STILLWATER, Okla. - Alabama's Mercy Chelangat won the individual NCAA Cross Country Championship and led the Crimson Tide to an eighth-place team finish Monday at Oklahoma State University on the OSU Cross Country Course.
Alabama scored 280 points to secure eighth place in the team race, the second-highest finish in team history after sixth-place finish in 1988. It is the second top-10 team finish in program history and it came in the Crimson Tide's first team appearance at the national championships since 1994.
Alabama had two student-athletes finish in the top three and three in top-40. Chelangat won in a time of 20:01.1 and Amaris Tyynismaa took third with a 20:10.2. Esther Gitahi finished 36th in a time of 20:57.4, while Megan Patton (134/21:45.4) and Sophie Spada (174/22:06.3) rounded out the Crimson Tide's scorers.
Chelangat and Tyynismaa are now the top individual finishers in school history, passing Carole Trepanier, who finished fifth in 1988. That trio also accounts for the only top-10 finishers for the Tide women. Chelangat is just the second Southeastern Conference runner to win the individual cross country title, joining Karissa Schweizer (Missouri) in 2016.
Chelangat's title and Alabama's top-10 finish came less than 48 hours after the Alabama women finished 16th at the NCAA Indoor Championships. While Chelangat and Tyynismaa qualified in individual events at NCAA Indoors, the decision was made to scratch them and focus the cross country championships, one that obviously paid dividends with a pair of top-20 team showings and individual gold, silver and bronze finishes, with Tamara Clark taking silver in the 200-meters to join Chelangat and Tyynismaa.
NCAA Cross Country Champion Mercy Chelangat Said
"When my coaches talked to me about indoor track and cross country, I agreed that I wanted to focus on cross country, because I personally love cross country. I think it was the right decision. I'm so proud of my teammates, we've been training for this for so long and we've worked so hard. I love my teammates, I have the best teammates ever and I'm so happy for them."
NCAA Cross Country Bronze Medalist Amaris Tyynismaa Said
"It was a really big deal for our team. We knew we were capable of something like this. We've been training really hard and we showed that today."
Head Coach Dan Waters Said
"We're just so proud of this team and what they accomplished out there today. This was a tough, tough course and the competition was fierce, but we put it all out there and got it done. What an incredible race by Mercy and Amaris, leading us all the way through. They are the top finishers in our history at this meet and Mercy is not only our first NCAA Cross Country Champion, but she just the second in SEC history, which a big deal. I can't say enough about these ladies, our staff and everyone who helped us get to this point, it's just so exciting for the Crimson Tide. Like Coach (Nate) Oats said yesterday, this is a championship school."
NCAA Top-10 Team Finishers
1. BYU 96 points
2. NC State 161 points
3. Stanford 207 points
4. Michigan State 212 points
5. Minnesota 239 points
6. New Mexico 274 points 7. Colorado 279 points
8. Alabama 280 points
9. Boise State 304 points
10. Arkansas 316 points
Alabama's Individual Finishers
1. Mercy Chelangat 20:01.1
3. Amaris Tyynismaa 20:10.2
36. Esther Gitahi 20:57.4
134. Megan Patton 21:45.4
174. Sophie Spada 22:06.3
242. Jami Reed 23:11.4
252. Riley Schelp 25:31.0