The best in collegiate running lined up in Stillwater, Okla., on Monday to race the NCAA Cross-Country Championships, which were moved from November until March due to COVID-19. The Northern Arizona University (NAU) men won their fourth national title in five years, and the Brigham Young University (BYU) women won their first NCAA championship since 2002. Canada’s Taryn O’Neill led the way for the 11th-place NAU women, finishing in sixth place.
NAU wins again
In 2019, Conner Mantz led BYU to the team national title, finishing third overall in the individual standings. He and his BYU teammates beat NAU, denying the distance-running powerhouse a fourth straight national championship.
This year, Mantz upgraded to the individual collegiate crown after running away from the rest of the field and completing the 10K in 29:26. Despite his jump to the top of the podium, NAU couldn’t be stopped this time around, and Mantz and BYU finished well off the podium in seventh place.
NAU freshman Nico Young was the top runner from his school, charging to a fourth-place finish in his first NCAA championship race. Three of Young’s NAU teammates followed closely behind to grab spots in the top 10 and guarantee their school yet another national title. The NAU men finished with an incredible score of just 60 points to beat second-place Notre Dame (87 points) and host school Oklahoma State (third with 142 points).
— NCAA Track & Field (@NCAATrackField) March 15, 2021
BYU climbs to the top
The BYU women improved on their second-place finish from 2019, taking the final step up to the top of the podium to win the national title. In 2019, BYU finished with 102 points to Arkansas’s 96 in an extremely tight race for the team title. This year’s team standings were much less competitive, and BYU won in dominant fashion, scoring 96 points to finish well ahead of second-place North Carolina State’s 161.
Unlike the NAU men and their four top-10 finishes, none of the BYU women ran to single-digit results. They did have three women inside the top 20, though, and senior Anna Camp recorded the team’s top finish, placing 11th. Alabama’s Mercy Chelangat, a junior from Kenya, took the women’s individual title, completing the 6K course in 20:01.
Kelowna/ Lake Country’s Taryn O’Neill 6th at NCAA cross Championships today! Way to go Taryn!!!! Super exciting to see after a few transition years to university – back in her groove!
— Malindi Elmore (@MalindiElmore) March 15, 2021
O’Neill’s big run
Not far behind Chelangat was O’Neill, who crossed the line in sixth place in 20:23. Her result is the first top-10 run by an NAU woman at the national championships since 2005, when Johanna Nilsson won the individual title. O’Neill also made a massive jump from her result in 2019 (which was her first run at the NCAA Cross-Country Championships), when she placed 123rd.
O’Neill wasn’t the only top Canadian finisher, and Gracelyn Larkin of Rosseau, Ont., finished in 25th in 20:41, helping the New Mexico women to a sixth-place finish. For full results from the NCAA Cross-Country Championships, click here.