File Art - Sports - Cross Country

With NCAA Championships in indoor track and cross-country on the same weekend, college programs had to choose one or the other. Notre Dame chose wisely.

The Fighting Irish packed five runners into the top 25 and shockingly finished second in men’s cross-country Monday at Stillwater, Okla.

“You can say it paid off. But there was some anxiety today,” said director of track and cross country Matt Sparks.

It was the Irish’s highest finish since winning a national championship in 1957. Notre Dame was third in 1990 and 2005.

The meet was postponed from its customary November date because of the pandemic. The team race was supposed to be a dual meet between No. 1 Northern Arizona and No. 2 BYU, the defending champion. But the No. 9 Irish put themselves in the top two by the first kilometer, and they never relented.

“People don’t like to think of Notre Dame as an underdog. We certainly were today,” Sparks said.

Northern Arizona placed four in the top 10 — the first team to do so since Stanford in 2003 — and finished with 60 points. It was the lowest score since 37 by Wisconsin in 2005.

Notre Dame had 87, far ahead of host Oklahoma State, 142. BYU was seventh with 254.

BYU’s Conner Mantz, of Smithfield, Utah, became the first U.S.-born man to win the individual title since two-time Olympic medalist Galen Rupp did so in 2008.

Mantz ran the hilly 10,000-meter course in 29 minutes, 26.1 seconds to finish 22 seconds ahead of Adriann Wildschutt, a South African representing Florida State. Iowa State’s Wesley Kiptoo, a Kenyan who won the NCAA indoor 5,000 Friday at Fayetteville, Ark., was third in 29:54.9.

Notre Dame had a 15-second spread among its five scorers: Danny Kilrea, 10th; Dylan Jacobs, 20th; Andrew Alexander, 21st; Jake Renfro, 22nd; Jared Nuguse, 23rd.

“Our hope, honestly, is that it will pay off for outdoor track as well and keep us more fresh for the outdoor season,” Sparks said of prioritizing cross-country.

Sixth man Joshua Methner, a freshman, finished 36th for Notre Dame.

BYU did claim the women’s team title, beating runner-up North Carolina State 96-161. Indiana was 19th.

Alabama’s Mercy Chelangat, a Kenyan, won the 6,000 meters in 20:01.1. IU’s Bailey Hertenstein was 28th in 20:46.4.

Contact IndyStar reporter David Woods at david.woods@indystar.com. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidWoods007.