LOUISVILLE, Ky. - The seventh-ranked University of Colorado men's cross country team outdid its ranking and placed third for the second straight year at the NCAA Championships here at E.P. 'Tom' Sawyer State Park on Saturday.
Oklahoma State won the championship with 72 points and Wisconsin was second with 135 points. The Buffs put together a team score of 158 points, 33 points less than Northern Arizona's score of 191.
"I said before the meet that I thought that Oklahoma State was a head taller than everybody else and they proved that today," coach Mark Wetmore said. "Then I thought there were about six teams that anyone could be second or third.
"I was still a little nervous about the youth and inexperience of my team (heading into nationals). We came here with only one guy who had placed in the top 100. But I'm thrilled with the men."
NAU had defeated the Buffs previously on Nov. 9 at the NCAA Mountain Region Championships, so this felt pretty sweet for the Buffs.
"We had a rough day at regionals last week, but we bounced back really well," junior Jake Hurysz said. "We have such great depth on the team that we can count on our sixth and seventh runners. Pierce (Murphy), Aric (Van Halen) and Connor (Winter) really came through for us today. I think we are pretty pleased with our finish."
Three men finished in the top-40 for the Buffs to earn All-American honors. Hurysz was the top harrier, finishing 32nd in 29 minutes and 55.3 seconds. Senior Aric Van Halen was second for the Buffs, crossing the finish in 29:58.1 for 36th overall. Sophomore Blake Theroux just made the All-American cut with a 39th-place finish (29:59.9). This is the first cross country All-American honor for all three.
"I was looking to be a little higher than my finish today, but we all worked really well together up front," Hurysz said.
Van Halen had his best performance at nationals ever. His only other race at NCAAs had been as a sophomore where he placed was 177th overall. Van Halen did not make the varsity roster last season as a junior.
"Aric wasn't here a year ago and made a very big decision in his life to become the runner that we all knew he could be," Wetmore explained. "So this is really just an indication of what could come for him."
The Buffs ran a very strong race, going right to the front as to not get caught in the crowd. The strategy worked with all five scorers coming through in the front third of the race. Redshirt freshman Pierce Murphy placed 45th (30:11.8) and Connor Winter, who was running the first 10k of his career, placed 65th (30:28.7).
"They attacked the race and were very aggressive," Wetmore said. "When you do it that way, it hurts for a long time, but we knew we had to get out."
CU's other two harriers were Hugh Dowdy and Martin Medina. Dowdy was 205th (31:48.4) and Medina took 228th (32:18.5) due to an injury he suffered during the race.
The women's team placed 24th overall with a team score of 519, one spot lower than their 23rd-place ranking heading into the championships. Florida finished just ahead of CU in 23rd-place with 518 points. Pac-12 Champion Oregon was first with 114 points.
"Back between 15th and 30th is really who fouls up the least," Wetmore said about the women's results. "We felt that even though we were the last team to get in that we could run in the teens if we had a good day. But unlike the men, the women were tentative and got behind so they had a really hard time getting back into it."
Junior Shalaya Kipp led the Buffs with an 18-place finish to earn her third All-American honor for cross country. With the All-American award, Kipp becomes just the fourth female in CU history to earn the distinction three times joining CU Associate Head Coach Heather Burroughs, Sara (Gorton) Slattery and Liza Pascuito.
"It feels pretty cool," Kipp said. "Those are the women you look at when you are a high school senior and you're looking at the University of Colorado. To now be one of them is pretty exciting."
Every year she has raced at nationals, Kipp has improved. She was 40th as a freshman and was 19th last season as a sophomore. Kipp moved up one spot this year after a very long track season.
The women's team struggled a little bit as freshman Carrie Verdon was the next finisher at 136th (21:02.0). Jana Stolting was the No. 3 scorer at 151st (21:05.6) and Rachel Viger was fourth for the Buffs at 174th (21:19.2). Camille Logan rounded out the team score with a 190th-place finish (21:28.0).
Two other Buffs, Courtney Bouchet and Liz Tremblay also raced. Bouchet was 194th (21:29.2) and Tremblay was 237th (21:57.2)
Despite the lower finish than the women had hoped for, they believe this will be a good corner stone to build off of for next year since the team has so much youth.
"It was a lot of the girls' first time racing at nationals," Kipp said. "I think the experience that they can take away from this will be beneficial for next year."
CU graduates two men (Martin Medina and Van Halen) from this year's team. All of CU's women still have eligibility remaining.
2012 NCAA DIVISION I CROSS COUNTRY CHAMPIONSHIP
E.P. Tom Sawyer State Park (Louisville, Ky.)
MEN'S TEAM TOP-10 10K RESULTS (of 31 teams):
1. Oklahoma State, 72; 2. Wisconsin, 135; 3. Colorado, 158; 4. Northern Arizona, 191; 5. Florida State, 238; 6. BYU, 245; 7. Tulsa, 247; 8. Oklahoma, 262; 9. Texas, 291; 10. Arkansas, 327;
MEN'S TOP-10 INDIVIDUAL FINISHERS:
1. Kennedy Kithuka, TTU, 28:31.3; 2. Stephen Sambu, 28:38.6; 3 Lawi Lalang, Arizona, 28:51.8; 4. Anthony Rotich, UTEP, 29:13.5; 5. Girma Mecheso, OSU, 29:14.8; 5. Henry Lelei, TAMU, 29:14.8; 7. David Rooney, McNeese State, 29:21.3; 8. Mohammed Ahmed, UW, 29:23.9; 9. Tom Farrell, OSU, 29:26.3; 10. Paul Chelimo, UNCG, 29:29.8.
32. Jake Hurysz, 29:55.3; 36. Aric Van Halen, 29:58.1; 39. Blake Theroux, 29:59.9; 45. Pierce Murphy, 30:11.8; 65. Connor Winter, 30:28.7; 205. Hugh Dowdy, 31:48.4; 228. Martin Medina, 32:18.5.
WOMEN'S 6K RESULTS (of 31 teams):
1. Oregon, 114; 2. Providence, 183; 3. Stanford, 198; 4. Florida State, 202; 5. Michigan, 247; 6. Arizona, 263; 7. Duke, 300; 8. Connecticut, 304; 9. Washington, 334; 10. New Mexico, 341....24. Colorado, 519.
WOMEN'S TOP-10 INDIVIDUAL FINISHERS:
1. Betsy Saina, ISU, 19:27.9; 2. Abbey D'Agostino, DU, 19:28.6; 3. Jordan Hasay, UO, 19:28.6; 4. Aliphine Tuliamuk-Bolton, WSU, 19:33.6; 5. Risper Kimaiyo, UTEP, 19:41.0; 6. Cally Macumber, UK, 19:42.2; 7. Mareike Schrulle, UI, 19:43.3; 8. Alexi Pappas, UO, 19:43.9; 9. Laura Hollander, CPO, 19:45.2; 10. Sarah Collins, PC, 19:50.7.
18. Shalaya Kipp, 20:02.4; 136; Carrie Verdon, 21:02.0; 151. Jana Stolting, 21:05.6; 174; Rachel Viger, 21:19.2; 190; Camille Logan, 21:28.0; 194. Courtney Bouchet, 21:29.2; 237. Liz Tremblay, 21:57.2.