BOSTON, Mass. – Militsa Mircheva set the tone for Florida State’s indoor track season Saturday night by shattering the school record in the 5000 meters at the Boston University Sharon Colyear-Danville Season Opener.
Racing against a field of elite athletes, the senior from Bulgaria smashed Hannah Walker’s 2014 record by 15 seconds, placing 12th overall and 11th among collegians in 15:43.30. In the process of shedding 24 seconds off her previous best, she broke her own indoor national record.
Mircheva also established herself as the second-fastest Seminole under all conditions over 5000 meters, narrowly missing FSU Hall of Famer Vicky Gill’s 2003 outdoor record of 15:42.40.
“I’m super proud of her because she kept her composure,” FSU women’s cross country and distance coach Kelly Phillips said. “You never know what these meets are going to bring. After having a big NCAA performance, a lot of times you’re going to be toast. That’s three big back-to-back races, really. She needs a nice winter rest.”
One of 11 athletes in the race who earned NCAA Cross Country All-American honors two weeks ago, Mircheva fell in single-file as the leaders chased after a collegiate record. Emily Sisson’s national record survived (15:12.22), but barely, as the first four finishers crossed between 15:14.78 and 15:16.38.
New Mexico’s Ednah Kurgatt collected the victory.
“I was sure that somewhere between 15:35 and 15:45 is about what I was capable of right now,” Mircheva said. “I was pretty close, but I went a little bit fast for the 3k. The last k was a little bit ugly for me, but that was OK.”
She rolled through the 3000-meter mark in 9:16 – her previous personal-best over that distance in a race was 9:23.87 at the 2018 ACC Indoor Championships – but gutted out the final few laps to take down Walker’s previous record of 15:58.15. That mark was set Feb. 14, 2014 at the Husky Classic on the University of Washington’s 300-meter track.
“It was just slightly too fast, but she couldn’t go slower,” said Phillips, acknowledging the risk of falling off the smartly-paced pack.
Mircheva came into the meet ranked No. 4 on FSU’s all-time list after her Feb. 9, 2018 victory on the same track at the David Hemery Valentine Invitational in 16:07.12. On that night, she raced alone at the front from the start.
Just two weeks removed from her 25th-place finish at the NCAA Cross Country Championships, where she collected the programs’ 24th All-American honor, Mircheva and Phillips opted to put her fitness to a test on the opening weekend of the indoor season.
The premise behind that decision was to try and secure an NCAA Indoor Championships berth in a race on a fast track against a like-minded strong field. With only the top 16 times nationally securing a trip to the March 8-9 NCAA meet in Birmingham, Ala., staying in the hunt throughout the 25-lap affair was critical.
Mircheva won’t know until the end of February whether her time will stand up as a qualifying mark. It was 12th-fastest time Saturday among NCAA Division I athletes, but over the last eight years no woman has run faster and been left out of the NCAA Indoor Championships. The No. 16 time on the 2018 national descending order list for 5000 meters was 15:46.02, which was the fastest in that position at the conclusion of the regular season dating to 2010.
“I’ve worked so hard the last few months that I was hoping that when you put so much work and dedication at some point the results show,” Mircheva said. “Hopefully I will be able to get even better, because I still have things to work on.”
Before a well-earned break over the holidays, Mircheva will lace up the spikes for one last cross country race. She will represent Bulgaria at next Sunday’s European Cross Country Championships in The Netherlands.