Oregon, Washington win Div. I cross country titles

By Jack Pfeifer

Teams from the Pacific Northwest swept the NCAA Division I cross country championships on a raw, windy Monday morning in Terre Haute, Ind. The Iona men’s team, under first-year Coach Ric Santos, was the only team close to the winning Oregon Ducks, scoring 147 to the winners’ 93 to finish second for the second year in a row.

The Gaels’ Andrew Ledwith, a senior from Ireland, finished 3rd, losing only to Galen Rupp of Oregon and Samuel Chelanga of Liberty. Rupp and Chelanga ran shoulder-to-shoulder for much of the 10,000-meter course before Rupp pulled away in the final quarter-mile to win his first NCAA individual championship and lead the Ducks to their 2nd consecutive national team victory. Mohamed Khadraoui also finished in the top 10 for Iona, finishing 6th.

Stanford was 3rd in the men’s scoring with 227 points. Oklahoma State, 2nd-ranked nationally, fell to 8th place with 305 points. The Cowboys’ freshman star German Fernandez dropped out late in the race after suffering an achilles injury. OSU was led by John Kosgei, who finished 7th.

Earlier in the day, the University of Washington women’s team won their first-ever national title, defeating their rivals from Oregon, 79-131. The Ducks had finished 2nd to another Pac-10 school, Stanford, a year ago.

Coach Pete Farrell’s Princeton Tigers finished 5th, behind Florida State and West Virginia. Princeton was led by Liz Costello, who finished 15th.

Sally Kipyego of Texas Tech became the first woman to win three NCAA Div. I individual titles, pulling away from Susan Kuijken of Florida State over the final mile. She ran 19:28.1 for the 6K distance. Runners from the South ran surprisingly well in the cold conditions, as Tasmin Fanning of Virginia Tech was 3rd and Brie Felnagle of North Carolina 4th.

“I’m happy, I’m just so excited,” Kipyego said. “I wanted to get three titles in a row.

“It was a hard race. Susan was right there. I wasn’t sure I was going to win. I put everything out there for the last kilometer.”

The Washington women, ranked 1st nationally for much of the season, pulled away from Oregon over the second half of the race. “We had a bull’s-eye on our back,” said Greg Metcalf, the Washington coach. “I was a little stressed midway through, but they closed well.

“I told our team to treat this like it was just another day.”

The Huskies had been led all season by their Canadian freshman star, Kendra Schaaf, who won the Pac-10, but on this day she was outrun by another frosh on her own team, Christine Babcock. Babcock finished 7th, Babcock 12th. The UW dominated the race, putting its No. 7 runner ahead of Oregon’s No. 5. Washington’s other scorers were sophomore Marie Lawrence (19), junior Katie Follett (20) and senior Amanda Miller (26).

Oregon put two in the top 10 with Alex Kosinski 8th and Nicole Blood 10th, followed by senior transfers Mattie Bridgmon (31) and Lindsey Scherf (38) along with Zoe Nelson (48). Big East champion Melissa Grelli, who had been on the roster this fall after graduating from Georgetown, did not run.

In the men’s race, Chelanga, a sophomore transfer from Fairleigh Dickinson who sat out last season, took off from the start, running a 4:21 first mile and quickly putting 25 yards on the field. Rupp pulled away from the chase park at the 5-minute mark and reeled Chelanga in 4 minutes later, at which point Chelanga appeared to pull over to try to get Rupp to take the lead.

Rupp seemed to stumble as he declined Chelanga’s invitation. The two ran mostly together, with an occasional surge by Chelanga, until the final run-in. A year ago in a similar situation, Josh McDougal, also from Liberty, had outkicked Rupp.

“I learned from last year,” Rupp said afterward. “I wasn’t panicking. I stayed relaxed. Last year I went too early.”

Rupp said he had expected Chelanga’s early charge. “I was ready for it,” he said. “I knew he’d come back. I knew I’d catch him eventually.”

At which point, Rupp looked into the camera and said, “Hi to everyone watching live from Hayward Field!” One can only imagine the response, because thousands of Oregon students had been expected to watch the race on a big screen at the university’s track stadium, Hayward Field. The women’s race began at 9:08 a.m. Pacific time.

Chelanga ran a determined race and was not disappointed. “I got 2nd,” the Kenya native said, “but I think that was a really awesome race!”

Oregon put all seven of its runners ahead of Iona’s No. 5 finisher. The Ducks’ runners were Rupp, freshman Luke Puskedra (5th place, scoring 4), Shadrack Kiptoo-Biwott (9), Matthew Centrowitz (36), Diego Mercado (44), Kenny Kloyz (53) and Andrew Wheating (59).

Centrowitz thus becomes the third member of his family to win an NCAA cross country championship. His older sister, Lauren, was on last year’s winning Stanford team, and his father, Matt, was a member of Oregon’s winning team in 1977.

Iona’s finishers were Ledwith (2), Khadraoui (5), sophomore Ryan Sheridan (34), senior Harbert Okuti (37), sophomore Jason Weiler (69), sophomore Alexander Soderberg (131) and junior Chris Vizcaino (157).

The Gaels also finished ahead of Wisconsin. The Badgers, who finished 4th with 229, 2 points behind Stanford, were coached for the first time this season by Mick Byrne, Iona’s previous coach.

Other men’s finishers included Georgetown (tied for 10th), led by Big East champion Andrew Bumbalough, who finished 13th; Virginia (14th), William & Mary (16th), Notre Dame (19th), Providence (20th), Penn State (25th) and Villanova (31st). Top Eastern finishers included John Martinez (40th for North Carolina State), Hakon DeVries (58th for Stanford), Craig Forys (108th for Michigan) and Gavin Coombs (142nd for NC State).

West Virginia put two in the top 20 on its way to a trip to the awards stand, in 4th place, 22 points ahead of Princeton.

The Tigers ran with Costello, Megan Brandeland (42), Alex Banfich (49), Jolee Van Leuven (57), Reilly Kiernan (61), Sarah Cummings (82) and Alexa Glencer (96).

Villanova, which had beaten West Virginia in the Big East, finished 6th, led by Frances Koons (16th). The Lady Wildcats ran with four sophomores and a freshman. New Yorker soph Callie Hogan was their No. 5 scorer (79).

Liz Maloy (25) and freshman Emily Infeld (47) led Georgetown to 9th place, followed by Providence (13th), Boston College (27th), Syracuse (28th), Notre Dame (29th) and Stony Brook (30th).

Empire State freshmen Mary Kate Champagne (77) and Hannah Davidson (108) both scored for Providence, as did the Ortman sisters Jenna and Jessica for Kentucky. New Jersey’s Danielle Tauro finished 81st for 16th-place Michigan. Sarah Bowman of Tennessee, running as an individual competitor, finished 36th.