:09.

"I ran the first half of the race strong and it felt awesome," Samuelson said. "Somewhere around my seventh lap, I just got sick all over and my pace really suffered."

Nevertheless, Samuelson was positive.

"I raced today, not ran. I raced hard and that felt good."

Following their teammate across the 5K finish line, sophomore Sheena Henderson came in at 20:58 and sophomore Brandy Smith finished with a 21:19.

The 3,000-meter steeplechase featured sophomore Ashley Birger, junior Chelsey Cerrillo, junior Tina Gray, who already had a provisional national qualifying time of 11:35, and sophomore Sarah Shepard.

Gray beat her qualifying time with an 11:33 followed by Ashley Birger at 11:39.

"It was my best time at altitude," Birger said. "It's a great place to be at this point in the season."

Cerrillo ran her best steeplechase, if not her strongest race this season with a 12:20.

"This was our best meet of the season," summed up head Coach Graeme Badger. "We had five athletes qualify for nationals along with some impressive personal performances."

The Mountain Lions race again on April 10th at the Colorado Collage Invitational. On April 16th, Coach Badger will take Birger, Gray and Shepard to Walnut, CA to race at Mt. Sac. This will give them the chance to cement their national qualifying times in a sea level race.


UCCS Players/Staff Featured

Ashley BirgerAshley BirgerSteeplechaseSo.
Ashley BirgerAshley BirgerSteeplechaseSo.
Ashley BirgerAshley BirgerSteeplechaseSo.
Ashley BirgerAshley BirgerSo.
Ashley BirgerAshley BirgerSo.
Ashley BirgerAshley BirgerSo.
Ashley BirgerAshley BirgerSo.
Sheena HendersonSheena HendersonDistanceSo.
Sheena HendersonSheena HendersonSo.
Sheena HendersonSheena HendersonSo.
Kari SamuelsonKari SamuelsonDistanceSr.
Kari SamuelsonKari SamuelsonSr.
Kari SamuelsonKari SamuelsonSr.
Kelly SmithKelly SmithDistanceSr.
Kelly SmithKelly SmithSr.
Brandy SmithBrandy SmithDistance
Brandy SmithBrandy Smith
Tina GrayTina GrayJr.
Tina GrayTina GrayJr.
Tina GrayTina GraySteeplechase
Tina GrayTina GraySteeplechase
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