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Katherine Wright | | November 28, 2022

The fastest finishes in NCAA DI cross country championships history

BYU's Conner Mantz wins the 2021 men's cross country championship | FULL RACE

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.

XC GLOSSARY: Get to know the basic and advanced terms of cross country

Men's cross country fastest finishes

Nov. 22, 1976. That was the date cross country was turned on its head. Three days before Thanksgiving, nine 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.

The 2021 national championship on Nov. 20, 2021, saw BYU's Conner Mantz record the seventh-fastest mark with a winning time of 28:33.1, besting the field by more than five seconds and passing Rono's 1977 victory (28:33.5). Five finishes from the 83rd annual championship, held at Apalachee Regional Park in Tallahassee, Florida, landed among the top 25.

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 2021 1 Florida St. 28:33.1 Conner Mantz BYU
8 1977 1 Washington St. 28:33.5 Henry Rono Washington St.
9 1976 5 North Texas 28:34.8 John Treacy Providence
10 1979 2 Lehigh 28:37.4 Alberto Salazar Oregon
11 2012 2 Louisville 28:38.6 Stephen Sambu Arizona
12 2021 2 Florida St. 28:38.7 Wesley Kiptoo Iowa St.
13 1976 6 North Texas 28:39.0 Wilson Waigwa UTEP
14 2021 3 Florida St. 28:40.9 Athanas Kioko Campbell
15 1976 7 North Texas 28:43.1 Niall O'Shaughnessy Arkansas
16 2022 1 Oklahoma State 28:43.6 Charles Hicks Stanford
17 2011 1 Indiana St. 28:44.1 Lawi Lalang Arizona
18 2022 1 Oklahoma State 28:44.5 Nico Young Northern Arizona
19 1981 1 Wichita St. 28:45.6 Mathews Motshwarateu UTEP
20 2015 1 Louisville 28:45.8 Edward Cheserek Oregon
21 1976 8 North Texas 28:46.4 Sammy Maritim Texas-El Paso
22 2001 1 Furman 28:47.0 Boaz Cheboiywo Eastern
23 2021 4 Florida St. 28:47.2 Charles Hicks Stanford
24 1979 3 Lehigh 28:47.3 Kipsubi Koske New Mexico
25 1981 2 Wichita St. 28:48.4 Michael Musyoki UTEP

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 seven 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 place that day and became the top-two fastest finishes in women's cross country championship history.

Overall, Louisville has been the site of 13 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).

On Nov. 20, 2021, Whittni Orton of BYU recorded the second-fastest time, finishing in 19:25.4 to win the 41st annual women's national championship, held at Apalachee Regional Park in Tallahassee, Florida. The 2021 championship closely resembled 2017, as six times vaulted into the top 25.

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 2021 1 Florida St. 19:25.4 Whittni Orton BYU
3 2017 2 Louisville 19:27.0 Amy-Eloise Neale Washington
4 2022 1 Oklahoma State 19:27.7 Katelyn Tuohy NC State
5 2012 1 Louisville 19:27.9 Betsy Saina Iowa St.
6 2008 1 Indiana St. 19:28.1 Sally Kipyego Texas Tech
T-7 2017 3 Louisville 19:28.6 Charlotte Taylor San Francisco
T-7 2015 1 Louisville 19:28.6 Molly Seidel Notre Dame
T-9 2012 2 Louisville 19:28.6 Abbey D'Agostina Dartmouth
T-9 2012 2 Louisville 19:28.6 Jordan Hasay Oregon
11 2021 2 Florida St. 19:29.3 Mercy Chelangat Alabama
12 2021 3 Florida St. 19:29.5 Ceili McCabe West Virginia
13 2021 4 Florida St. 19:29.8 Cailie Logue Iowa St.
14 2003 1 UNI 19:30.4 Shalane Flanagan North Carolina
T-15 2007 1 Indiana St. 19:30.9 Sally Kipyego Texas Tech
T-15 2022 2 Oklahoma State 19:30.9 Parker Valby Florida
17 2017 4 Louisville 19:31.2 Allie Ostrander Boise St.
18 2014 1 Indiana St. 19:31.6 Kate Avery Iona
19 2021 5 Florida St. 19:33.5 Taylor Roe Oklahoma St.
T-20 2015 2 Louisville 19:33.6 Allie Ostrander Boise St.
T-20 2012 4 Louisville 19:33.6 Aliphine Tuliamuk-Bolton Wichita St.
22 2005 1 Indiana St. 19:33.9 Johanna Nilsson

Northern Arizona

23 2017 5 Louisville 19:34.0 Weronika Pyzik San Francisco
24 2021 6 Florida St. 19:34.6 Kelsey Chmiel NC State
25 2008 2 Indiana St. 19:34.9 Susan Kuijken Florida St.

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