By Jennifer Zahn l FloTrack
Capped by a wild dash to the finish that saw Northern Arizona's Matthew Baxter launch a serious challenge against Syracuse's Justyn Knight for the individual title, the Lumberjacks claimed their second consecutive NCAA cross country championship on Saturday in Louisville, Kentucky, scoring 74 points with three men in the top eight.
The University of Portland finished runner-up with 127 points, while Brigham Young took third with 165.
In the individual showdown, Knight showed why his No. 1 rank was legitimate all season by kicking hard and holding on down the homestretch -- away from Baxter -- to earn his, and Syracuse's, first-ever individual NCAA title.
Strong pack-running from NAU's top three -- Baxter, Tyler Day and Peter Lomong -- characterized the squad all season. It led them to a dominant win at the Nuttycombe Wisconsin Invitational in October, and it helped them again at the NCAA Championships as that trio of juniors finished second, third and eighth, respectively.
All five of NAU's scoring runners cracked the top 40.
After stealing the show at the West Regional, Portland continued to roll through with that momentum to surpass BYU as the runner-up team. Sophomore Emmanuel Roudolf-Levisse once again led the Pilots by crossing the line in 11th, but he didn't manage to take down Stanford junior Grant Fisher, who was firing on all cylinders and grabbed fifth.
The Pilots' top five were rounded out by senior Jeff Thies (14th), junior Nick Hauger (26th), and senior Matt Welch (46th).
In a surprising turn of events for BYU, junior Rory Linkletter, who ran lights out at the Pre-National Invitational in October to claim the individual title and hoist the Cougars above the rest of the field, couldn't keep up at NCAAs after a slow start -- it saw him cross the 2K mark in 5:45.90 -- and he finished in 39th place.
|Finish||School||Points||SCorers||Spread I Average|
|1||Northern Arizona University||74||2+3+8+28+33 (51+85)||1:00 1-5 Split | 29:31 Avg|
|2||University of Portland||127||9+12+21+39+46 (54+126)||0:35 1-5 Split | 29:54 Avg|
|3||Brigham Young University||165||20+23+32+35+55 (60+87)||0:35 1-5 Split | 30:00 Avg|
|4||Stanford University||221||5+14+15+69+118 (124+132)||1:48 1-5 Split | 30:01 Avg|
|5||University of Arkansas||259||11+36+43+72+97 (139+189)||1:13 1-5 Split | 30:16 Avg|
|6||University of Oregon||274||34+37+66+67+70 (98)||0:30 1-5 Split | 30:20 Avg|
|7||Iowa State University||279||13+45+58+81+82 (125+184)||1:00 1-5 Split | 30:20 Avg|
|8||University of Colorado||294||26+48+57+74+89 (150+171)||0:52 1-5 Split | 30:23 Avg|
|9||Colorado State University||318||25+49+75+77+92 (142+148)||0:55 1-5 Split | 30:26 Avg|
|10||University of Michigan||328||18+41+61+103+105 (119+158)||1:11 1-5 Split | 30:26 Avg|
|11||Southern Utah University||334||42+64+65+68+95 (130+152)||0:41 1-5 Split | 30:30 Avg|
|12||Iona College||373||22+31+93+112+115 (133+181)||1:09 1-5 Split | 30:31 Avg|
|13||Syracuse University||406||1+47+90+121+147 (169+197)||2:22 1-5 Split | 30:30 Avg|
|14||University of Alabama||420||4+7+30+188+191 (203+206)||2:54 1-5 Split | 30:33 Avg|
|15||Air Force Academy||429||16+50+91+113+159 (164+211)||1:45 1-5 Split | 30:39 Avg|
Not surprisingly, then, BYU freshman Casey Clinger moved up and finished first for BYU in 24th. Junior Connor McMillan held on for 30th.
NAU's Day, not far behind, snuck in behind McMillan to keep first-time NCAA DI competitor, Alabama's JUCO champion transfer Gilbert Kigen, in fourth.
Fisher who repeated his fifth-place finish from 2016, fought his way up to that spot after going through 4K in 21st.
|1||Justyn Knight||Syracuse University||29:00.20||1|
|2||Matthew Baxter||Northern Arizona University||29:00.80||2|
|3||Tyler Day||Northern Arizona University||29:04.60||3|
|4||Gilbert Kigen||University of Alabama||29:11.90||4|
|5||Grant Fisher||Stanford University||29:12.10||5|
|6||Dillon Maggard||Utah State University||29:16.20||6|
|7||Vincent Kiprop||University of Alabama||29:27.20||7|
|8||Peter Lomong||Northern Arizona University||29:33.10||8|
|9||Lawrence Kipkoech||Campbell University||29:34.50||0|
|10||Jonathan Green||Georgetown University||29:38.60||0|
|11||Emmanuel Roudolff-levisse||University of Portland||29:38.90||9|
|12||Sean Tobin||University of Mississippi||29:39.40||10|
|13||Jack Bruce||University of Arkansas||29:39.50||11|
|14||Jeff Thies||University of Portland||29:40.70||12|
|15||Andrew Jordan||Iowa State University||29:40.70||13|