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McDougal Aiming For National Cross Country Title
McDougal (Peru, N.Y.) placed 13th at the national meet as a freshman and took fourth a season ago, earning two of his six career All-American honors. He entered the 2006 season as one of the chief contenders to take this year's national title and he has not disappointed, crossing the finish line first at the Roy Griak Invitational (Sept. 23) and the Pre-Nationals (Oct. 14) among his five victories.
The 5-9 junior did suffer a defeat in his last race, taking second place to Eastern Kentucky's Jacob Korir at Saturday's NCAA Division I Southeast Regional Championship. That setback marked the first time McDougal has lost a collegiate cross country race outside of the national meet. Liberty Head Cross Country Coach Brant Tolsma does not think that McDougal will be negatively affected by that experience though.
"I think Josh is good at putting things behind him," Tolsma explained. "He realizes that a lot depends on the particular day. Also, Josh has been losing one race each cross country season so far in his career. He would like to continue that trend."
McDougal had defeated Korir in their first two meetings this season, at the Greater Louisville Classic (Sept. 30) and the Pre-Nationals. However, the senior from Kenya was able to traverse the soggy terrain a bit more effectively than McDougal was on Saturday. The conditions should be much drier on Monday at the LaVern Gibson Championship Cross Country Course, as the preliminary weather forecast calls for sun and a high of 43 degrees.
Korir is one of several chief contenders for the national championship, along with Wisconsin senior Chris Solinsky, BYU senior Josh Rohatinsky and Providence senior Martin Fagan.
Solinsky must be considered a contender despite his sixth-place finish at the Great Lakes Regional Championship because he finished just ahead of McDougal in third at last year's national meet and is aiming to help the Badgers defend their team title. He is the top returnee from the 2005 meet, as last year's champion, Wisconsin's Simon Bairu and the runner-up, Iona's Richard Kiplagat, both graduated.
Rohatinsky finished first at the Mountain Regional Championship and took sixth at last year's national meet. He is undefeated this season. Fagan, a native of Ireland, is the Northeast Regional champion and placed 16th in Terre Haute a season ago. He captured the title in the Pre-Nationals Blue race and is the BIG EAST champion.
If McDougal can outlast this talented field and win the national championship on Monday, he would become Liberty's second Division I national champion. Assistant Cross Country Coach Heather (Sagan) Zealand won the mile at the 2002 NCAA Division I Indoor Track and Field Championships.
"Josh's goal since he came to college has been to win nationals," noted Tolsma. "He's going out there with the goal of winning the race. Winning the national title in cross country is probably far superior to winning in track, because you are going against all of the best distance runners. On that day, you are the best runner in the country."