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Courtesy of Columbia Athletics / Ben Ennis

Junior Natalie Tanner hopes to build on her personal best at the Preliminary Round two weeks ago.

Junior Natalie Tanner heads to Eugene, Oregon to run in the 5-kilometer race at the NCAA Outdoor Championship on Saturday.

She enters as the 21st seed in the 24-person field after qualifying with a career-best of 16:12.04 at the NCAA Preliminary Round in Jacksonville, Florida two weeks ago.

Finishing ninth, Tanner earned one of 12 spots allocated to the Eastern half of the country for the Championship race. The Rye, New York native also clocked the third-best time in Light Blue history at the Preliminary Round, and smashed her previous record by nearly twelve seconds.

But Tanner will likely need to set another personal best this weekend to topple the nation's elite at Hayward Field.

Arkansas's Dominique Scott is the race's top-seed with a time of 15:25:10. The third-fastest indoor 3-kilometer runner in NCAA history, she will represent South Africa at the 2016 Olympic Games this summer.

Stanford junior Vanessa Fraser and fifth-year senior Aisling Cuffe enter as two other favorites to take the top spot. Fraser boasts the third-fastest qualifying time at 15:41.64, while Cuffe is seeded 17th, despite running a career-best of 15:11.13 in 2014. New Mexico senior Calli Thackery is seeded second in the event at 15:37.44.

The 5-kilometer race will kick off on Saturday at 8:25 p.m. E.T. and will be broadcast on ESPN3.

ellorine.carle@columbiaspectator.com | @CUSpecSports

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