LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Led by a courageous effort by seniors Jordan Hasay, Alexi Pappas and Katie Conlon, the Women of Oregon captured their first NCAA cross country national title since 1987 Saturday at E.P. “Tom” Sawyer State Park.
“In one way or another every runner for Oregon stepped up and ran in a way they hadn’t before,” said head coach Robert Johnson. “I am so proud of our women’s team and the job done by assistant coach Maurica Powell.
“We are absolutely thrilled to be able to bring this national title back home to the State of Oregon.”
Hasay led an impressive pack of Ducks who were in the race’s top 50 nearly the entire 6,000 meter distance. Oregon ended up winning easily with 114 points, followed by Providence with 183, Stanford with 198 and Florida State with 202.
Hasay looked strong in the lead pack throughout, only falling to Iowa State’s Betsy Saina and Abbey D’Agostino of Dartmouth at the tape. After a sprint to the finish, Saina was the 2012 individual champion in 19:27.9, followed by D’Agostino and Hasay both in 19:28.6.
“I wanted to win, but I wanted to the team to win more, so I’m pretty happy about that,” said Hasay. “We’ve been trying to win this meet ever since my freshman year, so it’s great to be able to do it with these girls who have been supporting each other for so long.”
Hasay, from Arroyo Gande, Calif., willed her teammates around the course in impressive fashion. Pappas, a transfer from Dartmouth, ran just a step off the lead pack the entire race, and finished eighth in 19:43.9.
“It was a fast race,” said Pappas, from Alameda, Calif. “I just kept pushing and tried to the do the best I could for the team.”
Conlon was the surprise of the day for the Ducks. The transfer from NAIA Jamestown College in North Dakota had been the Ducks’ fifth or sixth runner during the regular season, but put on a strong kick over the final third of the race, passing a couple dozen runners to place 39th in 20:15.0.
Then it was freshman Allie Woodward coming to the line as Oregon’s fourth runner. The Green Bay, Wis., native was 44th overall in 20:19.5. Freshman Annie Leblanc capped the scoring for the Ducks, finishing 68th in 20:31.5
Oregon also had senior Sarah Penney 105th in 20:50.7 and freshman Abbey Leonardi 162nd in 21:12.2.
Initially, the Ducks’ first title in 25 years wasn’t quite as easy as it ended up being. Due to a timing error in the results, Providence was initially credited with the win. Almost immediately, it became apparent that Pappas and other runners had been omitted from the final standings. After about 30 minutes the results were corrected and Ducks were indeed the national champions.
“It was a bit of a rollercoaster there,” said Conlon. “But we knew we ran a good, strong race. It was kind of a shock when they said we didn’t win, but now, we’re good. I guess never really let myself think about winning a national championship. It’s pretty amazing.”
It is the third NCAA women’s cross country title in school history. The other came in 1987 and 1983 under coach Tom Heinonen.
Overall, it is the 20th NCAA championship in the University’s history, 19 of which have come in track or cross country.
The men of Oregon had some ups and downs in their return to the NCAA meet after missing the Championships in 2011. The Ducks took 20th with 472 points.
Oklahoma State won with 72 points, followed by Wisconsin with 135 and Colorado with 158.
Senior Trevor Dunbar was the Ducks’ top finisher, taking 41st in 30:04.8. Freshman Matthew Melancon from Eugene had a strong first run at the NCAA meet, placing 97th in 30:41.2. Oregon also had Ryan Pickering 144th in 31:04.3, Ben DeJarnette 154th in 31:07.9 and Jeramy Elkaim 159th in 31:12.2.