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2007 LetsRun.com NCAA Men's Cross Country Recap: Oregon and McDougal Reign Supreme
McDougal Triumphs in Great Stretch Battle over Rupp

by LetsRun.com
November 19, 2007
Men's Photo Gallery

Note: Edited on 11/20 to reflect team score at 8k where Iona was less than 20 points behind and to remove claims of a 4:40 women's first mile split.

Rupp and McDougal Made it an
Epic 2 Man Duel Down the Stretch

Vin Lananna was hired three years ago to restore the glory days of Oregon cross country.

Monday in Terre Haute his Ducks got the job done much faster than expected. His men's team ran strong from the gun and won the team title 85 to 113 over Iona. And as an added bonus, his women's team was a strong second to Stanford which won its third straight title.

Men's Race, Oregon Upfront from the Gun:
After a quick opening quarter, the pace slowed. The mile was in around 4:36 and then things slowed own even more. The 5k was reached in a pedestrian 15:08 (4:52 pace) as none of the big three expected to challenge for the individual crown, Josh McDougal of Liberty (who has lost 4 races ever in 4 years of collegiate cross country), Galen Rupp (World Championship 10k runner and Alberto Salazar protégé), and Lopez Lomong (1500 and 3k NCAA champion last year) wanted to push the pace.

The Oregon Ducks were the favorites heading into the meet according to the LetsRun.com Super Polls and the NCAA coaches' polls, but many expected a high scoring team battle with many teams in the mix. Lananna's Ducks were the only team to adapt to the slow pace. The entire Oregon team got near the front while the other teams ran like the early pace was quick. At one point in the first half of the race Oregon had 62 points. At 5k, they had 5 runners ahead of Iona's first runner.

The Ducks faded a bit over the second half of the race, but thanks to the slow opening pace, Iona did not make up enough ground on them. Iona closed things quite a bit by 8k (when we re-score things at 8k, the gap had narrowed to 89-108 as we have Iona's 3-4 ahead of Oregon's 3-4 as evidenced by this picture, (watching the telecast CSTV shad the score 82-99)). However, the Oregon's runners were able to recover a bit as the opening pace was not too fast and kick it in the last 2k. Oregon battled back to increase the margin of victory (and was helped by Iona's Harbert Okuti losing 10 team point the final 2k). Oregon finished ahead of Iona at spots 1 thru 5 and the Ducks were the well deserved champions (we have more analysis on the team title and the heroics of the Mercado twins later in the article).

McDougal Triumphs in Classic Battle With Rupp
While Oregon was in front of the team battle throughout the race, the individual crown was up in the air. After the slow opening first half, Josh McDougal started increasing the pace in the 2nd half of the race as the Big 3, McDougal, Rupp, and Lomong, got clear of the rest of the field. By 8k the increased pace (14:10 pace from 5k to 8k) was too much for Lomong and he was three seconds back behind the long distance specialists, McDougal and Rupp. It was now a two man race and either Rupp or McDougal would lose their title as the best collegiate runner to not to have won an NCAA crown.

McDougal Was Exhausted Afterwards

McDougal continued to push the pace over the ninth kilometer at one point opened perhaps a 15 meter lead on Rupp. But Rupp managed to hang within striking distance and closed the gap. As they turned for home and entered the final straightaway (roughly 500m from the finish), Rupp pulled back even with McDougal and then went slightly ahead. Had McDougal used up all his energy in trying to burn off the track speed of Rupp?

No. McDougal had kept something in reserve. He resurged, battled back at Rupp, and opened up a slim lead on Rupp. It was tight the entire final stretch, as they battled the entire final 400m straight, but in the end, McDougal held on for the 1 second victory over Rupp.

The win was a fitting victory for McDougal who has been a cross country phenom from the second he stepped foot on the Liberty University campus. McDougal won every single cross country race he ran his first two years in college except for the NCAA championships. Last year, he lost Regionals and NCAAs. But this year, McDougal put his NCAA demons to rest and came out on top.

Daniel Mercado Was Oregon's 5th Man

Mercado Twins Powers Oregon Thanks to Lananna's Trust
And while the strong 1-2 punch of Rupp and Kiptoo led the Oregon Ducks upfront, the way we see it the key to Oregon's team victory was the strong running of the Mercado twins, and Vin Lananna's decision to actually let them run nationals.

Being twins ourselves we never should have doubted the abilities of the Mercados. Plus, the Hauser twins helped Lananna build his mini dynasty at Stanford, so we should not be surprised Lananna had so much faith in the Mercados. But we can easily see another coach not even running one or both of the Mercados at nationals.

The biggest problem for a coach like Lananna, whose team is just brimming with talent (the last 2 Footlocker champions, Galen Rupp, and seemingly half the sub 9 minute guys in the country the last few years), may be managing the egos and picking a top 7 to actually run nationals. A lot of coaches might have dropped the Mercados. Daniel Mercado was Oregon's 9th man at Pac 10s and his brother Diego (the top true freshman last year at nationals) was Oregon's 10th man at Pac 10s.

Only 7 guys could run at Regionals, but Lananna had the luxury of sitting some of his top 7 since his team was so deep. At regionals, he ended up running Daniel Mercado (but not Diego) and also gave a spot to Oregon tradition and let Joaquin Chapa (Rudy's son, who did not even run conference) run. Daniel stepped up big time at Regionals and was Oregon's 4th man. Not sure if Lananna planned all along to run his 10th man at conference, Diego, at nationals, but after Daneiel's performance at regionals, Lananna put his chips behind both the Mercado twins. They both came up big at NCAAs as Oregon's 3rd and 5th men. Diego Mercado had finished in 38th place at the Conference meet the last time he ran and was the10th man on his team that day. Today he finished 21st in the team scoring and 30th overall. His brother Daniel was 41st overall and 30th in the team scoring. The Mercados saved the day for the Ducks as former Footlocker champ, AJ Acosta (146th), and Scott Wall (192nd) completed bombed.

Hi Fives for Oregon as Vin Watches

More Oregon Notes: Vin Lananna was brought in to reconnect Oregon to its glorious past and some of its more prominent backers (Nike and Phil Knight). One of the ways Lananna did this was to put pride aside, and let Alberto Salazar, an Oregon legend, basically coach Galen Rupp. This was something the previous coach, Martin Smith, was unwilling to do. It paid off big time for the Ducks on Monday as without Rupp their 6th man would have added 116 points to their score and they would have finished 4th.

Note: A reliable source told us that he saw Georgetown's 5th runner, Asylew Taye, walking on the course, and then cutting one of the traverses on the course, in an attempt to just get to the finish area. Georgetown's front 4 were having an excellent race but the problem for them was that their 5th and 6th runners had dropped out. Georgetown supporters then saw Taye still on the course and told him he had to finish. So Taye crossed the finish line in 37:39 nearly 3 minutes behind the next to last finisher in 34:51. Taye's 212 points and the strong front 4 for Gtown were good enough to put the Hoyas in 13th. But obviously if Taye cut the course and he were DQd, the Hoyas would not have 5 scoring finishers.

The Champ

Biggest Men's Surprise: Oklahoma State. The Cowboys were a strong 2nd to Colorado at Big 12s but many people's pick to win nationals was Colorado. However, it was the Cowboys not the Buffaloes who came up big in Terre Haute. With only one senior in the top 5, OSU was a surprising 3rd, and they could put an end to Mark Wetmore's dominance in the Big 12 next year. In the history of Big12 men's cross country, the Buffaloes are the only team to ever win the men's title. But Colorado loses 3 of its top 5 next year.

Biggest Men's Disappointment: Arkansas. John McDonnell's Razorbacks have won 34 straight conference titles. They easily defeated Alabama at SECs this year. Yet Arkansas finished 23rd at NCAAs while Alabama was 6th. Could next year be the year Arkansas' streak of conference titles comes to an end? Arkansas had 3 seniors in its top 5, Alabama had none.

2008 Outlook and Beyond: Oregon, Oregon, Oregon Galen Rupp may turn pro without ever having won an NCAA title but don't feel sorry for the Ducks. They've got the rest of their top 7 back plus 4 more years of 2006 Footlocker Champ, Chad Hall, brother of you know who, marathon star, Ryan Hall.

More: Nice Recap from Terre Haute Paper: "I think we probably ran right around 14 minutes for that last 5K … that was into the wind and that’s not fast conditions. It was just flat out in the last mile-and-a-half almost. That last 50 meters I almost fell over my legs were so heavy" -Josh McDougal

Women's Recap: LetsRun.com Women's Recap

*Results: Men's Team Results
Men's Individual Results
Women's Team Results
Women's Individual Results

Photos: Men's Photo Gallery
Women's Photo Gallery
(If you've got photos you'd like to share email us)

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