Morgan McDonald wins the NCAA cross-country title (© Kirby Lee)
Morgan McDonald and Dani Jones won the men's and women's individual titles at the NCAA Cross Country Championships on Saturday (17).
McDonald and Jones overcame sub-freezing temperatures to win with late surges on the snow-covered turf on the Zimmer Championship course at the University Ridge Golf Course in Wisconsin.
McDonald, a student at the University of Wisconsin, outkicked Stanford's Grant Fisher to win the men's 10km race, both clocking 29:09. Jones, representing the University of Colorado, won the women's 6km race in 19:43, pulling away from New Mexico's Weini Kelati down the final stretch. Kelati was second in 19:46, followed by Oregon's Jessica Hull in third in 19:51.
Worth the wait for McDonald
McDonald sat out the 2017 season for a fifth year of eligibility and an opportunity to close out his collegiate career on his home course on Saturday. The Australian became the first man to win an NCAA title on their home course since Bob Kennedy of Indiana in 1992.
“As soon as we thought that we might be hosting nationals when I was a sophomore, maybe even a freshman, this is something that we knew down the line might be an option,” McDonald said of his decision to extend his eligibility. “This was 100 percent the reason.”
McDonald broke away from a pack of 12 over the final kilometre. To the cheers of a predominant flag-waving Wisconsin crowd, McDonald sprinted away from Fisher and Iowa State's Edwin Kurgat on a 300-metre incline to the finish. Kurgat finished a step back of Fisher in third in 29:00.
McDonald gestured with a W sign with both hands in celebration as he crossed the finish. He said that his familiarity with the course was an advantage in the tightly contested race in the final 400 metres with 10 finishers within nine seconds.
“I knew that there were still so many bodies there and I was trying not to be the first one to make a move,” McDonald said. “I knew I had Grant (Fisher) there and Kurgat so I was just trying to vibe off of them, see when they were going to make their moves and when the time was right I kind of put my foot down and just prayed that it was enough.”
Jones welcomes cold weather
Jones wasn't fazed by the overnight snow nor the breezy conditions en route to her individual win, which lifted Colorado to a 65-103 victory over defending champions New Mexico. Allie Ostrander of Boise State and Anna Rohrer of Notre Dame shared pace-making duties of a pack of seven with a mile to go before the race turned into a two-runner duel between Jones and Kelati.
“All season we wanted the hardest conditions,” Jones said. “We wanted the winds and everything. We woke up and were all happy this morning.”
Jones joined an elite group of Colorado women’s winners that includes Kara Goucher (2000) and Mary Slaney (AIAW in 1978). Colorado had three runners among the top 15 with Jones, Makena Morley in eighth and Tabor Scholl in 15th to win its third title since 2000.
The Northern Arizona men were as dominant as the Colorado women. NAU, coached by Michael Smith, had two runners among the top 15 with Tyler Day in sixth and Matthew Baxter in 15th for an 83-116 triumph over BYU. The Lumberjacks became the first team to win three consecutive titles since Arkansas (1998-2000) and sixth overall.
Kirby Lee for the IAAF
1 Morgan McDonald (Wisconsin) 29:09
2 Grant Fisher (Stanford) 29:09
3 Edwin Kurgat (Iowa State) 29:09
4 Isai Rodriguez (Oklahoma State) 29:11
5 Aaron Templeton (Furman) 29:12
1 Dani Jones (Colorado) 19:43
2 Weini Kelati (New Mexico) 19:46
3 Jessica Hull (Oregon) 19:51
4 Alicia Monson (Wisconsin) 19:56
5 Ednuh Kurgat (New Mexico) 19:56