LOUISVILLE — Playing the role of a two-footed Thoroughbred, Sarah Disanza ran away from all pursuers Saturday to win the Greater Louisville Cross Country Classic at E.P. "Tom" Sawyer Park.
"I had a lot of energy coming into the race," said Disanza, a University of Wisconsin sophomore from New Jersey. "I was really excited. So I kind of knew off the line that it was going to be a strong race for me since I was kind of like a horse in the gate so to speak and I was really excited to get racing finally."
Disanza beat runner-up Chelsea Blaase of Tennessee by nearly 10 seconds, covering 5,000 meters (3.1 miles) in 16 minutes, 41.92 seconds.
That helped the 16th-ranked Badgers capture team honors, too, with 37 points. No. 21 West Virginia was second with 64.
The meet featured 125 colleges and universities from 24 states and Canada. More than 2,600 runners were split into three races, with Disanza winning the gold (fastest) division.
"The first 2K our team really wanted to stay together and focus on the energy within our team," Disanza said. "And get used to pack running, since we have such great depth this year. And after 2K, we all decided 'OK, it's time to let it go and let everyone see what we've got to offer.'"
Wisconsin placed its top five among the first 20 finishers, with Molly Hanson and Emma-Lisa Murphy following Blaase across the line. Defending champion Ann Eason of Eastern Kentucky, in only her second race since being sidelined by tendinitis, came in 12th.
Silas Too, a Kenyan freshman who competes for Shorter, won the men's gold division 8,000-meter race in 23:45.77. Runner-up Malachy Schrobilgen (23:48.36) led No. 11 Wisconsin to the team title with 56 points. Second-place Ole Miss, ranked No. 4 in the South Region, scored 111.
Too had a simple race strategy: "Run fast and win."
Lacking confidence in his closing kick, he surged near the 4-mile mark and held on. After Schrobilgen came Louisville's Ernest Kibet and Edwin Kibichiy.
North Hardin senior Robert Rupp prevailed in the high school boys' division, the only runner to break 16 minutes over a 5,000-meter course. Rupp checked in at 15:54.80, followed by Brettley Harris of Webster County (W.Va.) in 16:12.36.
"I feel pretty good with the time," Rupp said. "Five seconds faster than last week and 20 seconds faster than two weeks ago."
Rupp said he wasn't sure he'd win until he actually crossed the line.
"If it's a good race, you never know until you finish," he said. "And this is a good race. The whole entire time I'm thinking 'are they behind me?' And 'no, you've got to focus ahead of you.' Because if you worry about what's behind you, they're going to catch up. I didn't really know until I crossed the finish line."
Rupp helped North Hardin to the top spot by an in-state school, fourth with 221 points. West Virginia invaders Cabell Midland (73) and Hurricane (175) placed 1-2, followed by University School of Nashville (213).
Aptly named Sophia Racette of Nerinx Hall (Mo.) easily won the girls' 5,000 meters in 17:59.02. Brianna Wolken of Mercy took second in 18:39.37.
"I wanted to come out with a win today and I knew that it was kind of windy today, so I wasn't sure if I could run a P.R.," said Racette, a senior. "My goal was to go out at P.R. pace and then see if I could hold on. Ended up the last mile a little bit too slow for that, but I was close and I was really happy with the way the race turned out."
Nerinx Hall took team honors with 41 points, well ahead of Hurricane's 111. Bullitt East, fifth with 220, was the top Kentucky team.