March 9, 2012
NAMPA, Idaho - Cal junior Deborah Maier captured runner-up honors in the women's 5000 meters Friday, giving the Golden Bears their best finish in an individual event at the NCAA Indoor Track & Field Championships in five years. Her time of 15:40.74 is the second fastest in school history.
Maier ran among the leaders for the first two-thirds of the race before she and Iowa State's Betsy Saina moved to the front and separated themselves from the field. Maier remained tucked into the second position until the start of the final lap, when she surged past Saina to briefly take the lead. However, Maier couldn't put opponent away, and Saina moved back in front on the backstretch and held on for the victory. Saina crossed the line in 15:38.83, with Maier two seconds back.
"I just didn't have it in my legs," Maier told ESPN after the race, referring to the final 100 meters. "I don't know if it was the altitude, but I just didn't feel it today."
Still, Maier's time is second in the school annals behind only the 15:29.24 she posted in mid-February in Seattle. She also had the highest result for a Golden Bear at the indoor meet since Alysia Montano (nee Johnson) claimed the 2007 NCAA title in the 800 meters.
In addition to Maier, Cal had competitors in three other events Friday, starting with Sofia Oberg, who made her first appearance at a national meet and was seeded 16th in the women's 800 meters. Sixth in her heat and 11th overall, Oberg did not advance to the final after recording a time of 2:07.10.
Malaina Payton, in her first NCAA berth as an individual (she was part of Cal's 4x100m relay at 2010 NCAA outdoors), finished 14th in the women's long jump with a mark of 19-9.75, a distance she achieved on her second attempt.
The Bears closed out the night in the women's distance medley relay with the quartet of Oberg (1200m), Angelica Weaver (400m), Taylor Bryson (800m) and Chelsea Reilly (1600m). The field remained bunched for most of the race, and Cal ended in 10th place with a time of 11:19.54.
The Bears, who ended the night tied for ninth in the team standings with eight points, have two more chances to score on Saturday when Reilly and Maier compete in the women's 3000 meters.
NCAA Indoor Track & Field Championships
800 meters - 11. Sofia Oberg 2:07.10
5000 meters - 2. Deborah Maier 15:40.74
Long Jump - 14. Malaina Payton 19-9.75 (6.04m)