With Files From the Associated Press
Canadian distance runner Cameron Levins owned the recent Summit League meet, winning the 800, 1,500, 5,000, and 10,000 meters to give Southern Utah University a staggering 40 points all by himself.
Levins gave the Thunderbirds something much bigger Wednesday night, becoming the school’s first NCAA champion.
Levins blazed to a first-place time of 28:07.14 in the men’s 10,000 meters, earning the title by running his final lap in 58.1 seconds.
The SUU star entered the race with the second-fastest time in NCAA history, running 27:27.96 earlier in the year. Levins stayed true to form and remained with the leaders from start to finish.
The race opened with an average pace of 67 seconds per lap, but then dropped to 64 seconds per lap as Arizona’s Stephen Sambu, Oregon’s Luke Puskedra, Stanford’s Chris Derrick and Levins, each an All-American this season, formed a lead pack of four.
Sambu led a majority of the laps during the middle of the race with Levins hanging in fourth place before the trio of Levins, Derrick and Sambu made another break with three laps to go. The trio stayed bunched entering the final lap, but Sambu and Levins broke away with 300 meters remaining.
Levins then dropped the hammer at 250 meters and finished more than two seconds ahead of Sambu (28:09.52) with a facility-record time of 28:07.14. In winning his first NCAA championship as well as the first NCAA title for the school, Levins broke the 32-year-old Drake Stadium record of 28:07.40 set by Kipsubal Koskei of the Albuquerque Track Club in 1980.
Derrick finished third with a time of 28:17.28.
“I knew who the contenders were going to be,” Levins said. “I knew Puskedra, Chris (Derrick) and Sambu were going to be up there.
“I felt like I had the strongest finishing speed. I just wanted to wait around. Everyone else had to build their strategy off my finish.”
The finish gave Levins his fourth All-American citation this year after finishing fourth at the NCAA Cross-Country National Championships, fourth in the men’s 5,000-meters and third in the men’s 3,000-meters at the NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships.
He said giving Southern Utah its first national title was big motivation for him. “That was the big goal for me,” Levins said. “I wanted to leave them with that. They gave me the opportunity to run and improve. I am so thankful for that and to give back to them.”
Levin’s victory was also motivation for many of the students at his alma mater in Courtenay, G.P. Vanier High School, who, as luck would have it, were attending their annual athletic banquet and who were watching the race on the big screen. “We had a packed gym of students, parents and coaches who witnessed the race” noted Larry Street, Vanier’s Athletic Director. “As fate would have it, we were also inducting Cam into our Sports Wall of Fame, and did that immediately after the race. As you can imagine there were many tears of joy, and hearts pumping big last night.”
Levins’ victory also puts Southern Utah University (10) in fourth place in the team standings, trailing Texas (17), Nebraska (13) and LSU with 11 points.
Levins will be in the hunt for the men’s 5,000-meter title on Friday, entering that race with the fastest time in the NCAA this year (13:18.47). The SUU senior will then represent Canada in this year’s Olympic Summer Games in London.
Photo: Southern Utah’s Cameron Levins reacts as he wins the men’s 10,000-meter run at the NCAA outdoor track and field championships, Wednesday, June 6, 2012, at Drake Stadium in Des Moines, Iowa (Photo by Charlie Neibergall, Associated Press)