TERRE HAUTE, Ind. — The Oregon cross country program captured a national title Saturday at the NCAA championships, though not the one most were expecting. Maurica Powell's UO women captured the team title by the barest of margins, a single point over Michigan.
Freshman Katie Rainsberger finished fourth for the Ducks over the six-kilometer LaVern Gibson Championship Course, in 19:51.1, leading three All-American finishers from Oregon. Junior Alli Cash was 14th in 20:08.2, and Samantha Nadel took 21st in 20:14.0.
OREGON DUCKS— NCAA Track & Field (@NCAATrackField) November 19, 2016
2016 WOMEN'S CROSS COUNTRY NATIONAL CHAMPIONS! pic.twitter.com/bqtT100iDH
By the time seniors Ashley Maton (61st, 20:37.0) and Maggie Schmaedick (64th, 20:38.1) crossed the finish line, the Ducks knew they'd run exceptionally well. But the projected champs from Colorado also had a solid day, and Michigan was led across the line by the second-place individual, senior Erin Finn.
After an agonizing wait that included reviewing race video for confirmation, the Ducks were announced as national champs with 125 team points, one fewer than the Wolverines. Only then did the significance of Schmaedick's finish — one place and one-tenth of a second ahead of Michigan's fifth finisher — begin to resonate.
Colorado was third with 134 points. The Oregon women won their fourth NCAA cross country title, having previously taken first in 1983, 1987, 2012.
Powell said the Ducks' pacing and placing through 2k led her to think they had a shot to win. "It was like, they're either going to go big or go home," she said. "And they held on."
The 12th-ranked UO women became the lowest-ranked team to win an NCAA title. The previous record was set when No. 4 Georgetown won in 2011. Rainsberger's fourth-place finish was highest-ever by a UO freshman.