PHILADELPHIA - University of Pennsylvania sophomore distance runner Leslie Kovach will compete at the 2011 NCAA Outdoor Women's Track and Field Championships in Des Moines, Iowa, Friday with All-America status and a national title on the line. Kovach competes
in the 5,000 meters starting at 8:10 p.m. (CST), on Drake University's distinct blue track at Drake Stadium.
Kovach, the indoor and outdoor school record holder in the 5,000 meters, automatically qualified for the NCAA championship meet when she finished among the top five in her heat on May 28 at the NCAA East Preliminary Round in Bloomington, Ind. Overall, she finished sixth with a time of 16:16.16 in her first NCAA appearance. That was the second-best time of her career. It was four seconds faster than any other Quaker in history, but still about five seconds behind the school record time she set at the Penn Relays in April.
Kovach is the first Penn women's athlete to reach the finals of the NCAA Outdoor Championships since Jesse Carlin, C'08, did so in the 800 meters in 2008. The only Penn women's outdoor All-American is Chris Lundy who accomplished the feat in the 3,000 meters in 1992. No Penn woman has ever won an NCAA outdoor national title. The last Penn track and field athletes to win a national championship was in 2003 when Sam Burley claimed the national title in the 800 meters and Brian Chaput did so with an Ivy League record in the javelin.
Kovach, who is also the school record holder in the 10,000 meters, has had a stellar 2010-11 campaign. She was All-Ivy and all-region during the cross country season. During the indoor track season, she earned All-East honors in the 5,000 meters and then claimed All-East honors in the 3,000 meters during the outdoor campaign. The Irwin, Pa., native also ranks among the top six all-time at Penn in both the indoor and outdoor 3,000 meters.
A full recap will be available at PennAthletics.com shortly after the conclusion of the event.