"Coming down the stretch, I was too scared to look back to see who was behind me or how close they were," Bairu said. "I'm just so happy with the way I ran and still can't believe I won today."
It was an incomplete day for Bairu and the Badgers, though, who finished second as a team for the third consecutive season.
Bairu ran with the lead pack the entire race. At about the 8,000-meter mark, Bairu, Boit and Gonzalez broke away. The three ran together, with Bairu and Boit eventually pulling ahead of Gonzalez. As the pair emerged around the final turn and headed down the final 800-meter straightaway, Bairu sprinted past Boit. With about 50 meters left he looked behind him and saw he had the win, pumping his first in the air.
"The plan was to stick with the front pack for much of the race. I knew someone was going to try to make a move about the halfway mark. I just wanted to stick with whoever was there and then make one big push with 1K to go," Bairu said.
"I'm extremely proud of the way Simon ran," UW head coach Jerry Schumacher said. "He showed a lot of heart, desire and drive to get to the finish line and he did a great job. It is probably a little bittersweet for him."
Two other Wisconsin runners, senior Matt Tegenkamp and sophomore Chris Solinsky, also earned All-American honors. Tegenkamp earned his third cross country All-American honor by placing 11th overall while Solinsky was 16th overall, earning his second consecutive All-American honor.
Bairu, the two-time defending Big Ten Champion, finished seventh at the national meet last season. He is the first Badger to win an individual men's title since Tim Hacker in 1985. Erica Palmer won a women's national championship in 1999.
Wisconsin individual finishers
* - All-American
Rundhaug finishes 59th
Sophomore Katrina Rundhaug finished 59th in the women's national championships Monday, also in Terre Haute, Ind., becoming the highest UW individual finisher since the 2000 meet.
Rundhaug, who transferred to UW from Minnesota, was the only Badger to compete in the women's event.