Fiona Smith is now a two-time national champion.
Just 24 hours after capturing the first national title won by an individual athlete or team in College of Saint Benedict history with her first-place finish in the women’s 5,000-meter run, she added a championship meet record victory in the 3,000 on the final day of competition at the 2023 NCAA Division III indoor national track and field meet Saturday afternoon (March 11) at the Birmingham CrossPlex in Birmingham, Alabama.
Smith, who is now a nine-time All-American in cross country and indoor and outdoor track and field, finished with a winning time of 9:25.62, shattering the previous championship meet record of 9:30.80 set by Amy Regan of Stevens in 2016. Her time was just under five seconds faster than the second-place finisher, University of Chicago junior Maddie Kelly, who recorded a time of 9:30.34.
She becomes the first MIAC woman to win two national titles in individual events at the national indoor meet.
“I feel good,” she said with a smile Saturday. “I’m very glad to be done, very relieved that it’s over. It was all so fun. They were two very fun races. But the 3K was even more enjoyable. I also enjoy that (event) more.
“Overall, I’m just so relieved and happy and grateful.”
Smith took control of the race early, moving into the lead and never again trailing.
“She executed beautifully,” said Robin Balder-Lanoue ’91, her head coach in both cross country and track and field. “She ran her race right from the start. It’s a gutsy way to do it. But she’s confident and running great right now.”
It was a repeat of the dominance she showed in the 5,000 Friday when her time of 16:33.79 was almost seven seconds faster than the second-place finisher, Williams junior Genna Girard, who finished with a time of 16:40.21.
Smith, who entered the competition with the fastest qualifying time in both events, opened the 5,000 with a 67.36-second quarter mile and never had a 200-meter lap over 41 seconds. At the 2,600-meter mark, she clocked in at 8:29.214 and had as much as an 18-second gap over the rest of the field at certain intervals.
"It feels really good," she said after that race. "I feel like it hasn't quite sunk in yet. I'm happy now, but when it does (sink in), it will be even better."
By Saturday, though, the significance of what she has accomplished was starting to take hold.
“A lot of the messages I’ve been getting over the past day have been congratulating me, but also saying they hope I’m paving the way for Bennies in the future,” she said. “So hopefully that means something to Bennies and helps (inspire others).”
For further coverage of Smith’s big win Saturday, check out the recap at gobennies.com.
For coverage of Smith’s win Friday, as well as of the performance by her CSB teammate Justus Floren in the pentathlon, check out that recap at gobennies.com.