LOUISVILLE, Ky. -
Making their first appearances in school history at the national championships, the Utah State men's and women's cross country teams did not disappoint.
Ranked 19th in the nation coming into the NCAA Division I Cross Country Championships, the Aggie women finished 14th with 395 points in the six-kilometer race on Saturday morning at E.P. "Tom" Sawyer State Park. On the men's side, No. 27 Utah State, despite having three runners go down early in the 10k race, took 27th with 603 points.
Needless to say, interim head cross country coach Artie Gulden was pleased with how both of his teams fared at their first-ever national championships.
"It was a fantastic day," Gulden said. "On Friday, we talked with both teams about putting five quality races together because when you get to nationals, there are so many variables that come into play. Nobody other than Dillon (Maggard) had ever run in a race like this before, so we just talked about trying to put five quality races together, and the women did.
"The ladies ran fantastic. To be here for the first time and to finish 14th in the country as a team is phenomenal. I'm very happy with that."
Junior Alyssa Snyder led the way for the Aggie women, as she placed 25th with a time of 20:03.39 to earn All-American honors.
"It was just exciting to be here, but then to come away as a top-15 team in the nation, that was amazing," Snyder said. "It's just given us an idea of what we can accomplish and given us something we can improve on next year, hopefully."
Snyder is just the second Utah State runner on the women's side to garner All-American honors, joining Alissa Nicodemus, who placed 14th at the 1992 national championships.
"I'm happy with where I finished, but not content," Snyder said. "I was hoping to finish higher, but that leaves me motivated and excited for the next few seasons with Utah State."
Maggard, a senior from Kirkland, Wash., capped his stellar cross country career by placing sixth with a personal-best 10k time of 29:16.20 to earn All-American accolades (given to the top 40 finishers).
"It feels really good," Maggard said. "I guess I went out with a bang. I was trying to stay in good position the whole race and cover moves. The front pack went out hard and I was in a chase pack and started to reel them in. I was just trying to cover moves and stayed focus. I kept looking for coach and it went really well.
"With about 1.2 kilometers to go, I made a move in front of (Stanford's) Grant Fisher and some Alabama guys. At that point, I was fourth, but I knew I wasn't going to be able to catch those front-three guys. I needed to string out my kick with one kilometer to go if I was going to beat the guys behind me."
Maggard is the first two-time All-American in Utah State cross country history, as he placed 12th with a time of 30:03.09 at the 2016 national championships, which were held in Terre Haute, Ind.
"Dillon ran really smart," Gulden said. "He tucked himself in early in the race and slowly kept working his way up. With about 400 meters to go, he was in fourth with the Stanford (Grant Fisher) and Alabama (Gilbert Kigen) kid sitting right on him. He was trying to break them because he knew, especially the Stanford kid, could really fly at the end of the race. He just wasn't able to break those guys, but he did break a lot of others.
"Finishing 12th last year and sixth this year is great, especially considering the adversity he's come back from. His conference race wasn't what he wanted - he wanted to win the race - and he showed today that he had the ability to do that. He had been sick after pre-nats and it had been lingering, but he was able to bounce back and really have a phenomenal race today."
New Mexico's Ednah Kurgat captured the women's individual championship with a time of 19:19.42. She helped lead the Lobos to their second team title in the last three years as UNM took first with 90 points, bettering San Francisco (105), Colorado (139), Stanford (165) and Oregon (203).
Utah State had two women finish in the top 100 as senior Tori Parkinson placed 96th with a time of 20:39.89. Rounding out the top-five placers for the Aggies were juniors Kashley Carter (110th, 20:47.05), Cierra Simmons (112th, 20:48.60) and Presli Hutchison (173rd, 21:17.46).
Seniors Kelsey Yamauchi-Richins and Tylee Skinner capped their USU cross country careers by placing 173rd and 174th with times of 21:17.66 and 21:44.88, respectively.
"A lot of girls got out pretty hard, which is not surprising because it's nationals," Snyder said. "A lot of us on the team tried to get out patient and then pick people off after the first kilometer, when everybody tried to settle down a little bit."
Northern Arizona won the men's team title with 74 points, making this championship the first in NCAA cross country history that two non-Power Five schools won the men's and women's team titles.
Justyn Knight of Syracuse captured the men's individual title with a time of 29:00.11. Maggard was the top male finisher from both the Beehive State and Mountain West.
Rounding out the top-five placers for the men were sophomores James Withers (149th, 31:07.14), J.D. Thorne (161st, 31:14.17), Darren Harman (194th, 31:33.34) and Luke Beattie (199th, 31:36.40).
Another sophomore, Adam Hendrickson, placed 209th with a time of 31:44.89 and redshirt freshman Brody Smith, who was injured during the race, finished with a time of 34:50.04 for 249th place.
"The guys ran a really tough race," Gulden said. "We had three guys go down in the first 400 to 500 meters. So, just 500 meters in, we had three dead-last people in the race. Did the guys want to do better today? Yes. However, considering how the race played out and considering that they fought hard to fight back from being just nowhere at the start of the race, it was just a gritty race. I hope both teams are really proud of themselves and they better be really proud of themselves."
Fans can follow the Utah State track & field and cross country programs at twitter.com/USUTF_XC, on Facebook at USUTrack and on Instagram at instagram.com/USUTF_XC. Aggies fans can also follow the Utah State athletic program at twitter.com/USUAthletics or on Facebook at Utah State University Athletics.
NCAA DIVISION I CROSS COUNTRY CHAMPIONSHIPS
Saturday, Nov. 18, 2017
E.P. "Tom" Sawyer State Park
Louisville, Ky. Men - 10k Women - 6k
Utah State All-Americans
Men: Dillon Maggard - 6th
Women: Alyssa Snyder - 25th
Men's Team Results
1. Northern Arizona - 74
2. Portland - 127
3. BYU - 165
4. Stanford - 221
5. Arkansas - 259
27. Utah State - 603
Men's Individual Top Finishers
1. Justyn Knight (Syracuse), 29:00.11
2. Matthew Baxter (NAU), 29:00.78
3. Tyler Day (NAU), 29:04.55
4. Gilbert Kigen (Alabama), 29:11.90
5. Grant Fisher (Stanford), 29:12.06
Utah State's Men's Finishers
6. Dillon Maggard, 29:16.20
149. James Withers, 31:07.14
161. J.D. Thorne, 31:14.17
194. Darren Harman, 31:33.34
199. Luke Beattie, 31:36.40
209. Adam Hendrickson, 31:44.89
249. Brody Smith, 34:50.04
Women's Team Results
1. New Mexico - 90
2. San Francisco - 105
3. Colorado - 139
4. Stanford - 165
5. Oregon - 203
14. Utah State - 395
Women's Individual Top Finishers
1. Ednah Kurgat (UNM), 19:19.42
2. Amy-Eloise Neale (Washington), 19:26.93
3. Charlotte Taylor (San Francisco), 19:28.55
4. Allie Ostrander (BSU), 19:31.21
5. Weronika Pyzik (San Francisco), 19:34.01
Utah State's Women's Finishers
25. Alyssa Snyder, 20:03.39
96. Tori Parkinson, 20:39.89
110. Kashley Carter, 20:47.05
112. Cierra Simmons, 20:48.60
173. Presli Hutchison, 21:17.46
174. Kelsey Yamauchi-Richins, 21:17.66
212. Tylee Skinner, 21:44.88
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