NAU Claims Second Consecutive NCAA Title

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.

View: Men's NCAA Cross Country Championship Results

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. 

FinishSchoolPointsSCorersSpread I Average
1Northern Arizona University742+3+8+28+33 (51+85)1:00 1-5 Split | 29:31 Avg
2University of Portland1279+12+21+39+46 (54+126)0:35 1-5 Split | 29:54 Avg
3Brigham Young University16520+23+32+35+55 (60+87)0:35 1-5 Split | 30:00 Avg
4Stanford University2215+14+15+69+118 (124+132)1:48 1-5 Split | 30:01 Avg
5University of Arkansas25911+36+43+72+97 (139+189)1:13 1-5 Split | 30:16 Avg
6University of Oregon27434+37+66+67+70 (98)0:30 1-5 Split | 30:20 Avg
7Iowa State University27913+45+58+81+82 (125+184)1:00 1-5 Split | 30:20 Avg
8University of Colorado29426+48+57+74+89 (150+171)0:52 1-5 Split | 30:23 Avg
9Colorado State University31825+49+75+77+92 (142+148)0:55 1-5 Split | 30:26 Avg
10University of Michigan32818+41+61+103+105 (119+158)1:11 1-5 Split | 30:26 Avg
11Southern Utah University33442+64+65+68+95 (130+152)0:41 1-5 Split | 30:30 Avg
12Iona College37322+31+93+112+115 (133+181)1:09 1-5 Split | 30:31 Avg
13Syracuse University4061+47+90+121+147 (169+197)2:22 1-5 Split | 30:30 Avg
14University of Alabama4204+7+30+188+191 (203+206)2:54 1-5 Split | 30:33 Avg
15Air Force Academy42916+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.

1Justyn KnightSyracuse University29:00.201
2Matthew BaxterNorthern Arizona University29:00.802
3Tyler DayNorthern Arizona University29:04.603
4Gilbert KigenUniversity of Alabama29:11.904
5Grant FisherStanford University29:12.105
6Dillon MaggardUtah State University29:16.206
7Vincent KipropUniversity of Alabama29:27.207
8Peter LomongNorthern Arizona University29:33.108
9Lawrence KipkoechCampbell University29:34.500
10Jonathan GreenGeorgetown University29:38.600
11Emmanuel Roudolff-levisseUniversity of Portland29:38.909
12Sean TobinUniversity of Mississippi29:39.4010
13Jack BruceUniversity of Arkansas29:39.5011
14Jeff ThiesUniversity of Portland29:40.7012
15Andrew JordanIowa State University29:40.7013