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McDougal Wins Cross Country National Title
For Liberty senior Josh McDougal, the fourth time was the charm. Competing in the NCAA Division I National Cross Country Championships for the fourth-consecutive year, McDougal outkicked Oregon's Galen Rupp in a thrilling stretch run to capture his first-ever national title. His winning time was 29:22.4 for the 10K distance, Monday afternoon at the LaVern Gibson Championship Cross Country Course in Terre Haute, Ind.
McDougal (Peru, N.Y.), now a 12-time All-American, becomes Liberty's second NCAA Division I national champion. Liberty assistant cross country/track & field coach Heather (Sagan) Zealand won the mile race at the 2002 NCAA Division I National Indoor Track & Field Championships. McDougal's time also eclipsed his own Liberty and Big South Conference records for the 10K distance.
After finishing a disappointing 27th at the 2006 national cross country meet, McDougal entered Monday's race having won all four of his competitions this season. His seasonal resume included a course record-breaking win at Pre-Nationals, held at the same course in Terre Haute. McDougal also captured the third Southeast Regional title of his career.
Weather conditions were nearly perfect for Monday's race, as the temperature hovered in the 50s under an overcast sky. Additionally, the course was almost completely dry, a stark contrast to the muddy track runners slogged through in 2006.
The pace went out conservatively for the first half of the race, as the lead pack went through the one-mile mark in 4:39 and passed through 5K in 15:08. McDougal hung with the leaders through the early stages, staying out of traffic.
Shortly after the halfway pole, the pace quickened. By the four-mile mark, only eight runners remained in contention. Less than a mile later, McDougal and Rupp had broken clear of the field, turning the last 2K into a two-man race between a pair of runners seeking their first national titles.
McDougal started a long drive to the finish line just over 1,000 meters out and was able to open a 10-15 meter lead on Rupp, the American collegiate 10K record holder on the track. However, Rupp was not finished. The Oregon junior summoned a final kick of his own and reclaimed the lead within the final 400 meters.
With the runners side-by-side down the final straightaway, McDougal pulled ahead slightly in the last 50 meters and held on for the one-second win and a long sought-after national title. The Liberty senior flung open his arms and looked skyward as he crossed the finish line, celebrating the Flames' first-ever individual national cross country title.
Meanwhile, Rupp gained a measure of consolation from the fact that his Oregon team won its first national title since 1977, outdistancing Iona, 85-113.
McDougal's best national finishes, prior to Monday, had been a pair of third-place efforts on the track. He placed third at 3,000 meters indoors and at 5,000 meters outdoors in 2007. His previous highest cross country national placing was a fourth-place effort, during his sophomore year of 2005.
Men's 10K Championship
Top Five Individual Finishers
1) Josh McDougal, 29:22.4 (Liberty and Big South Conference Record)
2) Galen Rupp, Oregon, 29:23.4
3) Lopez Lomong, Northern Arizona, 29:45.5
4) Bobby Curtis, Villanova, 29:46.3
5) Brent Vaughn, Colorado, 29:47.4
Top Five Teams
1) Oregon, 85
2) Iona, 113
3) Oklahoma State, 180
4) Northern Arizona, 190
5) Wisconsin, 239