LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Following in the footsteps of Oregon senior Jordan Hasay, both literally and figuratively, Cal Poly freshman Laura Hollander took her first strides at national glory yesterday at the NCAA Women’s Cross Country Championships yesterday at E.P. “Tom” Sawyer Park in suburban Louisville.
Hasay, third place in 2010, second place last year and a favorite to win the race this year, moved past Hollander late in the 6,000-meter race to finish third to Iowa State senior Betsy Saina and Abbey D’Agostino of Dartmouth.
Hasay was beaten by a late kick by Saina and a late surge by D’Agostino, and as a senior she won’t have a chance to improve on that. For Hollander, however, the improvement on a ninth-place finish has just begun.
Hollander ran her race and she was happy with the outcome. She got out to the lead early on and held off the best in her field for most of the race.
“No matter what, that’s how I run the race, I wanted to get out,” said Hollander.
For a freshman, she knew what she wanted to do, even if it didn’t work out completely the way she wanted.
“I just tried to do my best – even if I went out conservatively, I wouldn’t have a kick, it’s my weakest point,” Hollander said.
“It’s something I need to work on,” she said.
But this kind of race, against top competition, is just what a freshman needs to see how much work there is to be done.
“There’s a lot I can take from this,” Hollander said of the race.
And she has only one regret, finishing ninth rather than seventh or eighth.
“Getting passed at the end,” she said. “I’ve worked hard to get where I am.”
For Hasay, the third- place finish is disappointing. Only a victory could cap off her amazing four years at Oregon.
“I gave it my all,” said Hasay. “It’s disappointing, it was my last chance.”
From the start of the race, Hasay was in the hunt, sticking close to the leaders and waiting to make her move while the lead pack clicked off a 5:01 first mile pace.
With 2,000 meters left in the race, six runners had a legitimate shot to win the race, Hasay, D’Agostino and Saina among them. That was whittled down to four in the final 700 meters, with those three in front.
“I was prepared, I was ready,” Hasay said. “It was a perfect race except for that last kick – I’ve got to work on that.”
Indeed, a bit more of a kick might have earned Hasay the title. But from a pure effort standpoint, she gave her all.
“I didn’t know what else I could have done,” said Hasay. “She just held me off.”
Hasay may have disappointed in her individual finish, but she was rightly proud of leading Oregon to the team title with 114 points.
As the only team member with national championship experience, it was up to Hasay to lead the way – and she did in more ways than one.
“Jordan cared a lot more about winning the team title than the individual title,” Oregon women’s coach Maurica Powell said. “She leads by example, getting things done.”
Saina finished in 19:27.9 with D’Agostino finishing in 19:28.6, mere hundredths of a second in front of Hasey. Hollander finished in 19:45.2.
In the team competition, Providence was runner up with 183 points, Stanford finished third.