What was supposed to be a colorful, celebratory day turned into a successful roundup for the Cowboys and bitter disappointment for a team that expected to achieve so much.
The Stanford men's cross country team, ranked first in the nation entering the race, failed to win its first NCAA championship in six years -- failed, even, to finish among the elite.
The Cardinal fell all the way to 10th place, and there was nothing to foreshadow that kind of a drop for so talented a team.
Oregon, which consistently placed behind Stanford in the races leading up to the championship, finished second in the nation and here lies the rub: the Ducks, the defending nation al champs, had to have everything fall their way to place as high, and with former Stanford coach Vin Lananna pulling the reigns, that's exactly what happened.
The Cardinal finished down the road from champion Oklahoma State, the nation's second-ranked team going in.
"We talked before the race about letting Ryan Vail (who finished seventh overall) lead the way," Cowboys' coach Dave Smith said. "He is experienced and poised and he won't make any mistakes. We said if you let him lead you, you'll be okay. I'm very proud of him and of Colby Lowe and the entire team."
It was the Cowboys' second NCAA cross country title and the first since 1954.
"I told the guys before the race that the advantage that we had over Stanford and the other teams was that we went through this last year," Smith said. "We had all the pressure and all the expectations last season and it was our first time around. We didn't handle it well. This time, we were ready for the experience and we were able to maintain our poise and composure and keep the right frame of mind."
Sophomore Chris Derrick also finished without an individual title, as Liberty's Sam Chelanga ran the 10,000-meter LaVern Gibson Championship cross country course in the record time of 28:41.3. Derrick still ran a good race, finishing third overall in 29:14.8.
"He's extremely talented from a physical standpoint," Stanford coach Jason Dunn said. "There's just a belief that comes from within him that he's going to be one of the top guys in the country."
The Stanford women placed 16th over the 6,000-meter course as Villanova upset defending national champion Washington, which finished third, to win the NCAA title. It was the Wildcats' eighth national title and the first since 1998.
Something went horribly wrong as the Stanford men planned to run as a team through the first 5,000 meters. Perhaps Oregon or Oklahoma State went out faster than expected and the Cardinal runners wore themselves down trying to keep up.
Four Oregon runners finished between Derrick and Stanford's No. 2 runner, Elliott Heath, in 37th place. At the West Regional all five scoring Stanford runners crossed the finish line ahead of Oregon's second runner.
"Oregon is just scary as hell all the time," Smith said. "You're looking at Stanford, thinking 'OK, we've got them,' then 'wait a minute, these guys in yellow and green look pretty damn good right now too.' Like an idiot, we overlooked them and didn't think about them going into the race, all of a sudden there they are with 2K to go and it's a real race."
Jake Riley was 54th, while Miles Unterreiner finished 117th and Justin Marpole-Bird, who finished third at the West Regional, came in 246th.
Stanford scored better when the individuals were taken out of the team marks.
Chelanga made a move for the front early and never lost it. He had nearly a 100-meter lead past the 3,000 mark, and the trio of David McNeill (Northern Arizona), Derrick and Barnabas Kirui (Mississippi) that eventually broke away could only settle for second, third and fourth, respectively. His margin of victory was 25 seconds.
The Cardinal women were led by Stephanie Marcy, who just missed All-America honors, placing 53rd with a time of 20:57.4. The redshirt sophomore has come on strong at the end of the year to establish herself as a capable No. 1 runner.