Illinois senior Angela Bizzarri won the NCAA cross country national title Monday, becoming the first Illinois women's cross country runner to ever win the NCAA title and the first Illini cross country champion since Craig Virgin took home the title in 1975.

Illinois senior Angela Bizzarri won the NCAA cross country national title Monday, becoming the first Illinois women's cross country runner to ever win the NCAA title and the first Illini cross country champion since Craig Virgin took home the title in 1975.


It marks the second national title for Bizzarri in less than six months. She won the 5,000-meter title at the NCAA outdoor championships in June.


"This was my last cross country race, and it was a perfect way to end it,'' said Bizzarri, a native of Mason, Ohio. She smashed her previous personal best at last year's NCAA Championships by 13 seconds and finished the 6-kilometer race with a time of 19 minutes 46 seconds.


The title capped a four-year rise at the NCAA meet for Bizzarri. She was 24th in 2006, 14th as a sophomore in 2007 and sixth last year. She won the race by 5 seconds.


"For Angela to be the national champion in cross country, it's just unbelievable,'' Illinois coach Jeremy Rasmussen said. "She followed her plan for the race perfectly.''


Colorado senior Jenny Barringer was favored to win the race, but finished 162nd after collapsing midway through the race.


Barringer and Florida State senior Susan Kuijken led after 2 kilometers. The two were far ahead of the rest of the pack and held a 5-second lead on Bizzarri. After 4 kilometers, Kuijken had an impressive 13-second lead over Bizzarri, Washington sophomore Kendra Schaaf and Villanova sophomore Sheila Reid.


Bizzari and Schaaf pulled away from the rest of the field at about the five-kilometer mark. Bizzari grabbed the lead in the last 100 meters and held on for the win.


"I did not see anyone around me, and I had no clue how far back they were,'' Bizzarri said. "I was kind of shocked by that time because that's when I realized that I was going to win.''


Illinois was 12th in the team standings with 365 points. Villanova easily won the women's team title. Lehigh's Sam Chelanga, a Kenyan, won the men's race in record time with Oklahoma State earning the men's team title.


GateHouse News Service