Blow For Blow To The Finish Line

Liberty's McDougal outlasts Oregon's Rupp, Ducks take team title

Nov. 19, 2007

By Brett Hess

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Brett Hess

Brett Hess covers Cross Country for
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TERRE HAUTE, Ind. - Josh McDougal and Galen Rupp, separated at most by one second, battled over the 6.2-mile course Monday at the NCAA Cross Country Championships. And in the end, it was a successful battle of redemption for both men.


Liberty's McDougal outlasted the Oregon superstar to win the 10-kilometer race in 29 minutes, 23 seconds. After placing fifth as a sophomore two years ago, McDougal faltered last fall. Monday's win was a championship two years in the making.




But Rupp's runner-up finish was key to Oregon's team championship, a title that was 30 years in the making. The storied distance running program won its first title since 1977.


"That's why I came back," Rupp said of delaying his pro running career to return to Oregon this fall. "It's a great day for Oregon.


"Yes, I wanted to win. But seven happy guys loading up into the van is better than one happy guy."


While Rupp's emotion was more satisfaction than anything else, McDougal's was relief. When asked if the national title would change him, McDougal's response was quick.


"Humility comes before honor," McDougal said. "God has broken me in so many ways. I've been through so much the last two years that I don't think this will change me."


McDougal certainly survived change in his winning run. Early in the race he was fretting the slow pace. As the front pack moved through the mile mark in four minutes, 39 seconds and then two kilometers in just under six minutes, McDougal got anxious.


"I knew we needed to pick up the pace, but I didn't want to be the guy to go too soon," he said.


Along with Rupp and Northern Arizona's Lopez Lomong, McDougal was considered a favorite. While he and Rupp's style are very similiar, Lomong was the man who promised a ferocious kick. If Rupp and McDougal couldn't build a gap on Lomong, the final mile would belong to the kicker.


Finally, at 6-kilometers, McDougal made his move. Only Rupp and Lomong followed. At 7-kilometers it was Rupp's turn to surge away. This time, Lomong didn't respond. And McDougal nearly didn't either.


"It was a good move," McDougal said. "I knew if I didn't go with him, I couldn't win the race."


For Lomong, the inevitable happened.


"I knew (the first mile) I wasn't going to run well," Lomong said. "I was flat. I knew I was battling for third. I just kept looking over my shoulder the last seven kilometers hoping no one was gonna catch me."


McDougal answered Rupp's surge with another of his own, this time at 8-kilometers. It gapped Rupp by 10 meters. But it didn't make McDougal any more confident.


"Galen's a real tough competitor," McDougal said. "I've seen him close a (10-meter) gap. I was just telling myself to hang on."


When asked when or how often he surged over the final 200 meters, McDougal laughed and replied, "I was going full out. I didn't change gears. It was all I had."


McDougal said he could feel his legs tighten with 100 meters to go and glanced back to see where Rupp might be.


"If he had anything left, I was in trouble," McDougal said of Rupp.


But Rupp didn't, and credited McDougal.


"It was a great race," Rupp said. "He did a great job of gapping me and I just couldn't get back to him. He had the better day."


Oregon coach Vin Lananna said Rupp did his job, getting the number one finishing stick (McDougal was running as an individual and didn't figure in the team score).


"Galen is a good team guy," Lananna said. "He provides great leadership."


Behind Rupp, the No. 1-ranked Ducks had four other scorers in the top 30. Shadrack Kiptoo-Biwott was ninth overall as Oregon's No. 2 runner.


"It's tough to come in predicted by everyone to win and then to actually go out and get it done," Lananna said. "We told the guys to be aggressive throughout and they did a wonderful job."


Oregon finished with 85 points, easily defeating runner-up Iona (113 points). Rounding out the top four were Oklahoma State (180) and Northern Arizona (190).


Separated at most by a mere second over the 10-kilometer course, Josh McDougal and Galen Rupp threw everything they had at each other. And in the end, it was McDougal


Like boxers standing toe-to-toe, Josh McDougal and Galen Rupp traded surges for 6.1 miles. Then, over the final 150 meters, McDougal landed the last.