Kara Grgas-Wheeler – 2000
University of Colorado distance runner Kara Grgas-Wheeler accomplished in the year 2000 what no other CU harrier had done before. She altered the Buffs’ national record books four times with three individual titles and a team championship in a span of five months over two different seasons.
After siting out the NCAA-Division I Indoor season because of debilitating anemia following a difficult rehabilitation for 1997 leg surgery, she charged into spring competition and became CU’s first ever dual titlist at the NCAA-Division I Outdoor Track and Field Championships in May 2000.
Successfully defending her national 3000-meter crown, she captured a second diadem in the 5,000-meter race and logged All-America times in both, all after coming into the meet as Big 12 champion for the 1500-meter distance.
In the fall, she continued her history making collegiate campaign. Sparking CU to its first ever NCAA cross-country team championship, the Buff speedster also became the first CU runner to win an individual NCAA cross-country title and she did so with an impressive 20:30.5 effort in 17-degree temperature and a wind chill of -19 degrees, prevailing by 7 seconds over the same Iowa State course on which she earlier had logged a 20:27 record on a warmer day. En route to her third and fourth national triumphs of the year, the Buff pacesetter picked up the Big 12 and Mountain Region cross-country championships and was named to the All-Big 12, All Region and All-America first teams. With her 3.685 GPA, the psychology major was an All-Big 12 Academic pick for the second time in 2000.
Even more remarkable was Kara’s end-of-season cross-country status as the nation’s only undefeated female runner. Tested by 1,035 of her peers, she had lost to none.
Small wonder that for the year 2000, she was one of 12 National Honda Award finalists for the prestigious Broderick Cup, the Colorado Sports Hall of Fame’s Female College Athlete of the Year and Sportswomen of Colorado’s Sportswoman of the Year.