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These 12 Olympic Track Stars Have Success Rooted In The NCAA Cross-Country Championships

By Leah Jenk | Nov. 16, 2018, 12:55 p.m. (ET)

As we prepare to follow the excitement of the 2018 NCAA Cross Country National Championship on Saturday, Nov. 17, in Madison, Wisconsin, let’s take a look at Team USA’s long-distance running greats whose roots flourished in college. 

Emma Coburn, University of Colorado
Emma Coburn celebrates winning the women's 3000-meter steeplechase at the IAAF World Athletics Championships on Aug. 11, 2017 in London.


Coburn, a three-time NCAA national champion on the track and six-time All-American, also ran cross-country for the Buffs, placing 20th her senior year. At the Olympic Games London 2012, Coburn was the youngest runner on Team USA at 21 years old. She went on to win bronze in the 3,000-meter steeplechase at the 2016 Games in Rio, becoming the first American woman to medal in the event.

Ed Eyestone, Brigham Young University
In 1984, Eyestone went undefeated in his cross-country races, including winning the NCAA national championship while representing BYU. He went on to run for Team USA in Seoul in 1988 and in Barcelona in 1992, where he finished 29th and 13th, respectively. Today, Eyestone is the head coach for his alma mater and looks to lead the second-ranked Cougars to the national championship this weekend.

Shalane Flanagan, University of North Carolina
Before becoming the first American woman to win the New York City marathon in 40 years in 2017, Flanagan was a Tarheel who won back-to-back NCAA cross-country national championships in 2002 and 2003. At the Olympic Games Beijing 2008, Flanagan won silver in the 10,000-meter to become the only American woman to medal in the event. In 2012, she won the U.S. Olympic Team Trials for Marathon and placed 10th in London. Four years later, she was sixth in Rio.  

Adam Goucher, University of Colorado
After three top-10 finishes at the NCAA cross-country national championship, Goucher won the title his senior year in 1998. His collegiate running days are told in the book “Running with the Buffalos.” Upon graduating as the American record holder in the mile, Goucher represented Team USA at the Olympic Games Athens 2004 in the 5,000-meter, where he finished 13th.

Kara Goucher, University of Colorado
In her senior year at the University of Colorado in 2000, Goucher broke onto the running scene as she won the NCAA cross-country national championship and made her name known at the Olympic Trials. She went on to qualify for the 2008 Olympics where she placed in eighth in the 5,000-meter and ninth in the 10,000-meter. Goucher then transitioned to the marathon, and placed 10th at the London 2012 Olympics.

Molly Huddle, Notre Dame University
Molly Huddle runs to victory in the women's 10,000-meter at the 2018 USATF Outdoor Championships on June 21, 2018 in Des Moines, Iowa. 


Huddle, the most accomplished runner from Notre Dame University, is a nine-time All-American. Her best finish at the NCAA cross-country national championship was 15th, which helped the Fighting Irish to their fourth consecutive top-10 finish. Huddle represented Team USA in London, where she placed 11th in the 5,000-meter, and in Rio where she set an American record and place sixth in the 10,000-meter.

Emily Infeld, Georgetown University
While competing for the Hoyas, Infeld was the NCAA cross-country national runner up in 2010. In 2011, she placed fourth while helping the Hoyas to the team national championship. Infeld represented Team USA in Rio, where she placed sixth in the 10,000-meter.

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Meb Keflezighi, University of California – Los Angeles
Before Keflezighi became a household name after winning the Boston Marathon in 2014, he was a Bruin who won four NCAA track and field national championships, including the 1996 cross-country title. Keflezighi has represented Team USA at four Olympic Games, with a 12th-place finished in the 10,000-meter at 2000 Sydney Olympics before switching to the marathon. At the 2004 Olympics, Keflezighi won silver in the marathon in Athens. He then placed fourth in London and 33rd in Rio.

Bob Kennedy, University of Indiana
Kennedy, who ran collegiately for Indiana, won the NCAA cross-country national championship as a true freshman and again as a senior in 1988 and 1991, respectively. Kennedy represented Team USA at the Olympic Games Barcelona 1992, where he finished 12th in the 5,000-meter, and then again in Atlanta in 1996, where he placed sixth.

Des Linden, Arizona State University
Linden, most famous for becoming the first American woman to win the Boston Marathon in 33 years in 2018, ran track and cross-country at Arizona State. An All-American in both sports, Linden is only the third Sun Devil to run in four NCAA cross-country championships. Linden was a member of Team USA in London and again in Rio, where she placed seventh in the marathon.

Dathan Ritzenhein, University of Colorado
While running for the Buffs, Ritzenhein worked his way from a fourth-place finish in 2001 to first place at the 2003 NCAA cross-country national championship. He went on to represent Team USA in three Olympic competitions (Athens, Beijing and London), where he was the first American and ninth overall finisher in the marathon in 2008. In 2004 and 2012, Ritzenhein ran in the 10,000-meter where he finished 13th in the later.

Galen Rupp, University of Oregon
Galen Rupp celebrates winning the men's marathon at the Olympic Games Rio 2016 on Aug. 21, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro.


Rupp helped the Ducks to back-to-back NCAA cross-country national championships by finishing in second place in 2007 and first place in 2008. Since his college days, Rupp has represented Team USA at three Olympic Games (2008, 2012, 2016). In Beijing, he finished 13th in the 10,000-meter; in London, Rupp took home the silver medal in the 10,000-meter and placed seventh in the 5,000-meter; in Rio, he earned bronze in the marathon at his second-career marathon. 

Related Athletes

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Emma Coburn

Track and Field
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Shalane Flanagan

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Adam Goucher

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Kara Goucher

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Molly Huddle

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Emily Infeld

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Mebrahtom Keflezighi

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Desiree Linden

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Dathan Ritzenhein

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Galen Rupp