NCAA Cross Country Regionals: Oregon sweeps West, Colorado sweeps Mountain
Two NCAA Regional meets, two sweeps for the Pac-12.
The tradition-rich Oregon cross country program reigned supreme Friday at Stanford, winning the men’s and women’s team competitions at the NCAA Division I West Regional. Meanwhile in Albuquerque, N.M., Colorado pulled off its first sweep of the men’s and women’s NCAA Division I Mountain Regional since 2006.
There were plenty of familiar Pac-12 names atop the individual leaderboards at both regionals. Here’s a roundup of Friday’s action and how the conference’s top runners stacked up against the competition.
MEN’S CROSS COUNTRY
Stanford’s Maksim Korolev provided the biggest upset of the day in the men’s 10K event when he held off Edward Cheserek of Oregon to win the individual race at the West Regional. Cheserek, the reigning NCAA champion, entered the West Regional with seven wins in seven events this season, including the Pac-12 Championship.
Cheserek and Korolev separated from the pack on the final 800 meters, but the Stanford senior finished with a time of 29:34 on his home course, less than two seconds before Cheserek crossed the finish line. Stanford coach Chris Miltenberg took the victory with a grain of salt, comparing Friday’s event to a preliminary heat for the NCAA Championships on Nov. 22 in Terre Haute, Ind.
“I think Maks feels that way, and I’m sure Edward feels that way,” Miltenberg said. "The real race is in a week, but, still a great sign for Maks and where he’s at, and that he’s coming on at the right time.”
Cheserek was the one celebrating with his teammates after the race, as No. 2 Oregon (60) and second-place Portland (71) secured two automatic bids to the NCAA Division I Cross Country Championships. Cheserek’s teammate and Pac-12 Championship men’s runner-up Eric Jenkins (29:40) finished third, while Daniel Winn (17th, 29:56), Tanguy Pepiot (18th, 29:56) and Travis Neuman (20th, 29:58) rounded out Oregon’s winning top five.
“For the most part, we did exactly what we set out to do; work on a few things, be conservative, and advance to the NCAA Championships,” Oregon coach Robert Johnson told GoDucks.com. “Coaches Andy and Maurica Powell did a phenomenal job with their approach in preparing the teams to get the job done.”
No. 9 Stanford (97), No. 17 UCLA (104), No.11 Washington (139) rounded out the top five at the West Regional and made the cut as at-large teams during Saturday's NCAA Championships selection process. In addition to the 31 teams, 38 individual runners advanced to the NCAAs, including California's Chris Walden and Arizona State's Ryan Herson.
Perhaps it comes as no surprise that No. 1 Colorado claimed the men’s team title at the Mountain Regional, after the Buffs recently beat Oregon to claim the 2014 Pac-12 men’s team championship and have been the country’s top-ranked unit all season long.
Connor Winter was the first CU runner to cross the finish line with a time of 29:55, good for fourth place overall. Colorado (45) earned the victory over second-place Northern Arizona (68) by placing five of the top 13 runners.
WOMEN’S CROSS COUNTRY
Two weeks after winning the Pac-12 team title, the No. 3 Oregon women used a team-first approach to post a collective score of 88 in the 6K event at the West Regional, ahead of Boise State (103) and Stanford (103). While Boise State earned the automatic NCAA bid by virtue of a tiebreaker, the No. 10 Cardinal earned an at-large bid on Saturday, along with No. 15 Washington (131) and No. 27 UCLA (176).
The Ducks had a 21-second spread between their first-place finisher, Molly Grabill (11th, 20:37) and fifth-place finisher, Annie Leblanc (24th, 20:58). Frida Berge (13th, 20:38), Megan Patrignelli (18th, 20:47) and Alli Cash (22nd, 20:50) completed the quick quintet for Oregon.
Arizona State senior Shelby Houlihan followed up her recent Pac-12 Championship win with another first-place finish. Houlihan posted a mark of 19:32 to beat out Boise State’s Emma Bates (19:34) and earned a chance to compete in Terre Haute.
“Shelby ran a great, solid race today, facing some of the toughest competition in the country, and she’s in a very good place to do well next week,” ASU coach Louie Quintana told TheSunDevils.com.
Stanford freshman Elise Cranny (19:46) took third and Cal freshman Bethan Knights (20:00) placed fourth. Both are poised to compete the NCAA Championships and look like they'll have a high-profile rivalry for years to come.
“It’s going to be a lot of fun,” Miltenberg said. “I think it will help them both to continue to get better and better.”
At the women’s Mountain Regional, Colorado sophomore Erin Clark (20:56) finished second to pace the first-place Buffs. No. 12 Colorado (43) had five of the top 13 runners, edging out host No. 9 New Mexico (56) for the title on Friday.
“We are always happy to advance,” Buffs coach Mark Wetmore told CUBuffs.com. “We weren’t too nervous about that with the men, but the women could not have afforded to have a bad day, and instead they had a very good day. That always makes us happy.”