TUCSON - The University of Arizona Wildcat track and field program will have at least one finalist for The Bowerman for the second-straight year. On Wednesday, the U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches’ Association (USTFCCCA) announced the three men that are finalists for the highest honor given to the most outstanding male and female student-athletes in collegiate track & field. The finalists on the women’s side will be announced on Thursday.
Senior-to-be Lawi Lalang is a finalist for the first time in his career. Julian Wruck (UCLA) and Derek Drouin (Indiana) join him as finalists. With Lalang and Wruck being named finalists, the Pac-12 has now had eight finalists since 2009, most of any conference. Lalang is the first finalist in UA history on the men’s side.
For the 2013 campaign, Lalang and associate head coach James Li, the distance coach, decided that Lalang should race less frequently than previous years. That decision certainly paid off, he made every race count with four NCAA Division I individual titles — two indoors and two outdoors — two NCAA DI Indoor Championships records, four all-time collegiate top-10 marks indoors in two different events, and a 2013 collegiate-best in an event he elected not to run at the NCAA DI Outdoor Championships.
Lalang became just the second man to win four individual distance titles in one academic year, joining 2009 The Bowerman winner Galen Rupp of Oregon and Suleiman Nyambui of UTEP in both 1980 and 1982. Lalang is the first person in collegiate history to win NCAA Indoor Championships in the mile and 3K and NCAA Outdoor Championships in the 5K and 10K in the same year. At the NCAA Outdoor Championships, he was the only student-athlete in the entire competition, men or women, to claim two individual titles. He is only the 12th man in collegiate history to complete the 5K/10K double at the NCAA Outdoor Championships. He has now won seven NCAA titles, one cross country, four indoors and two outdoors.
Lalang’s 3:54.74 win in the mile at the DI Indoor Championships bested the 18-year-old record of 3:55.33 set by Kevin Sullivan of Michigan in 1995 and gave him the fourth-fastest indoor mile time in collegiate history. He defeated collegiate record-holder Chris O’Hare and NC State’s Ryan Hill, owner of two all-time collegiate top-ten marks in the mile, to earn the victory. He also took down Colorado’s Adam Goucher’s 1998 NCAA Meet record of 7:46.03 at 3,000 meters en route to winning the title in 7:45.94, the tenth-fastest mark in collegiate history. In the process, he became the first man since Washington State’s Bernard Lagat in 1999 to win both titles in the same meet. At the NCAA Indoor Championships, Lalang's mile race started at 6:10 p.m. CST., then he returned to the track to defend his title in the 3K at 7:55 p.m. on the same night. He claimed two NCAA titles in less than two hours.
His indoor season also included a 3:54.56 fifth-place finish in the Millrose Games’ Wanamaker Mile, good for second among collegians to record-holder O’Hare, and a 7:42.79 win at 3000 meters at the Razorback Team Invitational, giving him the third-fastest time in collegiate history in the event.
Lalang’s outdoor campaign culminated with a 13:35.19 NCAA title-winning performance in the 5K and another title in 29:29.65 in the 10K. He finished his outdoor campaign undefeated in nine events between 1500, 5000 and 10,000 meters. He won Pac-12 titles at both 1500 meters and 10,000 meters, with his winning 1500 time of 3:38.53 standing as the collegiate leader at the end of the season despite not contesting the event at the NCAA Championships.
Following the collegiate season, Lalang set an all-time, all-dates collegiate best of 13:07.13 in the 5K at the Ostrava IAAF Golden Spikes in the Czech Republic to finish third. Among the runners he beat was Kenenisa Bekele of Ethiopa, the world record holder at both 5000 and 10,000 meters. His personal-best time is not a collegiate record since it did not take place during the collegiate season; it is however the fastest a male collegian has ever run the 5K. Two weeks later he ran a personal-best time of 3:33.20 in the 1,500-meter race to finish fifth overall at the Paris Diamond League Meeting. The time smashes his school record by more than three seconds.
In the coming weeks, dozens of select media personnel, track & field statisticians, and collegiate administrators will choose the top male and top female as the award winners. In addition, beginning July 29, fans can visit TheBowerman.org to submit their choices as online voting will account for one full vote in the process.
Finalists were chosen by The Bowerman Advisory Board, a ten-person panel of experts in the sport, based on performances recorded during the indoor and outdoor 2013 track & field seasons. Only performances through the conclusion of the NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships are used in consideration. Notable competitions and results beyond that point played no part in the selection process (see Ostrava and Paris for Lalang, as examples).
The winners will be first announced during a ceremony held in conjunction with the USTFCCCA Convention. The finalists and their families will be invited to take part in the special event that will be held at the JW Marriott Grande Lakes in Orlando, Fla., on December 18.