VERONA, Wis. — Roughly 45 minutes after the University of Colorado women won both the team and individual NCAA cross country titles, the CU men stepped on the line, buoyed by their teammates' spectacular performance.
Ranked No. 8 in the coaches poll coming in, juniors Joe Klecker and John Dressel and senior Ryan Forsyth made quick work of moving to the front, just as the women had earlier in the day. Klecker, who won his second NCAA Mountain Region title a week ago, stayed locked at the head of the lead pack.
"I just found myself pushing the race," Klecker said. "And I figured, we're Colorado. We're gutty, we run strong. When I was up there I wasn't going to back down, so I just wanted to string it out and run as hard as I could."
CU managed to place three runners in the top 11 spots in the 10K race — with Klecker finishing eighth overall (6th in team scoring, Dressel in ninth (7th) and Forsyth in 11th (9th). Sophomore Eduardo Herrera was 43rd (37th) and senior Ethan Gonzales 147th (119th).
The men met their team goal, finishing on the podium fourth as a team with 178 points, behind Northern Arizona's 83, BYU (116) and Portland (160). In NCAA championship cross country, the score is determined by adding up the team places of the five runners, excluding individual runners, with the lowest score winning.
"About 8K, I thought, 'I'm done, I'm toast. I can't finish hard.'" Klecker said. "I saw our teammate John Dressel go by me, and I basically kicked right there to get back on him. And I heard (coach Mark) Wetmore say, 'We're having a good day as a team.' And when he said that, I knew we were in a position to be on the podium, and I didn't want to be the one to ruin that."
Up until NCAAs, the Buffaloes hadn't put together a complete team race, coach Mark Wetmore said. In the end, while the Buffs had a strong top three and good fourth runner, the fifth slot didn't finish high enough to push the Buffs to a win.
"I told them, 'Your going to be on the podium. I know you can do it.' The three guys ran great. The fourth guy Lalo Herrara, he's been nursing some back problems, and he was a little off, but he held solid for us," Wetmore said. "We knew all along that we were going to be not as strong as the fifth man. That was the case today. But this race has a lot of chaos and a lot of people make mistakes. And Ethan (Gonzales) and Paxton (Smith), I bet they beat a lot of fifth men."
A year ago, the CU men finished a disappointing eighth place. Dressel had been redshirted, and Klecker — coming off an NCAA region win — finished a disappointing 67th place because of a side cramp. This time, he took no chances — awaking at 5 a.m. to eat breakfast and passing on celebrating his 22nd birthday on Friday.
"My teammates got me a birthday cake last night, and I told them I couldn't eat any because I ate it last year and got a side stitch," Klecker said.
"Joe's done a lot of hard work in the last year. He's grown up, as people do year after year in college," Wetmore said. "He was ready to run well today. John Dressel had a really wonderful day. Ryan Forsyth was great."
The Buffs will lose Forsyth and Gonzales from their top five finishers next year.
"We knew what the ranking was. We didn't believe it was accurate," said Forsyth, a fifth-year senior. "We have improved so much both physically, six or seven weeks ago, and just mentally. We've really come a long way this year. We're really closer than we've ever been as a team, and we just got out there and fought for each other."
NCAA cross country championships
Men's Team Standings — 1. Northern Arizona 83; 2. BYU 116; 3. Portland 160; 4. Colorado 178; 5. Stanford 201; 6. Washington 213; 7. Iowa State 220; 8. Wisconsin 240; 9. Colorado State 309; 10. Boise State 342; 11. NC State 342; 12. Wyoming 371; 13. Oklahoma State 378; 14. Notre Dame 401; 15. Oregon 407; 16. Eastern Kentucky 430; 17. Ole Miss 431; 18. Indiana 469; 19. Michigan 483; 20. Air Force 498; 21. Southern Utah 523; 22. Princeton 557; 23. Villanova 577; 24. Bradley 580; 25. Arkansas 602; 26. Syracuse 603; 27. Texas 630; 28. Iona 634; 29. Purdue 702; 30. Tulsa 777; 31. Florida State 845.
Men's Individual 10-Kilometer Leaders (252 finishers) — 1. Morgan McDonald, Wisconsin, 29:08.3; 2. Grant Fisher, Stanford, 29:08.8; 3. Edwin Kurgat, ISU, 29:09.0; 4. Isai Rodriguez, Oklahoma State 29:10.5; 5. Aaron Templeton, Furman, 29:11.9; 6. Tyler Day, NAU, 29:12.9; 7. Amon Kemboi, Campbell, 29:14.6; 8. Joe Klecker, CU, 29:15.0; 9. John Dressel, CU, 29:16.9; 10. Conner Mantz, BYU, 29:17.1.
CU Finishers: 11. Ryan Forsyth, 29:21.0; 43. Eduardo Herrera, 30:02.0; 147. Ethan Gonzales, 31:02.4; 163. Paxton Smith, 31:12.3; 222. Gus Newcomb, 32:08.8.