NCAA D1 Cross Country Championships 2012: recap

I’d been waiting for Saturday November 17th for what seemed like an eternity! I got into the spirit of things, Flotrack style, by growing my Stashie for Nashies and I even ordered my Oregon Cross Country t-shirt in anticipation of a Jordan Hasay individual and Oregon Ducks team win – alas, it was not to be for Miss Hasay and she will now be finishing her studies at Oregon without having captured that elusive National Title that she clearly wanted! Oh well, I still have my t-shirt! GO DUCKS.

In the Men’s race it was good to see a bit of an upset and arguably one of the greatest NCAA Cross Country runs of all time from Texas Tech’s Kennedy Kithuka and it was interesting to try and figure out what the hell was going on after the Women’s race scoring debacle as well as comparing and contrasting this year’s race with last year’s over in Terre Haute, Indiana.

Women’s 6km

I found myself cooped up in my work kitchen watching Nationals on my laptop and furiously tweeting every kilometre or so – my co-workers watched on not quite understanding the gravity and importance of collegiate running competition – on any other day I may have explained all of this to them but I was being consumed by the debacle that was ‘Delta Timingate’!

It was clear to anyone watching that, for the second year in a row, Jordan Hasay was being outsprinted to the title, this time by Betsy Saina (last time by Sheila Reid). It was also clear that Abbey D’Agostino was hot on the heels of Jordan and pushing to grab second place. What was not so clear was who actually got 2nd and 3rd place, respectively. Delta Timing gave D’Agostino second and Hasay third but both women were given the same time of 19:28.6.

Almost immediately after Saina crossed the line as National Champion the team scoreboard seemed to go into disarray – it turns out that some of the top finishers at highly ranked FSU and Champions elect Oregon had not been counted by Delta Timing. This led to some speculation on Twitter that either some of, or the entire FSU team had been disqualified along with some of the Oregon runners.

Providence were declared National Champions…for fifteen minutes at least. It must have been gut wrenching for those ladies as the news trickled through that, after protests from FSU and Oregon Head Coaches, the decision was reversed and Oregon were declared Champions…or were they?! Twitter and the official NCAA coverage were not so sure, it was Providence, Providence were Champions…no, no they’re not, no, the Lady Friars finished second and, finally, the Oregon Ducks were pronounced National Champions. FSU, having had all their runners accounted for and scored after successful protest finished 4th behind Stanford.

I’ve never seen such chaos and something tells me we won’t be seeing Delta Timing at Nationals next year! I certainly hope not!

Men’s 10km

The men’s race, as expected, went off FAST. Kennedy Kithuka of Texas Tech had lain down the gauntlet to his rival over at Arizona, Lawi Lalang in the weeks leading up to the race and it was pretty much certain that both men were going to go at it from the gun (which, by the way, was delayed by over thirty minutes thanks to Delta Timing’s mess up)!

I think the Team race was always going to be taken by Oklahoma State Cowboys and it was no surprise when this turned out to be the case. That’s their third title in four years and it must have felt so good to get it back from Wisconsin after last year!

Back to Lawi Lalang, he started the race having won 10 out of the 10 cross country races he’d entered. A streak like that had to end at some point and I’ve no doubt that Kithuka played a part in picking a hole in Lawi’s mental fortitude by stating publicly that he wanted to take him down! Kithuka ran the 10km in 28:31.3 – an exemplary time for a cross country race!

I would have loved to see him go head to head with Lawi on what is arguably a tougher course in Terre Haute as I think the less than perfect conditions last year would have evened out the odds somewhat. Anyway, there wasn’t so much drama in this race, Kithuka pulled away from around the 5km mark and it was clear from this point it would take some very strong running for him to be reeled back in but on the day that didn’t happen.

All in all, race wise there was plenty to enjoy this year – the women’s race was exciting whilst the men’s race produced one of the greatest NCAA cross country runs of all time. I still think I prefer the course over at Terre Haute – for me the place is more suited to traditional November cross country conditions with cold and rain. The rolling, gentle scenery of the Louisiana course, along with the moderate and mostly dry weather will certainly take some getting used to if this is to be the norm for Nationals going forward.

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