DES MOINES, Iowa – Paul Katam got the NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships off to a stellar start for UNCG on Wednesday night, earning second-team All-America honors and lowering his own school record and personal best by more than 17 seconds in the 10,000 meters.
Katam crossed the finish line in a time of 29:10.65 to finish ninth overall. He was just 1.57 seconds back of Eastern Kentucky’s Soufiane Bouchikhi, who finished in eighth to claim the final first-team All-America distinction.
“I’m happy,” Katam said. “It was my first time at nationals, so I’m happy with a PR. I started very well, but the pace got tough and the pack got away from me. Running by yourself is hard, but I tried my best.”
Racing as the first track & field athlete to ever represent UNCG at the NCAA Outdoor Championship meet, Katam stuck with the lead pack through the first 3,200 meters, at which time the pace began to pick up considerably.
The sophomore from Eldoret, Kenya, split a blistering 14:25 for his first 5,000 meters, but the leaders began to separate themselves from the rest of the field. Katam continued to run strong and was able to pass several runners who fell off the lead pack in the second half of the race.
“It was his first time at NCAAs, finishing ninth, with a huge PR,” UNCG coach Linh Nguyen said. “We knew the first 5k would be tactical. Katam reacted to the move, but the top guys dropped the pace and he had to run by himself, but he stuck in there and fought. Second-team All-American as a sophomore is impressive.”
Cameron Levins of Southern Utah won the race in 28:07.14, erasing a Drake Stadium record that had stood for 32 years.
Two weeks ago in Jacksonville, Fla., Katam became the first Spartan to capture a regional title when he won the 10,000m on the campus of North Florida.
Teammate Paul Chelimo will compete in the 5,000 meters at the NCAA Championships Friday at 8:10 p.m. Eastern. Live coverage of that race can be seen on ESPN3.com.
10,000m: 9. Paul Katam, 29:10.65