by Bruce Strand, Sports editor
Former Elk athlete Emma Bates, who won the 10,000 meters at the NCAA Division I meet on Thursday, June 12, in Eugene, Ore., credited self-confidence and a nice boost from the crowd for her final burst of speed that won the gold.
The Boise State junior fought off Elinor Kirk of Alabama-Birmingham by .64 of a second and her time of 32:32.35 was the second-fastest ever in the NCAA meet.
“I just wanted it that bad. I think it was like a mental push that just kind of pulled me to the finish line,” Bates told the web site LetsRun.com. “And I think that’s what I needed in that last stretch, was my self-belief that I could do it.”
Bates then placed fourth in the 5,000 meters Saturday, June 14, giving her nine All-America honors in track and cross country.
At ERHS, she was a five-time all-stater in cross country and was state runner-up in 2009 by less than a second while leading the Elks to the team state championship. She was state runner-up in the 3200 in track as a sophomore and almost won the 1600 as a senior, leading down the last straightway before three girls passed her at the end.
But Bates held on to her lead in a fiercely-contest 10,000 finals at Oregon.
This is how LetsRun.com described the battle between Bates, Kirk and Duke’s Juliet Bottorf:
“With 300 to go, Bates made her move. Kirk immediately responded and moved out to Bates’ shoulder, with Bottorff falling back. But instead of staying behind Bates for the final turn, Kirk unnecessarily ran extra distance on Bates’ outside. She and Bottorff were stride-for-stride coming off the final turn, setting up an exciting final 100.
“Kirk moved past Bates slightly early on the homestretch but could never gain real separation. With 25 meters to go, Bates summoned one last burst and that was all she needed to create a gap and claim the title.”
Bates, interviewed by the Bob and Murph Show on KTIK Radio in Boise, said that after edging into the lead, “I looked at the jumbo tron and saw the UAB girl on my shoulder, and she is a great 1,500 runner with great speed.”
Bates quickly regained the lead after Kirk passed her briefly.
“The crowd just erupted,” Bates said, “and it gave me a strong will to win … Everyone wants to see a good race.”
She’s made the podium at national meets nine times. She was runner-up in the NCAA cross country meet last November behind Dartmouth’s Abbey D’Augustino. In last year’s track nationals she was third in the 10,000 and seventh in the 5,000.
D’Augustino, who won the 10,000 last year, and collected seven national titles in her career, elected to run only the 5,000 this year, which left the 10,000 field wide open.
In the 5,000, Bates finished in 15:51.87 behind three runners who did not run the 10,000: champion Marielle Hall of Texas, Aisling Cuffe of Stanford, and D’Agostino.
Her rooting gallery at Boise included her mother, Michelle, who took these photos, along with two aunts, an uncle, her boyfriend, and a few Boise State friends.
Bates told the Bob and Murph Show that she’ll have another big mee, USA Nationals in Sacramento, June 26 to 29, where she will run either the 5,000 or 10,000.
(The Star News was not able to contact Bates in the days following nationals because she was on a camping trip.)
Bates was named Mountain West Conference female athlete of the year for outdoor track following nationals.