Lalang cruises to individual title
Arizona freshman finishes 2011 campaign unbeaten in six races
TERRE HAUTE, Ind. -- Lawi Lalang ran alone toward the finish line, his neon green-clad feet a blur. The Arizona freshman from Kenya raised his arms in the air as he crossed it in 28:44.1, more than 13 seconds ahead of the nearest competitor at the Division I Cross Country Championships on Monday afternoon at the LaVern Gibson Championship Course.
“I feel great, very happy,” Lalang said. “When you’re by yourself, it’s really great.”
Lalang finished undefeated on the season, with wins at the Dave Murray Invitational, the Roy Griak Invitational, the Wisconsin adidas Invitational, the Pac-12 Championships and the NCAA West Region Championships. He’d planned to make his move after the 5K mark, but picked his spot after the 4K mark of the 10,000-meter race instead.
“This is the NCAA 10K championship, it’s a good step for me,” Lalang added, who will take a couple weeks off before he starts training for indoor track and field.
Emerging through the chase pack to finish second was Stanford senior Chris Derrick in 28:57.5, followed by senior Leonard Korir of Iona in 29:02.5. Derrick closed out his career with seventh, third, fifth and runner-up championships finishes.
“I wanted to run the second half really well,” Derrick said, noting a sweet spot right before the 8K mark on the course.
Wisconsin, the top-ranked team in the U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association poll, won the team title handily with 97 points, as No. 2 and two-time defending champion Oklahoma State finished second with 139 points. Rounding out the top five were Colorado (144 points), BYU (203) and Stanford (207).
Team members made the ‘W’ symbol with their index fingers and thumbs while standing on the podium to accept their hardware. It was the fifth national championship for the program, counting wins in 1982, 1985, 1988 and 2005.
Mohammed Ahmed was the top Wisconsin runner, placing fifth in 29:06.7 to earn All-American honors along with Elliott Krause (17th, 29:41.6) Ryan Collins (23rd, 29:52.2), Reed Connor (36th, 30:08.6). Maverick Darling was 46th in 30:20.0.
Badgers coach Mick Byrne said his team followed the strategy to get out hard and settle into the race and the rhythm of what the competition was doing before getting going again. The longtime Iona coach, in his fourth year in Madison, said his team trusted its instincts in reading the race.
“It’s great for these athletes, it’s great for our program, it’s great for our university,” Byrne said. “It’s no secret that I came to Wisconsin to do this, to be a part of this great tradition.
“…I’ve been around some awesome, incredible athletes the last 27 years. This win is for them. They kept me involved in the sport.”