Villanova's Sheila Reid knew the course and the competition entering Monday's NCAA Division I women's cross-country championship. All she had to do was keep her nerves under control and focus on the race.
After finishing 12th in last year's event while fighting a cramp in her side, Reid made amends, breaking out of a three-woman pack with 200 meters to go and capturing the individual championship while leading the Wildcats to their second straight team title.
Reid, a redshirt junior from Canada, fought a strong wind to cover the 6,000-meter Gibson Championship Course at Terre Haute, Ind., in 20 minutes, 6.9 seconds, defeating runner-up Emily Infeld of Georgetown by 2.3 seconds.
Villanova saw three other runners score in the top 25 and finished with 120 points to capture its ninth national championship in the sport. Florida State took second with 154.
Reid said she definitely remembered the 2009 race as she prepared for Monday.
"Last year, I was just so nervous going into it," she said. "I was aware of every little thing. I ate way too close to the race just for something to do.
"But the race kind of helped me figure where I placed in the pack. I was worried about where I belonged, where I fit in. So I was ready, and our whole team was more relaxed compared to last year."
Reid said her strategy Monday was to "run the hardest race possible," but she stayed cautious. She was reluctant to take the lead and bear the brunt of the wind, but careful not to get buried too far back in the pack.
In the final straightaway, Oregon's Jordan Hasay opened a small lead, but Reid and Infeld passed her. On the last 200 meters, "I threw everything I had into it," Reid said.
For Reid, it was her sixth all-American honor counting cross-country and indoor and outdoor track and field, but her first national championship. She did it having come back from April 2008 surgery for a cartilage tear in her right hip and got off to a slow start this year because of a foot injury that affected her training during the summer.
"She was amazing," Villanova coach Gina Procaccio said. "She wanted it, especially after what she went through last year. So today when she finished, we embraced and both of us were crying. She had been through a lot. We always believed she could win this. She got her first national championship, and this is the hardest one to win."
Senior Amanda Marino was the Wildcats' next finisher, in 10th place, followed by senior Alison Smith in 24th and junior Bogdana Mimic in 27th. Freshman Emily Lipari was the final scorer, in 94th. In the standings used for team scoring (which do not include individual qualifiers), Marino took eighth, Smith 20th, Mimic 22d and Lipari 69th.
Procaccio called the result "a relief."
"I tried to remain as relaxed as I could," she said. "I didn't want to make it a big deal. I just tried to make it like any other time when we're just trying to win a race. But I felt a little heat, like if we couldn't win this year, I'm the one who couldn't get it done. But the team was relaxed and confident they could do it."
Villanova finished 23d in the men's race. Sophomore Mathew Mildenhall crossed the line first for the Wildcats, in 57th place over the 10,000-meter course.