June 13, 2008
Mattie Bridgmon finished 13th with a time of 16:35.28 in the 5,000 meters as the Eastern Washington University track and field athlete concluded her season Friday (June 13) at the NCAA Championships in Des Moines, Iowa.
The junior was just two seconds shy of her school-record time of 16:33.60 set earlier this season. She was also just two places away from earning All-America status as one of the top eight American finishers. Bridgmon had entered finals with the 10th-fastest time in preliminaries on Wednesday (June 11) with time of 17:18.39.
"Mattie ran an unbelievable race," said EWU distance/cross country coach Chris Zeller. "She really stepped it up and looked good the whole time. She raced all the way to the finish and was aggressive the entire race. What a superb finish to a fantastic year for her."
Sally Kipyego of Texas Tech won the 5,000 with a time of 15:15.08.
By qualifying for finals, Bridgmon was forced to miss commencement ceremonies at EWU on Saturday (June 14). Commencement begins at 9 a.m., but Bridgmon will be on a plane back to Cheney and won't arrive until noon.
But she said Wednesday after she qualified for finals that she was disappointed to miss her graduation, but if she had to "pick between nationals and graduation, I would definitely pick nationals."
Bridgmon, a 2005 graduate of Laramie High School (Wyo.), was making her first appearance at the national level in track and field. However, she advanced to the NCAA Championships in cross country last fall, finishing 64th.
Although Bridgmon came up short, Eastern has had five All-Americans in its history at the NCAA Division I level (indoors and outdoors). Carolee Gutierrez finished eighth in the javelin (161-10) in 2007 and Kari McKay placed fourth in the 10,000 (35:18.15) in 1992. On the men's side outdoors, Ryan Cole in 2001 placed eighth in the javelin (223-3) and Greg Jones took second in the high jump (7-3) in 1986. Eastern's only indoor All-American was Kurt Kraemer with a triple jump mark of 52-1 3/4 to finish ninth in 2001.
On his day off, Zeller spent the day in Des Moines filling sandbags in the city's effort to control flooding from rivers swollen by recent storms. He wanted to give something back and help the town that was hosting the championships.
"They are kind of having an emergency with the flooding," said Zeller. "Today (June 13) they were evacuating sections of the city. It was neat because we were able to meet some of the local citizens and help them come together as a community."