Verona, Wisconsin, September 28—Wisconsin senior Morgan McDonald was first among equals in the Nuttycombe Invitational while top-ranked Northern Arizona showed it may have no equal among NCAA men’s teams.
McDonald, who redshirted a year ago so he could have a shot at the national title on his home course, served notice that he’ll be a force to be reckoned with here on November 17, taking the measure of 3 top-8 finishers from the ’17 nationals. Seventh in the ’16 NCAA, the dark-bearded Aussie bided his time, always near the front in a humongous lead pack that never appeared willing to break up, and took down the highly rated trio of Tyler Day and Peter Lomong of Northern Arizona as well as Alabama’s Gilbert Kigen. McDonald won in 23:17.6 over the 8K route, glancing back at runner-up Edwin Kurgat (23:18.5) of Iowa State as he eased across the line.
McDonald broke away from the lead pack in the final kilo, powering on the upgrade to the finish, glancing back a couple of times. “I was just trying to stay relaxed as long as possible,” he said. “I knew the NAU boys were good so I was just trying to stick with them and wait for the kick at the end. I thought someone else was going to make the move early but going up that hill I felt good so I thought let’s go for it and let’s see what happens. It worked out pretty well.
The winner was surprised that the large lead pack never broke up earlier. “It was such a talented field,” he explained. “I expected someone else to make a big move earlier in the race but I was pretty content to just sit there and feel as good as I could for as long as possible. So I was pretty happy with that. I hadn’t raced in so long and there as a lot of uncertainty with that. But I feel so comfortable on my course. We run so many reps here and we have this great crowd here.”
NAU more than lived up to its 4-week run as the unanimous No. 1 in the coaches’ poll, putting on a veritable clinic with a 46-point win for an 89-point margin over the hosts, who had 135, with Portland another 5 back. There’s no doubt that Mike Smith’s juggernaut is the force to be reckoned with, here or on any course. It was no weak field here, either, with 7 of the top-10 teams and 11 others in the top 30.
For the Lumberjacks, Day (23:21.3) placed 3rd, followed by soph Luis Grijalva (23:23.8) in 5th, senior Lomong (23:26.8) in 7th, soph Blaise Ferro (23:29.0) in 8th and junior Geordie Beamish (23:47.1) in 25th, making for a nifty 26-second spread from 1-5.
Smith, needless to say, was in a pretty good comfort zone, saying, “Coming off the 4-week block of training we were wondering where we would stack up. The evidence is in the results. We are right where we are supposed to be.”
And that’s without ’17 NCAA runner-up Matt Baxter and blue-chip frosh Brodey Hasty, neither of whom raced.
NUTTYCOMBE XC MEN’S RESULTS
Verona, Wisconsin, September 28 (8K)—
1. Northern Arizona 46; 2. Wisconsin 135; 3. Portland 140; 4. Iowa State 152; 5. Boise State 160; 6. Colorado State 253; 7. Air Force 267; 8. Colorado 278; 9. Purdue 317; 10. Southern Utah 332.
1. Morgan McDonald’ (Wi) 23:17.6; 2. *Edwin Kurgat’ (IaSt) 23:18.5; 3. Tyler Day (NnAz) 23:21.3; 4. ***James Sugira’ (EnKy) 23:22.3; 5. **Luis Grijalva’ (NnAz) 23:23.8; 6. Nick Hauger (Port) 23:24.4; 7. Peter Lomong (NnAz) 23:26.8; 8. **Blaise Ferro (NnAz) 23:29.0; 9. Cole Rockhold (CoSt) 23:29.6; 10. Alfred Chelanga’ (Al) 23:33.8;
11. *John Dressel (Co) 23:35.1; 12. Gilbert Kigen’ (Al) 23:35.1; 13. *Ashenafi Hatte (OkSt) 23:36.3; 14. Yusuke Uchikoshi’ (Boise) 23:37.0; 15. *Oliver Hoare’ (Wi) 23:37.9; 16. *Jaret Carpenter (Pur) 23:38.5; 17. *Caleb Webb (Port) 23:39.3; 18. **Eduardo Herrera (Co) 23:39.9; 19. *Olin Hacker (Wi) 23:40.2; 20. Mickey Davey (AF) 23:40.7;… 25. *Geordie Beamish’ (NnAz) 23:47.1; 52. ***Ryan Raff (NnAz) 24:03.1;… 121. ***Jack Shea (NnAz) 24:36.6. □