Kiwi Maia Ramsden has stunned her rivals to capture the US national college title over 1500 metres at Austin, Texas, carving more than 1.5 seconds off her previous best set in the heats.
Ramsden, 21, improved from fifth with 400 metres remaining to outfinish her opponents and record 4m 08.60s. She had clocked 4m 09.81s for second in her preliminary.
The Wellingtonian was a two-time national junior 1500m champion, when she took up her scholarship at prestigious Ivy League school Harvard, boasting a personal best of 4m 30.94s.
Her latest performances rank her ahead of such NZ distance running legends as Lorraine Moller and Anne Audain, but still short of Nikki Hamblin’s 4m 04.82s national record in 2011.
“At first, I was talking to my coach about what kind of 800m split he thought I could handle,” she said. “Eventually, that becomes pointless in the race, so he just said don’t worry about splits and, I know it’s cliched, but run your own race.
“Don’t necessarily go with the front pack if you think it’s not sustainable and maybe some girls will come back to you.
“All of a sudden, coming around the last bend, I was, like, ‘I have some legs left, so let’s see what happens’.”
Ramsden upstaged hot favourite and four-time NCAA champion Katelyn Tuohy of North Carolina State University, who was attempting to become the first woman to win a 1500m/5000m double on the same day.
Tuohy led with a lap to run, but slipped back through the field to finish seventh, and then withdrew before the 5000m start.
Last year, Ramsden clocked 4m 12.46s for 10th at the US college nationals and returned to the track two hours after her 2023 triumph to finish 18th in the 5000m.
She joins select company in NZ athletics. Former Commonwealth Games hammer champion Julia Ratcliffe also captured an NCAA track and field title for Princeton University in 2014, while Nick Willis and Geordie Beamish captured indoor mile titles in 2005 and 2019 respectively.