Postseason Awards Announced for 2016 NCAA DI Cross Country
NEW ORLEANS – The U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) announced Tuesday its National Athletes and Coaches of the Year for the 2016 NCAA Division I Cross Country season following the championships in Terre Haute, Indiana, this past weekend.
NCAA Division I Cross Country individual champions Patrick Tiernan of Villanova and Karissa Schweizer of Missouri were named the men’s and women’s USTFCCCA National Athletes of the Year, respectively.
Eric Heins of Northern Arizona and Maurica Powell of Oregon earned men’s and women’s National Coach of the Year honors, respectively, in leading their teams to national titles.
MEN’S ATHLETE OF THE YEAR AWARD
Patrick Tiernan, Villanova
One year after finishing runner-up to three-time national champion Edward Cheserek of Oregon, this weekend was Patrick Tiernan’s time to shine. Running in his final collegiate race, the senior from Toowoomba, Australia, ran an aggressive final five kilometers to dethrone the King as he crossed the line on the 10K course in 29:22.0. The time was the 14th-best in course history.
After coming through the race’s halfway point in 15:17, he covered the second half of the two-lap circuit in 14:05 to score a five-second win over runner-up Justyn Knight of Syracuse and a 26-second margin over third-place Cheserek. The time between him and Cheserek was almost identical to last year’s margin between the two a year ago.
Tiernan and Knight shook Cheserek shortly after the 8K split, and Tiernan made the winning move away from Knight on the quarter-mile home straightaway.
The victory, which was just the second by a Villanova man at the NCAA Championships, capped a season that also included wins at the BIG EAST and Mid-Atlantic Region championships.
WOMEN’S ATHLETE OF THE YEAR AWARD
Karissa Schweizer, Missouri
Karissa Schweizer knew that as long as she stayed within striking distance of the leaders at the 2016 NCAA Division I Cross Country Championships, she’d have a chance.
With 200 meters to go, Schweizer sat in 3rd place behind Michigan’s Erin Finn and Notre Dame’s Anna Rohrer. By the finish, the Missouri junior was a national champion.
Schweizer unleashed a ferocious kick down the stretch and blew by Finn and Rohrer. She crossed the finish line in 19:41.7, nearly three seconds ahead of Finn.
In beating Finn, Schweizer atoned for the only blemish on her record this season. Schweizer was 5-1 with her lone loss coming at the Pre-National Invitational. She finished 4th in mid-October, while Finn cruised to a victory.
Schweizer also won at the Commodore XC Classic and the Chile Pepper Cross Country Festival during the regular season. Once the postseason hit, no one could keep up with her as she won the SEC individual title and the Midwest Region individual title.
BILL DELLINGER AWARD (MEN’S COACH OF THE YEAR)
Eric Heins, Northern Arizona
Few coaches are afforded the opportunity to end their tenures on top, but that’s precisely how Eric Heins was able to conclude his career at Northern Arizona this weekend. In his final meet before setting off to join his family in Texas, Heins led his Lumberjack men to the program’s first-ever national title with a 125-158 victory over Stanford.
Led by a third-career top-four finish from Futsum Zienasellassie (4th place), Heins’ Lumberjacks posted four All-America honors as they led from nearly wire-to-wire throughout the 10K race. Also coming through for All-America honors to send Heins out a winner were Matthew Baxter (11th), Tyler Day (23rd) and Andy Trouard (37th).
The national title capped an undefeated season for NAU that also included victories at the Nuttycombe Wisconsin Invitational, the Big Sky Championships and the Mountain Region Championships.
PETER TEGEN AWARD (WOMEN’S COACH OF THE YEAR)
Maurica Powell, Oregon
According to LetsRun.com, Oregon coach Maurica Powell was quoted as to saying about her women at the 2K mark that, “They were in really good position and it was like, clearly they’re going to go big or go home here. They’re either going to steal it or they’re going to blow up spectacularly.”
The Ducks were in 2nd place behind Michigan and then, by the 4K split, took over the lead. If Oregon held on, the program would win its fourth NCAA title.
That’s exactly what the Ducks did — even if barely. Oregon edged the Wolverines 125-126 to add the 2016 crown to theirs from 1983, 1987 and 2012.
The Ducks had three All-Americans, led by freshman Katie Rainsberger (4th). Also finishing in the top-40 for Oregon was Alli Cash (14th) and Samantha Nadel (21st).
Perhaps the most important runner for the Ducks was Maggie Schmaedick, who crossed the finish line one-tenth of a second ahead of Michigan’s 5th runner. That gave Oregon the title.