Caroline Kurgat shines as UAA distance star

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ANCHORAGE (KTUU) - Recreational runner to national champion - that's the short story behind the University of Alaska Anchorage's Caroline Kurgat.

Caroline Kurgat races at the 2019 NCAA DII National Indoor Track and Field Championships. Photo by Reid Williams / Pittsburg State University.

"Her level of dedication really transformed herself into arguably one of the best runners in NCAA history in any division," said Michael Friess, UAA Track and Field Head Coach.

Kurgat - who now not only leads her team but also the country in distance stats and speedy times - started running after high school.

"I graduated in 2012," she said, "and I didn't know what to do."

She began applying to schools around the globe, and since then, her journey to and through UAA has been quite the trek. She first moved overseas from Kenya to study nursing, slowly but surely climbing the ranks on her team to become one of the fastest distance runners in UAA history.

"It was surprise to all of us to some degree, because, that level of improvement is not common," Friess said.

Kurgat received a scholarship upon her enrollment at UAA, but would go on to become one of the most decorated athletes in school history.

"I just wanted to run and earn a scholarship and be able to graduate," she said.

Of all her records and accolades, she boasts no less than five national titles, with two from this past indoor track season - her final, as a fifth-year senior - in the 3,000m and 5,000m runs.

To this day, she trains inside the Dome in South Anchorage with Friess and the rest of her team to avoid the harsh conditions outside. This is a usual occurrence so that she can be exceptional when it counts.

"It's really great to just realize how much four years can do to your life," Kurgat said. "I'm just so grateful that I came to Alaska, and for the opportunity I received through the UAA School of Nursing.... It's amazing to get people who understand you and who help you each time to make you do better."

Video by Channel 2 multimedia journalist Beth Verge.