LOUISVILLE — Tyler Byrne found a safe route to the finish line Saturday in the 10th annual Greater Louisville Cross Country Classic.
Others weren't so lucky and wound up chasing the University of Louisville sophomore in vain at E.P. "Tom" Sawyer State Park.
Lydia Kosgei, an Eastern Kentucky senior from Kenya, took women's honors.
The field included more than 2,000 runners from 96 schools and 16 states.
Never miss a local story.
Because of the vast numbers, the event was divided into three sections, with Byrne and Kosgei ruling the gold (fastest) division.
Byrne, from Anderson, Ind., is only the second Cardinal to win the mega-race. Wesley Korir, a Kenyan, won for U of L in 2004 and 2005.
About 250 yards in, Byrne avoided a Demolition Derby-like pileup that felled about 20 runners, including U of L's Matt Bruce and Kentucky's Josh Nadzam.
U of L, No. 27 in the nation, placed second to Purdue, 113-150. Albany finished third with 156, followed by Western Kentucky with 168.
Kentucky placed eighth in the field of 29 teams with 233 points. Bellarmine took 15th. No. 26 Eastern Kentucky, which ran its top runners Friday at Notre Dame, placed 26th with its "B" team.
"You always want to do your best at the home course," said Byrne, who placed 23rd in last year's race. "I knew that's what it was going to take today — my best — to come out here and actually win the thing."
Byrne ran slightly off the pace for the first mile (4:22). By three miles (14:25), he was at the front of the pack.
"We just wanted to be shadowing the front pack, the lead pack, for about half the race, keep myself in contention and not let the leaders get too far away to where I wouldn't have enough time to catch them," Byrne said.
With 1,200 meters left, Byrne seized the lead.
He covered the 8,000-meter (5-mile) course in 23:47.12, followed by Middle Tennessee's Justus David in 23:49.04. Ryan Hopkins of Davidson held off Western Kentucky's Deus Rwaherus for third.
Kosgei won the women's 5,000 (3.1 miles) in 16:51.12, followed by Tina Muir of Ferris State in 16:59.01. Michigan teammates Danielle Tauro and Taylor Pogue ran 3-4.
Kosgei said she "felt like I wasn't moving" early on, but she hung with the lead pack.
By 1½ miles, "I felt like it was mine ... because I felt like I was relaxing," she said. "I felt like 'I think I can take this thing.' Although when I was coming here, I was a little bit afraid. I knew Michigan, they have great runners."
Michigan took the team title with 81 points. Ferris State scored 190, followed by Ole Miss and Purdue. Western Kentucky placed 14th, Eastern 15th, UK 18th, U of L 21st and Bellarmine 25th.
UK's top finishers were Luis Orta and Chelsea Oswald. Orta placed 10th in the men's race and Oswald was the 42nd women's finisher.
The UK women were missing Anna Bostrom and Cally Macumber because of injuries.
"We've got to get those two back, and then our women's team can be pretty competitive," Coach Don Weber said.