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NCAA XC Championships: Wisconsin Dominates, Stanford Upsets Duke
TERRE HAUTE, IND. (21-Nov) -- Simon Bairu ran away from the men's field to lead his Wisconsin teammates to their first team title in 17 years at the 2005 NCAA Division I Cross Country Championships, hosted by Indiana State University at the LaVerne Gibson Cross Country Course here. On the women's side, Stanford University upset top-ranked Duke to claim their third team title in nine years.
Bairu, a Canadian from Regina, Saskatchewan, who won on this same course last November, successfully defended his NCAA individual title. However, defending his individual title wasn't even his top priority today.
"I was here for the team," stated Bairu after the results were announced. "My goal was to run to finish in the top five for the team. If I could go for the win, then I would -- but I didn't want to risk not placing well and hurting the team."
Bairu let the field dictate the pace over the 10 km course. During the early going Texas Pan American's Westly Keating and Liberty's Josh McDougal were at the front of the field which cruised through the first 5 kilometers in 14:55. McDougal, Iona's Richard Kiplagat, Keating, and Bairu starting to break away on the long uphill just past 7 km.
By 8km --passed in a very swift 23:33-- the pack had dwindled to McDougal, Kiplagat, and Bairu. At that point, Wisconsin coach Jerry Schumacher shouted to Bairu to tell him that the "team had wrapped up the title and that he should run for the win."
"I was following my game plan and doing as little work as possible until the final 2 km," recounted Bairu.
Shortly thereafter, McDougal started drifting backwards while Bairu and Kiplagat raced stride for stride. Bairu surged strongly at 9 km, dropped Kiplagat, and ran alone to the finish, claiming his second straight NCAA individual crown in 29-minutes, 16-seconds.
"I just decided to go for it at 9 km," said Bairu. "At the end it was just about how much I wanted it."
Kiplagat held on for second in 29:22, while Wisconsin's Chris Solinsky ran down McDougal for third, with Solinsky timed in 29:28, while McDougal crossed the line in 29:33. Keating claimed fifth in 29:39.
Schumacher's Badgers had claimed runner-up honors for the last three years. After finishing second again last fall despite entering the meet ranked first, the Badgers came to Terre Haute this weekend with only one thing in mind: to win.
And win they did. Bairu and Solinsky's 1-3 finish was followed up by freshman Matt Withrow (the 2003 Foot Locker high school champion and a member of the U.S. senior men's 12 km team at last spring's IAAF World Cross Country Championships), who finished 9th in 29:51. Anthony Ford and Stuart Eagon finished 14th and 17th, respectively, in 29:56 and 30:06, to help Wisconsin to a scant 37 points.
Arkansas claimed second with 105 points, well ahead of third place Notre Dame's 178. Iona claimed fourth with 205 points, while Colorado was fifth with 222.
STANFORD SETS BACK DUKE WOMEN
In the women's race, Northern Arizona's Johanna Nilsson (SWE) bided her time in the lead pack, following the field through a 9:58 opening 3 km along with Columbia's Caroline Bierbaum, Stanford's Ari Lambie, and Butler's Victoria Mitchell (AUS).
Lambie made a strong move at 4 km, dropping all but Nilsson, the 2002 NCAA indoor mile champion. Nilsson then powered away from Lambie with about 1500-meters remaining, and ran away to win her first harrier title in a course record 19:34 (breaking Shalane Flanagan's 19:36 2002-winning effort).
"I didn't want to plan it too much," said Nilsson, a native of Kalmar, Sweden. "I just planned to go hard when I felt good. Since there was no real favorite, I felt I had a chance to win it."
Columbia's Bierbaum finished second for the second straight year with a 19:46 effort, followed by fast-closing Stephanie Madia of Notre Dame in 19:49 and Butler's Victoria Mitchell in 19:51. Duke's Clara Horowitz finished fifth, also timed in 19:51.
Many observer's felt that it was Duke's --the pre-meet favorite-- race to lose. Unfortunately, the Blue Devils suffered an off day by their top runner, Shannon Rowbury, who faded from sixth to 55th during the final kilo, as well as sub par runs by a couple other team members.
Second-rated Stanford took advantage of Duke's stumble to win their third title since 1996 --with all three wins under different coaches (Vin Lananna and Beth Alford-Sullivan in 1996, Dena Evans in 2003, and "rookie" coach Peter Tegen this fall). Lambie led the way for the Cardinal with her eighth place effort in 20:00 and was followed home by Katy Trotter in 20th with a 20:19. Lindsey Flacks (25th, 20:25), Lauren Centrowitz (47th, 20:40), and Teresa McWalters (92nd, 21:04) rounded out the Cardinal's scorers as the quintet totaled 146 points.
Last year's champion Colorado also edged Duke, claiming second with 181 points, four ahead of Duke's 185. Arizona State placed fourth with 191 points, while Illinois finished fifth with 212 points.
First-year Stanford mentor Peter Tegen arrived at "The Farm" after 30 seasons, two NCAA cross country team titles, and 43 individual NCAA cross country and track crowns at the University of Wisconsin. Tegen's experience, combined with the talent that had been accumulated at Stanford under both Lananna and Evans, gave the team the tools needed to take advantage of Duke's weaker than expected performance.
"The race didn't unfold the way that we had expected it, but I'm glad that it turned out the way that it did!" said Tegen. "It took a little bit of good fortune, as it always does. We didn't key on any one team; I've found that focusing on one team can backfire if that team has an off day."
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