MADISON, Wis. — Jessica Hull had a Ducks-in-a-row moment that she’ll never forget at the NCAA women’s cross country championships.
The Oregon senior crossed the 6,000-meter line with a third-place effort Saturday in 19 minutes 50.4 seconds and she grinned with a glance back on the Thomas Zimmer Championship course.
“The way I judge a good race with us across the board is if the first person who crosses the line turns and there are a bunch of Ducks coming, we’ve done great,” Hull said. “It doesn’t matter what order it is, but we’re tight.”
Second-ranked Oregon earned a third-place podium slot in the team standings with 160 points, behind third-ranked Colorado (65 points) and top-ranked New Mexico (103 points).
Colorado senior Dani Jones won the individual title with a time of 19:42.8, ahead of Lobos sophomore Weini Kelati, with a runner-up mark of 19:45.3.
Ducks senior Weronika Pyzik was 12th in 20:03.4, and fellow senior Carmela Cardama Baez was 31st in 20:31.5 on the snowy course. Those three Ducks earned all-American accolades.
Rounding out the Oregon finishers were junior Isabelle Brauer in 52nd in 20:44.3 and senior Susan Ejore in 91st in 21:01.5.
Oregon associate head coach Helen Lehman-Winters, in her first season leading the Ducks distance team, didn’t hesitate to bring out the shoe spikes when coaches and runners learned that inclement weather would blanket the course.
“We were trying to do what we always do and be really patient,” Lehman-Winters said. “I thought it would be a little bit slower because of the snow. It wasn’t the first (kilometer) but then it really slowed up.
“Jess and Weronika did a great job of getting out in that first ‘K’; I think the rest of our squad was a bit soft, and we paid for it a little bit.”
Hull’s strategy was never to lead the race until the end, and Lehman-Winters said that the veteran executed a near-perfect event.
“A lot of people doubted her ability to run cross country because she’s never really done anything in cross country, so for her to be third and do it the way she did it is impressive,” Lehman-Winters said.
Hull, who was 93rd in last year's NCAA meet, said one factor to her success was her 6,000 victory on the Thomas Zimmer course last month at the Wisconsin Pre-Nationals. That win marked Hull’s first ever at the cross country level.
During a pre-race strategy chat Friday night with Lehman-Winters, Hull was aiming for a seventh- to 10th-place performance at the NCAA championships.
Hull said she braced for the final 1,200 on Saturday and pushed through.
“I just wanted to tear my legs down that hill and I kept telling myself: ‘Keep turning and keeping turning them, they’ll come back.’ And they did. They came back enough.
“It was unbelievable. That (finish) was above what I was expecting.”
Jones said overtaking Kelati with approximately one kilometer to go was a rewarding sprint to the finish. Seeing Hull and Stanford senior Elise Cranny among the lead runners, didn’t hurt either.
“I paid attention to my own sensory data and I just kept getting closer to Kelati,” Jones said. “There was a comfort in having Jessica there and Elise there because those are Pac-12 girls, the girls I race a lot — and who I know I can run with.”
The Oregon State women, making their first NCAA team appearance in school history, finished 27th in the 31-team field with 600 points. Juliana Mount finished 42nd for the Beavers in 20:39.3. She was the only Oregon State runner in the top 125.
Meanwhile, the Oregon men’s team posted a 15th-place finish in the standings. Redshirt sophomore Jackson Mestler paced the Ducks, earning 73rd in 30:25.66, as Oregon scored 407 points.
Ducks associate head coach Ben Thomas, in his first season as distance coach, said he knows there’s work to be done and room for improvement.
“I’m excited that they’ve gone through the season healthy and consistent, and we’re really excited for what’s next,” Thomas said. “We just need to get more depth in the 5K, 10K area. We’re heavy in the middle distances, and we’ve got that covered.”