2011 NCAA Cross-Country Championships Men's Recap

Wisconsin & Lali Lalang End Up Winning As Expected

Chris Derrick Caps Fantastic Career With Runner-Up Finish

By LetsRun.com
November 21, 2011

November 21, 2011 - The 2011 NCAA men's cross-country championships went according to form at the top, as the favored Wisconsin Badgers and Lawi Lalang came away with the team and individual titles.

Team Battle - Wisconsin Takes Control At The Start
The #1 ranked Badgers earned the program's fifth national title by doing exactly what we thought they'd do - go out and score around 100 points. In our preview, we wrote, "Let's say Wisconsin goes 10-15-20-25-30. That's not even an unreal day for them, but it's only 100 points. That would make it tough for Oklahoma State."

Well, that's exactly what Wisconsin did, basically hovering right at 100 points throughout the race. The Badgers established themselves early and led at every single checkpoint. The two-time defending champion Oklahoma State Cowboys did make a run at Wisconsin during the middle half of the race, but barring a blowup, this race really was never in doubt from a team perspective. If the Cowboys were going to upend the Badgers, they were going to have be better than Wisco up front, as it was clear before the race (and in the opening stages of the race, when OSU's 5-6-7 started off in the back of the field) that Oklahoma State was going to be way behind on the fifth man.

But Oklahoma State's leading duo of Colby Lowe and German Fernandez ran a conservative race from the get-go. They were behind Wisconsin's #1 man Mohammed Ahmed throughout the race. At 2k, Fernandez and Lowe were outside the top 50 in 53rd and 54th. At 5,000, Lowe and Fernandez went through with Wisconsin's #2 man Elliot Krause in 14:52-3 - some 20 seconds behind Ahmed in a large group of guys running 18th through 35th.

We've Got Literally Thousands
Of Photos - Gallery Coming

Oklahoma State had started way off the pace, and as a result, Wisconsin was way ahead in the team standings from the beginning of the race. At 2k, the Badgers had 92 points and second place Indiana had 167 (Oklahoma State was 13th with 352). At 5k, the Badgers had 104 and second place Stanford had 175 (Oklahoma State had 4th with 200). At 8k, the Badgers had 95 and #2 ranked Oklahoma State had 139.

The Cowboys had tried their hardest and got within a Badger blowup of winning the title at 8k, but there would be no meltdowns from Wisconsin on Monday like there were last year (when the Badgers went from second to a distant third in the team standings after Elliot Krause cratered big time over the final 2,000), and Wisconsin prevailed 97 to 139 over Oklahoma State with Colorado a very close third at 144.

Expected Result - Achieved Slightly Unexpectedly
While the Badgers won with a final score that was to be expected, they did it in a slightly different fashion than what they'd been showing all year. Throughout the whole year, the Badgers had been running as a tight pack and 18 seconds was the largest 1-5 spread they had shown. Well, today their group was spread out a great deal, as there was a 73-second spread between first and fifth. But the Badgers' top 5 all put forth credible efforts, as their top four were all individual All-Americans and their fifth man was just 6 spots out in 46th. The reason why there was a big spread was that the Big 10 individual champ Mohammed Ahmed ran all-out today for perhaps the first time all year and the results were that he was quite a bit better than his teammates, as he ended up 5th overall. Ignoring him, the Badgers had a 38-second spread between 2 and 5.

In the end, Ahmed did lead the Badgers to the title with a fifth place individual showing (3rd in the team standings). Oklahoma State then put two in, as Lowe and Fernandez would come home roughly 25 seconds later in 10th and 11th (7th and 8th in the scoring). Then it was time for Wisconsin to answer with two of their own, as Krause got the top-20 showing that he had for 8,000 meters last year, finishing 17th overall (13th team) before UVA transfer Ryan Collins was 23rd overall (19th team) for the Badgers. Wisconsin and Oklahoma State would then alternate finishers before OSU's 5th man came home pretty far back.

Tom Farrell - OSU - 31st (22nd team)
Reed Connor - Wisconsin - 36th (27th team)
Maverick Darling - 46th (35th team)
Shadrack Kipchirchir - OSU - 50th (39th team)
Johnathan Stublaski - OSU - 85th (63rd team)

Final score - Wisconsin 97, OSU 139.

The team closing best of all at the finish was not the Oklahoma State Cowboys, as they actually had 139 at 8k and 139 at the finish. It was none other than the team that nearly always finishes best at NCAAs - Mark Wetmore's Colorado Buffaloes. The PAC-12 champs were in the top 5 at every checkpoint but they really had a great final 2,000, as they went from 173 points and third to nearly 2nd, moving within a scant five points of Oklahoma State at the finish.

Colorado's fine effort was led by Richard Medina (8th overall, 5th team), as the Buffs matched the Cowboys with three individual All-Americans (top 40 in the individual race are All-American), as Andrew Wacker (20th, 16th team) and Joe Bosshard (24th, 20th team) had strong showings as well.

Top 20 At 5k - 2k 5k 8k 10k
1. Lawi Lalang FR 5:41 14:21 22:53 28:44.1
2. Leonard Korir SR 5:41 14:22 23:14 29:02.5
3. Cameron Levins SR 5:41 14:22 23:14 29:04.8
4. Luke Puskedra SR 5:40 14:29 23:17 29:09.3
5. Chris Derrick SR 5:41 14:33 23:14 28:57.5
6. Mohammed Ahmed JR 5:42 14:33 23:15 29:06.7
7. Diego Estrada SR 5:40 14:33 23:25 29:24.7
8. Henry Lelei JR 5:42 14:33 23:26 29:29.1
9. Paul Chelimo SO 5:41 14:34 23:41 29:39.1
10. Richard Medina SR 5:41 14:39 23:34 29:27.8
11. Jake Riley SR 5:42 14:39 23:42 29:44.1
12. Ryan Hill SR 5:43 14:45 23:47 29:37.1
13. Miles Batty SR 5:46 14:45 23:44 29:40.0
14. Andrew Wacker SR 5:42 14:45 23:48 29:44.8
15. Donn Cabral SR 5:44 14:47 23:48 29:44.4
16. Trevor Dunbar JR 5:46 14:47 23:55 30:04.1
17. S. Bouchikhi SO 5:42 14:47 24:00 30:20.7
18. G. Fernandez SR 5:48 14:52 23:42 29:32.9
19. David Forrester JR 5:43 14:52 23:49 29:40.6
20. Ryan Collins SR 5:45 14:52 23:47 29:52.2
Note 35 guys were at 14:53 or better including Lowe.

Top 20 At Finish - 2k 5k 8k 10k
1. Lawi Lalang FR 5:41 14:21 22:53 28:44.1
2. Chris Derrick SR 5:41 14:33 23:14 28:57.5
3. Leonard Korir SR 5:41 14:22 23:14 29:02.5
4. Cameron Levins SR 5:41 14:22 23:14 29:04.8
5. Mohammed Ahmed JR 5:42 14:33 23:15 29:06.7
6. Luke Puskedra SR 5:40 14:29 23:17 29:09.3
7. Diego Estrada SR 5:40 14:33 23:25 29:24.7
8. Richard Medina SR 5:41 14:39 23:34 29:27.8
9. Henry Lelei JR 5:42 14:33 23:26 29:29.1
10. Colby Lowe SR 5:48 14:53 23:42 29:31.41
11. G. Fernandez SR 5:48 14:52 23:42 29:32.9
12. Ryan Hill SR 5:43 14:45 23:47 29:37.1
13. Paul Chelimo SO 5:41 14:34 23:41 29:39.1
14. Miles Batty SR 5:46 14:45 23:44 29:40.0
15. Andrew Colley SO 5:45 14:53 23:49 29:40.0
16. David Forrester JR 5:43 14:52 23:49 29:40.6
17. Elliot Krause SR 5:45 14:53 23:45 29:41.6
18. Jake Riley SR 5:42 14:39 23:42 29:44.1
19. Donn Cabral SR 5:44 14:47 23:48 29:44.4
20. Andrew Wacker SR 5:42 14:45 23:48 29:44.8

We've Got Literally Thousands
Of Photos - Gallery Coming Soon

Individual Race: Lalang Impresses, Derrick Closes Well
In the battle for individual glory, after some early leading by Northern Arizona's Diego Estrada, Oregon senior Luke Puskedra took the field through 2,000 in 5:39.4 (mile was @ 4:30?). The two favorites for individual glory in Iona's Leonard Korir and Arizona's Lawi Lalang, who both came into the race undefeated on the year, were both content to run with the pack (estimated 9:15 at two miles) for the first 10 minutes. Ten minutes into the race, Lalang had had enough and he put the accelerator down. The only athlete to initially react was Southern Utah's Cameron Levins (Canadian who sports a 13:40 PR), but Korir eventually responded and that trio would go through 5,000 in a fast 14:21-2. At 5k, Levins was visibly struggling to stay with Lalang, but Lalang was just getting going, as the Kenyan put the hammer down again basically right at the 5k mark and soon the race was TOTALLY over. Lalang's mid-race surge was a thing of beauty, as the 13:26/27:29 man Korir was completely left behind in just a few minutes.

A 1-second lead some 14:30 into the race had mushroomed into a 14-second lead some 18:40 into the race. Think about that. Lalang threw down a surge that put 14 seconds on a 13:26 guy in the span of less than a mile. By 8,000, the lead was up to 21 seconds and it was time for Lalang to enjoy his victory as he went on to win in 28:44, an amazingly even-split race, as his first 5k was 14:21 and second 14:23. The margin of victory at the finish was 13.4 seconds, as a fast-closing Chris Derrick of Stanford took home runner-up and first American honors with a terrific negative split effort. Derrick went out in 14:33 and came home in 14:24. The runner-up finish capped a sensational college XC career for Derrick, as he was top 10 all four years while at Stanford, having finished seventh as a freshman, third as a sophomore and fifth last year as a junior.

Korir and Levins were rewarded for their bold attempt at trying to stay with Lalang and battle it out for individual glory, as they were able to hold on for third and fourth overall.

The fifth place finisher was Wisconsin's #1 man Ahmed, the Big Ten champ. Ahmed and Derrick were part of a five-man chase pack that occupied spots five through nine at halfway, going through the 5,000 some 12 seconds behind Lalang in 14:33-4.

Occupying fourth position at halfway in a sort of no-man's land was Oregon's lone entrant in the men's race, Luke Puskedra. Puskedra, Derrick's PAC-12 rival, would end his own collegiate cross-country career with a solid sixth place position. Sixth is a phenomenal result, but it's a testament to Puskedra's amazing career that it undoubtedly left him a little disappointed, as it was just the third-best showing of his career. He was 5th as a freshman (top frosh that year ahead of Derrick), 21st as a sophomore and third last year as a junior.

Title #5 For Wisconsin But #1 For Coach Mick Byrne

The win for Wisconsin was the fifth in the program's history but the first for Wisconsin head coach Mick Byrne, who got title #1 for himself in his 23rd year as a head coach after spending 19 years leading Iona.

"This group of guys is one the best group of guys I've ever been around in all these years of coaching. They never lost sight of what the goal was," said Byrne to Madison.com after the race (video on right).

"You can talk about this race day in and day out from the first day of practice but the reality of the pressure - the reality of standing on that starting line and looking down and seeing 31 of the best teams in the US standing on that line - it's incredible pressure on the kids and to be able to come away with this win was fantastic. It speaks volume to their tenacity, their hard work, their focus," said a philosophical Mick Byrne. "They just enjoy the day-to-day part of what we do. If you don't enjoy that part of it, you'll never enjoy the goal when it happens."

"We talked last night about it; this was still the same team today, no matter what happened. First, second, third place, I wasn't going to let anybody say (we) were a failure if we didn't pull this thing off."


Odds And Ends

Chris Derrick was the 3rd Stanford Cardinal to finish runner-up in the last 8 years. American marathon star Ryan Hall was second in 2003, and Neftalem Araia was second in 2006 (thanks to Palo Alto online for the tip).

The top 4 teams on Monday were the top 4 teams in the LetsRun.com Polls. LRC Nation is usually right and they were this time once again (the USTFCCCA Coaches' polls only had Colorado in 6th place). Both the USTFCCCA Polls and LetsRun.com polls had the same top 8 but in a different order. Those were the top 8 teams on Monday.

Former Foot Locker High School National Champ Chad Hall (brother of American marathon star) had his NCAA XC career come to an end in 44th place - just four spots out of All-American - his best finish at NCAAs.

The top freshman on Monday? Lawi Lalang. Okay, that's scary. Lalang could be a 4-time NCAA champ if he stays in school. However, he ran at Arizona last spring. The top true frosh was Craig Lutz of Texas in 33rd. There was only one other true freshman in the top 100 - Colorado's Ammar Moussa, who was 88th. Villanova's Sam McEntee (77th) is like Lalang in that he ran track last spring for the Wildcats and Portland's Scott Fauble was 99th but he is a redshirt freshman.

All the teams in the top 5 graduate at least 2 people from their top 5 except for BYU, which only loses #1 man Miles Batty. BYU will be experienced on paper and on age as their top 4 returners have all served their Mormon missions, so they're generally 2 years older than much of the NCAA competition.

Top Results Below. Full 2011 NCAA Results Here

Team Scores: 1) Wisconsin 97 2) Oklahoma State 139 3) Colorado 144 4) BYU 203 5) Stanford 207


 
1 Lawi Lalang FR 5:41 14:21 22:53 28:44.1
2 Chris Derrick SR 5:41 14:33 23:14 28:57.5
3 Leonard Korir SR 5:41 14:22 23:14 29:02.5
4 Cameron Levins SR 5:41 14:22 23:14 29:04.8
5 Mohammed Ahmed JR 5:42 14:33 23:15 29:06.7
6 Luke Puskedra SR 5:40 14:29 23:17 29:09.3
7 Diego Estrada SR 5:40 14:33 23:25 29:24.7
8 Richard Medina SR 5:41 14:39 23:34 29:27.8
9 Henry Lelei JR 5:42 14:33 23:26 29:29.1
10 Colby Lowe SR 5:48 14:53 23:42 29:31.4

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