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Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Weekend Report, Part 2

On Sunday, a college teammate and I drove out to Terre Haute for the NCAA Division I Championships. I’ve been to this meet three times now, and it’s still a little weird to see a city where a cross-country meet is the center of attention. The facility is great—a permanent XC course in the middle of a huge field. Various extra loops make it possible to create virtually any distance you want. The opening straightaway is 1000 meters long, reducing the need to sprint from the start for strategic purposes (more on that later).

The women were up first. Kipyego of Texas Tech was favored; she took it out hard and never came back to the pack. Team favorites Stanford won. Not a particularly interesting race.

Then there was the men's race. These guys were really charged up: and you would have been, too, if you knew what was coming.

To recap, Wisconsin was the prohibitive favorites, and individuals expected to compete for the win were Chris Solinsky, Martin Fagan and Josh McDougal, with yours truly calling Josh Rohatinsky "a real threat to win".

Nobody took it out hard, and there was a large lead group here approaching 2k:
At 5k they still haven't dropped anyone, with all the major players in the group:and the announcer said Wisconsin had a three-point lead over Stanford.

After this, the group started to break up a bit but my camera acted freaky and I'm not really sure what was when. Josh Rohatinsky led Indiana native Nef Araria in a late-race surge, then pulled away to win it.Told ya so.

Solinsky had been at the front up through 7k or so, but then he "cratered" and finished 75th. This led us to suspect Wisconsin might not have won. We couldn't wait for official word, though, as my friend had to cross two states to pick up his kids from the babysitter. Just as we got to his car we heard a roar and could only make out the words "Wisconsin second" over the PA. We thought maybe Arkansas or Iona might have pulled it off. At a gas station we were told Colorado pulled off the stunning upset.

By my calculations (which may not match those announced at the meet), at 5k Wisconsin led, followed by Stanford, Arkansas, Colorado, and Iona. At 8k, Wisconsin still led but Colorado was closing fast, then Arkansas, Iona and Stanford. While Solinsky’s implosion certainly hurt Wisconsin, the Badgers would only have won if he’d been first or second overall.

Colorado won with a very simple strategy: run the first part within your abilities, then go get everyone else who didn’t. Their women did this in an even more spectacular fashion, going from seventh at halfway to second at the finish. Peter Tegen is a very smart man, but his statement that the "men in the race need to start out pretty good to make an impact at the end of the race" is not only self-contradictory but exposed as poor strategy to boot. Wetmore's not a genius, he just learned from Arthur Lydiard to keep his head out of his ass.

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