Arizona's Lawi Lalang wins 10K at NCAA outdoor championships for sixth career national title.
By STEVE RIVERA FS Arizona
Lawi Lalang stepped onto the University of Arizona campus just more than three years ago after arriving from Kenya. He will go down as one of the school’s all-time best long-distance runners.
Yes, he said, it’s surprised even him.
Thursday night was just another day in the life of Lalang, who won the NCAA title in the 10K at Hayward Field in Eugene, Ore., becoming only the second UA runner to accomplish the feat. Robert Cheseret in 2005 was the first.
“This was very special for me,” he said. “I feel really good about it.”
Lalang arrived at Arizona with no formal competitive running experience but has won six NCAA titles, including one cross country title, four indoor titles and now one outdoor.
“It’s something I’ve never expected,” he said. “I knew there were some good people at Arizona, but I didn’t know I was going to be like this. Of course I’ve surprised myself. It’s been unbelievable.”
Lalang, who finished in the event in 29 minutes, 29.65 seconds, said he felt good all day and liked his chances going in.
“Of course, coming into the race, I had hoped something like this would happen,” he said. “I was just waiting for it.”
It was his third time on the Eugene track and his third win on it. Lalang also won the Pac-12 title there, finishing in 28:14.63, the second-fastest time in the country this year, and he won the NCAA preliminaries there to get him to the finals.
“It’s been good to me,” Lalang said of the track. “It’s a fast track and I love it.”
He’ll return to the track on Saturday to run in the 5K finals.
“I’m just going to relax; I know it’s going to be a tough race,” he said.
On the women’s side, UA’s Julie Labonte finished second in the discus. Her distance was 184 feet, 6 inches, marking the second-best toss of her career and earning her first-team All-America honors in her first time competing in the NCAA championships in the event.
It was the 13th time that an Arizona student-athlete finished in eighth place or better and earned first-team All-America honors in the women’s discus.
“I’m really excited,” Labonte said. “I was hoping to become an All-American in the discus, so coming here and getting second place, there’s just no words for that. I’m just really, really happy.
"Throwing went really well -- I kept improving on all my throws, so it was a really good series for me, and I’m happy about that."
Labonte also will compete in the shot put finals over the weekend.
"I’m really confident (going into the shot put), I’ve been focusing on both, but going into the shot put on Saturday, I’m really excited, and hopefully I can be an All-American in that too. That’d be really great.”
The UA women sit in third place overall through two days of competition with 11 points. Kansas leads with 22 points, and Arizona State is in second with 20 points.
On the men’s side, Texas leads with 31 points, Virginia Tech and Arkansas are tied with 14 points in second place, and
LSU, Mississippi and Arizona are tied for fourth with 10 points.