BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – Air Force senior Jaci Smith captured First-Team All-America honors this evening (March 8) following an impressive sixth-place finish in the 5000-meter run at the NCAA Division I Indoor Track and Field Championships. Smith, the No. 3 American finisher in the 16-runner final, matched the highest individual finish by an Air Force female at the DI indoor championships.
Smith, who immediately secured herself in the middle of the pack at the break, stayed within the top eight as the field began to separate. While the top two runners split from the lead group, the race became focused on the final placements for the chase pack, as just 1.22 seconds separated 4-5-6 – and just four seconds separated the third- through seventh-place finishers. Smith crossed the finish line in a time of 15:40.26 – the second-fastest time in program history behind her own Academy record – to finish sixth in the overall field and secure the third All-America award of her career.
With tonight’s top-eight finish, Smith became just the second Air Force distance runner to claim All-America honors in all three seasons (cross country, indoor track, outdoor track) at the Division I level.
Junior Michael Rhoads also had a strong night on the track at the Birmingham Crossplex, as he qualified for the finals of the 800-meter run. Competing in the first heat of the tonight’s semifinal, Rhoads recorded his second-fastest time of the season – 1:48.64 – to finish fourth in his eight-man heat. While the top-three finishers from each heat earned automatic bids into the finals, Rhoads easily earned a time-qualifier, as his 1:48.68 was a half-second faster than the top finisher out of the second heat. In fact, with his time, Rhoads, who was competing in his second-straight NCAA semifinal, finished fourth out of all 16 competitors.
Both runners return to the track tomorrow (March 9) for the final day of competition at the NCAA DI Indoor Championships. Rhoads will compete in the 800-meter final at 5:40 p.m., while Smith will run in the 3000-meter championship at 6:10 p.m. (CT).