Nov. 22, 2010

Women's Results: Individual | Team

Women's Team Recap | Photo Gallery

By John Oehser
Special to NCAA.com

TERRE HAUTE, Ind. -
Sheila Reid was confident from the start.

A thousand yards from the finish, she got really, really confident - and with reason: She knew she had the kick to finish strong.

And on Monday she used it.

Reid, a Villanova University junior, ran a strong race throughout and stronger at the finish, winning her first individual title at the 2010 NCAA Division I women's cross country championships Monday afternoon on a gray, windy day at the LaVern Gibson Championship Course at the Wabash Valley Family Sports Center in Terre Haute.

"My last kilometer has been really strong throughout the year, so I knew if it came down to it, I would have enough in the end," Reid said. "I'm really confident in my kick. I knew coming down the home straight how good I felt that I would have something left in me."

How right she was.

Reid, who overcame a severe hip injury early in her career to lead the Wildcats to the last two team national titles, capped her comeback by pulling away from the field in the final stretch to win in 20:06.9 - more than two seconds ahead of the nearest finisher.

Junior Emily Infeld of Georgetown finished second in 20:09.2, followed by sophomore Jordan Hasay of Oregon (third, 20:13), sophomore Risper Kimaiyo of UTEP (fourth, 20:16.1) and junior Rose Tanui of Texas Tech (fifth, 20:17.6).

"I'm so excited," Infeld said. "I was hoping to be in the Top 5, but I wasn't sure how far up I could finish. I was just trying to stay with the lead pack and trying to stay composed."

Infeld said she took the lead late with Hasay, but said Reid's finishing kick was the difference.

"I feel like she had more kick than me," Infeld said. "I tried to give it all I had - one more go, but she had a little more than I did, but I couldn't be happier.

"I'm really proud of Sheila. I feel like she's an awesome girl."

Reid, who said having raced against Infeld throughout the Big East season helped Monday, won a title Monday, but her story was more than a one-day finish.

"If you had told me two years ago I'd be here, I don't think I'd believe you," Reid said. "It would have been hard to believe. It was pretty much rock bottom after my freshman year."

Reid was heavily recruited out of high school, but as a freshman she sustained what she called a fluke injury, tripping over a root on a training run while preparing for the 2008 World Junior Cross Country Championships. She sustained a torn labrum - the cartilage lining the hip socket.

Reid underwent surgery, and a long recovery process, missing her sophomore cross-country season.

"I feel really blessed to be here," she said. "It would have been really easy to make concessions being so injured, but I was determined to get back to where I thought I should be."

Reid credited Villanova coach Gina Procaccio with her comeback, and after Monday's race, Procaccio talked of the process.

"I did everything I could when that injury happened to make sure she got the top surgeon in the country," Procaccio said. "We flew her out to Vail, Colo., because I knew he was the guy. I was able to convince my athletic director, 'This kid can be an NCAA champion.' I wanted to do everything the right way.

"To see it all come to fruition is amazing. We both hugged and were crying. It was a tough road. I knew working with the kid when I first got her she could be an NCAA champion, and this (the cross-country title) is the big one. This is the hardest championship to win."

Reid's road didn't get easier after her recovery. While the Wildcats won last year's title, Reid finished 13th individually last year, and said Monday, "it wasn't the ideal race for me."

"I was a lot more nervous last year," Reid said. "I was a lot more relaxed coming into the race this year. No excuses for last year. I fought as hard as I could. I just felt more confident coming into it and I knew my place coming into it this time."

On Monday, after a long road and thanks to a kick she believed in, that place was at the front, at last.