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Oregon women claim crown; Cheserek third

TERRE HAUTE, Ind. — The Oregon cross country program captured a national title Saturday at the NCAA Championships, though not the one most were expecting.

Maurica Powell's UO women captured the team title by the barest of margins, a single point over Michigan, while three-time men's champion Edward Cheserek finished third as the UO men took ninth.

Freshman Katie Rainsberger finished fourth for the Ducks over the 6,000-meter LaVern Gibson Championship Course in 19:51.1, leading three All-American finishers from Oregon. Junior Alli Cash was 14th in 20:08.2 and Samantha Nadel took 21st in 20:14.0.

By the time seniors Ashley Maton (61st, 20:37.0) and Maggie Schmaedick (64th, 20:38.1) crossed the finish line, the Ducks knew they'd run exceptionally well. But the projected champs from Colorado also had a solid day, and Michigan was led across the line by the second-place individual, senior Erin Finn.

After an agonizing wait that included reviewing race video for confirmation, the Ducks were announced as national champs with 125 team points, one fewer than the Wolverines. Only then did the significance of Schmaedick's finish — one place and one-tenth of a second ahead of Michigan's fifth finisher — begin to resonate.

Colorado was third with 134 points.

The Oregon women won their fourth NCAA title, having previously taken first in 1983, 1987 and 2012.

Powell said the Ducks' pacing and placing through 2K led her to think they had a shot to win.

"It was like, they're either going to go big or go home," she said. "And they held on."

Cheserek's bid to become the only runner with four NCAA individual titles, and for a record 16th title across track and cross country, ended over the final stretch of the 10K race when he couldn't stick with eventual champ Patrick Tiernan of Villanova and runner-up Justyn Knight of Syracuse.

Still arguably the most decorated distance runner in NCAA history, Cheserek crossed in 29:48.0.

"It's kind of disappointing because this is my last year; it was a good race and everybody was tough out there," Cheserek said. "My hamstring was a little bit tight, but I was like, I'm going to try my best for my teammates."

Sophomore Matthew Maton also collected All-America honors, finishing 29th in 30:16.0. The Ducks also got scoring efforts from sophomore Tanner Anderson (68th, 30:39.9), junior Sam Prakel (104th, 30:53.6) and junior Travis Neuman (151st, 31:14.9).