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Wolfpack Women Dominate ACC Cross Country Championships, Men Finish Third

Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

The fifth-ranked NC State women's cross country team placed three runners in the top five at the ACC Championships in Louisville Friday morning, winning their second consecutive ACC title with a dominating 66-point margin over runner-up Louisville.

State was in command throughout, placing four runners at the very front in the first mile as a lead group of about a dozen strung the race out early. At the official 2-km split, State had four of the first five places (though 10 runners were within a second of the lead), and no other school had more than two runners in the top 20. Wolfpack sophomore Beth Taye pushed the pace through the middle of the race to whittle the lead group down to eight. Taye began to fall back just before the 4-km split as Louisville's Dorcas Wasike moved to the front, leaving freshman Dominique Clairmonte, sophomore Elly Henes, and junior Rachel Koon just off the lead in the 4th-6th spots.

Wasike and Syracuse's Paige Stoner battled over the final stretch before Stoner pulled away in the final 100 meters to win the 6-km race by three seconds in 19:52. Koon gave the best effort at chasing the leaders over the last mile, but Clairemont (3rd, 19:59.0) and Henes (4th, 20:02.8) finished strongly to push Koon back to 5th (20:04.6) at the finish. Taye held on for 10th (20:26.2).

The only weakness for the Pack was at the fifth and final scoring place, and even there State never trailed any other team and moved up well throughout the race, going from 37th at 2-km to 24th at 4-km to a 21st place finish for junior Ryen Frazier (20:47.7). Frazier's strong finish nabbed the final All-ACC position, giving State five members on the team. Nine schools split the remaining All-ACC spots, with no one besides NC State earning more than two honors.

Some other measures of the Wolfpack dominance:

  • Take out State's top two runners (who were, remember, third and fourth overall) and State still wins by over 20 points.
  • Five runners score in cross country (you add places - lower score is better); the sixth and seventh runners can push back scorers from other teams; beyond seven don't count at all, but the ACC allows each team to start up to 10 runners. The Wolfpack's ninth runner beat the fifth scorer from every other team.
  • NC State (43 points) was 66 points ahead of runner-up Louisville. That was as big as the gap between Louisville and the sixth-place team.
  • This was the 40th ACC women's cross country meet. This was NC State's 23rd ACC women's cross country title.
In the earlier men's race Syracuse, ranked fourth nationally, dominated with repeat individual champ Justyn Knight and five runners in the top 10. State was limited by a lack of any runners near the front after a huge pack began to splinter the mid-point of the 8-km race. But the 22nd-ranked Pack did close strongly to claim three all-ACC spots for junior Phillip Hall (14th, 23:58.0), freshman Joe Bistritz (15th, 23:58.6), and sophomore Ben Barrett (16th, 23:59.1). State made up ground over the final mile to just edge out Virginia for third, behind runner-up Virginia Tech.

Next up for cross country is the NCAA Southeast Regional in Charlottesville in two weeks. The women will be strong favorites to win, with 11th-ranked Furman as the only real challenger and two automatic qualifying spots available. State's men will be chasing number-seven Furman and number-11 Virginia Tech. They will hope to upset one of those teams for an automatic NCAA bid, but should be in very good position for a wild-card berth if they place in the top four.