Harriers win national championship

Bairu wins repeat individual title at NCAA men's cross country championships; team wins for first time since 1988; women place 20th.

After three consecutive seasons as the national runner-up, the University of Wisconsin men's cross country team won the NCAA Championship in Terre Haute, Ind. Monday.

The Badgers' achievement came in startling fashion: six runners placed in the top 15 in the team competition. Three of the top seven were Badgers.

Wisconsin won going away; its 37 points was the sixth-best total in NCAA history and good enough to win by 68.

Senior Simon Bairu led UW's effort, winning his second consecutive individual national championship. Bairu completed the 10,000-meter course in 29 minutes, 15.9 seconds, a full six seconds ahead of Richard Kiplagat of Iona.

"He's something else," UW coach Jerry Schumacher said. "Today was his last day in a Badger uniform for cross country at least and he made the most of it."

Bairu, who still has an indoor and an outdoor track season to look forward to this academic year, made the decision along with Schumacher to run a team race. Rather than plotting a course for the individual national title, and running the risk of burning out and fading into the pack, Bairu's gameplan was to pace himself to make sure he posted a good score for the team.

The pace established by the leaders, however, allowed Bairu to hang around and accomplish both goals.

"At about eight (kilometers), Schumacher yelled at me that we had the team in the bag and to go for the win," Bairu said. "That's all I needed. That was the green light. I decided to test the other guys right after the eight (kilometer) mark and they responded to it. I decided to hang back until about nine (kilometers) and that's when I decided to put in a big surge."

Badger junior Chris Solinsky placed third at 29:27.8.

Redshirt freshman Matt Withrow was the top freshman finisher. Withrow placed ninth overall and seventh in the team competition at 29:50.7.

Senior Antony Ford was 14th overall and 12th in the team portion (29:55.2).

Redshirt freshman Stuart Eagon rounded out UW's scoring. He placed 14th in the team competition (17th overall) at 30:05.3.

"I think the thing they did better today than I've ever seen them do was they ran a race like they would typically run but they didn't put a lot of emotional energy into the first half of the race," Schumacher said. "They really were patient. They had the patience they needed to have to carry them through the second half of the race. They just did it to perfection today."

The Badgers' performance was so strong that junior Tim Nelson earned All-American honors but did count for Wisconsin's team score. At 30:06.4 Nelson was 18th overall, 15th in the team portion and sixth among the Badgers.

Redshirt freshman Christian Wagner placed 43rd/58th in a time of 30:35.7 to round out UW's athletes.

Arkansas placed a distant second with 105 points, followed by Notre Dame (178), Iona (205) and Colorado (222).

Stanford, coached by former UW women's track and cross country coach Peter Tegen, finished sixth with 231 points.

Tegen's Stanford women's cross country team won the national championship Monday, with 146 points.

The Wisconsin women placed 20th, led by junior Katrina Rundhaug, who finished 26th/36th at 20:29.9.

Freshman Alicia Pabich (83/111, 21:13.6), senior Maggie Grabow (88/117, 21:16.2), junior Amanda Ganser (131/167, 21:46.9) and senior Linsey Smith (141/177, 21:51.1) also scored for UW.

Simon Bairu crosses the finish line with his second consecutive individual NCAA cross country championship. (AP Photo/AJ Mast)

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