Texas Tech's Sophomore Sensation Clears The Pack

Nov. 20, 2006

By Brett Hess

Special to CSTV.com


TERRE HAUTE, Ind. - A little over a mile into her race Monday, Sally Kipyego glanced over her shoulder and saw 250 runners chasing after her. It was a familiar sight for the Texas Tech sophomore and native of Kenya.


 "I'm used to running alone, pushing myself to the finish," Kipyego said moments after winning the NCAA Division I Women's Cross Country Championships. "I knew I had to keep going. It was a good day for me."


And it was a good day for Stanford, which successfully defended it's team title. The Cardinal again outlasted runner-up Colorado, 195-223. Michigan (233 points) and Wisconsin (262) rounded out the top four teams.


The Cardinal learned all about pushing themselves this fall. Stanford coach Peter Tegen had talked all season about how it's harder to successfully defend a title than win the first time. His preaching paid dividends.


"That's the tough part," Tegen said of coaching. "On paper you might come in No. 1, or No. 2 or whatever, but it all goes out the window when the gun goes off."


Because his team came in as favorites, Tegen had a very simple message for his runners.

"I told them we didn't need any heroic efforts," Tegen said. "We just needed everyone to do their job, run good races."


And that's what happened. It truly was nothing heroic. In fact, the Cardinals' winning score (195 points) was easily the highest point total in the event's 26-year history. It broke the record of 146 points, set last year by, of course, the Cardinal.


"I don't think this is anything we want to brag about," Tegen said, laughing. "You do what you have to do and I guess we did. We didn't dominate today, but then we didn't have to. It was a tough race on a tough course."


The course was very muddy, which was an equalizer, said Tegen.


"We love this course," Tegen said. "It made the women's scores closer, of course. But, we weren't worried about running in these conditions. Our regional meet in Portland was our christening for this sort of thing."


Kipyego, the first-ever Kenyan born Division I women's cross country champion, completed a perfect season. But she wasn't merely unbeaten, she was unchallenged. Kipyego won her meets by an average of 35 seconds. Monday, her winning margin was 26 seconds. She finished the 6 kilometer course in 20 minutes, 11 seconds. Runner-up Jenny Barringer of Colorado finished in 20:37.


Barringer broke away from a deep chase pack over the final half-mile. Lindsay Donaldson of Yale (20:42), Arianna Lambie of Stanford (20:43) and Julia Lucas of North Carolina State (20:47) rounded out the top five.


Still, winning the national title by such a margin was a surprise to Kipyego.


 "I thought maybe I'd have someone to run with," Kipyego said. "At the mile, it was good to see (Iowa's Diane Nukuri). But then in a little bit, there was no one."


Kipyego opened a 10-second lead by the two-mile mark and then led by 25 seconds at the 3-kilometer (1.9 mile) mark, or halfway point. From there, it was just another race. But it wasn't without some fatigue.


Kipyego's first mile of 4:56 was a little fast for her coach, Jon Murray, but he could hardly argue with the results.


"I told her that the only mistake she could make was to go out too fast," Murray said. "And then she goes out too fast. We wanted a first mile in 5:07, 5:08. And I think it took a little out of her. She was pretty tired late in the race."


But again, said Murray, it isn't like Kipyego hadn't been there before. Jumping to a large lead and then holding off the field has been a matter of course this fall.


 "I suppose she was prepared for the last mile or so," Murray said. "But that's her personality. She's so determined. She may be getting tired, but she keeps pushing herself."


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