On Nov. 23, Indiana State hosted the 2019 Division I Cross Country National Championships at the Lavern-Gibson Championship Cross Country Course in Terre Haute.
Conditions were very adverse for the competitors as the already difficult course was muddy and wet with temperatures in the low 30s and light rain during both the men’s and women’s races.
This is the first national championship held in Terre Haute since 2016 and marks the 13th national championship held at Lavern-Gibson since 2002. National championships in Terre Haute have been won by running legends such as Galen Rupp, Simon Bairu, Jorge Torres, Edward Cheserek, Karissa Schweizer, Sally Kipyego, Shalene Flanagan and many more.
This marks one of the most exciting weekends in sports for Terre Haute residents as the biggest event of the season brings the best amateur runners to town to compete for a national title.
In the men’s 10K race, a monumental upset took place as BYU defeated the heavy title favorites from Northern Arizona.
BYU gets their revenge after taking second to NAU a year ago in the national championship in Wisconsin, and in the process ended Northern Arizona’s streak at three consecutive national championships dating back to 2016.
This marks the first title in school history for the Cougars. BYU Head Cross Country Coach Ed Eyestone spoke about the toughness of his team, saying “I think our guys proved that they are ‘mudders.’ These guys that we have here on our team are tough; they overcome adversity and can compete through anything.”
BYU had a team score of 109 and finished with an average time of 31:08. Their top five scorers placed third, 14th, 17th, 36th, and 39th.
Sophomore Conner Mantz was the top finisher for the national champions, taking third and running a time of 30:40.0.
The predicted favorite, Northern Arizona, finished second with a score of 163. Right behind them was Colorado with a score of 164, followed by Iowa State in fourth with 211 points, and Tulsa in fifth with 243 points.
Individually, senior Edwin Kurgat of Iowa State took home the championship, finishing with a time of 30:32.7. Kurgat broke away from the lead pack of roughly five or six runners just after the 8K mark and never looked back.
Kurgat ran the race in an average mile time of 4:54.9 and joins great company of national champions that have been crowned in Terre Haute.
Senior Joe Klecker from Colorado finished second with a time of 30:37.1.
Rounding out the top individual finishers were seniors Peter Seufer of Virginia Tech, finishing fourth with a time of 30:40.1, and Vincent Kiprop of Alabama, running 30:43.5 to finish fifth.
In the women’s 6K race, the Arkansas Razorbacks were crowned champions with a total score of 96 points and an average time of 20:29 across the board. Arkansas placed their top five runners in third, fourth, 16th, 21st, and 52nd overall.
Razorback senior Katie Izzo was the top performer for the national champions, running 19:59.3 and taking third place. BYU finished in a close second with 102 points, Stanford in third with a score of 123, New Mexico in fourth with 168 points, and North Carolina State in fifth with a score of 190.
The individual national champion was junior Weini Kelati from New Mexico. Kelati won by ten seconds, finishing with a time of 19:47.5 and gapping the field in the second half of the race.
The runner-up in the race was senior Alicia Monson from Wisconsin. Monson ran a time of 19:57.1 and edged out Izzo from Arkansas towards the end of the race.
Rounding out the top five in the field individually were seniors Taylor Werner from Arkansas, running 20:11.1, and Courtney Wayment from BYU, finishing a time of 20:16.1.
The future of cross-country championships in Terre Haute is yet be determined, as locations are bidding currently for the 2022 championships. In 2020, the championships will be hosted by Oklahoma State in a newly-designed course in Stillwater, Oklahoma.
In 2021, Florida State will host the meet in Tallahassee, Florida.
It is the hope that the championships will come back to “Cross Country Town USA” sooner rather than later as the bidding occurs. For the competitors, it is off to track season as most Division I teams begin competition in December.