Another Look at NCAA XC, Joshua Cheptegei Sets World Record on a Course Named “Seven Hills,” 2 Great Finishes in China

  • submit to reddit

The Week That Was in Running – November 12 – November 18, 2018

November 20, 2018

Past editions of the Week That Was can be found here. Questions, comments, or a tip? Please call us at 844-LETSRUN (538-7786), email us, or post on our forum.

If you missed our extensive on-site coverage of the 2018 NCAA Cross Country Championships, catch up now:

LRC men’s recap: Morgan McDonald Gets His Storybook Ending As NAU Men 3-Peat At 2018 NCAA XC Champs
LRC women’s recap: MAGS-NIFICENT: Dani Jones Leads Colorado Women To Dominant Win At 2018 NCAA Cross-Country Championships

Before we get into the WTW, a few more quick thoughts on NCAA XC, which was held in Madison, Wisconsin, for the first time in 40 years.

  • Wisconsin did a great job hosting the meet. NCAA, please let Madison host again sometime soon. Madison is a big-time college town, and one of the things that set Wisconsin apart from other recent hosts is that they had serious contenders for both the men’s and women’s individual titles in Morgan McDonald and Alicia Monson. We can’t remember many fans dressed up in Indiana State or Louisville gear when they’ve hosted in the past, but there was a ton of Wisconsin red on the course on Saturday. Plus the crowds were the biggest we can remember, and they were LOUD. All that combined to make for a terrific spectator experience.
  • If Wisconsin hosts again, it would be great if they found a way to incorporate tailgating. Our one complaint is that on-site parking was extremely limited — everyone except VIPs had to take shuttle buses to the course. In an ideal world, fans would be able to set up tents and tailgating right by the course as they have at other sites.
  • The snow didn’t have much of an impact. Walking around the course in running shoes before the race, it looked as if the snow that had fallen overnight (around two inches) might have an impact on Saturday’s races. That didn’t turn out to be the case as the times were still relatively quick — McDonald’s winning time of 29:08 in the men’s race was just eight seconds slower than Justyn Knight‘s 29:00 last year, even though last year’s race strung out early and this year’s race came down to a kick. Interestingly, the NCAA XC meet has been held in Wisconsin three times — Madison in 1978 and 2018, Milwaukee in 1985 — and all three times, there’s been snow on the ground.
    It also made for some cool images. The shot below by photographer Michael Scott was just about perfect.

Joshua Cheptegei breaks the 15k world best with a 41:05 (27:23 10k pace)

Cheptegei celebrates. Photo courtesy of NN Running Team.

Cheptegei celebrates. Photo courtesy of NN Running Team.

“After 10 kilometers I was above the schedule of the world record so I decided to accelerate at 12 kilometers. The last kilometer was hard but I really enjoyed. I am very proud of my achievement and want to thank the organization and my team.”

-Uganda’s Joshua Cheptegei after running a world best of 41:05 for 15 kilometers at the NN Zevenheuvelenloop 15K (Seven Hills Run) in the Netherlands, breaking the 41:13 mark set by Leonard Patrick Komon in the same race in 2010.

Looking at the detailed post-race splits provided by Alberto Mazzucchelli, it’s clear that the 22-year-old Cheptegei, who earned silver in the 10,000 at the 2017 Worlds, got the record by running a BIG negative split. 41:05 for 15k is 27:23 10k pace — so 13:41.5 5k pace. Yet he ran his first 5k in just 14:07. His second was just 13:42 (he hit 10k in 27:49). Yet he got the record by ripping the last 5k in 13:16.

(Before you complain — Mazzucchelli realized he made a mistake by using the Kenyan flag in the tweet above. Cheptegei is Ugandan.)

If Cheptegei’s splits sound too good to be true, you must not be aware of the course’s elevation. The race isn’t named the Seven Hills Run for no reason. It’s hilly, and the last 5k is extremely downhill. Take a look at the course elevation map (sorry it’s a little blurry):

It’s pretty amazing a world best could be set on a course called “Seven Hills.”

Based off of elevation chart, we are estimating the last 5k features a 36m elevation drop (118 feet). Applying John Kellogg‘s formula that every 10 feet of elevation drop is worth 1.8 seconds, then the last 5k would be aided by 21.2 seconds.

For more on the course, here is a video of someone driving it so you can see the elevation drop.

It’s great to see Cheptegei running so well as he missed the summer track season with a knee injury after he won Commonwealth gold in the 5k and 10k in April. In three races this fall, Cheptegei has done the following:

September 23 – Won a 10-miler in Zaandam in 45:15.
October 14 – Won a 10k in Durban in 27:16.
November 18 – Set a world best at 15k in the Netherlands in 41:05.

We can’t wait for next summer when Cheptegei will try to move up a spot from silver to gold at Worlds. Given his current form and the fact that Cheptegei claimed silver in 2017, it is tempting to call him the favorite for 2019 Worlds. But we are hesitant to do so as 19-year-old Rhonex Kipruto of Kenya has been so, so good this year (world junior gold in 27:21, 26:46 on the road) as well. Maybe they should be considered co-favorites.

All of this is of course assuming that Mo Farah doesn’t run. Farah switched the to the marathon after Worlds last year, but he’s openly pondering a return to the track and would have a bye into the 10k at the 2019 Worlds as the reigning champion.

More: MB: FLASH! Joshua Cheptegei just broke the 15k WR in 41:04 with a 2:37 last km! 

Yet again, a distance broadcast misses the key moment of the race

When watching major marathons on TV, it amazes us how, time after time, the broadcast fails to show the viewers the key moment of the race — when the major break is made and someone leads the main pack in their bid for glory. It seems like they are either showing the other gender’s race, interviewing someone who has already finished, or are in a commercial.

We wondered if perhaps the gaffes were because the producers don’t have much experience with distance running. It doesn’t look like that is the correct explanation because last week the NCAA Cross Country Championships were broadcast behind the FloTrack paywall. FloTrack does distance running all the time, yet they pretty much butchered the key moments of both races even though the key moments in both races came in the final 400.

In the women’s race, the camera angle of the finishing straight was so poor it was almost impossible to realize that Dani Jones had gunned down Weini Kelati in the final 400 to win the title. It was so hard to tell that Jones had taken the lead that announcer Ryan Fenton (whom we assume was watching on a monitor) didn’t acknowledge it himself for 15 seconds. See it for yourself.

The coverage of the end of the men’s race wasn’t a whole lot better. An unprecedented nine guys entered the final 400 together. Sounds like thrilling stuff for fans to watch? Maybe, but those watching the broadcast missed over a third of it as there was zero coverage of the leaders for 20 full seconds of the final 400. See what we are talking about below.

(Note: We didn’t show the end of the races as we don’t want to get a note from a FloTrack lawyer. We are showing you these videos as part of a fair use of them — to provide a critique of the videos, not to violate copyright. We haven’t listed the videos on YouTube for that same reason. They only appear on this page or to anyone with the link to them.

Update: Well we apparently did hear from the FloTrack legal team via YouTube. Before this piece was even published, somehow YouTube took the first video below down for a copyright infringement. How a video that was unlisted could be taken down for a copyright infringement before it was even published is very Big Brother-esque. So we uploaded a similar video below it).

One more thing about the broadcast. The NCAA needs to treat non-revenue sports the same. We’re pretty sure cross country is the ONLY NCAA championship that can not be watched with a traditional cable TV package or for free on Cross country is the second most popular NCAA sport in terms of participating teams. So that means there are lots of parents and friends who might want to watch.  Yet while a parent of a DII field hockey player can watch their championship athlete compete for free, a parent for a DII (or DI) cross country runner has to shell out at least $29.95 for an FloTrack monthly subscription and cancel. If the NCAA wants to capitalize on parents and friends’ willingness to pay to watch a non-revenue sport, it should treat all the non-revenue championships not on TV the same. You can watch Tiger vs. Phil for $19.95 this weekend and not have to pay a monthly subscription, yet to watch cross country you have to pay a $29.95 recurring subscription? If the NCAA wants to go to pay-per-view streaming of its non-revenue championships (that indirectly is what the NCAA is doing with cross country), it needs to treat them all the same and make it friendly for casual visitors (i.e. having a one-time pay-per-view option). (Editor’s note: We wrote a longer editorial on this last year.)

MB: Why is flotrack so bad at what they do???
MB: Why did we once have free NCAA live video coverage?
MB: D3 Flotrack Stream: poorly produced and yet they charge to watch
 I thought I’d seen it all. Flotrack is charging people to watch South Regional – A stream the NCAA is putting on for free!

The Path to an NCAA XC Title

The NCAA individual XC title is often called the hardest race to win in the NCAA. And while this year’s NCAA XC champs just concluded, it’s never too early to begin looking forward to next year.

So who should be the favorites for next year? Let’s examine the last 20 champions on the men’s and women’s sides to see if any trends emerge.

YearMen’s champBest previous finishWomen’s champBest previous finish
2018Morgan McDonald7th, 2016Dani Jones10th, 2017
2017Justyn Knight2nd, 2016Ednah Kurgat12th, 2015
2016Patrick Tiernan2nd, 2015Karissa Schweizer155th, 2015
2015Edward Cheserek1st, 2013, 2014Molly Seidel19th, 2014
2014Edward Cheserek1st, 2013Kate Avery3rd, 2013
2013Edward CheserekNone (freshman)Abbey D’Agostino2nd, 2012
2012Kennedy KithukaNone (NAIA transfer)Betsy Saina9th, 2011
2011Lawi LalangNone (freshman)Sheila Reid1st, 2010
2010Sam Chelanga1st, 2009Sheila Reid13th, 2009
2009Sam Chelanga2nd, 2008Angela Bizzarri6th, 2008
2008Galen Rupp2nd, 2007Sally Kipyego1st, 2006, 2007
2007Josh McDougal4th, 2005Sally Kipyego1st, 2006
2006Josh Rohatinsky6th, 2005Sally KipyegoNone (juco transfer)
2005Simon Bairu1st, 2004Johanna Nilsson10th, 2003
2004Simon Bairu9th, 2003Kim Smith2nd, 2003
2003Dathan Ritzenhein4th, 2001Shalane Flanagan1st, 2002
2002Jorge Torres2nd, 2001Shalane Flanagan4th, 2000
2001Boaz CheboiywoNone (first year in NCAA)Tara Chaplin33rd, 1999
2000Keith Kelly9th, 1999Kara Goucher9th, 1999
1999David KimaniNone (freshman)Erica PalmerDNF, 1998

On the men’s side, it’s quite clear. You either have to be a stud Kenyan import or you have to have come close to winning in the past. Of the 15 winners on the list above that had raced at NCAAs before, all 15 had finished in the top 10 at least once, and 11/15 (73%) had finished in the top four.

So using that criteria (and assuming there is no new Kenyan stud), here are your potential winners in 2019, the eight men with eligibility remaining who have finished in the top 10 at NCAA XC:

NamePrevious finish
Edwin Kurgat, Iowa State3rd, 2018
Isai Rodriguez, Oklahoma State4th, 2018
Amon Kemboi, Campbell7th, 2018
Joe Klecker, Colorado8th, 2018
John Dressel, Colorado9th, 2018
Conner Mantz, BYU10th, 2018
Gilbert Kigen, Alabama4th, 2017
Vincent Kiprop, Alabama7th, 2017

The data isn’t quite as clear-cut on the women’s side. Of the 19 winners who had run at NCAA XC before, 13 had finished in the top 10 (68.4%) and another three had finished in the top 20. But there were a couple of exceptions, like Missouri’s Karissa Schweizer, who went from a best finish of 155th to 1st in 2016, and Arizona’s Tara Chaplin, who went from 33rd in 1999 to 1st in 2001.

Quotes of the week (that weren’t quote of the day)

#1 Dani Jones embraced it

“[Colorado associate head coach] Heather [Burroughs] the day before said, ‘If you’re by yourself that last stretch, just embrace it.’ That whole stretch I just felt four years just flashing by and it took my breath away. It was unbelievable, and I’ll never forget it.”

– NCAA women’s cross country champ Dani Jones talking to Race Results Weekly’s David Monti about the advice she got the day before the race from Heather Burroughs and how she felt after she won.

More: RRW Recap *Full 2018 NCAA XC Coverage

#2 Laura Muir: “I don’t want to become something I’m not. I’m just a normal girl from Scotland that likes running.”

“I can count the number of paracetamol I’ve taken in my life on one hand. I don’t like taking anything. There is medication out there that is perfectly fine to take – like paracetamol – but if something is sore I don’t want to mask it. Yeah, you can take something if your achilles flares up but I like to work through the pain. Even with protein shakes I take them between the rounds of a championship only because it’s important to recover. During and after training sessions I always just have water and a banana. I don’t have any special shakes. I don’t even drink coffee…

“It’s a different culture these days, isn’t it. Everything’s online and people’s appearances are deemed more important. Yeah, I like to dress up and have nice hair and make-up – but there’s a time and a place. I don’t want to be like that 24/7. I enjoy training and getting muddy and wet, hair all over the place. I don’t want to become something I’m not. I’m just a normal girl from Scotland that likes running.”

Laura Muir talking to The Guardian‘s Donald McRae.

More: Laura Muir: ‘I don’t like taking anything. I don’t even drink coffee’

How did the NCAA teams finish compared to their pre-season rankings

In both our men’s and women’s recaps of the 2018 NCAA Cross Country Championships, we showed how all 31 teams in each race did compared to their national rankings. We also think it’s informative to compare how they did based on expectations heading into the season. So below you’ll how the teams did compared to their preseason rankings.

Of the men’s teams at NCAAs that were ranked in the preseason, the biggest positive surprise was Washington and the biggest disappointment was Syracuse. Washington started the year ranked 27th but ended up sixth while Syracuse started the year ranked 10th but ended up 26th as shown below. Interestingly, both schools had new head coaches this year. Andy Powell replaced Greg Metcalf at Washington, while Brien Bell took over from Chris Fox at Syracuse.

Men’s NCAA Finish vs. Preseason Ranking
FinishTeamPreseason RankDifference
1Northern Arizona1Same
4Colorado73 spots better
5Stanford41 spot worse
6Washington2721 spots better
7Iowa State52 spots worse
8Wisconsin113 spots better
9Colorado St.9same
10Boise State2414 spots better
11North Carolina St.2110 spots better
12Wyoming NRUnranked, at least 19 spots better
13Oklahoma State2512 spots better
14Notre Dame NRUnranked, at least 17 spots better
15Oregon87 spots worse
16Eastern KentuckyNRUnranked, at least 15 spots better
17Ole Miss2912 spots better
18IndianaNRUnranked, at least 13 spots better
19Michigan267 spots better
20Air Force164 spots worse
21Southern Utah147 spots worse
22Princeton231 spot better
23Villanova285 spots better
24BradleyNRUnranked, at least 7 spots better
25Arkansas1510 spots worse
26Syracuse1016 spots worse
27Texas NRUnranked, at least 4 spots better
28Iona1711 spots worse
29Purdue NRUnranked, at least 2 spots better
30Tulsa NRUnranked, at least 1 spot better
31Florida State NRN/A

Of course that chart only tells part of the story. There were nine ranked teams in the preseason that didn’t even make it to NCAAs, led by preseason #6 Alabama. And there were nine teams that made it to NCAAs that began the year unranked, led by 12th-place Wyoming.

Ranked Teams in Preseason That Missed NCAAs
6. Alabama
12. Campbell
13. Washington St.
17. Virginia
19. Middle Tennessee St.
20. UCLA
22. Michigan St.
T-30. Furman and Georgetown

Now let’s look at the women.

Women’s NCAA Finish Vs Pre-Season Ranking
1Colorado21 spot better
2New Mexico11 spot worse
3Oregon41 spot better
4Michigan139 spots better
5Stanford32 spots worse
6Boise State51 spot worse
7BYU169 spots better
8Notre Dame2315 spots better
9Washington189 spots better
10Wisconsin73 spots worse
11Michigan State154 spots better
12PortlandNRUnranked, at least 19 spots better
13North Carolina St.67 spots worse
14Arkansas95 spots worse
15Iowa State172 spots better
16FloridaNRUnranked, at least 15 spots better
17Indiana214 spots better
18ColumbiaNRUnranked, at least 13 spots better
19Oklahoma State267 spots better
20Penn State128 spots worse
21PrincetonNRUnranked, at least 10 spots better
22Ole MissNRUnranked, at least 9 spots better
23Furman149 spots worse
24Villanova816 spots worse
25Southern UtahNRUnranked, at least 6 spots better
26Florida StateNRUnranked, at least 5 spots better
27Oregon StateNRUnranked, at least 4 spots better
28Georgia TechNRUnranked, at least 3 spots better
29Minnesota245 spots worse
30Dartmouth282 spots worse
31Texas274 spots worse

For the women’s teams, 12th placer Portland totally defied preseason expectations as they began the year unranked but ended up 12th at NCAAs and were one of nine unranked teams at the start of the year to make it to NCAAs. In terms of teams that were actually ranked in the preseason, Notre Dame defied expectations the most in a positive sense as the began the year ranked 23rd but ended up 8th.

In the opposite direction, there were eight ranked teams in the preseason who didn’t even make it to NCAAs, including No. 11 Providence, which missed NCAAs for just the second time in the last 30 years (they also missed out in 2011).

Ranked Teams in the Preseason Who Didn’t Make It To NCAAs
10. Utah State
11. Providence
19. Georgia
20. Cal
22. Syracuse
25. Georgetown
29. Ohiot State
30. San Francisco 

Video of the Week I / Haile G lets loose

Not every week do we get to go to Haile Gebrselassie‘s house and watch him dance.

More: LRC Goes To Ethiopia: Day 3 In Ethiopia: Hagos Gebrhiwet Wins, Haile G Dances, And … No Porta-Potties? LRC spent Day 3 at the Great Ethiopian Run, which saw wins for Hagos Gebrhiwet (28:54) & Foten Tesfaye (33:43). Our distinguished author even managed to run the race himself and went to Haile G‘s house afterwards.
*MB: Day #3 in Ethiopia: I broke bread with Haile G, watched him dance,and watched the Dallas Cowboys soar to 5-5 ask me anything 

Day 2: MB: Day #2 in Ethiopia: I went to a kids race in Ethiopia…they give out finishers medals… ask me anything

Day 1: LRC Goes To Ethiopia, Day 1: Arrival In Addis Ababa, Meeting Haile G, & A Run-In With The Ethiopian Military
* Is Making Its First Trip to Ethiopia. … What Should We Know and What Do You Want to Hear!?!!

Video of the Week II / A crazy finish in China

In China last week, at the end of the Suzhou Taihu International Marathon, there was a bizarre occurrence as two women battled it out for the win. We don’t want to provide a spoiler so please watch 30 seconds of the following clip.

What you saw there were some volunteers instructed to give China’s He Yinli a national flag so she could hold it when she crossed the finish line. One big problem: Yinli was in the midst of sprint against Ethiopia’s Ayantu Abera Demissie for the win. As a result, she ignored the flag the first time but grabbed it the second time before eventually tossing it to her side.

Wait, we take that back. After receiving a lot of criticism on social media for discarding the flag, Yinli says she didn’t throw the flag to her side (although it’s pretty clear to us that she did) and says the flag was wet and it slipped out of her hands. “I didn’t throw the national flag. The flag was soaking wet. My arm was stiff and I accidentally dropped it when I moved my arm while running. I’m terribly sorry,” she said.

For the record, while we don’t have official results, we do know that He Yinli ended up second. Amazingly, lists this as her seventh marathon of the year. The 30-year old has a 2:31 sb and a 2:27 pb.

More: Chinese runner misses gold due to flags handed out by volunteers
*Volunteers passing national flag costs Chinese marathon runner the championship?

2018 Shanghai: Guys sprint it out for the win, Yebrgual Melese runs 2:20:36 to win women’s race

If an American ran a 2:04:44 marathon at age 23, their guaranteed income would shoot up instantly and they’d have their choice of races to pick from. When it happens to an Ethiopian, not so much.

Last week, 23-year-old Seifu Tura (also known as Abdiwak Tura), who ran 2:04:44 in Dubai this year in a race where that only placed him 7th, found himself racing fellow 2:04 man Tsegaye Mekonnen, the 2014 Dubai champ, as well as former WR holder Dennis Kimetto (2:02:57 pb). The ending was a thriller as the top seven racers all entered the track where the race finished together.

In the end, Tura won the tactical race in 2:09:18, the same time given to Mekonnen — as the top seven were separated by just 10 seconds. We haven’t found a great video of the sprint finish (if you know of a good one, please email us), but you can see some of the last 100 near the end of the following video:

As for Kimetto, the bad news is he ran 2:14:54 for 10th. The good news is he at least finished. He hadn’t finished a marathon in over two years and this was only his second finish in his last seven starts.

The story of the day in Shanghai came in the women’s race, where Ethiopian Yebrgual Melese ran a 2:20:36 course record.

More: MB: After 3 consecutive DNFs, former WR holder Dennis Kimetto has finished his first marathon since April 2016. Guess his time.

Recommeneded Reads

Profile Of Grant Fisher From Earlier In The Fall On

Laura Muir: ‘I don’t like taking anything. I don’t even drink coffee’

To see our favorite reads from other weeks, go here.

Quotes Of The Day And Last Week’s Home Pages

To see the quotes of the day from last week or last week’s home page or any home page, go to our archive page.

Got a tip, question or comment? Please call us at 844-LETSRUN (538-7786), email us or post in our forum.