By Maverick Pallack

Missouri distance runner Karissa Schweizer won the 5,000-meter triple crown after winning the 5,000 meters Saturday at the NCAA track and field championships at Hayward Field with a time of 15 minutes, 38.93 seconds, besting her third-place finish last year in the same meet.

Schweizer won the 6,000-meter NCAA cross country championship on Nov. 19 with a time of 19:41.70, won the NCAA indoor championship on March 11 with a time of 15:19.14 and on Saturday ended her season with another win.

She became the first female athlete to achieve the triple crown since Texas Tech’s Sally Kipyego in 2008, the same year Kipyego set the record for the 5,000 meters at the NCAA outdoor meet.

Schweizer knew what was at stake before the race and knew exactly what she had accomplished when she crossed the finish line.

“Truly unbelievable,” Schweizer said. “I never would have thought that would happen. It means so much to me, my team, my school and my coaches. It’s just an awesome feeling.”

The champion, however, did not use her usual race strategy this time. In her other championships wins, she sat in the pack and didn’t make a move until this end. But Saturday, she was in the top three of every lap, and on lap number eight, she made her move.

“It was a little nerve-wrecking for me just being out there in the front,” Schweizer said. “I don’t normally race like that, but I just trusted my coach and trusted my fitness and just went for it.”

Before Schweizer began to lengthen her lead, she battled with Oregon runner Samantha Nadel (who finished eighth), Loyola Marymount runner Danielle Shanahan (15th), Penn State runner Tessa Barrett (20th) and Furman runner Allie Buchalski (sixth).

Nadel challenged for the lead throughout the race, but ended up falling behind due to a more conservative approach than the race winner.

“She said don’t do anything crazy,” Nadel said, reflecting on her pregame chat with her coach. “She told us right before the race to stick to the same plan. Don’t try to do anything that you haven’t done before. Just run the way you know you can.”

That difference in running styles was a key factor in how Schweizer was able to pull away from her competitors, finishing almost five seconds ahead of the runner-up, Eastern Michigan runner Alsu Bogdanova.

“I knew where my fitness was,” Schweizer said. “I just wanted to go out there and make an honest race if no one was going to take it. I knew I was going to take it with seven to eight laps to go.”

Schweizer is not done with her memorable year yet as she is looking forward to competing in the U.S. outdoor championships.

“I’m gonna try to go to USAs,” Schweizer said. “That will be my next race, and I will just kind of go out there with no expectations and just see how it goes.”