Five Upsets That Shaped DII NCAA XC

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A muddy and hilly course in Pittsburgh made for a brutally tough day at NCAA DII XC on Saturday, and that chaos helped to create an avalanche of upsets that may not have been possible otherwise.

Here were the top-five most shocking upsets from DII XC:

Marcelo Laguera blows past Zach Panning to win CSU-Pueblo’s first XC title

The Pueblo senior had never finished inside the top 20 at NCAA XC before Saturday, and in his four years he never even won a conference cross country title, and yet Marcelo Laguera used the treacherous Pittsburgh conditions to his advantage as he shockingly kicked past pre-race favorite Zach Panning in the final 200m on Saturday.

Laguera Scores Upset Win At D2 XC

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Laguera implemented a perfect strategy to capitalize on the shredded course, as he stalked Panning for 30-plus minutes, never touching the lead, and then finally striking when the finish came in sight. On terrain perfectly suited to his “mountain guy” strengths, he timed his move just right and the upset was on.

Grand Valley State women put four runners in front of every other team’s top two

If anyone was going to dominate the women’s race at DII XC in the way Grand Valley State ultimately did (41 points, lowest team score since 2004), you figured it would’ve been 17-time NCAA champion and No.1-ranked Adams State, which had dropped an impressive 23-second spread at the South Central regional. 

Instead, four Lakers entrenched themselves at the front of the race from the beginning -- a smart move on a course ill-suited for making up ground -- and held on to put four in the top 10 and completely dominate a stacked field. GVSU was just sixth last year, but a combination of three crucial factors flipped the script for them in 2018: individual champion Sarah Berger’s addition to the team, unheralded Hanna Groeber’s sixth-place finish in her NCAA XC debut, and the wet and sloppy conditions. All three factors created a perfect storm for a Grand Valley team coming off a disappointing 2017 nationals.

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Emily Roberts finishes third in her first NCAA Championship race in two years

With all due respect to winner Sarah Berger and runner-up Eilish Flanagan, the most impressive individual finish in the women's race belongs to U-Mary senior Emily Roberts, who placed third despite struggling with injuries for the better part of two years. 

Her talent has always been evident -- Roberts was fifth at NCAAs in back-to-back years in 2015 and 2016 while at Southern Indiana -- but her return to health and competitiveness was an arduous one, as Roberts was only running 18:30 for 5K as recently as February. For someone with a 16:05 PR, it looked like her All-American days were over.

But Roberts persevered, and after a steady climb in performance throughout the fall since transferring to U-Mary, everything came together in her final collegiate cross country race. Roberts hadn’t finished as the Marauders No. 1 all season -- in fact, she was just the team’s seventh at Roy Griak on September 29 -- but the tough course at NCAAs clearly worked in her favor as she used her 10K strength (2016 NCAA 10K runner-up) to lead a talented U-Mary squad that ended up with five All-Americans.

With a return to health and the perfect setting for her skill set, Roberts’ storybook comeback was complete.

Grand Valley State men beat Adams State at nationals for the first time ever

Adams State’s tough day in the men’s race helped to underscore just how dominant the Grizzlies have been for more than two decades at DII NCAAs: their fourth place finish in Pittsburgh was their worst showing at nationals since 1996. Part of the difference this season was the fitness of two top-10 finishers from 2017, as Kale Adams (44th) and Joshua Joseph (119th) both struggled after placing third and ninth, respectively, at nationals last year. According to Grizzlies head coach Damon Martin, Adams dealt with injuries during the summer that delayed his training and ultimately prevented him from reaching his potential. 

The poor conditions didn't help matters either, as 13:29 5K guy Sydney Gidabuday was never a factor up front. The senior Gidabuday took 12th, 56 seconds behind Marcelo Laguera, whom he beat for the RMAC title just a month earlier.

The Grizzlies rough day at Schenley Park and Grand Valley’s victory also provided another dose of history: for the first time ever, the Lakers beat the 13-time NCAA champions Adams State at nationals. 

Sioux Falls men finish fifth after placing a distant third at Central regional

Although they finished 39 points away from the podium, the Sioux Falls men still had a remarkable day at NCAAs, securing a fifth-place finish, their best in school history. What’s even more impressive is that they did it despite placing a distant third in the Central regional two weeks prior, losing by 55 points to regional champ Missouri Southern and 40 points to Central runner-up Augustana (S.D.) on November 17. But at nationals, the Cougars turned the tables.

Led by Mason Phillips’ seventh-place finish, Sioux Falls crushed Missouri Southern by 131 points and six places and Augustana by 114 points and five places. What a difference two weeks -- and a much different course than the lightning quick Missouri Southern surface -- made for the Cougars.

Yulimar Rojas Sets Indoor Triple Jump World Record In Madrid

Venezuelan Yulimar Rojas set the women’s indoor triple jump world record on Friday in Madrid with a 15.43m leap. With it, the 24-year-old eclipsed Tatyana Lebedeva’s 15.36m mark that had stood since 2004.

Ababel Yeshaneh, Not Brigid Kosgei, Sets Half Marathon World Record

What was expected to be a coronation of marathon world record holder Brigid Kosgei as the half marathon queen instead turned into an introduction of a worthy counterpart as Ethiopian Ababel Yeshaneh stunned the Kenyan on Friday morning (Thursday night in the U.S.) at the Ras Al Khaimah (RAK) Half Marathon by setting a 64:31 world record.

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Joshua Cheptegei Smashes Road 5k World Record In 12:51

A little over a month after Rhonex Kipruto took down Joshua Cheptegei’s road 10k world record, the Ugandan has answered back in a big way by running 12:51 on Sunday in Monaco to smash Kipruto’s 5k world record. Cheptegei cut a whopping 27 seconds off the 13:18 that the Kenyan ran on Jan. 12, a run that came en route to Kipruto’s 26:24 10k record.

Mondo Does It Again, Breaks Pole Vault World Record

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Mondo Duplantis is ushering in a new era of the pole vault, one centimeter at a time. Just a week removed from his world record clearance of 6.17m, the 20-year-old vaulted 6.18m at the Muller Indoor Grand Prix in Glasgow.

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The most interesting match-up of the indoor season materialized quickly. Last Saturday evening at the Millrose Games, Elinor Purrier dropped a stunning 4:16.85 mile to break the American record and dispatch a stacked field in a race that turned into a festival of personal bests and national records. It was a career-defining race for Purrier. A run fast enough to legitimately raise the question if she could beat America’s best mid-distance runner, Shelby Houlihan. This weekend at the US Indoor Championships in Albuquerque, Purrier will have two chances (the 3000m on Friday and the 1500m on Saturday) to pull it off. 

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