LOUISVILLE, Ky. — For a group that didn’t exactly arrive at the University of Colorado as the nation’s most decorated recruiting class, the seniors who ran their final race for the men’s cross country team on Saturday has plenty to be proud of.
Four of those seniors — Pierce Murphy, Morgan Pearson, Ammar Moussa, and Connor Winter — figured in the scoring for the Buffaloes’ second-place finish at the NCAA finals. All except Pearson (a transfer from Duke after his freshman year) arrived in the fall of 2011 and took a redshirt season at some point along the way. They exit the program having presided over arguably the most successful span in the history of a wildly successful program.
“When you think about what we’ve done here — myself and Connor and Pierce and Morgan — we came here and did something special,” Moussa said. “We came in as an unheralded class. I had some success on my high school team, but we had Pierce from Hawaii who had barely broken 9:15. You had Connor who was a no-name from Colorado. And you had Morgan who wasn’t that great of a high school runner himself.
“And then there was Oregon’s class with something stupid like five sub-nine 2-milers. We have more national titles than them. We’ve done more with this squad than I think any other coach could do.”
Since the bulk of the group arrived in 2011, the CU men’s team has won five straight Pac-12 titles while also collecting a pair of regional titles and two national championships.
The only senior in the seven-runner lineup for the Buffs’ runner-up women’s team was Maddie Alm. The local product out of Monarch High School finished 47th.
“This is really special,” Alm said. “I didn’t even make varsity until my second year, and to be a part of a second-placing team my last year here, it’s been a huge progression and I’m really proud to have done it with all these girls.”
While the CU men fell short in their bid for a third straight title, Oregon junior Edward Cheserek succeeded in his run for history by winning his third consecutive individual national championship. Cheserek is just the fourth runner to achieve the feat, a list that includes Oregon legend Steve Prefontaine.
Notre Dame senior Molly Seidel claimed the top spot in the women’s race.
Though CU set the pace for the Centennial State, it also was an impressive day for the Buffs’ rivals from Colorado State. Two Rams runners — Jefferson Abbey and Jerrell Mock — finished in the top 20 of the men’s race. Abbey’s 13th-place finish was the best by a Rams runner in 36 years.
Air Force senior Hannah Everson placed 22nd in the women’s race.
Rather than pouting over a bid for a historic third consecutive national title that fell just short for the CU men’s team, instead the Buffaloes made a meaningful gesture. As the team cooled down after the race, the Buffs immediately set out to find the winners from Syracuse to offer their congratulations.
Pat Rooney: firstname.lastname@example.org or twitter.com/prooney07