UCCS Takes Seventh at Nationals

By Doug Fitzgerald published November 18, 2006

PENSACOLA, Fla. - The University of Colorado at Colorado Springs women's cross country team earned the highest national finish in school history by capturing seventh place at the NCAA Division II National Cross Country Championships Saturday.

The previous best finish for a UCCS team was No. 8 by the 2001-02 golf team. The previous best for the women's cross country team was No. 10 in 2001.

After practicing on the 6-kilometer course at the Escambia County Equestrian Center on Friday, UCCS junior Shannon Payne could only smile.

"It's going to be fast," said Payne. "I think we're going to take down some records."

She was right. Six of the seven Mountain Lions in the race set new personal best times Saturday. Only Sarah Shepard, who was sick, failed to set a new personal standard. Ashley Birger and Lisa Short beat their previous best times by nearly a minute.

"I ran as hard as I could," said Payne, who led the Mountain Lions with an 11th-place overall finish and a time of 20 minutes, 43.2 seconds. "I set a PR and you can't run any better than your best."

Jenna Dorsey-Spitz was second among UCCS runners, taking 35th in the 187-runner field with a time of 21:21. Birger was 44th, crossing in 21:28.4 and Shepard was 47th in 21:30.7.

Payne and Dorsey-Spitz were named All-American for their efforts.

Short was the Mountain Lions' final scoring runner (the five fastest of each team's seven runners count towards the team score), taking 128th. She surged past three other runners in the final 400 meters, all uphill.

"It felt really good on the hill, probably because we run in Colorado," said Short. "I had a lot of speed up that hill."

That final, uphill stretch suited UCCS' strengths well. Most Mountain Lions runners gained ground there and the points gained there proved to be the difference between them and eighth-place Wisconsin-Parkside, which was just five by points behind.

"I've never been in a race like this before," said Birger. "Everyone was fighting for every spot. It was cool to be here."

UCCS' Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference sisters, Adams State and Western State, took first and second place respectively. Those two schools have won every national championship since becoming members of NCAA Division II in 1992. Grand Valley State took third and Cal State-Los Angeles was fourth.

Western State's Esther Komen was the top individual finisher, posting a time of 20:09.4.

Despite the team finishes, only three RMAC runners paced ahead of Payne.

"The field was faster than I thought it would be," said Payne. "Usually, you can anticipate what colors are going to be in front of you and who you should go after. Today, I was like "I don't know any of these people."

"It was intense."

So were the Mountain Lions. Rather than conserving energy for the finish, as they must do when running at altitude, they cut loose for the final race of the year.

"I ran so hard it hurt," said Birger. "It's so much different running here. There's so much more oxygen that I get a little light-headed at sea level."

Light-headed or not, the Mountain Lion continued to push the pace.

"Everyone ran as hard as they could all the way through," said Short. "You stay in the same pace the whole time and when you want to go faster, you can. You recover a lot faster. At altitude, you recover slower and can lose a lot of distance during that recovery period."

Close behind Short were UCCS' final two runners, Christy Severy and Whitney Lund.

After the race, UCCS coach Graeme Badger excitedly awaited the posting of the team results. When he saw the Mountain Lions had taken seventh, he literally jumped.

Call it a jump for joy. Setting records will do that.

UCCS Players/Staff Featured

Ashley BirgerAshley BirgerSteeplechaseSo.
Ashley BirgerAshley BirgerSteeplechaseSo.
Ashley BirgerAshley BirgerSteeplechaseSo.
Ashley BirgerAshley BirgerSo.
Ashley BirgerAshley BirgerSo.
Ashley BirgerAshley BirgerSo.
Ashley BirgerAshley BirgerSo.
Shannon PayneShannon Payne
Shannon PayneShannon Payne
Shannon PayneShannon Payne
Shannon PayneShannon Payne
Shannon PayneShannon Payne
Shannon PayneShannon Payne
Shannon PayneShannon Payne
Shannon PayneShannon Payne
Shannon PayneShannon Payne
Shannon PayneShannon Payne
Lisa ShortLisa ShortDistance
Lisa ShortLisa ShortDistance
Lisa ShortLisa ShortDistance
Lisa ShortLisa Short
Lisa ShortLisa Short
Lisa ShortLisa Short
Jenna Dorsey-SpitzJenna Dorsey-SpitzMid-Distance
Jenna Dorsey-SpitzJenna Dorsey-SpitzMid-Distance
Jenna Dorsey-SpitzJenna Dorsey-SpitzMid-Distance
Jenna Dorsey-SpitzJenna Dorsey-Spitz
Jenna Dorsey-SpitzJenna Dorsey-Spitz
Jenna Dorsey-SpitzJenna Dorsey-Spitz
Christy SeveryChristy Severy
Christy SeveryChristy Severy
Christy SeveryChristy Severy
Christy SeveryChristy Severy
Christy SeveryChristy Severy
Additional News Stories
November 17, 2006XC Nationals Preview: Getting There Not Fun Whoever said "getting there is half the fun" never traveled with the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs women's cross country team.
November 16, 2006Badger Uses Science to Boost UCCSIn science there are few absolutes. The scientific community has theories and laws, but they are made to be proven wrong. Even an apparent absolute like the Law of Gravity can, scientifically speaking, be proven incorrect.
November 4, 2006UCCS Women Qualify for NationalsThe University of Colorado at Colorado Springs women's cross country team finished third at the North Central Region Cross Country Meet Saturday at Wayne, Neb. The performance earned the Mountain Lions a berth at the NCAA Division II National Cross Country Championship Meet on Nov. 18 at Wayne, Neb.
October 21, 2006Women Grab Third at RMAC ChampionshipIn the parlance of most sports, the term "uphill" indicates facing adversity, as in an "uphill battle." For the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs women's cross country team, "uphill" is all about opportunity.
Visit our Facebook pageVisit the UCCS Mount Lion's Twitter pageVisit the UCCS Mountain Lions Youtube pageVisit UCCS Rss feeds