If Emma Bates is going to beat the unbeatable woman this week, she'll need an X-factor. She hopes altitude provides just that.
Bates will clash with Dartmouth senior Abbey D'Agostino on Friday in the 5,000 meters and Saturday in the 3,000 at the NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships in Albuquerque, N.M.
D'Agostino has won five national titles, including both of those indoor races last year. She also won the cross country title in the fall, when Bates finished second.
"At 5,000 feet, it's not going to go to form," Boise State coach Corey Ihmels said. "Something is going to happen. Emma, from what I've seen in the past and what I've seen this year, she responds really well to altitude."
Bates qualified for the 3,000 by posting one of the nation's best times at the Mountain West meet at Air Force, which is more than 7,000 feet above sea level.
Bates grew up in Minnesota, but she has experienced plenty of altitude since joining the Broncos. The distance team makes Saturday runs at Bogus Basin, the Broncos have competed in several meets at mile-high locales and Bates even went running in the Sawtooths last summer.
She hiked 11 miles into the mountains and ran about 20 miles a day for several days.
"Just because I enjoy it," she said. "That was my main reason. I like backpacking, camping. I like being in nature."
Bates will break the school record for most All-American honors for a track and field athlete if she completes both races. The top eight finishers are first-teamers; the rest are second-teamers.
She already has five All-American awards, the most by any Boise State female athlete. The track and field record of six is shared by thrower Jarred Rome (1997-2000) and jumper Ryan Grinnell (2008-09).
"Coming here, I didn't think I would make such a big impact at all," Bates said. "That's awesome to be in the same category as those two awesome athletes."
Bates goes into the NCAAs with confidence after an up-and-down indoor season. She and Ihmels clicked in the fall, his first season with the program, but had to re-evaluate their workout plan early in the indoor season.
"We figured it out, and she's looked tremendous the last three weeks," Ihmels said. "I don't think we've seen what she's capable of doing yet indoors."
Bates' best chance to win is in the 5,000. She competed in that race last year but didn't feel well and finished 14th. Her season-best times rank ninth in the field in the 5,000 and fifth in the 3,000, which she ran more recently.
"I just want to focus on getting first-team All-American, but my coach told me I can go and win it," Bates said. "My workouts have been going really well. I've been feeling really well. ... If I'm going to be in the race, I might as well go for the win."
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