CU Buffs’ Kaitlyn Benner wins 5K title, Erin Clark second

For the Daily Camera
Colorado runner Kaitlyn Benner, shown during a 2015 race, won the Pac-12 5,000 meters in a time of 16 minutes, 12.82 seconds, setting a Husky track record.

Kaitlyn Benner and Erin Clark made for quite the one-two punch for Colorado’s women’s track team Sunday at the Pac-12 championships, and, in turn, the Buffs posted their best team finish since joining the conference.

The CU duo finished first and second in the 5,000 meters, helping the Buffs to a sixth-place finish at this year’s championships at Husky Track in Seattle.

“We were really happy with a sixth-place finish,” CU head coach Mark Wetmore said. “We saw that level of finish was attainable, but we were going to need some big points in the 5,000. We are really happy with the team finish, but it took some hard duty from some people.”

Benner’s time of 16 minutes, 12.82 seconds set a Husky track record. The sophomore from Superior joins former Buff distance runner Jessica Tebo as a winner of the Pac-12 5K title. Tebo took the championship in 2012.

“We’re really happy with the win for Kaitlyn,” Wetmore said. “She is having a very good year for us.”

For Clark, who won the steeplechase a day earlier, she finished second for a second straight season, 0.64 seconds back of Benner.

“Kaitlyn and Erin were both very smart and patient and let the race unfold,” Wetmore said. “They were third and fourth, I think, with a lap to go, but they dug down and it was a great win for Kaitlyn and a great double for Erin.”

In the men’s 5,000, senior Morgan Pearson was second in 13:36.79 as Colorado finished second, fourth and sixth in the race. The helped the Buffs to a seventh-place team finish for a second consecutive year. Pierce Murphy (13:42.43) was fourth, while Joe Klecker (13:44.23) took sixth.

“We’re very happy with the men’s 5,000,” Wetmore said. “Yes, we could be happier if a couple of places had been switched around, but Morgan did not yet have a 5,000-meter qualifying mark this year. We kind of rolled the dice on the conditions here in Seattle being good enough for that kind of attempt. Pierce and he exchanged laps out in front the whole way to make sure

it was fast enough. Pierce probably sacrificed a spot or two in the overall finish position to help his teammate, but those are really fast times for a conference championship. If you were to look around the country, you wouldn’t see too many 13:30s at a conference meet. It was an excellent run for Morgan and for Pierce.

Nick Harris, a native of Niwot, ran the second fastest 800 meter in school history with his time of 1:47.89. The personal-best time landed him a third-place finish. Jaron Thomas also took third in the 110 hurdles in 14.15 seconds. He added a fourth-place run in the 400 hurdles in 52.04. Brady Rutt was fifth in the discus with a toss of 173 feet, 9 inches.

The women’s 4×100 relay team of Ana Holland, Tashay Brown, Alex Peters and Eileen Gehring came in third in 45.22. Louisville’s Elissa Mann added another top-five finish with her run of 2:05.28 in the women’s 800.

Colorado will run in the NCAA West Preliminary Championships from May 26-28 in Lawrence, Kan.