Payne Grabs Third at Nationals

By Doug Fitzgerald published November 22, 2008

SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. â€" University of Colorado at Colorado Springs senior Shannon Payne took third place at the NCAA Division II Cross Country Championships Saturday at Cooperâ€TMs Lake Campground.

Payne first chased, then dueled, Shippensburg Stateâ€TMs Neely Spence for second place throughout the race, closing an 11-second gap at the one-mile mark. Payne worked the uphills to move up from sixth place, finally catching Spence for second at the 2 ¾ mile mark. The two went back and forth the rest of the way with Spence finally getting a two-second win.

“Shannon ran a smart and tough race,” said UCCS coach Mark Misch. “They battled back and forth and all the way up the finish.”

It was a remarkable culmination for Payne, who has had to work her way back from knee surgery. Her finish Saturday was the highest even posted by a UCCS runner

“There was a lot to be proud of today,” said Misch. “One year ago, Payne hadn't even been able to run a surface like snow while building back from knee surgery. Day by day, month by month she worked to get back to where she is today.”

Jessica Pixler of Seattle Pacific was the individual winner, covering the course in 20 minutes, 59 seconds. Spence took second, 28 seconds later, followed by Payne. Adams Stateâ€TMs Heather Wood took fourth with a time of 21:37.

Led by Wood, Adams State won its sixth straight national championship. The Grizzlies have dominated womenâ€TMs cross country since joining NCAA Division II in 1993, winning 14 titles over that span. Adams State also won three NAIA national championships prior to moving to Division II.

Grand Valley State took second, followed by Western State and Seattle Pacific.

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