A week after placing top-five in two NCAA National Indoor Championship races, Southern Utah University runner Cam Levins added to his career accolades with a first-place finish in the North American, Central American and Caribbean (NACAC) cross-country championships in Port of Spain, Trinidad.
Levins, from Black Creek, took gold in the 8K with a 24:04.13 time, six seconds ahead of runner-up Christopher Landry (24:10.61) of the U.S.
The March 17 race was run on the Savannah in Queens Park under hot skies with a strong breeze. Temperature at the start of the junior women’s race at 3 p.m. was 34 C but cooled slightly by the time of the senior men’s race at 4:30 p.m.
Right from the start the USA used team tactics and set the early pace from the front with five USA runners in the lead. Three Canadians – Levins, Barry Brit and Sam Pawluk – hung at the back of the pack, with Saheed Khan, Colin Fewer and Vancouver’s Jerry Ziak (former G.P. Vanier track star) about 20 to 30 metres back through the first 4km.
Levins looked far more comfortable as the race progressed and seemed to find more strength on each of the four laps, content to stay behind, yet with, the USA group. In the final 2km, Levins matched the surge of USA’s Chris Landry while the rest of the USA team and Britt became strung out along the back part of the course.
In the final 200m Levins took the lead for the final time and put on an impressive finishing kick to win in a time of 24:04.13 over a fading Landry.
The U.S. rounded out the top five to win the team title, but Levin’s performance and top-10 finishes by Britt, Khan and Fewer helped Canada place second in the team race, 49 points ahead of third-place Jamaica. Ziak finished 11th in 23:30.07.
Three weeks ago, Levins won dual NCAA All-American awards for his top-five finishes in the 3,000-meter and 5,000-metre events in the NCAA National Indoor Track and Field Championship in Boise, Idaho. Levins’ performances in the events helped SUU finish 15th in the nation in indoor track and field.
Levins backed up a fourth-place finish in the 5K with a third-place finish in the 3K. He said he couldn’t have ran any better.
“I finished higher than I was supposed to and finally got on that top-three podium,” he said.
SUU track and field head coach Eric Houle said Levins’ performances were phenomenal. “To perform and be consistant at this level is what you hope for,” Houle said. “Sometimes more amazing things happen.”
Levins finished the 3K with a time of 7:49.48, just over three seconds behind winner Lawi Lalang of Arizona State. Levins ran a 13:38.12 in the 5K, where Lalang was also the winner.
Levins scored 11 points for SUU, putting the T-Birds in a tie for 15th place and just a single point behind BYU. SUU came into the meet ranked 31st in the nation.
Houle said Levins will focus on distance races in the outdoor season and prepare to make another run at the Outdoor National Championships in June.
Levins said he’ll continue to chase an NCAA title and work toward qualifying for the the 2012 Olympic Games in London.
“I keep finishing better and better,” Levins said. “I’ve only got two more places to go, and the Olympics only come once every four years so I’m going to give it my all.”
Levins was the lone runner from SUU to qualify for the indoor national championships. There are generally only 12-16 runners who qualify for each event in the whole nation for Division I track. Levins qualified for two. Going into the meet, he was ranked 10th in the 5K and fourth in the 3K.
Levins is hoping to break the Canadian 5K record. He is currently sitting at a time of 13:42 and needs to go under a 13:25 to break the record.
Houle said he has never coached a better athlete than Levins.
“He holds every school record from the half mile up,” Houle said. “Only two people in the whole country have qualified for the (5K), the (3K) and the mile. So he’s not only the best ever here at Southern Utah, he’s probably one of the best ever in the country and by far the best athlete this school’s ever seen.”
Levins was not able to compete in indoor competition last year due to him redshirting, but he has been placing higher in outdoor competition last year and higher in cross-country this year.