The NCAA Division 1 Cross country was a race to end the season! I watched it in the Nike offices, as I was visiting to write about the Nike Border Clash. ATF’s intrepid writer, John Nepolitan covered the race in great fashion. I have published his comments below.
First, though a couple of mine-Oregon is obviously a threat in XC again, for the first time since 1978, on both men and women’s. That is Vinn Lananna and his team. Peter Tegen, the women’s coach at Stanford, formerly the founding women’s coach at Univeristy of Wisconsin, continues to show his talent in developing fine women distance runners!
All in all, a great year for cross country, a super year for Oregon and their very young team! And congrats to Josh McDougal, who continues to develop into a fine distance runner.
NCAA Division 1 – Cross Country Championships
By John Nepolitan
Indiana State University, Terre Haute IN
November 19, 2007
As a freshman Josh McDougal (Liberty University) shocked most people with a high finish at the NCAA Division 1 Cross Country Championships. As a sophomore his fourth place finish made most assume the championship was his for the taking the following year. In this junior year, however, he fell apart late in the race and recorded his worst finish. That left McDougal with just one more chance to claim the title he so badly wanted.
In 2007, his senior year, McDougal completed the regular season undefeated and established a course record on the 8000 meter layout on site at the Pre-Nationals meet, but others had risen to the front over the year making the 2007 NCAA Championship a wide open affair. With Galen Rupp (Oregon) having established the NCAA 10,000 meter record this past spring and Lopez Lomong (Northern Arizona) who had a better finishing speed and the strength to get fourth at last years race to contend with, McDougal would need to execute the perfect race plan to sap enough of Lomong’s finishing speed, but yet be able to save something to fight off Rupp.
The race began with a slow first half so the three main contenders were joined by a very large pack (over 30) who were probably thinking they may have a chance to steal the win. Over the next 2000 meters the pace would pick up and slowly the large lead group would narrow down until it was just McDougal and Rupp at the front with Lomong a few dangerous strides back. Almost on cue McDougal attacked approaching the 8000 meter mark and started to draw himself and Rupp clear of Lomong. The sharp increase in pace would soon have an effect on Rupp as McDougal would gain a small margin and look like a sure winner. Then as the leader came onto the final 400 meter straight, Rupp appeared at McDougal’s shoulder and moved past! It looked like the Liberty senior would once again be an All-American (for the 12th time), but not get the NCAA Championship title he so wanted. But Rupp was not pulling away which opened the door for McDougal to fight his way back, running even with Rupp. Then with 150 meters to go, McDougal passed Rupp for the final time and crossed the finish line with arms spread wide. Behind the top two finishers Bobby Curtis (Villanova), who had been with the leaders when the pack was narrowed down to a select few following the half way point, had dropped back to about 10th at 8000 meters but came back flying fastest of all up the final 400 meters and was almost able to get past Lomong but couldn’t. Lomong finished third and Curtis was fourth.
The team battle was not as close as the individual race as Oregon simply went out and took control of the race from the first mile and was never truly challenged throughout. Iona had hopes of upsetting the nations #1 team and sat back early and late in the race would close to with 12 points, but in the end Oregon had just too much power to be stopped.
In 2006 Sally Kipyego (Texas Tech) simply ran away from the field and was never really challenged in taking her first of four NCAA titles of the school year. The 2007 Cross Country race was almost a mirror image of last years with the nursing student taking command as early as two minutes into the race and ran unchallenged right to the finish. As in 2006 Jen Barringer (Colorado) would come home in second place after having battled with (Florida State) for most of the way.
Like the Oregon men, the Stanford women simply took control of the race from the opening meters and never were in serious threat of being knocked off. Behind them the Oregon women, after not qualifying in 2006, would follow former high school star Nicole Blood right into the mix and fight off Susan Kuijken (Florida State) to claim second and third. It was the first appearance for the Seminoles on the podium.