Today is the 25th anniversary of a fairly remarkable accomplishment in collegiate distance running, largely a footnote at this point, but nonetheless a pretty cool story:
On Saturday, November 17, 1990, Haverford College's Seamus McElligott, runner-up in 1989, won the NCAA Division III Mens XC title in Grinnell, Iowa, running 24:46 for the 8k distance. In those days, the winners of the D2 and D3 championships were invited to compete in the NCAA Division 1 championship race, but the catch was that the meet was two days later, on the following Monday. Historically, those who attempted the double-- with few exceptions over the years-- finished well back in the pack, spent from the travel and their own championship race two days prior.
Seamus and his coach, the legendary Tom Donnelly, traveled on Sunday to Knoxville, Tennessee, and prepared to square off the next day against the best runners in Division I, all of them fresh and ready for what is widely regarded as the most competitive single collegiate footrace of the year. The next morning, 11/19, Seamus was not only competitive at the longer 10k distance, he secured the final All-American slot, making him a Division 3 and Division 1 All-American over the course of about 48 hours.
The athlete immediately behind Seamus, and thus the first D1 athlete deprived of an All-American finish by Seamus' presence in the race, was none other than Villanova's Terrence Mahon, who had been an All-American the previous year while running for Oregon.Â Mahon is, of course, a prominent distance coach now (BAA, Deena Kastor, etc.). McElligott also beat the D2 national champion that year, Doug Hanson of North Dakota State, who was 1 second and 2 places back, in 30:14.
After that accomplishment, the Division 1 coaches voted to no longer allow Division 2 or 3 athletes to compete in the NCAA D1 meet. A reason was never widely circulated, but it was broadly understood that D1 coaches did not appreciate a D3 athlete coming in and stealing All-American slots from their athletes. Thus, Seamus McElligott was the last runner to ever accomplish this feat.
Seamus went on to a career which included repping the US on a World XC team (1996) and qualifying for the Olympic Trials in the 10k (1992). Sadly, he died suddenly and far too young in 1998.