UAA distance runner Cole Nash hopes to ascend to All-American status in final race

May 21—On Monday, Cole Nash was soaring high above the Anchorage Bowl, spending the day paragliding in the Chugach Mountains.

This weekend, he hopes to ascend to All-American status in his final competition with the University of Alaska Anchorage track and field team.

Nash, who graduated earlier this month with a double major in economics and business management, is heading a two-athlete contingent traveling to Emporia, Kansas for the NCAA II Outdoor Track and Field National Championships. Nash will compete in the 5,000 meter championship, which will be run Saturday afternoon.

"It'll be my last run here at UAA," Nash said. "It's a little sad, kind of bittersweet."

Nash bought a glider last year and spent part of last summer being certified to operate the aircraft. The Colorado native plans to stick around for the summer and get more time in the mountains. On Monday, he and some friends were launching from Flattop Mountain, a final bit of outdoor leisure before getting down to business.

"I wasn't able to get too much lift but it was still a pretty fun flight," he said. "It's really fun. We joke it's the least adrenaline junky way to get adrenaline."

Nash is just happy to be back feeling strong after battling through injuries in the past 14 months. He suffered a labrum injury in March 2023 during the indoor track season. After rehabbing the injury and getting back to his previous form, Nash tore his other labrum during cross-country season. Despite being clearly hobbled, he finished third at the GNAC Championships in Anchorage in late October.

"He's definitely back in a much better place," UAA assistant coach Chas Davis said. "He's maybe not quite at 100% but we'll call it 90%. He's back in a good place and he's running healthy."

When healthy, Nash has shown the ability to compete with the best at the DII level. In 2022, he finished eighth in the 5,000 and 13th in the 10,000. And while he has a low seed time entering the meet, popping for a top 8 finish and an All-American nod is definitely within the range of outcomes.

"The hard part was getting in," Davis said. "Even though he'll be seeded 18th or 19th going in, certainly he can finish a lot higher than that."

Nash ran a personal-best time of 13:55.71 in the 5,000 at the Stanford Invite in March and won the 5,000 at the GNAC Championships earlier this month. He was also the GNAC cross-country champion in 2022 and was an All-American after his performance at nationals. He plans to lean on that experience this weekend.

"This is the first time I've gone into it ranked on the lower side," he said. "I'm still expecting to get an All-American out of it. I've been there before and I think in these kind of races, having the experience of being there is a big feather in your hat."

Nash will be joined by freshman sensation Joshua Caleb, who will race the 400 meters Thursday afternoon. Caleb, from Okrika, Nigeria, set the school record in the 400 (46.73) last month. He also set school records in the 100 (10.28) and 200 (21.04) after arriving on campus last winter.

[This UAA freshman is tearing through the track and field record book]

Although Davis focuses on coaching the distance runners, he said Caleb is going to have the opportunity to continue to learn and grow at the highest level of DII competition.

"He's going to be using this for good experience to learn at how competing at this level works," Davis said. "It's definitely different for him when there are a number of guys on the line right at his level. This will be excellent experience at a lot higher level. ... This will be an important step."