WEEKEND RECAP: D1 Conference Championships
NEW ORLEANS — Conference Championship Weekend is upon us.
Across the nation in NCAA Division I Cross Country, teams are vying for conference glory.
Let this be your one-stop shop for the recaps from nine of those meets that feature multiple ranked teams in the most recent U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) National Coaches’ Poll.
We’ll treat this like a running blog and you can find everything in chronological order.
It was a Michigan Wolverines sweep in the women’s individual and team titles at the Big Ten Championships Sunday morning, but the two couldn’t have been won in more distinct manners.
Erin Finn took control of the race in the first kilometer and never relented en route to her third career Big Ten individual title, while the No. 6 Wolverines’ team victory over No. 9 Penn State and No. 27 Michigan State, 63-70-80, came down to the final 1000 meters.
At the 5000-meter mark on the 6K course at the Les Bolstad Golf Course, Michigan State appeared to be in position to pull an upset over their top-10 Wolverine and Nittany Lion foes. The Spartans crossed the 1K-to-go mark with a 59-66-73 lead over Michigan and Penn State.
The Wolverines and Nittany Lions held steady over the closing stretch, however, while the Spartans would fade from having two of the top-four runners and five in the top-20 to just two in the top-10 and three in the top-20.
While that was all happening behind her, there was no doubt Finn would cruise to her second consecutive individual conference crown.
By the one-mile mark, Finn had whittled the lead pack to just herself, Tessa Barrett of Penn State and Katherine Receveur of Indiana. Less than a kilometer later at 2.5K, it was Finn running alone with a six-second lead over the field.
That lead ballooned to 10 seconds over the next 500 meters, and to 25 seconds by the time 5000 meters had passed.
She ultimately crossed the line in 20:37.3, 25 seconds clear of runner-up Receveur. It was also about 24 seconds faster than her runner-up finish on this course at the Roy Griak Invitational to Boise State’s Brenna Peloquin – her lone loss of the 2016 campaign.
After an eighth-place finish at the Big Ten Championships a year ago after having won 15 of the previous 16 titles, the No. 18 Wisconsin Badgers are back atop the Big Ten.
Led by individual champion Morgan McDonald, the Badgers surged in the second half of the race to narrowly overtake a well-positioned No. 29 Michigan State squad, 63-66.
No. 19 Indiana was third with 92 points, vote-receiving Minnesota was fourth with 119 and No. 14 Michigan – the conference’s highest-ranked team coming in – fell to fifth with 123 points.
The first half of the race belonged to Michigan State, which was looking for its first conference title since the 1971 season. The Spartans, at times, had six runners leading the pack and crossed the 5k mark with a 28-86 lead over the Badgers.
It was at about that same time that MSU’s Sherod Hardt and then McDonald broke away from the pack and set into motion to race for the finish over the final three kilometers.
The Spartans held on relatively well as the only team in the field with six runners finishing 25th or better, but they couldn’t match the Badgers’ power up front.
In addition to individual winner McDonald, Wisconsin got a fifth-place finish from former two-time Big Ten champ Malachy Schrobilgen and a 12th-place effort from frosh Olin Hacker.
Schrobilgen rebounded from a DNF at the Wisconsin Invitational two weekends ago.
McDonald took the win by eight seconds over Hardt, crossing the line on the 8K course in 24:35.7.
Indiana went 3-4 with Jason Crist and Matthew Schwartzer, and was the only team with three top-10 finishers including eighth-place Ben Veatch.
Texas Tech Goes 1-2; No. 9 Oklahoma State Wins 9th In A Row
There is just something comforting about running on your home course.
And the Big 12 Championships are home sweet home for Oklahoma State, too.
After a very slow start to the men’s race, Oklahoma State’s Hassan Abdi and the Texas Tech duo of Miguel Bautista and Bernard Keter broke away from the pack. Then it was just Bautista and Keter. And then, just Keter.
The track standout added a signature XC win to his tally on Saturday. Keter crossed the finish line in 25:28.7, two seconds ahead of Bautista as the Red Raiders went 1-2.
Abdi finished 10 seconds behind Keter and was one of four Cowboys in the top-10. Luis Martinez finished 5th, Joshua Thompson was 7th and Anthoney Armstrong was 10th. That was more than enough for No. 9 Oklahoma State as Dave Smith’s team won its 9th conference title in a row.
No. 13 Iowa State, led by Thomas Pollard‘s 4th place finish, took runner-up honors. The Cyclones also saw Josef Andrews (8th) and Andrew Jordan (9th) finish inside the top-10.
RV Texas was third in the team standings.
Kansas’ Lokedi, No. 15 Iowa State Captures Titles
Sharon Lokedi finished what Maggie Montoya started.
And No. 15 Iowa State is back on top of the Big 12 once again.
Lokedi tracked down Montoya halfway through the race and then left her in her dust. The Kansas standout saw Montoya take off from the gun, slowly started to reel her in and then put the hammer down. Lokedi ended up winning the 6K race in 20:18.5, nearly 14 seconds ahead of runner-up Jillian Forsey of West Virginia. That was the first individual title for the Jayhawks in program history.
Montoya faded back to 6th and was Baylor’s second finisher (Lindsey Bradley was 5th).
The Cyclones won their fifth conference title in the past six years thanks to a strong pack mentality. Iowa State took the lead at the 3K mark (41-68 over Baylor) and only picked it up from there. The Cyclones put four runners in the top-15 (4-8-9-11-24) and were led by sophomore Anne Frisbie (20:38.8). 2015 individual winner Perez Rotich was 8th.
No. 18 Oklahoma State unveiled Kaela Edwards for the first time this season and finished second behind Iowa State in the team standings. Edwards was the Cowgirls’ second finisher as Michelle Magnani led the way in 7th.
RV West Virginia was 3rd behind Oklahoma State. NR Oklahoma was 4th and 12th-ranked Baylor labored to a 5th place finish.
Smith, No. 26 Harvard Cruise To Victories
Little could stand in the way of Courtney Smith and an individual title at the Heptagonal Championships.
The same could be said for Smith’s teammates as well.
Smith romped to the win (more than 12 seconds clear of Penn’s Ashley Montgomery) and the 26th-ranked Crimson put five in the top-15 to roll to the team crown.
Harvard came into the meet ranked behind No. 21 Yale and No. 24 Penn, but left no doubt that it was the class of the Ivy League. The Crimson saw strong running from Erin Dietz, Judy Pendergast and Lisa Tertsch to go along with Smith’s low stick. This was Harvard’s 7th team title in program history and first since 1985.
The Bulldogs’ depth never came to fruition as they had the 3rd place finisher (Emily Waligurski) and 7th place (Frances Schmiede), but their next three runners went 17th, 19th and 23rd.
The Quakers took third behind Harvard and Yale. Montgomery was the only runner from Penn in the top-10.
Yale’s Randon, Penn Earn Titles
During the indoor season, Yale’s James Randon broke four minutes in the mile. Then outdoors, he earned First-Team All-America honors in the 1500.
Randon proved to be strong on the grass as well on Saturday. The senior became the first Bulldog to win the Heps title since 1989 after he crossed the finish line in 23:47.5, four seconds clear of runner-up William Paulson of Princeton.
Penn won the team title by scoring 38 points (4-5-8-9-12). Princeton was second with 51 and defending champion Columbia took third.
No. 1 Colorado Shines, Washington’s Neale Kicks To Win
It took No. 1 Colorado 3,000 meters to impose its will on the Pac-12.
It took Washington’s Amy-Eloise Neale just a bit longer.
The top-ranked Buffaloes took the lead at 3K and extended it from there.
Colorado was up 20 points at 3K, 34 at 4K and 41 at both the 5K split and 6K finish. All in all, it added up to a 33-74 romp for the Buffaloes over No. 2 Washington. Colorado put four runners in the top-10 and its entire lineup in the top-17.
The Buffs had a great shot at going 1-2-3, but Neale had other plans.
Neale tracked down six runners in the final 1K and kicked past Erin Clark for the individual win. The Washington standout closed the race in 3:08.
Depth just wasn’t there for the Huskies on this day. Neale and Charlotte Prouse were the only finishers in the top-15 for Washington as its next three runners finished 19th, 21st and 27th.
No. 11 Stanford took third in the team standings behind the Huskies. No. 5 Oregon was fourth, followed by No. 17 Utah, No. 25 California and No. 23 UCLA.
Behind Neale and Clark in the individual standings were Colorado’s Dani Jones and Kaitlyn Benner, Oregon’s Katie Rainsberger, Prouse, California’s Bethan Knights, Stanford’s Vanessa Fraser, Colorado’s Makena Morley and Arizona’s Addi Zerrenner.
Cheserek Makes History; Colorado Completes Sweep
Few runners are like Edward Cheserek, especially when the postseason hits.
Cheserek proved that Friday when he made history at the Pac-12 Championships.
The Oregon star won his fourth consecutive conference title, becoming the first man in Pac-12 history to do so. Cheserek crossed the finish line in 23:58.9, nearly 15 seconds clear of Stanford’s Grant Fisher.
No. 7 Colorado answered the bell once again as it took the lead by 4K and held on for a 41-47 win over No. 2 Stanford. The Buffs put four in the top-10 (3-4-6-9) compared to three for the Cardinal (2-7-8). This was Colorado’s sixth consecutive conference title.
No. 10 UCLA finished third. The third-ranked Ducks labored to fourth. No. 15 Washington State was fifth and No. 25 Washington took sixth (California was 6th).
The story of the morning (if you’re on the west coast) was Cheserek, who took the lead by the 5K split and opened it up from there. Cheserek led by 13 seconds at 6K, 24 seconds at 7K and shut it down to win by the near 15-second margin.
Behind Cheserek were Fisher, Colorado’s Ben Saarel (3rd) and Zach Perrin (4th), UCLA’s Ferdinand Edman (5th), Colorado’s John Dressel (6th), Stanford’s Sean McGorty (7th) and Thomas Ratcliffe (8th), Colorado’s Ryan Forsyth (9th) and UCLA’s Jonah Diaz (10th).
No. 8 Portland Storms From Third to Title in Final Kilometer
Sitting in third place with a kilometer to go in the West Coast Conference women’s championships, the Portland Pilots rallied back to take their first title since 2008 in a battle with two other top-20 teams.
Led by decisive individual winner Lauren LaRocco, the Pilots stormed back from an 18-point deficit at the start of the sixth and final loop around the San Diego course to top No. 20 BYU, 42-44.
No. 13 San Francisco took third with 47 points.
BYU led after the third, fourth and fifth loops of the course, holding a 34-45-52 advantage over San Francisco and Portland heading into the final lap. Portland ran no higher than third at any point prior to its late-race surge.
LaRocco took command early en route to a 30-second win in 20:27.8. By the 2K split she had already opened up an eight-second gap that ballooned to 20 seconds by the 4K mark.
Yesenia Silva of BYU was the runner up, followed by Marie Bouchard of USF, Jordan Thurston of Gonzaga and Weronika Pyzik of USF. Parkes Kendrick of Portland was sixth.
All three teams accounted for three top-10 finishers.
BYU Men Score Decisive Win in Team Race, Alex Short Takes the Individual Crown
It was close between bitter WCC rivals No. 4 BYU and No. 12 Portland for much of Friday’s championship meet, at least until the defending champion Cougars decided to make their winning move.
BYU accounted for five of the top seven runners in Friday’s meet in San Diego as the Cougars scored 24 points to top the Pilots with 45. The win gives the Cougars back-to-back titles for the first time since it entered the conference in 2011.
Alex Short of San Francisco got the win individually by seven seconds in 24:19.4.
The two teams were locked in a heated battle at five kilometers, with BYU holding a slight advantage, 30-33. It was in the sixth kilometer when the BYU hammer dropped, as the Cougars opened up a 14-point edge after both the sixth and seventh kilometers.
BYU was led by runner-up Jonathan Harper, with four runners finishing fourth through seventh to round out the scoring lineup. Rory Linkletter, Brayden MLelland, Nicolas Montanez and Clayton Young all finished within 10 seconds of one another, as the Cougars had a tight 16-spread between each of its top-five runners.
Third-place Nick Hauger was third to lead Portland, which had three in the top-10.
No. 7 New Mexico Wins Women’s Title as Wright Takes Individual Crown
Depth may have been an issue for defending national champ No. 7 New Mexico in the regular season, but it was an asset for the Lobos in a win at the Mountain West Championships on Friday.
The Lobos got a 1-2 finish from Alice Wright and Calli Thackery as the Lobos scored 42 points to top vote-receiving Air Force with 53. The Lobos were the only team in the field with five scorers in the top 20.
Wright and Thackery both pulled away from two-time National Athlete of the Week Brenna Peloquin of Boise State, who wound up finishing fourth overall. Wright crossed the line on the 6K course at Boise State in 20:02.7, nine seconds clear of teammate Thackery and 25 seconds ahead of Peloquin.
Peloquin’s disappointing fourth-place finish came after a regular season that saw her win at Wisconsin – over Wright and Thackery – and Notre Dame.
It was a disappointing day overall for Boise State, as the No. 28 Broncos – once ranked top-10 ten this season – finished third behind Air Force with 86 points.
No. 24 Boise State Captures Team Title Behind Uchikoshi’s Individual Win
Boise State’s Michael Vennard pumped his fist as he crossed the finish line on Friday.
Vennard didn’t win — teammate Yusuke Uchikoshi did — but the junior knew his Broncos were in good position to win the team title with a 1-3 finish at the top.
Once Miler Haller (8th) and Rhys Park (12th) crossed the finish line to join Uchikoshi and Vennard, the true celebration could begin for No. 24 Boise State. Haller and Park gave the Broncos a 10-point lead through four runners and the hosts held on for a seven-point win over No. 17 Colorado State (41-48).
Jerrell Mock, the 2015 winner at this meet, finished second behind Uchikoshi. Mock was one of three Rams in the top-10 (Anthon Laurita and Grant Fischer were the others).
No. 28 Air Force packed up well with Jacob Bilvado, Andrew Johnston and Matt Dorsey going 5-6-7, but Kyle Eller’s 19th-place finish grounded their bid for a second consecutive MWC title.
Arkansas Takes the Women’s Team Crown, Karissa Schweizer Gets the Individual Win
The No. 10 Arkansas women made it four-in-a-row on their home course, winning Friday morning’s SEC Championships by a healthy 30-point margin over upstart No. 16 Mississippi, 46-76.
Vote-receiving Missouri was third with 125 points, while No. 29 Mississippi State was fourth with 138.
Individually, Karissa Schweizer of Missouri pulled away late from Devin Clark of Arkansas and Veronica Eder of Auburn. The three ran side-by-side for much of the latter stages of the race before Schweizer pulled away with less than a kilometer to go to win by eight seconds over Clark. The Mizzou junior crossed the line in 20:10.6 on the 6K course.
Led by individual runner-up Devin Clark, the Razorbacks showed off impressive depth with seven runners in the top-20. Abby Gray and Valerie Reina also posted top-10 finishes in ninth and 10th, respectively.
Mississippi, led by seventh-place Mary Alex England and eighth-place Bo Ummels, posted its best-ever finish at the SEC Championships, having only ever finished as high as fourth prior to today.
Behind Individual Winner Alex George, No. 5 Arkansas Men Get Hard-Fought Team Title Over No. 11 Ole Miss
Arkansas’ men have long dominated the SEC Championships, with 23 of the last 25 titles going in favor of the Razorbacks.
That trend continued Friday morning, as the No. 5 Hogs earned a hard-fought victory over a No. 11 Mississippi team looking to break through for its first-ever conference title, 25-38.
Alex George crossed the line with a nine-second win over the Ole Miss duo of Sean Tobin and MJ Erb, and then came the flood of Arkansas red and white. Jack Bruce, Frankline Tonui and Andrew Ronoh went 4-5-6 with ninth-place Austen Dalquist rounding out the Razorbacks’ scoring lineup.
Behind Tobin and Erb, the Rebels had impressive depth of their own. Robert Domanic, Craig Engels, Wes Gallagher and Ryan Manahan went 10th through 13th.
The two teams were neck-and-neck at 5.8K, with Arkansas holding six-point lead over the Rebels, 30-36.
Tobin and Erb led the way at 5.8K individually with George and defending SEC champ Antibahs Kosgei of Alabama close behind. George would pull away to win over the final two kilometers, while Kkosgei would fall back to eighth – 42 seconds behind George.
No. 4 Providence Women Take Team Title, Piccirillo Claims Individual Win
Using a second-half surge to fend off an upset bid from No. 22 Villanova, the No. 4 Providence women emerged victorious in Friday morning’s BIG EAST Championships race, 36-49, for back-to-back league titles.
Brianna Illarda was the top finisher for Providence in third, chasing down and passing early-race leader and reigning BIG EAST Sarah Collins mid-way through the morning. Collins, a multiple-time All-American, wound up in fourth-place as part of a group of four Friars in the top eight.
Millie Paladino was sixth, Abbey Wheeler was eighth and Lauren Mullins was 15th to round out the scoring lineup.
Former All-American Sam Jones (transfer from Wake Forest), was Providence’s eighth runner in 32nd.
Villanova led halfway through the race, crossing 3.1K with a four-point advantage over Providence, 39-43. The Wildcats were led by a 1-2 finish from Paul Short Run champ Angel Piccirillo and Siofra Cleirigh Buttner.
Piccirillo crossed the line in 20:49.6. Collins led early, but Piccirillo took the lead by the race’s halfway point over Collins by one second. That lead over the field stretched to six seconds at 5K and nine seconds by the time all was said and done.
Vote-receiving Georgetown was third with 68 points, followed by Butler (98) and Marquette (138).
No. 23 Georgetown Men Go Back-to-Back, Tiernan Wins Historic 4th Individual Title
The 2016 regular season belonged to such individuals as Edward Cheserek of Oregon and Justyn Knight of Syracuse, but Friday morning served as a friendly reminder to not forget about NCAA runner-up Patrick Tiernan.
The Villanova senior Olympian became the first man in BIG EAST history to win individual conference titles in all four years of his career, while No. 23 Georgetown claimed back-to-back team titles.
Tiernan pulled away in the last third of the race, crossing the line in 24:18.2 to win by 10 seconds over Scott Carpenter of Georgetown. The two were part of the lead pack at 5K before Tiernan opened up a seven second lead by 7.1K.
Carpenter led a Georgetown win that essentially spanned from start-to-finish. The Hoyas scored 33 points to top runner-up Providence (RV) with 65. The Friars were nearly edged out by unranked Butler, which scored 69.
By 4.1K, the Hoyas had worked their team score down to 30 points, which is approximately where it would stay for the rest of the race.
Led by runner-up Carpenter, the Hoyas posted six of the top-12 finishers in the race – four of whom finished top-10.
Rohrer Pulls Away; NC State Rolls
Notre Dame’s Anna Rohrer and No. 3 NC State proved why they were the overwhelming favorites coming into the women’s race at the ACC Championships.
Rohrer pulled away halfway through the race and continued to do so as she won by 25 seconds over Boston College’s Isabelle Kennedy. The Irish sophomore crossed the finish line in 19:26.4 and became the second consecutive Notre Dame runner to capture the ACC title (Molly Seidel annihilated the field in 2015).
Then there is the Wolfpack, who won with a strange finishing order. Rachel Koon was NC State’s top finisher in 4th place (20:03.8) and then it was Wesley Frazier (10th) in her debut, Alyssa Rudawsky (12th), Elly Henes (13th) and Ryen Frazier (14th). Two of the Wolfpack’s leaders, Megan Moye and Erika Kemp, finished 25th and 26th.
Rohrer’s low stick helped No. 19 Notre Dame to a runner-up team finish. The Irish had two other runners in the top-10 on Friday: Annie Heffernan (6th, 20:05.0) and Danielle Aragon (9th, 20:19.4).
Knight, Syracuse Win Titles
Justyn Knight and his Syracuse teammates asserted themselves in a big way Friday.
Knight won his third consecutive race over talented competition and the sixth-ranked Orange captured their fourth consecutive ACC title with a dominant 29-point performance.
Through 6K, Knight hung in the chase pack behind Louisville’s Edwin Kibichiy. Then Knight made his move in the latter stages of the race and won by two seconds over the Kenyan.
At the same 6K mark, Syracuse held a 40-53 lead over No. 16 Virginia. The Orange only had three runners in the top-12 compared to the Cavaliers’ four. Then Syracuse broke it open and finished with its entire scoring lineup in the top-10 to leave little doubt as to the class of the ACC.
Here are the top-10 finishers: Knight, Kibichiy, NC State’s Sam Parsons, Florida State’s Harry Mulenga, Syracuse’s Colin Bennie, Syracuse’s Iliass Aouani, Virginia’s Brent Demarest, Syracuse’s Joel Hubbard, Syracuse’s Philo Germano, Boston College’s Sean Burke.