fb pixel

Log In

Reset Password

Perkinson comes back to win 5K title

GULF SHORES, Alabama — One could not blame Saint Xavier's Ellie Willging for her aggressive approach in the women's 5,000-meter national final Saturday, especially considering Jessa Perkinson's legs had already taken a slight hit two hours earlier amid the humid air at Blackwell Stadium.

But on the final day of the NAIA Outdoor Championships, it was just one more opportunity for Perkinson to show off what makes her the most prolific runner in Southern Oregon University history. After placing sixth in her first crack at the 1,500 meters, the junior from Roseburg left enough in reserve to track down Willging with approximately 250 meters remaining and win the 5K title in 17 minutes, 24.55 seconds — clearing the runner-up by six ticks after she'd spent the duration of the race in front.

Perkinson, the first 5K champion in SOU women's history, is now a nine-time NAIA All-American— four times outdoor, three times indoor and twice in cross country.

By the time she hit the track, more Raider history had already been made. SOU's 4x100-meter relay team — consisting of Rakayla Tyler, Arianna Daniel, Margot Hammanand Savannah Greenwade — placed sixth in its final with a time of 47.49 seconds. The Raiders, who came into the meet as the No. 8 seed and qualified for it with a school-record time of 47.07, had only placed top-eight at the national meet once previously — in 2002, when they were also sixth.

With 16 points, SOU finished in a tie for 20th in the team standings. Wayland Baptist (Texas) won the title with 75.

Perkinson joined the company of Tiwana Merritt (1999-2002) and Nicole Robertson (1999-2002) as SOU's only four-time outdoor All-Americans, and Melanie Byrne (1988-89) as the only two-time national champions. She also passed Amelia Maguin (2013-15) as SOU's top career scorer at the outdoor meet with 29 points over the last two seasons to Maguin's total of 26.

The Raider women have captured an individual title four years in a row — they'd gone the previous 18 years without one — and Perkinson's was their ninth overall.

Last year, Perkinson became the first Raiders' first-ever All-American in the 5K, placing third, and their first champion in the 10K. Prior to Saturday, they'd never placed a 1,500-meter runner in the top eight either.

As the No. 5 seed in the 1,500, Perkinson spent most of the race with the pack and hit the finish line in 4:33.28, three seconds off her-school record best. Point Park's Anna Shield zoomed ahead early for the win in 4:24.58.

In the 5K, Willging set the pace throughout. As she hit the final lap, Perkinson lingered some 20 meters back and suddenly hit a gear that Willging couldn't match. It was a move reminiscent of when Perkinson upset top-seeded Karis Frankian in last year's 10K, losing her with 250 meters left and cruising in for a 13-second victory.

The Cascade Conference was represented by two others in the 5K final: College of Idaho's Molly Vitale-Sullivan, who took third 14 seconds behind Perkinson, and Northwest Christian's Sierra Brown, who placed fifth.