Kaitlyn Benner paces CU track’s opening day at NCAA finals with seventh place in 10K

It already had been a solid day for the Colorado track and field team by the time the Buffaloes’ three entrants hit the track for the championship of the 10,000-meter race.

That trio of Buffs conspired to make it a great day in Eugene, Oregon.

All three of the Buffs’ 10K entrants — Kaitlyn Benner, Erin Clark, and Makena Morley — finished in the top 12, with Benner leading the way with a seventh-place finish. The former Monarch High standout finished in 33 minutes, 13.38 seconds.

Clark placed ninth at 33:20.46 and Morley finished 11th at 33:28.66. Though it was a strong finish for the trio, they nonetheless were unable to repeat the times they turned in two weeks ago at the NCAA West preliminaries, when all three runners topped CU’s previous team record in the event. Morley led that effort with a 32:58.28.

Benner previously placed 12th in the 5,000-meter run at the 2016 NCAA finals. Morley finished 17th in the 10K last year as a redshirt freshman, while Clark placed fifth in the 10K last year while also having a pair of top-16 finishes in the steeplechase to her credit. Clark, a senior who is from Eugene, will run her final race with the Buffaloes Saturday night in the 5K.

Earlier on Thursday, senior Val Constien advanced to Saturday’s championship round in the steeplechase, finishing fourth in the opening heat and sixth overall to reach the final round of 12. Constien finished in 9:50.98.

The only setback for CU on Thursday was third-year sophomore Elissa Mann not advancing out of the semifinals of the 800-meter run. Mann, also a Monarch alum, finished 17th overall with a time of 2:06.73 in her first NCAA finals appearance.

On Friday night, the lone entrant from the CU men’s team, senior Zach Perrin, will compete in the final of the 5,000-meter run. The Buffs’ business trip to Oregon ends Saturday with Constien and Clark competing in their respective finals.


A total of 10 athletes from the CU track and field program were named to the Pac-12 all-academic first and second teams released Friday.

Six Buffaloes earned first-team recognition, three apiece from the men’s and women’s team. On the men’s side, sophomore Caleb Penner, redshirt freshman Nathan Pixler, and senior Ben Saarel received first team honors, while Benner, Sage Hurta, and Michaela Wenning did so from the women’s side.

Second team honors went to Clark, Aaron Carmichael, Christian Martin, and Paxton Smith. To be eligible, student-athletes must compile a GPA of at least 3.0 while being a significant contributor at varsity meets.

Pat Rooney: rooneyp@dailycamera.com or twitter.com/prooney07