LOUISVILLE, Ky. — History denied.
As the sunny conditions of Saturday morning gradually soured into a cold, wind-driven rain at E.P. Sawyer Park, site of the NCAA cross country national championships, the gathering gloom perfectly accentuated the mood sweeping through the University of Colorado men's cross country team.
Despite a season that saw the Buffaloes collect a wide range of championship hardware, the biggest prize was denied from CU. In a bid to become just the sixth team to win three consecutive national championships, and the first to do so in 15 years, the Buffaloes' men's team was forced to find the bright side of coming in second.
Such is the state of the juggernaut program built by coach Mark Wetmore that finishing as the second-best team in the country proved to be a source of disappointment.
"It's a little disappointing to finish second, but then you have to say finishing second in the nation is pretty significant," CU athletic director Rick George said. "The men's and women's teams were the best combined team in the country with both having second-place finishes. It's great for our university and it's great for both programs."
In time, the gloomy conclusion to Saturday's festivities will be forgotten, and yet another banner finish for the Buffs is likely what will be recalled. While the men's team's bid at history fell short, CU nonetheless received a spectacular finish from senior Pierce Murphy, who had never finished better than 35th in three previous runs at nationals before placing third in his final cross country competition as a Buff.
The women's team, which perhaps had a less heralded yet no less decorated 2015 campaign, also finished second. Racing on the heels of championships at the Pac-12 finals and last week's regionals (a feat also duplicated by the men's team), the CU women enjoyed an 11th-place finish from Erin Clark and a 16th-place finish from sophomore Kaitlyn Benner, whose rapid ascension this fall was one of the bright spots for the entire program.
George has missed just two CU football games since he was hired as the school's AD in the summer of 2013. Once was last year at the cross country nationals, when the CU men's team captured its fifth national championship and second in a row. The second was Saturday.
"It's what our student-athletes want to do, is to compete for and win championships," George said. "They've done it twice in a row and it's hard to repeat. It's even harder to three-peat. They've done a great job with that program. They've brought it to a new level. They raced hard and just got beat by a team that was just a little better than they were.
"It's important when any of our teams are competing for championships that we should come out and support them. I made the choice to come here today and hopefully see them win a third consecutive national championship. But two second-place finishes, we're really proud of that."
2015 NCAA DIVISION I CROSS COUNTRY CHAMPIONSHIP
E.P. Tom Sawyer State Park (Louisville, Ky.)
MEN'S TEAM TOP-10 10K RESULTS (of 31 teams):
1. Syracuse, 82; 2. Colorado, 92; 3. Stanford, 151; 4. Oregon, 183; 5. Iona, 231; 6 Arkansas, 244; 7. Louisville, 331; 8. Washington, 345; 9. Michigan, 348; 10. Georgetown, 352
MEN'S TOP-10 INDIVIDUAL FINISHERS:
1. Edward Cheserek, UO, 28:45.8; 2. Patrick Tiernan, Villanova, 29:11.1; 3. Pierce Murphy, 29:37.0; 4. Justyn Knight, Syracuse, 29:46.1; 5. Jonathan Green, Georgetown, 29:49.5; 6. Jim Rosa, Stanford, 29:52.7; 7. Sean McGorty, Stanford, 29:53.4; 8. Colin Bennie, Syracuse, 29:55.9; 9. Martin Hehir, Syracuse, 29:59.5; 10. Marc Scott, Tulsa, 30:02.6
OTHER COLORADO FINISHERS:
25. Morgan Pearson, 30:16.1; 26. John Dressel, 20:16.4; 31. Ben Saarel, 30:19.8; 33. Connor Winter, 30:21.7; 42. Ammar Moussa, 30:29.9; 195. Zach Perrin, 31:57.0
WOMEN'S TEAM TOP-10 6K RESULTS (of 31 teams):
1. New Mexico, 49; 2. Colorado, 129; 3. Oregon, 214; 4. Providence, 231; 5. NC State, 264; 6. Michigan, 264; 7. Oklahoma State, 274; 8. Notre Dame, 276; 9. Arkansas, 276; 10. Washington, 297
WOMEN'S TOP-10 INDIVIDUAL FINISHERS:
1. Molly Seidel, Notre Dame, 19:28.6; 2. Allie Ostrander, Boise State, 19:33.6; 3. Dominique Scott, Boise State, 19:40.9; 4. Courtney Ferichs, New Mexico, 19:48.0; 5. Alice Wright, New Mexico, 19:53.5; 6. Anna Rohrer, Notre Dame, 19:59.7; 7. Allie Buchalski, Furman, 20:02.6; 8. Maddie Meyers, Washington, 20:03.1; 9. Brenna Peloquin, Boise State, 20:04.3; 10. Sharon Lokedi, Kansas, 20:04.9.
11. Erin Clark, 20:05.4; 16. Kaitlyn Benner, 20:07.7; 47. Maddie Alm, 20:31.2; 49. Dani Jones, 20:31.8; 65. Melanie Nun, 20:37.9; 136. Val Constein, 21:04.4; 146. Carrie Verdon, 21:11.2; 159. Darby Gilfillan, 21:15.7