LOUISVILLE, Ky. — There wasn’t going to be any type of repeat of a year ago. The Oklahoma State University men’s cross country team made sure of that as they returned as the kings of cross country by rolling away with the NCAA Division I National Championship on Saturday.
“It’s a heck of a lot better,” OSU coach Dave Smith said. “It’s just one place better, but it’s an eternity in feeling. I was really proud of the way the guys responded to the step back we experienced last year.”
The victory for the Cowboys — made even more impressive considering they lost their top three runners from last year’s runner-up squad — is the fourth championship for the program and third in the last four years.
“I think it shows that is program and this team is more than any one guy or even one group of guys,” Smith said. “... It’s a real team effort. I think we’ve got not just seven guys that ran today, but 17 to 19 guys that are committed to winning championships.”
Oklahoma finished eighth. It was the Sooners’ third-straight top-10 finish. Senior Bill Kogel was the top OU finisher with a 30:19.8 effort, good for 51st place.
OSU senior Girma Mecheso diverted from the game plan — much to Smith’s chagrin — running out ahead of his teammates and began running with the leaders around the 1-mile mark. Fortunately for the Cowboys, the move didn’t hurt — quite possibly doing them more good than harm — as he managed to come away with a fifth-place finish in his final collegiate race.
“Girma I guess was feeling good today and gambled and ran with the rest of the big dogs up front and ran a heck of a race,” Smith said. “I was leery until about 400 meters to go. I kept thinking that it could be a big mistake. In fact, at one point I felt beyond leery — my emotions were much higher than that. But it worked out.”