The CU Buffs women’s cross country team earned a third place finish, while the men placed sixth, at the 2016 NCAA Championships on Saturday. The teams were ranked first and second respectively by the USTFCCCA poll going into the race.
The women’s third place finish marks the second straight year they have placed on the podium after a second place finish in 2015. In total, they have placed on the podium nine times under the direction of head coach Mark Wetmore. This is the sixth straight year the men’s team has finished in the top 10.
While winds gusted up to 18 miles per hour with a wind chill of 27° at the start of the women’s race, the men’s race had similar conditions, junior Kaitlyn Benner didn’t believe it played a big role in the team’s performances.
“I don’t really think so. Obviously it wasn’t ideal but that’s something we prepare for mentally and physically. I think we came in well prepared for the weather.”
THE WOMEN’S RACE
Top-ranked Colorado suffered its first loss of the season, recording 134 points in the 6-kilometer team race. No. 12 Oregon won the championship by one point over fifth-ranked Michigan (125-126).
Like they had been doing all season, the Buffs finished in a very close pack with four recording All-America honors (as top 40 finishers). The Buffs were led by sophomore Dani Jones, who placed 22nd overall (20:14.2) for her first All-America nod. Junior Kaitlyn Benner, now a two-time All-American, was just behind Jones at 26th (20:15.6).
“We have some very good races today. Dani was very good. Mackenzie Caldwell was excellent. The two freshman were excellent. We’ve got a good future,” Wetmore commented.
Colorado’s next four runners came across the finish in a strong pack. Sophomore Mackenzie Caldwell led the stampede with a 39th place finish (20:23.8) and freshman Sage Hurta was 40th overall (20:24.1) to each earn their first All-America honor. CU’s final scorer was freshman Tabor Scholl, who placed 42nd (20:24.9) and just missed All-America recognition by 0.8 seconds.
Although she did not score, sophomore Makena Morley earned a very high placing, finishing 43rd (20:27.6), right behind Scholl. In a surprisingly disappointing finish, top performer senior Erin Clark, finished 133rd (20:58.4) for seventh on the team. Clark is one of only 3 CU women to run under 20 minutes at the CU Buff Ranch which she did this year at the Rocky Mountain Shootout.
“The first thing I noticed 600-700 M into the race is that we were not positioned well. They were out a little too tentatively, in fact a lot too tentatively and then it was a catch up raced the whole way. I think later when the intermediate splits are revealed we will see that they were moving up, but it was too late,” Wetmore commented on how the race unfolded.
Missouri’s Karissa Schweizer won the overall individual title, crossing the finish in 19:41.6.
THE MEN’S RACE
Colorado’s second-ranked men finished the 10-kilometer race sixth overall with 223 points. Top-ranked Northern Arizona won the meet with 125 points and No. 5 Stanford placed second overall (158).
The Buffs were led by senior Ben Saarel, who caught his teammate, redshirt freshman Joe Klecker, down the final stretch. Saarel finished his final cross country race 21st overall, clocking in at 30:11.8. Klecker was just behind at 28th, finishing in 30:15.6.
Ben Saarel on his race; “It was an alright day. I made one good adjustment from Pre-Nationals, from the 4K to 5K I was able to get up to the pack that I wanted to be in. And I was able to cut a lot of the wind out. But also I made a few poor choices by not being aggressive enough, from about 5K to 7K. So some good stuff happened and some bad stuff. But I felt like I could have done a little bit more but that’s kind of how I ended up. It was an ok day. I can’t be too angry with how I did, but at the same time it would have been nice to be two spots ahead.”
Another Buff, sophomore John Dressel, crossed the finish shortly after Klecker, placing 33rd overall in 30:21.3. With those finishes, Saarel, Klecker and Dressel were named All-Americans. It was the fourth time for Saarel, second for Dressel and first for Klecker.
CU’s No. 4 runner was sophomore Ryan Forsyth, who placed 74th overall (30:42.8). The final scorer for the team was junior Zach Perrin, who crossed the line 125th (31:04.7)
Also racing, although they did not score, were junior Christian Martin (192nd) and redshirt freshman Reilly Friedman (217th). Martin finished in 31:35.4 and Friedman clocked in at 31:54.3.
Villanova’s Patrick Tiernan was the individual winner, finishing in 29:22.0.
Ben Saarel became just the third Buff, fourth including men and women, to earn All-America honors four times in his career. Saarel was the top racer for the Buffs in 2013, placing eighth overall. In 2014, he improved to seventh and was 31st in 2015. This year he was 21st.
“He’s in rare company. I am happy that he got All-American. He indeed moved up throughout the race to be our number one runner.” – Mark Wetmore
Saarel joins Olympian and 1998 NCAA Cross Country Champion Adam Goucher and Stephen Pifer in this elite group. (Olympian Shalaya Kipp is the only female to earn the honor four times.)
“Again, I think our men made the same mistake our women did in that they were a little too tentative. If both teams do that times seven players, then you have to look at the coach and say, ‘how did I fail to communicate with the necessities of this event?’ They were a little too far back moving up the whole way. Again, the intermediate splits will show that but it was too late to get much higher. Anyway, I think they ran about where they should have,” Wetmore summed up.
2016 NCAA DIVISION I CROSS COUNTRY CHAMPIONSHIP
LaVern Gibson Championships Cross Country Course (Terre Haute, Ind.)
WOMEN’S TEAM TOP-10 6K RESULTS (of 31 teams):
- Oregon 125; 2. Michigan 126; 3. Colorado 134; 4. NC State 223; 5. Stanford 255; 6. San Francisco 307; 7. New Mexico 310; 8. Michigan State 314; 9. Eastern Michigan 316; 10. BYU 328
WOMEN’S TOP-10 INDIVIDUAL FINISHERS:
- Karissa Schweizer, Missouri, 19:41.6; 2. Erin Finn, Michigan, 19:44.2; 3. Anna Rohrer, 19:44.6; 4. Katie Rainsberger, Oregon, 19:51.1; 5. Sharon Lokedi, Kansas, 19:52.2; 6. Brenna Peloquin, 19:54.5; 7. Elinor Purrier, New Hampshire, 19:56.9; 8. Amy-Eloise Neale, Washington, 19:58.3; 9. Grace Barnett, Clemson, 20:02.4; 10. Charlotte Taylor, San Francisco, 10:02.7
- Dani Jones, 20:14.2; 26. Kaitlyn Benner, 20:15.6; 39. Mackenzie Caldwell, 20:23.8; 40. Sage Hurta, 20:24.1; 42. Tabor Scholl, 20:24.9; 43. Makena Morley, 20:27.6; 133. Erin Clark, 20:58.4
MEN’S TEAM TOP-10 10K RESULTS (of 31 teams):
- Northern Arizona 125; 2. Stanford 158; 3. Syracuse 164; 4. Mississippi 196; 5. Arkansas 206; 6. Colorado 223; 7. BYU 247; 8. Wisconsin 256; 9. Oregon 282; 10. Iona 319
MEN’S TOP-10 INDIVIDUAL FINISHERS:
- Patrick Tiernan, Villanova, 29:22.0; 2. Justyn Knight, 29:27.3; 3. Edward Cheserek, Oregon, 29:48.0; 4. Futsum Zienasellassie, Northern Arizona, 29:49.8; 5. Grant Fisher, Stanford, 29:57.9; 6. MJ Erb, Mississippi, 29:58.5; 7. Morgan McDonald, Wisconsin, 29:59.2; 8. Edwin Kibichiy, Louisville, 29:59.5; 9. Nicolas Montanez, BYU, 30:02.3; 10. Scott Carpenter, Georgetown, 30:03.0
- Ben Saarel, 30:11.8; 28. Joe Klecker, 30:15.6; 33. John Dressel, 30:21.3; 74. Ryan Forsyth, 30:42.8; 125. Zach Perrin, 31:04.7; 192. Christian Martin, 31:35.4; 217. Reilly Friedman, 31:54.3