HUTCHINSON— All eyes were on Lydia Mato in her final race of the NJCAA National Outdoor Championships Saturday at Gowans Stadium in Hutchinson.
Afterall, the sophomore from Barton Community College had already won two events at the meet and 11 in her outdoor and indoor career at Barton.
As she came down the final stretch of the race the crowd gave the standout from Ghana a standing ovation on her way to an easy win the 5000m. That gave her a 3-race sweep as she won the 10,000m and 1500m earlier in the meet.
Mato’s effort gave Barton 30 points on the way to a sixth place finish at the meet. South Plains College (Texas) won the meet with 118 points in a close battle with Iowa Central which finished second with 114.5. It was a ways back to third and New Mexico JC at 92. Coffeyville took fourth with 77.2, Central Arizona fifth with 54 and Barton sixth with 45.
Mato’s journey began Thursday night as she dominated the field in the 10,000m. Mato lapped all of the competition on her way to a 35:27.23 setting a school record and Gowans Stadium record in the process. Mato broke the school record set in 1984 by Bonny McCleland of 37:50.81.
While Mato shattered that record by more than two full minutes it was a time that was better than the second place finish. Mato beat her competition in the race by more than 2 1/2 minutes. The runner-up time was 38:01.29. Only three runners broke 40 minutes. Barton freshman Katelynn Tuey just missed points in the event taking ninth in 43:29.41.
Mato returned Friday for an easy day as she only ran the qualifying portion of the 1500m posting the top time by nearly 10 seconds. Saturday Mato took the track for the finals of the 1500m – the toughest race she would have to win.
But it turned out to be a fairly easy affair as Mato beat her foes by seven seconds. Mato ran a 4:33.84 to win the event over Marleena Eubanks of Central Arizona who ran a 4:40.86 for second place.
That just left the 5000m – one of Mato’s best events.
There would be no jogging home with a victory lap as Mato never let up on her way to her best 5000m of her career. She broke her own school record, the Gowans Stadium record and the NJCAA Championship Meet record.
Oh, and she lapped all of her competitors yet again. Running late in the night due to weather delays, Mato dominated the race with a time of 16:39.37. The second place time was 18:16.39 turned in by Kamille Kronemann of Iowa Central.
Elsewhere the Cougars got eight points from Tamara Style with the freshman’s second place finish in the 400m hurdles. Style edged out Cheyenne Hoerr of New Mexico JC for the second place spot in 1:00.44 to Hoerr’s 1:00.79. Yanique Bennett of Iowa Western easily won the event in 57.92.
Tasha Frazier, another freshman for the Cougars, earned points in a pair of events for Barton. Frazier took sixth in the long jump with a leap of 18-5.75 in the soggy conditions. She was eighth in the 100m hurdles in 14.33.
Barton’s other points came with a sixth place finish in the final event of the meet – the 4x400m relay. Nicole Kruse, Style, Widline Lageroy, and Danashka Lawrence finished the four laps in 3:51.14.
While Mato has wrapped up one of the most successful careers in Barton’s storied track program she will have eligibility left next fall for her second season of cross country – where she will attempt to defend her national title she won this past season.