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Katherine Wright | NCAA.com | November 10, 2019

The fastest finishes in NCAA DI cross country championships history

The top men's cross country teams to watch in 2019

Cross country finishes are difficult to calculate. Comparing the times to other years and different courses makes the process of titling the fastest times in NCAA DI Cross Country history practically impossible. With the help of our record books (Men's | Women's), 25 men's and women's cross country times have been documented as the fastest finishes in NCAA DI cross country championships history.

We've pinpointed the dates and locations that radically changed the record books for both men's and women's cross country.

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Men's cross country fastest finishes

Nov. 22, 1976. That was the date cross country was turned on its head. Three days before Thanksgiving, 11 of the top-25 fastest championship finish times on record occurred at the 1976 cross country national championship, hosted by North Texas State. The 38th annual men's NCAA DI Cross Country Championships included an average 45-degree temperature and clear visibility — great weather for a 10k race. Topographically, the terrain in Denton, Texas, is flat. 

Kenyan-born Henry Rono of Washington State led the historic 10k with the fastest time ever recorded in NCAA DI men's cross country national championship history — a finishing time of 28 minutes, 6.6 seconds. About 10 seconds behind him (28:16.8), his WSU teammate Samson Kimombwa crossed the finish line and became the sole owner of the second fastest championship finish ever recorded. And 10 seconds after Kimombwa (28:26.5), Illinois' Craig Virgin rounded out the podium with his third-place finish in what was the third-fastest championship time recorded, at the time. 

CHAMPIONSHIP HISTORY: Men's complete history since 1938 Women's complete history since 1981

Rono bettered Virgin's time three years later with a 28:19.6 finish at the 1979 national championships — his third individual title (1976, 1977, 1979). He became only the third person in history to win three titles, making Rono one of the greatest distance runners in NCAA history.

Top-25 fastest finishes in men's cross country championships history:

All-Time Year Place Host Time Name School
1 1976 1 North Texas 28:06.6 Henry Rono Washington St.
2 1976 2 North Texas 28:16.8 Samson Kimombwa Washington St.
3 1979 1 Lehigh 28:19.6 Henry Rono Washington St.
4 1976 3 North Texas 28:26.5 Craig Virgin Illinois
5 1976 4 North Texas 28:30.7 Herb Lindsay Michigan St.
6 2012 1 Louisville 28:31.3 Kennedy Kithuka Texas Tech
7 1977 1 Washington St. 28:33.5 Henry Rono Washington St.
8 1976 5 North Texas 28:34.8 John Treacy Providence
9 1979 2 Lehigh 28:37.4 Alberto Salazar Oregon
10 2012 2 Louisville 28:38.6 Stephen Sambu Arizona
11 1976 6 North Texas 28:39:00 Wilson Waigwa UTEP
12 1976 7 North Texas 28:43.1 Niall O'Shaughnessy Arkansas
13 2011 1 Indiana St. 28:44.1 Lawi Lalang Arizona
14 1981 1 Wichita St. 28:45.6 Mathews Motshwarateu UTEP
15 2015 1 Louisville 28:45.8 Edward Cheserek Oregon
16 1976 8 North Texas 28:46.4 Sammy Maritim Texas-El Paso
17 2001 1 Furman 28:47:00 Boaz Cheyboiywo Eastern Michigan
18 1979 3 Lehigh 28:47.3 Kipsubi Koske New Mexico
19 1981 2 Wichita St. 28:48.4 Michael Musyoki UTEP
20 1976 9 North Texas 28:49.6 Rudy Chapa Oregon
21 1977 2 Washington St. 28:51:00 John Treacy Providence
22 2012 3 Louisville 28:51.8 Lawi Lalang Arizona
23 1976 10 North Texas 28:52.8 James Munyala Texas-El Paso
24 1997 1 Furman 28:54:00 Mebrahtom Keflezighi UCLA
25 1976 11 North Texas 28:54.3 James Peterson Georgetown

Women's cross country fastest finishes

The 37th annual NCAA DI Women's Cross Country Championships on Nov. 18, 2017 mirrored the men's 1976 outlier. The 6k race hosted by Louisville at the E. P. "Tom" Sawyer State Park set the scene for eight of the fastest championship finishes in NCAA DI women's cross country history. 

Clouds enabled a 20-mph wind and 66-degree temperature for the early morning race. The mostly level Louisville region made for ideal running conditions. 

New Mexico's Ednah Kurgat crossed the finish line at 19:19.5, about eight seconds ahead of Washington's Amy-Eloise Neale (19:27.0). The pair took home first and second placcec that day and became the top-two fastest finishes in women's cross country championship history.

Overall, Louisville has been the site of 16 of the fastest finishes in women's cross country championship history — including seven of the 10 fastest finishes ever recorded — though the school has only hosted the event three times in program history (2012, 2015, 2017).

Top-25 fastest finishes in women's cross country championships history:

All-time Year Place Host Time Name School
1 2017 1 Louisville 19:19.5 Ednah Kurgat New Mexico
2 2017 2 Louisville 19:27.0 Amy-Eloise Neale Washington
3 2012 1 Louisville 19:27.9 Betsy Saina Iowa St.
4 2008 1 Indiana St. 19:28.1 Sally Kipyego Texas Tech
T-5 2017 3 Louisville 19:28.6 Charlotte Taylor San Francisco
T-5 2015 1 Louisville 19:28.6 Molly Seidel Notre Dame
T-5 2012 2 Louisville 19:28.6 Abbey D'Agostina Dartmouth
T-5 2012 2 Louisville 19:28.6 Jordan Hasay Oregon
9 2003 1 UNI 19:30.4 Shalane Flanagan North Carolina
10 2007 1 Indiana St. 19:30.9 Sally Kipyego Texas Tech
11 2017 4 Louisville 19:31.2 Allie Ostrander Boise St.
12 2014 1 Indiana St. 19:31.6 Kate Avery Iona
T-13 2015 2 Louisville 19:33.6 Allie Ostrander Boise St.
T-13 2012 4 Louisville 19:33.6 Aliphine Tuliamuk-Bolton Wichita St.
15 2005 1 Indiana St. 19:33.9 Johanna Nilsson Northern Arizona
16 2017 5 Louisville 19:34.0 Weronika Pyzik San Francisco
17 2008 2 Indiana St. 19:34.9 Susan Kuijken Florida St.
18 2017 6 Louisville 19:35.6 Caroline Sang Charlotte
19 2017 7 Louisville 19:35.8 Weini Kelati New Mexico
20 2002 1 Indiana St. 19:36.0 Shalane Flanagan North Carolina
21 2017 8 Louisville 19:36.3 Grayson Murphy Utah
22 2008 3 Indiana St. 19:37.1 Tasmin Fanning Virginia Tech
23 2014 2 Indiana St. 19:39.9 Sarah Disanza Wisconsin
24 2015 3 Louisville 19:40.9 Dominique Scott Arkansas
25 2012 5 Louisville 19:41.0 Risper Kimaiyo UTEP

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