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Athletics Campus & Community Student Features

CSB’s Smith repeats as indoor national champion in both the 3,000 and 5,000-meter runs

Fiona Smith is now a five-time national champion.

The College of Saint Benedict senior standout added her second national title of the weekend Saturday (March 9), successfully repeating as champion in the women’s 3,000-meter run on the final day of competition at the NCAA Division III indoor national track and field meet at the Virginia Beach Sports Center in Virginia Beach, Virginia.

Smith finished in a time of nine minutes and 25.97 seconds, almost a full six seconds faster than second-place finisher Natalie Bitetti (9:31.74), a senior from Claremont-Mudd Scripps.

“As soon as I crossed the finish line, there was a whole flood of emotions,” Smith said after Saturday’s race. “Relief and joy and just gratitude for being able to do this – especially in a Bennie uniform.”

The victory came with less drama than her win in the women’s 5,000 Friday (March 8). In that race, Smith opened a wide lead and led most of the way. But New York University senior Grace Richardson steadily made up ground and actually passed Smith briefly down the stretch as both runners worked their way through a pack of runners who still had more race to go.

Smith responded, though, moving to the outside and passing Richardson to regain the lead as the finish line approached – winning the event for the second-straight season in a time of 16:26.40.

She became the first MIAC athlete to repeat as national champion in the event since Kelly Copps of St. Thomas did so in 1994 and ’95. In all, athletes from the conference have now won 29 indoor women’s national titles across all events.

“It feels good,” Smith said after Friday’s race. “The indoor 5K is one of the toughest races. The outdoor 5K I find to be a lot easier, especially mentally. So getting this one out of the way and (winning) a title here is really special.

“Especially because of all the support I had, which was really nice. I’m really grateful.”

Just over 24 hours later, Smith – this time running in a white uniform her team got just weeks ago – hung with the pack for the first portion of the 3,000 before pulling away for good.

“I felt very confident in her ability to come back (after Friday’s race),” CSB coach Robin Balder-Lanoue said. “She’s so strong. She always comes back day two stronger than ever. So I was really confident about that.

“We also had a race plan – what we were going to do. She executed it beautifully. When she made her move, she made a fast move and held on and finished with a win. So we’re really proud of what she did.”

Smith – a math major – brought home CSB’s first national title when she won the 5,000 in a time of 16:33.79 at last season’s national indoor meet. She then added a title in the 3,000-meter run the following day, crossing the line in a time of 9:25.62 and shattering the previous championship meet record.

She followed that up by winning the Division III national title in cross country last November. Her two wins at this year’s indoor meet make Smith a five-time national champion and a 14-time All-American across cross country and track and field.

Saint John’s senior Kevin Arthur also competed in preliminary competition in the men’s 60-meter dash Friday, finishing with the 15th-fastest time of the day (6.86 seconds). 

Arthur placed fourth in the third and final heat, 0.04 from the eighth and final qualifying time for Saturday’s event final.

WATCH: Fiona Smith wins women’s 3,000-meter run Saturday

WATCH: Fiona Smith wins women’s 5,000-meter run Friday