TERRE HAUTE, Ind. — In her final cross country meet for Baylor, Rachel Johnson closed with a spectacular surge.
Johnson ran to a fifth-place finish at the NCAA Cross Country Championships on Saturday, tying for the best showing by a Baylor runner in program history. Johnson finished in the top five of all five of her races this year.
She picked the perfect time to run the race of her life, turning in a personal-best time of 19:56.8 on the 6,000-meter course. She even managed to pick up steam as the race progressed, picking off a pair of runners to move from seventh to fifth in the final 2,000 meters.
“Rachel ran great. She had nothing left,” Baylor coach Todd Harbour said. “The tank was definitely empty, so it was a great day for her. She’s happy. To go from 107th last year to No. 5, I guarantee you nobody else did anything like that.”
Johnson’s performance tied Natalie Nalepa’s fifth-place effort in 1991 for the best in school history, and she became the program’s eighth All-American.
As a team, Baylor finished 19th in its first appearance in the 31-team NCAA field since 2009.
Sophomore Maggie Montoya was the next BU runner to cross after Johnson, coming in 44th place with a time of 20:49.6. That was an improvement from her race at the NCAA Pre-Nationals on the same course last month, when she ran 21:30.7 and finished 45th in a slightly less competitive field.
Rounding out Baylor’s top five were Alex Davis (146th place, 21:31.6), Peyton Thomas (193rd, 21:53.2) and Mariah Kelly (213th, 22:04.5).
Baylor ran better than its ranking, as the Lady Bears were No. 28 in the national cross country poll.
“There were some pretty good teams we beat today,” Harbour said. “We definitely improved our ranking, but it was still a fight to do it. Had everything gone just right, we probably could have been a Top 15 team.”
Michigan State won the women’s team title with 85 points, while the Big 12’s Iowa State took second with 147. Colorado claimed the men’s championship, its second straight and fifth in program history.