I decided this year to make the drive down to Terre Haute, IN to see the NCAA D1 Championships in Cross Country. I must say it was worth the long drive. I encountered a variety of weather conditions (snow, rain,sun) on the way down but things were as good as could be hoped for in Terre Haute.It was cold but precipitation free.
The women's race started about 15 minutes after I got set and in place. Seeing the wave take off towards me sent shivers down my spine. I have not been so excited to be a spectator at ANY type of event in recent memory. The course is laid out very well for fans. The course loops for both the men and women and if you feel like doing some running yourself you can catch several good vantage points.
Sally Kipyego of Texas Tech won her 3rd consecutive title running away from Susan Kuijken of Florida State. Tasmin Fanning (VaTech) and Brie Felnagle (UNC)were the top 2 American finishers in 3rd and 4th. Freshman Christine Babcock of Washington (also the team Champs) ran very well as the 1st frosh across the line. Washington won, followed by Oregon and Florida State. El Paso XC followers should note the 46th place finish by former Montwood High star Christina Munoz. Here is a photo (poor at that, I know) of the top 25 women.
The womens race was over before you knew it. 6k goes by real quick at that pace! As soon as I saw the majority of the women cross the line, the men were getting ready to roll.
As a huge fan of HS Track and XC I was very eager to see the greats of the class of 08 (Fernandez, Derrick, Puskedra, Lowe, Mesecho, etc) run for the first time. I thought they would do well but not as well as they did! First, as far as German goes, he was not even close to the lead pack at the first viewpoint. The lead pack being the pack chasing Galen Rupp and Sam Chelanga. About 3k I noticed he was gaining on the pack, but more importantly, he looked very smooth and under control. Rupp was starting to pull even with Chelanga, who took off like a bat out of hell to start the race. See Video.
Puskedra and Derrick were sitting comfortably in the lead chase pack as well. I saw the same positioning for a while and went to about the 8k mark. German had moved into about 3rd-4th place and still looked very smooth and controlled. I ran back towards the finish area to get a space. The crowd was going nuts as Galen and Chelanga came into the homestretch. Galen started pulling away and looked very strong. He took the win with a course record. Sr's Andrew Ledwith (Iona) and David Kinsella (Portland) took the 3 and 4 spots. Puskedra was tearing in right with them with Chris Derrick right behind him. I was so happy to see the Chicago Area star do so well at his 1st NCAA meet that I failed to notice that German did not come in. I spent the next couple minutes watching many XC/Track stars come across the finish line. I then moved towards a group of OSU people and heard them saying German was on the bus and feeling very down and upset. As the day rolled on we found out he had been injured (soon after I saw him last) with an apparent Achilles injury. Here's hoping he makes a full recovery as nobody has energized the young distance running scene like he has.
As far as winner Galen Rupp goes, I was more than impressed. Galen gets a lot of flack for such things as his training with Alberto Salazar, rather than Vin Lananna, amongst other reasons. What I saw was a true XC Champion. He stayed cool when Chelanga tried to run away with the race early. He stayed poised throughout and then pulled even. He saved his energy and brought home his 1st NCAA XC Championship. He seemed happier actually with Oregon's team win. He was having a blast with his teammates down towards the awards area and they all seemed very happy to be with each other. Watching the Oregon team celebrate was like watching a former HS All-American parade (Galen Rupp, Luke Puskedra, Shadrac Kiptoo-Biwott, Matt Centrowitz JR, Diego Mercado, Kenny Klotz) and Galen's fellow 2008 Olympian Andrew Wheating.Pretty fast bunch of kids. Oregon defeated Iona and Stanford for the team title.
I look forward to making the trek down again next year and I'll try to not forget my camera! I do apologize for the cellphone pics and videos.