Sunday, November 2, 2008
11/01/08: Conference USA Cross-Country Championships
You wouldn't know it by Sunday's Dallas Morning News, but SMU won a Conference USA championship on November 1st, in women's cross-country. Watching the finish, I thought they won in a rout; their red uniforms stood out in a sea of blues and whites as they placed five women in the top twelve. It turned out that a lot of the whites - particularly the runners in third, fourth, and fifth - were worn by athletes from Rice, who made things closer than I thought, scoring 50 points to SMU's 40. Silje Fjortoft of SMU was the overall winner in a course-record time of 16:46 for 5K, which maybe I could have done in college (with training) but then again, probably not.
The men’s race was dominated by Tulsa and UTEP; they combined to fill all the spots in the top ten, led by Tulsa’s John Beattie who won the 8K race in 23:30, one second ahead of Japheth Ngo’joy from UTEP. UTEP took third and fourth also but Tulsa filled fifth through eighth, which gave them 27 points to UTEP’s 30. UTEP only entered five runners; all five finished in the top twelve.
Cross-country is a weird stew of competition and camaraderie. Two East Carolina girls were standing along the straightaway before the final turn to the finish and one of their runners passed by, hard on the heels of a Tulane dude. "Catch him!" "Pass him - every point counts!" The next runner to pass was another Tulane guy. "Go Tulane!" "Run hard!" There is empathy in cross-country but no mercy.
The races were hosted by the University of Memphis and run at the Mike Rose Soccer Complex in southeast Memphis; they consisted of multiple loops around the various fields before finishing in the main stadium. The fields are on different levels so the hills consisted of running up and down between fields and there's not much shade - it was a cloudless morning and a little on the warm side for running three or five miles. In general, if the spectators are comfortable, the runners probably aren't. I was spectating and I had no complaints. I was happy to be spectating – had I been in the women’s race I probably would have finished 87th out of 92 and had I been in the men’s race I probably would have finished dead last by about six minutes. Tim Cullen of Tulane probably wishes I was in the men’s race.
Running is like golf - you don't win so much as you just lose least. It's got to suck to be running at the heels of an opponent, feeling like you're going to puke and hearing your coach and teammates yelling at you to catch him, pass him, beat him. And then you finally enter the stadium, maybe a quarter-mile to go and you know you're finishing way out of the scoring and you feel like you're holding up the show, you and the stragglers around you; for the race you're in your time sucks but you could enter any local 5k or 8k and beat 90% of the field. But where's the challenge in that?
The Morning News did show the Conference USA Championships some love on Monday. On page 14C, in agate type, they did publish the team results from the meet. Women's race only.