Mount Olive runner joins distance medley relay for eighth place at Division II indoor national championships

When Aki Kitagawa left JDL Fast Track in Winston-Salem, N.C., he could call himself something that he couldn’t ever before: an All-American.

As a member of the University of Mount Olive men’s track and field team’s distance medley relay squad, the Wilsonville alumnus Aki Kitagawaraced his way to the accolade March 14 at the Division II men’s indoor track and field championships.

Kitagawa and his teammates — Karl Goodman, Dylan Lafond and Jacob Urys — finished in eighth place in the relay with a combined time of 10 minutes 4.21 seconds, edging Sioux Falls (S.D.) by less than half a second to capture the final All-America spot.

Kitagawa started the event by running the 1,200-meter leg in 3:07.71. Goodman followed with a time of 50.01 seconds in the 400-meter leg and Urys ran the 800-meter leg in 1:55.93.

The Trojans were in 10th place behind Sioux Falls and Minnesota-Duluth entering the final leg of the race, but Lafond ran the 1,600-meter leg in 4:10.56 to vault them to All-America status with a top-eight performance overall.

Ashland (Ohio) won the relay with a combined time of 9:49.14, edging Adams State (Colo.) by 1.09 seconds.

Mount Olive’s men ended up in a three-way tie for 31st place at this year’s indoor finals. The St. Augustine’s (N.C.) men and Adams State (Colo.) women claimed team titles.

Kitagawa was making his third appearance at an NCAA championship event. The sophomore also competed in the cross-country championships in each of the last two years.

This was just the latest running accomplishment for Kitagawa, who is studying biology at Mount Olive.

Before graduating from Wilsonville High School in 2012, he finished a 5,000-meter cross-country race in 15:47 — a time that still stands as a program record. He placed fourth as a junior and fifth as a senior at the Class 5A state cross-country championships.

Kitagawa also ranks No. 2 all-time on Wildcats charts for the 1,500- and 3,000-meter track and field races.

By Jeff Goodman
Sports editor
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