NATIONAL CHAMPION: Jarizi wins NCAA title in steeplechase

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Jun. 11—EKU's Ahmed Jaziri came into the NCAA Championships with one of the fastest times this season in the country in the steeplechase — 8:24.33.

In his preliminary round heat on Wednesday, the junior from Rades, Tunisa cruised to a third-place finish.

That got him to the final.

However, he certainly expected he would have to an even better performance on Friday night in Eugene, Ore.

"To be honest, I knew the race would be fast," Jaziri said in an interview with ESPN after the race. "So, I prepared for that."

He was indeed ready.

And he made history.

Jaziri used a late charge to become the first-ever EKU track and field athlete to claim an individual NCAA National Championship. His time of 8:18.70 shattered his own school record and is the second-fastest steeplechase time in NCAA Championships history — and the fastest since 1979.

"I've been waiting for this moment for a while," Jaziri said. "It couldn't have been much better. An NCAA championship, that's what I wanted."

Jaziri was 10th at last year's NCAA Championship.

A year later, he took the title.

Duncan Hamilton of Montana State (8:18.88) edged out Georgetown University's Parker Stokes in a photo finish for second place.

EKU has recently emerged as a national power in the steeplechase.

The Colonels have had a runner in the NCAA final in the event in seven in the past eight years. Ole Hesslebjerg (bronze in 2014 and 2015) and Jamaine Coleman (silver in 2018) both medaled.

This time around, Jaziri brought home a gold medal.

Jaziri settled into the middle of the pack for most of the race. He started to make a move after the fifth lap.

The junior passed Hamilton, who had lead for most of the race, on the right as he cleared the final hurdle and then pulled away for the victory.

Jaziri's historic victory helped the Colonels to a 30th-place finish in the men's team standings at the NCAA Championships, tying them with Notre Dame, Mississippi State, Penn, Kansas State, and Southeast Missouri.

The Colonels finished ahead of Clemson (t-36th), Kentucky (t-36th), Michigan State (t-39th), Ole Miss (t-39th), Penn State (t-39th), BYU (t-39th), Iowa (t-39th), Michigan (t-46th), Ohio State (t-46th), Auburn (t-46th), and Louisville (t-64th).

EKU was the top men's team from Kentucky at the NCAA Championships.