UCLA distance runner Karen Hecox had never run the 5,000 meters on a track until Saturday.
And even then Bruin distance coach Eric Peterson had to persuade her to do so in the California-Nevada Collegiate championship track meet at Drake Stadium.
Hecox excelled, winning in 16 minutes 24.98 seconds to qualify for the NCAA championships next month in Boise, Idaho. It was the second fastest time in school history behind the school record of 15:49.37, set by Kathy Mintie in 1981.
“I’ve run 5,000 meters in cross-country, but never in track, but it’s a lot different,” Hecox said. “I was reluctant. I didn’t know how it would be to keep seeing the lap counter for 12 1/2 laps. On the cross-country course, you have hills and different things to look at, but on the track it’s just lap after lap.”
Hecox, who has the nation’s second-fastest time in the 3,000 (9:14.41), says she will probably run the 1,500 and 3,000 instead of the 5,000 at the NCAA meet.
Jamie Harris of Fresno State won the men’s 5,000 in 14:20.04.
The men’s and women’s 5,000 were the only finals held on the first day of the meet, which features 22 schools. The finals in all other events will be held today, with the field events starting at 10:45 a.m. and the first running event at 12:15 p.m.
UCLA junior John Godina, the defending Pacific 10 Conference shotput and discus champion, was the leading qualifier in the shotput. His first effort of 64-1 1/2 was only four inches off his best outdoor throw of the season.
Godina, the national collegiate leader in the discus at 204-2, didn’t compete in the discus because of a pulled chest muscle.
UCLA, the only school in the nation with four 60-foot shotputters, also qualified three others in the event. Senior Joe Bailey (58-9 1/2), sophomore Jonathan Ogden (57-4 1/4) and sophomore Mark Parlin (57-5). USC’s Gary Kirchoff was the No. 3 qualifier (57-11 1/4) behind Bailey.
USC sophomore Balazs Kiss, the defending NCAA hammer champion and the 1994 national leader, was the top qualifier in his event at 221-1. Kiss used an 17.6-pound hammer, which is 1.6 pounds heavier than the competition implement because he is in training and hopes to break the national record of 257, set by Oregon’s Ken Flax in 1986. He will use a 16-pound hammer in today’s finals.
Fresno State javelin thrower Todd Riech, the national collegiate leader, was the top qualifier at 237-9.
USC sprinter Inger Miller, the national leader in the 100 and 200 meters, didn’t compete in the meet because of a foot injury. Coach Jim Bush said she hopes to compete in the Pac-10 meet May 20-21 at Washington State.