The Lobos ended the season as champions again, picking up their second national championship in three years by capturing the 2017 NCAA Championship title in Louisville, Kentucky on Saturday.
The women’s cross country team is no stranger to performing at an elite level, having finished in seventh place at the same venue last season. In fact, the squad has finished in the top 10 for eight consecutive years after Saturday’s performance, winning the whole thing in 2015.
Head coach Joe Franklin said this year’s squad was different, but the end result was the same, as the University of New Mexico stood atop the national cross country landscape with almost a completely different roster than two years ago.
One thing that didn’t happen for New Mexico in 2015 was a first-place individual performance at nationals. Sophomore transfer Ednah Kurgat accomplished that feat this year, winning comfortably with a time of 19:19.42 in the six-kilometer run. The time also set a new meet record for the national championship run E.P. “Tom” Sawyer State Park, a release said.
The performance capped an undefeated run for Kurgat, as she was the top runner in each of the five meets she competed in this season.
“I was so excited,” Kurgat said in a release. “I don’t take anything for granted. My challenges are behind me. They all act as a stepping stone to where I am today.”
Alice Wright, was also a part of the 2015 championship team, made the most of her additional training time when the senior sat out the 2017 Mountain Region Championships last week to prepare. She was part of a quartet of Lobos to log a sub-20 minute run time.
Wright finished the race with a time of 19:49.73 to place 14th overall but was actually the number four scorer for her team.
Weini Kelati came in seventh place overall at 19:35.77, and Charlotte Prouse was 12th after finishing the race in 19:48.93, as New Mexico grabbed four of the top-14 scoring slots.
The performance earned all four women All-American honors for finishing in the top 40 of the field, marking the fourth consecutive year Wright has earned All-American accolades in cross country.
All five Lobo scorers placed in the top 25 in 2015, and although the team didn’t duplicate that feat, New Mexico still had some room to work with.
Alondra Negrón Texidor rounded out the scoring for New Mexico with a run of 20:35.67, which was good enough for 85th place in the 255-woman field.
Alex Buck and Kieran Casey didn’t figure into the scoring but finished 105th and 123rd in the race, respectively.
Negrón Texidor’s performance gave the Lobos a team total of just 90 points, edging out San Francisco (105) and No. 1 Colorado (139) to take home the hardware.
New Mexico also scored under 100 points in 2015, posting a mark of just 49 points to win the title in dominating fashion over the best the nation had to offer.
Josh Kerr also competed for New Mexico as an individual in the men’s 10-kilometer run but finished well behind the pace he ran at the Mountain Region Championships, coming in 224th place with a time of 32:04.68.
Northern Arizona took home the national championship on the men’s side with a team total of 74 points, finishing well ahead of second-place Portland (127) and third-place BYU (165).
Justyn Knight of Syracuse turned in the top individual performance, crossing the finish line less than one second ahead of Northern Arizona’s Matthew Baxter. Baxter’s teammates, Tyler Day and Peter Lomong, finished in third and eighth place to set the stage for the eventual team win.
The 2017 NCAA Championship marked UNM’s third national title — two of which have come on the legs of the cross country team. The skiing program also won a national championship, accounting for the school’s first team NCAA Championship in 2004.
Tyrell Natewa is a freelance sports reporter at the Daily Lobo. He primarily covers men’s and women’s cross country and track and field. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @DailyLoboSports.
Robert Maler is the sports editor for the Daily Lobo. He primarily covers basketball, football and tennis. He can be contacted at email@example.com or on Twitter @Robert_Maler.