TERRE HAUTE, Ind. - Jordan Hasay matched the best finish by a Duck in school history to lead the Women of Oregon to their first top-five finish in three years Monday at the 2011 NCAA Cross Country Championships.
Senior Luke Puskedra also impressed by earning his fourth straight All-America award for his sixth-place individual finish in the men's race.
"Jordan looked great today," said Oregon Associate Athletic Director Vin Lananna. "And our two-three-four runners did a wonderful job the whole race. I think (fifth place) is probably as high as the women could have finished today, so I'm overall pretty pleased."
Hasay and Villanova senior Sheila Reid waged another entertaining round of their running duels. The two were neck-and-neck the entire race before Reid had just enough at the end to clip Hasay by sixth-tenths of a second. Reid covered the 6,000 meter Lavern Gibson Championship Course in 19:41.2, with Hasay right behind at 19:41.8 in one of the closest finishes in NCAA history.
While the finish went as predicted, the 5,999 meters preceding it certainly went off script on a damp and cool but mostly calm day in Indiana.
Silje Fjortoft of Southern Methodist took the women's lead early and still had a gap on a large chase pack of at least 20 runners, including Hasay and Reid, at the midway point.
At the same time, the Ducks were also in good team position halfway home, standing in fourth behind Washington, Villanova and Florida State, with Claire Michel, Bronwyn Crossman and Lanie Thompson running solidly in a pack.
At the 4,000 meter mark, Fjortoft still led, but just by a few paces on the chase pack, which still was large at 15 runners. With 1,000 meters left, the pack swallowed up Fjortoft and the group was 12-wide coming around the final turn.
The pack surged up the final hill, with Hasay and Reid edging in front. Hasay made her move with 300 meters to go, and Reid had just enough in the tank to clip her at the end.
"I gave it all I had," said the junior from Arroyo Gande, Calif. "I told myself the only person I would be O.K. losing to was Sheila, and I almost got her, but she had another gear.
"She's such a great competitor," said Hasay. "Obviously I would have been happier with the win, but it's hard to be too disappointed with second place."
Hasay's runner-up showing matched the best finish by a Duck woman in school history. Leann Warren also took second in 1981.
The Ducks also used well-executed pack running from Michel, Crossman and Thompson to take fifth place overall with 281 points, one point better than Vanderbilt. Georgetown won the women's race with 162 points, followed by Washington at 170, Villanova at 181 and Florida State at 189.
It was Oregon's best finish since placing second in 2008. It was also the Ducks' 16th top-10 finish all-time in 22 NCAA Championship appearances. Oregon finished 12th at the 2010 NCAA meet.
The four Ducks who followed Hasay across the finish line all posted NCAA career bests. Michel was 72nd in 20:48.8, Crossman took 76th in 20:50.6, Thompson, a sophomore from High Bridge, N.J., was 80th in 20:52.9 and junior Becca Friday was 145th in 21:22.1.
"Positioning was key for us today," said Michel, a senior from Clackamas, Ore., who was making her final appearance in an Oregon uniform. "Good teams will do that and it came together for us."
Crossman, a senior from Bellingham, Wash., agreed
"It didn't happen right away, but we found each other and got there in the end," she said. "I think we're pretty happy with fifth (place). We came into the NCAAs ranked 16th."
Freshman Molly Grabill finished 207th in 21:56.3 and junior Anne Kesselring was 229th in 22:12.1 to round out Oregon's runners.
In the individual race, after Reid and Hasay, Abbey D'Agostino of Dartmouth was third in 19:42.9, Emily Infeld of Georgetown was fourth in 19:44.3 and Alex Banfich of Princeton was fifth in 19:45.0.
The men's race featured one of the deepest fields in years and the results showed it.
Pac-12 champion Lawi Lalang of Arizona, the pre-meet favorite, won comfortably, going 10,000 meters in 28:44.1.
Chris Derrick charged at the end to finish second in 28:57.5, with Leonard Korir of Iona third in 29:02.5, Southern Utah's Cameron Levins, the 2011 Bill Dellinger Invitational winner, fourth in 29:04.8, Mohammed Ahmed of Wisconsin fifth in 29:06.7 and Puskedra sixth in 29:09.3.
The senior from Ogden, Utah, joined some elite company on Monday. He became just the third Duck to win four cross country All-America honors, joining Steve Prefontaine and Terry Williams. He also became just the fourth Duck to post three top-10 finishes at the NCAA Championships, joining Prefontaine, Alberto Salazar and Galen Rupp.
Puskedra went to the lead 2,000 meters into the race along with Lalang, Korir and a dozen other runners. Lalang then surged to the lead at the 6,000 meter mark, leaving the next six to fall in behind. Puskedra settled into sixth at that point and held his position through the finish.
"For Luke to finish in the top 10 three times is a fantastic accomplishment," said Lananna. "He just lays it on the line every time."
The last race of his cross country career marked the ninth consecutive top-10 finish for Puskedra, a sting that covered his entire junior and senior seasons.
"That had to be one of the strongest fields I've been in," said Puskedra. "I'm certainly not unhappy to get sixth today."
Wisconsin won the men's team title with 97 points; the Badgers also won the 2011 Dellinger Invitational crown
Oklahoma State was second with 139 points, with Pac-12 champion Colorado third with 144 points.