November 23, 2009

Wilson All-American at NCAA Cross Country Championships

Nov. 23, 2009

BEHIND THE SCENES PHOTO GALLERY AT THE NCAA CHAMPIONSHIPS (Taken by teammate Nicole Giove and Paul Merca

Terre Haute, Ind., Santa Clara junior Stephanie Wilson (Archbishop Mitty, San Jose, Calif.) finished 28th overall, crossing the line in 20:37 at the NCAA Cross Country Championship this morning in Terre Haute, Ind., collecting the school's FIRST-EVER All-American honors in cross country. Wilson was the 2009 WCC champion and sixth in the 2009 NCAA West Regional last weekend as the school's first runner to qualify for the NCAA Championships. Oklahoma State won the men's title and Villanova won the women's.

Wilson, a 2007 graduate of Archbishop Mitty, didn't even make Santa Clara WCC roster two years ago! At the NCAA Championships this morning Wilson was the top runner from the WCC and the fourth finisher from the NCAA West Region as the top collegiate runner from California. Only three All-Americans from the West Region finished ahead of her. She was the fourth-best individual qualifier with 254 runners competing - including the 37 individuals (did not qualify on a team) and 31 teams of seven each.

Wilson gave much praise to her coaches and Santa Clara on her All-American finish. "I think it just goes to show how much coaching has developed a culture of excellence at Santa Clara. It has been a building process for me and this type of finish - it's cool. I am glad I am the first All-American and I sure I won't be the last. I want my team to know we have been checking out Terre Haute and where all the good restaurants are - we found a pretty good pie place last night. I want to come back next year with the team and so now we will know where to go."

"It's been an incredible ride. Things have just gone picture perfect for her. We talked before we had no regrets no matter what happened today," said Bronco head coach Tom Service. "We said this morning before the race we wouldn't have changed one thing in the training: the number of meets she ran, anything we did in preparation, how we tapered, all those things. When you come to the starting line healthy mentally and physically and you can say that, you come with a peace of mind. She was ready and she went out and did it."

The Bronco cross country teams have had quite a ride the last 12 months: last November cross country captain Noelle Lopez was the school's first female Rhodes Scholar, and this year Wilson won the WCC title and was named the WCC Runner of the Month in both September and October - both firsts for the program. On the men's side Robbie Reid was the WCC runner-up and had the men's highest finish ever at the NCAA West Region.

Wilson was asked if it hit her yet - that she was the program's first All-American. "Sort of. I don't know! I knew it was a possibility but it's the same thing with regionals. I had come from so far down (she wasn't a great high school runner) and it's been such a crazy ride. But I felt really confident," said Wilson. "I had so much support: the team, my parents, my family, my coaches, the Santa Clara athletic department and it felt like everyone was rooting for me. I thank all of them."

Wilson said the start was insane because it was almost 1000 meters of straight away. "I was going pretty fast, but I didn't stay up with the very top group - everyone was going so fast. But I kept moving up and staying relaxed in the race, moving up."

"This was amazing. It's a total grass course because it's not a golf course and it's rolling small hills so that slows the runners down a lot," said Bronco head coach Tom Service. "We had really prepared her for the fact the start was fast and normally it's just her and a few other people in the lead pack. Here we said there would be a lot more people there at the front than usual so she wouldn't freak out. She was expecting that and she ran prepared. A lot of those girls belong there and if she was good with that, she could settle into her pace at that point and a lot of people wouldn't be able to that (stay at Wilson's pace or better)."

"The first time I saw her was at 1200m and she was probably in about 50th-60th at that point - it's hard to tell. I saw her about 2K and she had moved up into the 40s," said Service. " I think I ran a 6K during the race going from split to split. The next time I saw her she was 41st and then 37th and she looked very in control. She was running under tremendous control. Here we are watching some of the best runners in the country fall off and Stephanie keeps coming and coming. And then I saw her in 25th with about 300m to go, but we didn't know officially where she would finish. She got out-kicked at the very end by one of Washington's multi-time All-Americans and those were the only kind of people who passed her at the finish. She had used it all - what a race!"

Wilson commented on the last 500 meters being the toughest finish of her life. "I was going as hard as I could. The finish is 500 or 600 meters and it was the longest finish of my life. I just kept concentrating on finishing, keeping my arms and legs moving and just going for it."

Wilson said she really felt like she was part of the running community after her time in Terre Haute. "I hung out with Crystal Reed and Scott Smith from the UC Santa Barbara team; and they were really cool to get to know. The NCAA Championship Banquet on Saturday night was weird - I've never been in a room with that many runners before. It was really cool.

"There isn't much else to say," said Service with a huge smile. "I know Santa Clara is very proud of her, like they were of Noelle last year when she was a Rhodes Scholar. It's great for the program. Everyone had a part. Associate Head Coach Felipe Montoro ran workouts with her, any of the girls on the team who ran any type of training with her - it's a little part of all of them. We are very proud of Stephanie Wilson!"

Go Broncos!