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Hicks Wins NCAA Title

Nov 19, 2022

STILLWATER, Okla. – For all the success Stanford has had in cross country, winning nine national team titles between its men's and women's teams, the program never had an individual NCAA champion until Saturday.

Charles Hicks, a senior with two more years of eligibility if he wants to use them, pulled in front with just over a kilometer to go and maintained the lead to the finish of the NCAA men's championship race at Greiner Family Cross Country Course.

Hicks covered a hilly and demanding 10-kilometer (6.2 mile) course in 28:43.6 and, along with 10th-place finisher Ky Robinson, led the Stanford men to fourth as a team, with 195 points. It was the 17th top-four team finish for the Cardinal men and first since 2017. 

The Stanford women were 13th with 371 points, while running in the first race with a race-start temperature of 26 degrees. Zofia Dudek completed the 6K (3.73-mile) course in 20:01.7 to lead the Cardinal in 20th overall and earn her first All-America honor. 

Even with the likes of Olympians Grant Fisher, Chris Derrick, Ryan Hall, Ian Dobson, and Brent Hauser on the men's side and Sara Bei Hall, Elise Cranny, Regina Jacobs, and PattiSue Plumer on the women's Stanford never had an individual champion. 

"It's amazing. I could name off so many people that I thought would have won it," Stanford men's distance coach Ricardo Santos said. "I'm really happy for him."

Hicks had no idea when he crossed the finish line.

"I actually didn't know that until the announcer said it," Hicks said. "Our program has such a storied history, I would have assumed someone had done it. That's incredible."

Stanford entered the race ranked No. 1 and led the first half of the race before Northern Arizona and BYU, and later Oklahoma State, came on strong. 

"It's definitely bittersweet," Santos said. "I'm really happy for Charles. He's worked really hard. But it just wasn't our day. We're happy in a sense that we got on to the podium and we're bringing a trophy back to campus. So, it's progress."

Hicks was 14th on this course during the COVID-delayed NCAA meet in March 2021 and was fourth last year in Tallahassee, Florida. He chose to shut down his racing after the NCAA outdoor track and field championships in June rather than continue into the summer. The idea was to rebuild his training base. 

As he raced this fall at the end of 105-mile training weeks, Hicks didn't have the bounce in his legs, but the freshness returned he backed off the mileage and tapered heading into the postseason.

"I just had to stay with the belief that when we started coming down my legs were going to feel fresher," Hicks said. "At Pac-12's (Oct. 28) my legs started feeling so much better. They felt lighter, they weren't burning as much, and I think that's what good training feels like."

Because of the difficulty of the Oklahoma State course, Hicks had a feeling it would create an honest pace, meaning this wasn't the kind of course that would lead to a lot of sitting back and waiting. And that was how he liked it. 

Hicks wanted to push from the outset and two Northern Arizona runners – Nico Young and Drew Bosley obliged. The field broke apart quickly. For a while Robinson, who won the Nuttycombe Wisconsin Invitational against most of these runners, remained in the front pack. But, eventually, it splintered to three – Hicks, Young, and Bosley. Robinson backed off and led the chase pack.

Hicks tucked behind the two NAU runners and the order remained that way for most of the race. 

Afterward, Hicks was thankful that "the NAU guys did 99 percent of the work."

At every point he could, Santos told Hicks, "don't do any work until we need to."

Said Santos later, "just settling in and conserving his energy was key. He did a great job doing that and it paid off at the end."

Hicks noticed that on the uphills over multi-loop course, he gained ground without trying to. Each time the NAU runners dropped back slightly and Hicks drew closer. Hicks kept that in his mind until a series of hills on the final lap. 

"This race was really controlled," Hicks said. "The NAU guys really made it simple. I knew what I had to do. I wasn't really looking around, because the only two guys I was really looking for were right in front of me." 

As Hicks converged on the NAU pair on another uphill, he decided to continue the momentum past them. There was about 1.3 kilometers to go when Hicks took the lead. He didn't make a huge move – he knew Young would catch him anyway and therefore wanted to preserve something for late in the race – but he did commit himself. 

Sure enough, Young made a big push as they rounded a corner onto a downhill to the finish with 200 meters to go. But Hicks responded and pulled away over the final meters. 

"It was exactly the race I would have hoped for," Hicks said. "I prefer to run strong, I prefer to run aggressive and keep a really high intensity over the whole race. They (Young and Bosley) allowed me to run the kind of race I love to run -- where we're going for it, seeing who has more fitness, who's done more miles, and who wants it more."

Five Stanford men and one woman finished second at the NCAA Championships, the most recent was Fisher in 2018 before Wisconsin's Morgan McDonald pulled away on his own home course.

Now, Stanford has an individual champion. Hard to believe it's taken this long, but thankful for all the Cardinal who prepared Hicks for this moment. 


A men's podium finish. Photo by Kirby Lee.

* * *

NCAA Championships
At Greiner Family Cross Country Course
Winners and all Stanford

Men (10K, 6.2 miles)
Team leaders – 1, Northern Arizona 83; 2, Oklahoma State 83; 3, BYU 132; 4, Stanford 195; 5, Wake Forest 204; 6, Wisconsin 212; 7, Air Force 264; 8, Colorado 281; 9, Tulsa 304; 10, North Carolina 323.
Individuals – 1, Charles Hicks (Stanford) 28:43.6; 10, Ky Robinson (Stanford) 29:07.4; 51, Devin Hart (Stanford) 29:47.0; 71, Meika Beaudoin-Rousseau (Stanford) 29:57.2; 75, Thomas Boyden (Stanford) 29:59.7; 118, Cole Sprout (Stanford) 30:22.9; 191, Evan Burke (Stanford) 30:57.4.

Women (6K, 3.73 miles)
Team leaders
– 1, North Carolina State 98; 2, New Mexico 118; 3, Alabama 211; 4, Oklahoma State 201; 5, North Carolina 242; 6, Northern Arizona 257; 7, Notre Dame 261; 8, BYU 263; 9, Virginia 268; 10, Georgetown 271. 13, Stanford 371.
Individuals -- 1, Katelyn Tuohy (North Carolina State) 19:27.7; 20, Zofia Dudek (Stanford) 20:01.7; 83, Lucy Jenks (Stanford) 20:30.5; 93, Audrey DaDamio (Stanford) 20:34.8; 121, Riley Stewart (Stanford) 20:45.1; 136, Grace Connolly (Stanford) 20:50.6; 206, Abi Archer (Stanford) 21:25.1; 235, Audrey Suarez (Stanford) 21:54.7.