‘This isn’t a two greyhounds race’
Multiple teams eye Division I Cross Country Championship
Since the cross country season started, Arizona’s Lawi Lalang hasn’t known what it’s like to lose. A freshman from Kenya, Lalang counts wins at the Dave Murray Invitational, the Roy Griak Invitational, the Wisconsin adidas Invitational, the Pac-12 Championships and the West Region Championships.
His sights are now set on a national title while running as an individual at the Division I Cross Country Championships in Terre Haute, Ind., at the LaVern Gibson Championship Course. Action gets under way at 12:08 p.m. ET Monday, starting with the men’s 10,000-meter race.
“Right now, I think we have some good guys, so the race will be good, but I’m going to be ready for it,” Lalang said.
Also among notable competitors is senior Leonard Korir of Iona, a two-time national champion in track and field who led the Gaels cross country team to its 10th consecutive automatic bid. Korir finished fourth in 29:42 in 2010 but said he doesn’t feel any pressure this year.
“Cross country is about getting prepared and with the training that I’ve been doing since June and July until now, I think I’m ready for it,” said Kori, Iona's first repeat Northeast Region champion. “Come [Monday] I am ready to run my own race, and any position I get, I’ll be happy for it.”
Stanford senior Chris Derrick has finished seventh, third and most recently fifth in 29:44.7.
|Region||Team championship||Individual championship|
|Great Lakes||Wisconsin||Callum Hawkins|
|Mid-West||Oklahoma State||Hassan Mead|
|South||Florida State||David Forrester|
|Southeast||NC State||Ryan Hill|
|• Championship Qualifiers|
The two teams separated by just five points in the U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association poll are No. 1 Wisconsin and No. 2 Oklahoma State, the two-time defending champion. Not that it means much to Badgers coach Mick Byrne.
“Despite what a lot of people think, this isn’t a two greyhounds race, there’s probably four, five or six teams that have a legitimate shot at the team title,” he said. “Unlike the last couple of years, I think it’s going to be a great, great team competition.”
Wisconsin is in search of a fifth national title -- and first since 2005 -- and returns four of its top five runners from last year’s third-place team in senior Elliot Krause and juniors Mohammed Ahmed, Reed Connor and Maverick Darling. Ahmed finished in 12th place with a time of 30:03.4, with junior Maverick Darling finished shortly behind at 13th place in 30:07.6. Virginia transfer and senior Ryan Collins finished 32nd a year ago and was the top runner at the Great Lakes Regional.
“We all know we’re a piece of the pie and know we have to do our part to make sure no one has too bad of a day, put everyone in the top 25 and hopefully get a national championship,” Darling said.
Oklahoma State coach Dave Smith has been telling his team to expect the unexpected.
The Cowboys feature four returning runners who earned All-American honors in 2010: Colby Lowe, Tom Farrell, German Fernandez and Johnathan Stublaski. Western Kentucky transfer Shadrack Kipchirchir joins that group after finishing 27th at the NCAA Championships a year ago.
“I think the unexpected happens all the time,” he said. “The field is so evenly matched ... I think there is so much parity in the NCAA. Things have to go so well for any team to get on that trophy stand. There are a few mistakes by a few people and you get totally unexpected results.”
Led by senior Miles Batty, third-ranked BYU enters the national meet as West Coast Conference and Mountain Region champions. Fourth-ranked Oklahoma, paced by senior Midwest Region runner-up Kevin Schwab, was also the team runner-up while placing all seven of its runners in the top 25.
Derrick hopes for success for his fifth-ranked Stanford teammates in his final try. He is one of five Stanford runners with NCAA Championships experience, including fellow All-American Jacob Riley.
“As a team, I think we definitely feel like we haven’t had our best race yet,” Derrick said, allowing for some differences in training this year. “I think we’re all excited to have a race that we’re proud of. I think that the last couple of years we thought that we beat ourselves at this meet, which is certainly a disappointing thing. We’re looking forward to going out there and laying it on the line.”