NC State had their whole top five close the race strong to win their second consecutive NCAA women's cross country title in Stillwater, Oklahoma this morning. On top of that, sophomore Katelyn Tuohy wrapped up an unbeaten season by winning the NCAA individual title, crushing the record on the tough 6-km course to win by three seconds in 19:27.7.
As undefeated returning champs (don't say defending - no one can ever take your trophies), the NC State women had been number one all season. But things looked a little creaky over the past two competitive races, with a tiebreaker needed to beat
Northern Arizona New Mexico at the regular season's biggest meet, and then an unexpected nail-biter, four-point win over Notre Dame at the ACC meet. State got out strong, narrowly behind Alabama at the 1-km split, and then leading at the next two spots and number-two New Mexico started way back. Alabama, with four top-20 runners and huge gap to their fifth scorer, edged back in front at 4k, but State regained a four-point advantage just after three miles. New Mexico had moved up to third and was just 30 points back at that point, and looked like a serious challenger.
But State crushed the final kilometer to put the race away. Tuohy had run with the main lead pack as Florida's Parker Valby - also unbeaten and co-favorite - built a 12-second lead two-thirds of the way through the race. At that point, Tuohy struck out on her own and cut the gap to Valby in half by 5k. She took the lead decisively with a quarter-mile to go and pulled away. Behind her, Kelsey Chmiel broke free from the rest of the top ten to finish third - Tuohy and Chmiel tied for the fastest final kilometer, and with Florida not in the team race State had the first two scoring finishers. Behind them, Samantha Bush had the fourth-fastest final kilometer to move up from 35th to 15th, and Nevada Mareno moved up seven places to 29th.
New Mexico's depth had been their key all year, and that continued as they put five runners in all-American position (top 40). But State had a huge advantage through four, and with freshman Brooke Rauber moving up 17 places to 90th over the final kilometer, State locked up a 26-point lead, 114-140. Alabama was actually one point up on NC State through four runners, but matching the pattern all year, their fifth runner was 155th, and they fell to third.
In the men's race, State came in ranked 18th, and was actually in the high 20's (out of 31 teams) at the first split, but kept moving at up at every posted interval. They finished 11th, passing Syracuse in the final kilometer to end up third among ACC schools (Wake was 5th and uNC 10th - just 11 points in front of State, tantalizingly close as State made up 38 points in the final split.) In an incredible race for the team title, Northern Arizona won their third consecutive by taking a tie-breaker over Oklahoma State. Despite winning their sixth title in seven years, the NAU win was actually an upset, as Stanford had been number one most of the season.
Senior Ian Shanklin led State with a 38th place finish, earning all-American honors for the second time.