BLOOMINGTON, Ind. – Never in his wildest dreams could John McDonnell have thought national championship number 34 would have come so easily. Arkansas’ legendary coach knew he had the best team going into Monday’s NCAA cross country championship on Indiana’s course but he figured it would be another shootout with Stanford.
With three Razorbacks finishing in the top 10, McDonnell’s team won by 127 points, the widest margin in NCAA history. The Hogs earned 58 points to runnerup Wisconsin’s 185. North Carolina State was third while Stanford, winners in 1996 and ’97 and second to Arkansas in 1998, was fourth. The Razorbacks finished 122 points in front of Brigham Young in winning the 1993 championship. That was the previous largest margin.
“We got out on everyone early and didn’t give anyone a chance to catch up,” said McDonnell, whose team won its 10th NCAA cross country title, a record. “That’s our philosophy. You can take a lot of teams out early if you go out fast. Our guys knew what they had to do and they did it very well.”
Senior Michael Power finished second for the Razorbacks. He was three seconds behind South Alabama freshman David Kimani who came on strong in the last 2,000 meters. Andrew Begley was seventh, James Karanu 10th, Murray Link 22nd and Matt Kerr 24th for the Hogs.
“Power ran a great race,” said McDonnell. “He’s our captain. He met with the team before the race and told everyone we would win and win big. I never dreamed we would win this big.”
Power, who finished the 10,000 meter race over a hilly, wide open-course in 30:09.6, said, “We were cruising for the first 7,000 meters. There were a bunch of us. Coach McDonnell kept telling us to stay in front of the pack. I made a move going down a big hill toward the end but couldn’t hold on to the lead.”
McDonnell, who has led Arkansas’ cross country, indoor track and outdoor track to an incredible 34 national championships, said, “We really expected this to be much closer. We knew we had the best team but figured Stanford, Wisconsin and some others would be right there. Our guys just did a tremendous job.
“Every national championship is rewarding in its own way. Power and Kerr were running their final races for Arkansas. It was special for them. We never get tired of winning.”
Arkansas has won the last six national championships it has competed for dating to the 1997 cross country meet when the Hogs were second to Stanford. They’ve won the last eight NCAA outdoor titles and the last three NCAA indoor championships. Overall McDonnell’s teams have won 15 indoor titles and nine outdoor championships.
Oregon’s Steve Fein was third, Matthew Downin of Wisconsin was fourth, William and Mary’s Matthew Lane was fifth and John Schoenfelder of Wisconsin was sixth. Begley finished in 30:40.6, five seconds behind Schoenfelder. Karanu’s time was 30:44.7.
All five Razorbacks who scored earned All-America honors. The Hogs didn’t need to count Adam Dailey’s 39th place finish. Sharif Karie was 73rd and also didn’t figure in the scoring.
Top 10 Teams 1. Arkansas 58, 2. Wisconsin 185, 3 North Carolina State 201, 4. Stanford 223, 5. Michigan 282, 6. Oregon 306, 7. Colorado 307, 8. Notre Dame 312, 9. Iona 338, 10. Arizona 346.
Top 10 Individuals 1. David Kimani, South Alabama, 30:06.6, 2. Michael Power, Arkansas, 30:09.6, 3. Steve Fein, Oregon, 30:14.3, 4 Matthew Downin, Wisconsin, 30:25.9, 5. Matthew Lane, William and Mary, 30:27.8, 6. John Schoenfelder, Wisconsin, 30:35.7, 7. Andrew Begley, Arkansas, 30:40.6, 8. Paul Morrison, Princeton, 30:42.5, 9. Keith Kelly, Providence, 30:42.9, 10. James Karanu, Arkansas, 30:44.7.
Other Razorbacks 22 Murray Link, 3l:03.8, 24 Matt Kerr, 31:04.5, 39 Adam Dailey, 31:18.8, 73 Sharif Karie, 31:49.2.