TERRE HAUTE, Indiana--University of Washington junior and Walla Walla native Aaron Nelson's (left/photo by Paul Merca) breakthrough cross country ended with a 20th place finish and All-American honors at the NCAA Division I championships at the LaVern Gibson Championship Course.
Nelson’s breakout season was capped with the best finish by a Husky at the NCAA meet since Christian Belz finished 17th in 1998. That was the last time a Husky earned All-America honors until Saturday, when Nelson crossed the line in 30:27.
“What he did today was what we believed he was capable of doing,” said Husky coach Greg Metcalf. “He felt great and was purposeful in his run. He went out with the single-minded goal to be an All-American today. You talk to kids about what you hope they’re going to do, and how to go do it, and he followed the plan to a tee. For him to finish 20th-place, it’s outstanding, and for a guy who’s never been in the meet before. He had a great day and it was fun.”
“The first 5k went by like nothing, and all of a sudden I’m halfway through the race and feeling like I haven’t started racing yet. Then a pack started to form and people started moving a bit and I wasn’t sure if I had the energy to maintain in that position,” Nelson said. “I kind of struggled for a few ‘k’ in the middle there but then all of a sudden found myself back in it and was rolling some people up. That was kind of a second wind for me.”
With flooding near the starting line in the days before the race, organizers moved the start line 100 meters from the original start, meaning that runners had to get out a little quicker than normal to get good position on the muddy course.
“The course conditions were really rough, but I hung in tough and stayed up there with the top group,” Nelson said. “They started to fade away a little, some people died off, and I kind of found myself up in the top-30, and just moved. I’m really excited about this race, I’m really happy. My main goal today was just to be top-40 and to be top-20 was even sweeter.”
Freshman Edward Cheserek of Oregon pulled away from defending champion Kennedy Kithuka of Texas Tech to win by 18 seconds in a time of 29:42.
#1 ranked Northern Arizona, with Shadle Park HS alum Nathan Weitz, finished second in the team race behind team champ Colorado, as the Buffaloes, the Pac-12 champs wind with 149 to NAU's 169. Weitz finished 76th in 31:05.
Defending champ Oklahoma State finished third with 230 points, as Central Kitsap alum Shane Moskowitz finished 141st in 31:43 as the Cowboys' sixth runner.
The University of Portland, with Seattle Prep alum Charlie McDonald, finished seventh with 293 points. McDonald placed 60th in a time of 31:00.
In the women's 6k race, the University of Washington finished a disappointing 17th with a team score of 376, as the Huskies could not overcome a big hole at the start of the race, when frontrunners Megan Goethals and Katie Flood took a fall a little bit near the 1-kilo mark.
During the pile-up, Flood lost her shoe, and had to sit down to put it back on, at which point she was dead last in the 250+ woman field. At the 2k mark she fought back to 215th place, then stormed to 127th at the 4k, before finishing in 84th in 21:13.
Goethals, who missed the first half of the season with a stress fracture, had a similar race after the crash, charging all the way up to 80th in 21:11.
Senior Liberty Miller was the third Husky finisher, taking 96th in 21:17 in her last cross country race. That was the best NCAA finish in four appearances for Miller. Freshmen Amy-Eloise Neale and Katie Knight were the fourth and fifth scorers for the Dawgs today in their first run over the NCAA course. Neale took 121st overall in 21:26 and Knight was just three seconds back in 128th-place.
Dartmouth's Abbey D'Agostino took the national title in a time of 20:01, beating West regional champ Emma Bates of Boise State by three seconds.
Providence took the team title with 141 points, beating out Pac-12 champ Arizona who scored 197 points, with surprising Butler finishing third with 200 points.
Redmond HS alum Devin McMahon finished 164th in 21:45, as Cornell finished 23rd with 569 points.
DIVISION II RECAP
In Spokane at the Plantes Ferry Sports Complex, Western Washington's Katelyn Steen finished 34th in 21:46 over the 6k course to earn All-America honors and led the Vikings to an 18th place finish, scoring 452 points.
Seattle Pacific, which had beaten the Vikings at both the GNAC and NCAA regionals, finished 21st with 492 points, led by Anna Patti's 72nd place finish in 22:24.
Western's scorers consisted of Taylor Guenther in 94th (22:35), Haley O'Connor in 131st (22:53), Austen Reiter in 136th (22:57), and Lillianna Stelling in 144th (23:00).
SPU's other scorers consisted of McKayla Fricker in 106th (22:41), Lynelle Decker in 115th (22:46); Sarah Macdonald in 138th (22:38), and Jasmine Johnson in 157th (23:10).
Ashley Nichols, a Inglemoor HS grad running for Bentley (MA), finished 149th in 23:05.
The individual women's champion was the University of Mary's (North Dakota) Jennifer Agnew in 20:51, with Pittsburg State's Jessica Macy second in 21:03. Grand Valley State took the women's national title with 54 points.
In the men's 10k race, Western Washington finished 20th with 544 points, led by Chip Jackson's 61st place finish in 31:38.
Scoring for the Vikings were Cory Johnson in 116th (32:31), Isaac Griffith in 125th (32:36), Jonathan Quimby in 153rd (32:52), and Tabor Reedy in 177th (33:13).
The individual men's champion was Adams State's Tabor Stevens in 29:51, 11 seconds better than runner-up Vegard Olstad from Western State. Stevens' win helped propel perennial D2 powerhouse Adams State to yet another national title.
Kamiak HS alum Bryton Reim earned All-America honors with his 36th place finish in 31:13, as his Cal Baptist squad finished 22nd.
ROOSEVELT HS ALUM LUCY CHEADLE PLACES FIFTH IN D3 NATIONALS
In Hanover, Indiana, Roosevelt HS alum Lucy Cheadle (above/photo courtesy Washington University) was fifth in the NCAA Division III cross country championships, running a time of 21:29 over the 6k course, earning All-America honors.
The University of Puget Sound's Kathryn Flyte finished 64th in a time of 22:21.
Chelsea Johnson of St. Scholastica won the national title in 21:12.
NOTE: The sports information offices of the University of Washington, Western Washington University, Seattle Pacific University, Washington University, and the NCAA contributed to this report.