PORTLAND, Ore. – After a junior season where she won three national championships, one had to wonder what Alaska Anchorage’s Caroline Kurgat would do for an encore as a senior.
With her cross country eligibility exhausted, Kurgat focused on the track in record-breaking fashion. With four national championships, a trio of Division II records and a top-five all-time performance in a fourth, it is safe to say that she managed to surpass her success from the year before.
Conference athletic directors have rewarded Kurgat with the 2018-19 Great Northwest Athletic Conference Female Athlete of the Year award. In receiving the award for the second consecutive year, Kurgat becomes just the second woman in conference history to repeat as the award winner.
“This award is a testament to the high level at which Caroline performed at this year,” said Alaska Anchorage head cross country/track and field coach Michael Friess. “Her final year in a Seawolf uniform was truly amazing, from national records in both indoor and outdoor to multiple national championships. Her outstanding character as a student-athlete will allow her to succeed in her future endeavors.”
On Thursday, Kurgat was named as the track and field finalist for the Division II Honda Athlete of the Year. She was named the winner of the overall Division II Honda Athlete of the Year Award in 2018
The GNAC Female Athlete of the Year award is the latest in a series of awards that the Eldoret, Kenya native has earned this season. The GNAC Female Athlete of the Year during both the indoor and outdoor track and field season, Kurgat was also the Female Track Athlete of the Meet at both the GNAC Indoor and Outdoor Championships.
At the regional level, Kurgat was named the U.S. Track and Field & Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) Division II West Region Female Track Athlete of the Year during both the indoor and outdoor seasons. She was named All-West Region indoors in the mile, 3,000 meters and 5,000 meters and as part of the Seawolves’ distance medley relay. She earned outdoor All-West Region selection in the 800 meters, 1,500 meters, 5,000 meters and 10,000 meters.
After repeating as champion in both the 5,000 meters and 10,000 meters at the NCAA Division II Outdoor Championships, Kurgat was named as the USTFCCCA Division II Female Track Athlete of the Year.
In addition, Kurgat was named to the Google Cloud/CoSIDA Academic All-District 8 Cross Country/Track and Field Team. An Academic All-American in 2018, Kurgat is likely to be named once again to that team when it is announced in late June.
It did not take long during the indoor season for Kurgat to put everyone on notice that this was going to be another special year. In her opening meet of the season, the UW Preview on January 12, Kurgat ran a Division II all-time best of 9:07.05 in the 3,000 meters and placed third in a field that was loaded with professionals and Division I athletes. Two weeks later, on the same Demsey Indoor track, Kurgat ran 15:28.46 in the 5,000 meters at the UW Invitational to establish another Division II all-time best. (The times do not count officially as Division II records as the track at Demsey Indoor is oversized.)
At the GNAC Indoor Championships, Kurgat won titles in the mile and 3,000 meters and also ran the anchor leg on Alaska Anchorage’s distance medley relay team, whose GNAC-record winning time of 11:23.47 is the fifth-fastest time in Division II history. Kurgat cruised to national titles in the 3,000 meters (9:14.45) and the 5,000 meters (16:06.37) at the NCAA Division II Indoor Championships and ran the anchor on the national runner-up DMR.
Kurgat did not begin her outdoor season until the end of March and proceeded to set the Division II outdoor record in the 10,000 meters at her first meet of the season, the Stanford Invitational. Finishing fifth in a field again dominated by pros and Division I athletes, her time of 32:08.09 bettered the previous Division II record by 20 seconds. Two weeks later at the Bryan Clay Invitational, Kurgat leveraged another talented field to run 15:40.45 in the 5,000 meters. That time ranks No. 3 in Division II history.
At the GNAC Outdoor Championships, Kurgat completed a sweep of the 1,500 meters (4:23.02), 5,000 meters (16:35.10) and 10,000 meters (38:03.64), setting the meet record in the 1,500 meters in the process. At the NCAA Outdoor Championships, Kurgat easily completed the repeat as national champion in both the 5,000 meters (17:10.10) and the 10,000 meters (36:34.31).
Before the season was over, Kurgat established outdoor automatic qualifying marks for the national meet in the 1,500 meters, 5,000 meters and 10,000 meters and earned a provisional qualifying mark in the 800 meters.
The times run by Kurgat this season hold their own no matter the level. Her outdoor best in the 10,000 meters is No. 3 at all college levels this season and is No. 32 in the world (as of June 6) while her time in the 5,000 is No. 14 at all college levels. During the indoor season, Kurgat’s 5,000-meter time ranked No. 8 at all college levels and her time in the 3,000 meters was No. 17.
A major in medical laboratory science and nursing, Kurgat is expected to continue running while completing one more semester of studies at Alaska Anchorage. A professional running career could also be in the cards.
Other nominees for the Female Athlete of the year awarded included HarLee Ortega of Central Washington (track and field), Chelsea Bone of Concordia (track and field), Ellie Logan of Northwest Nazarene (basketball/track and field), Liz Larson of Saint Martin’s (track and field), Jenna-lee Baxter of Simon Fraser (soccer), Olivia Woods of Western Oregon (track and field) and Abby Phelps of Western Washington (volleyball).
GNAC FEMALE ATHLETE OF THE YEAR
2018-19: Caroline Kurgat, Alaska Anchorage (Track & Field)
2017-18: Caroline Kurgat, Alaska Anchorage (Cross Country/Track & Field)
2016-17: Sierra Shugarts, Western Washington (Soccer)
2015-16: Megan Mullings, Alaska Anchorage (Basketball)
2014-15: Lindsey Butterworth, Simon Fraser (Track and Field)
2013-14: Bobbi Kundsen, Montana State Billings (Basketball)
2012-13: Helen Crofts, Simon Fraser (Track and Field)
Ali Worthen, Seattle Pacific (Track and Field)
2011-12: Hanna Johansson, Alaska Anchorage (Basketball)
2010-11: Sarah Porter, Western Washington (Cross Country/Track & Field)
2009-10: Jessica Pixler, Seattle Pacific (Cross Country/Track and Field)
2008-09: Jessica Pixler, Seattle Pacific (Cross Country/Track and Field)
2007-08: Courtney Schneider, Western Washington (Volleyball)
2006-07: Jessica Pixler, Seattle Pacific (Cross Country/Track and Field)
2005-06: LeAnna McGahuey, Central Washington (Volleyball)
2004-05: Danielle Ayers-Stamper, Seattle Pacific (Track and Field)
2003-04: Liz Bishop, Western Washington (Volleyball)
2002-03: Kerie Hughes, Seattle Pacific (Basketball)
2001-02: Stephanie Huffman, Seattle Pacific (Track and Field)