This was the year it was all supposed to come together for the University of Wisconsin men's cross country team, but for the third consecutive season the Badgers finished second at the NCAA Championships, Monday in Terre Haute Ind.
This season's race was decided by one of the narrowest margins in history, with Colorado claiming the crown by a mere four points. The Buffaloes tallied 90 points, while the Badgers managed 94.
A year ago, Wisconsin finished second to Stanford by a margin of 24-174. That Cardinal team graduated six of its top seven runners, while the Badgers brought back essentially their entire team.
Wisconsin was ranked No. 1 all season long and won the Big Ten and Great Lakes Regional Championships with relative ease.
Colorado, however, nipped the Badgers to step in front of the coronation.
"I think the guys did a good job," UW coach Jerry Schumacher said. "Looking at the scores, it seems to me there was quite a bit of ‘unpredictableness' in the race today. I feel like Colorado ran an awesome race. They put it together at the end, when it mattered most."
UW junior Simon Bairu won the individual title in the 10,000-meter race in 30 minutes, 37.7 seconds but Colorado sophomore Brent Vaughn (30:48.7) and junior Brent Schoolmeester (30:56.3), finished fourth and fifth, respectively.
Vaughn, Schoolmeester and senior Jon Severy earned All-American honors for Colorado, Severy finishing 21st at 31:26.9.
That trio scored 1-9-11 in the team competition. Colorado's top three runners placed 4-5-15 in the team competition, a mere three points behind Wisconsin's top three. The Badgers could not quite keep up with the Buffaloes' depth.
Colorado freshman Stephen Pifer finished No. 44 (31:45.8) and freshman James Strang placed No. 49. They were 31st and 35th in the team competition, though, giving the Buffaloes their 90-point total.
UW senior Josh Spiker (32:27.4) and sophomore Tim Nelson (32:34.5) finished 88th and 101st, respectively. Only the top five finishers' points are included in the team total.
Colorado won the national title for the second time in school history, the first coming three years ago. Colorado's women's team also won its second team national title Monday. It was the fourth time in history that one school won both the men's and women's titles.
"I couldn't say that I expected to win (both national titles), but I knew that they were in reach," Colorado men's and women's coach Mark Wetmore said. "I thought that with a well-run race the men could finish second and I knew that we needed Wisconsin to make some mistakes. So I guess I would say that the team exceeded my expectations."
Wisconsin finished in the top six for the ninth consecutive season.