TERRE HAUTE, Ind. -- As the University of Colorado men's cross country team climbed to the top of the podium on a windy, freezing afternoon, the Buffs knew they had made their mud-soaked mark on an already storied running program. The third-ranked Buffaloes claimed the title at the NCAA Cross Country Championships on Saturday, beating out 30 other teams and becoming the fourth men's team to do so in school history.
"There's been so many good teams in the past, and we've kind of been living in shadows of those teams," senior Blake Theroux said. "For us to come out and win is to say Colorado isn't just going to be known for those guys that came before us -- Jorge (Torres), Dathan (Ritzenhein), Adam Goucher, those guys that won titles in the earlier part of the millennium. Colorado is definitely going to be around for a long time."
Theroux, who finished the 10-kilometer race in 23rd place, was one of four Buffaloes to earn the top-40 All-American honor. Freshman Ben Saarel led the Buffs with an eighth-place finish after a time of 30 minutes, 14 seconds, making him the first true-freshman All-American since CU assistant coach and Olympian Billy Nelson in 2002. Sophomore Morgan Pearson placed 17th and sophomore Pierce Murphy was 39th.
Other Colorado finishers were sophomore Ammar Moussa, 95th, freshman Zach Perrin, 107th, and junior Connor Winter, 177th.
The Buffaloes faced a contentious field that included top-ranked Northern Arizona, the champion at last week's Mountain Region Championships, and former national champion Oklahoma State. They also faced a biting 20-mph wind and below-freezing temperatures on the muddy Lavern Gibson Championship Cross Country Course.
Saarel said his team's focus on "feel" during the race, rather than shooting for a certain time, played to their advantage in the harsh conditions. Third at the halfway point, the team steadily moved up over the last 5,000 meters.
"As long as you stay relaxed and stick to the game plan, the adverse conditions don't affect you too much," Saarel said.
The freshman was the fourth Colorado runner to finish first for the team this season.
"That means it's a deep team," coach Mark Wetmore said. "No matter who the first runner is, you know the next runner is coming up pretty soon."
On the women's side, senior Shalaya Kipp will leave a legacy of her own as the first Colorado female to win All-American honors all four years. Kipp placed ninth in the 6K race with a time of 20:21, leading her team to seventh place.
"It feels incredible," Kipp said. "I can't believe I've been lucky enough not to get an injury or the flu during a cross country season. And to look at all the All-Americans that have come before me, to go and join them is pretty spectacular."
The Colorado women were ranked fifth coming into the race. Senior Abbey Levene was second for the team in 59th place, followed by freshman Melanie Nun, 68th, freshman Erin Clark, 97th, sophomore Carrie Verdon, 122nd, sophomore Jenny DeSouchet, 161st, and senior Elizabeth Tremblay, 175th.
"We were ranked 22nd at the beginning of the year and 16th not too long ago," Wetmore said. "To end up seventh with a young team is pretty good.
Also competing on Saturday were the men's teams from Air Force and Colorado State, who finished 20th and 26th, respectively.
2013 NCAA Cross Country Championship
La Vern Gibson Cross Country Course
Terre Haute, Ind.
Top 10 team scores
1. Colorado, 149. Northern Arizona, 169; 3. Oklahoma State, 230; 4. BYU 267; 5. Oregon, 274; 6. Iona, 284; 7. Portland, 293; 8. Indiana, 306; 9. Wisconsin, 326; 10. Syracuse, 329.
Top 10 individuals
1. Edward Cheserek, UO, 29:41.1; 2. Kennedy Kithuka, Texas Tech 29:59.1; 3 Maksim Korolev, Harvard, 29:59.5; 4. Futsum Zienasellassie, NAU, 30:05.7; 5. Jim Rosa, SU, 30:08.9; 6. Stanley Kebenei, Arkansas, 30:10.1; 7. Andrew Colley, N.C. State, 30:12.5; 8. Ben Saarel, CU, 30:14.1; 9. Patrick Tiernan, Villanova, 30:15.7; 10. Luke Caldwell, NM, 30:17.2.
17. Morgan Pearson, 30:25.0; 23. Blake Theroux, 30:34.6; 39. Pierce Murphy, 30:44.9; 95. Ammar Moussa, 31:17.1; 107. Zach Perrin, 31:23.3; 177. Connor Winter, 32:02.2.
Top 10 team scores
1. Providence, 141; 2. Arizona, 197; 3. Butler, 200; 4. Michigan, 215; 5. Georgetown, 226; 6. Michigan State, 236; 7. Colorado, 265; 8. Florida State, 278; 9. Virginia, 283; 10. New Mexico, 301.
Top 10 individuals
1. Abbey D'Agostino, DU, 20:00.3; 2. Emma Bates, BSU, 20:03.9; Kate Avery, IU, 20:05.4; 4. Aisling Cuffe, SU, 20:09.3; 5. Emily Lipari, VU, 20:10.8; 6. Colleen Quigley, FSU, 20:11.3; 7. Emily Sisson, Providence, 20:17.5; 8. Shelby Houlihan, ASU, 20:20.9; 9. Shalaya Kipp, CU, 20:21.7; 10. Kelsey Santisteban, Cal, 20:21.7.
Other Colorado finishers
59. Abbey Levene, 20:57.4; 68. Melanie Nun, 21:04.0; 97. Erin Clark, 21:17.7; 132. Carrie Verdon, 21:31.4; 161. Jenny Desouchet, 21:43.1; 175. Elizabeth Tremblay, 21:52.0.