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Grgas-Wheeler captures national cross country title

Duluthian Kara Grgas-Wheeler said that the hardest part of her run to the 2000 NCAA Cross Country Running Championship was taking her sweat pants off before Monday's race.

Duluthian Kara Grgas-Wheeler said that the hardest part of her run to the 2000 NCAA Cross Country Running Championship was taking her sweat pants off before Monday's race.
"It was cold," she said. "It was 19 degrees below zero with the wind chill."
But the former Minnesota state cross country champion from Duluth East took her teammates' advice.
"I wasn't happy about the temperature, but everyone kept telling me to go back to my roots, running in the cold in Duluth," said Grgas-Wheeler.
It worked.
The University of Colorado senior led her women's cross country team to its first national title, placing first overall at the race in Ames, Iowa.
"I started a little faster, went out near the lead pack and caught the leaders at about two miles," she said. "Then I didn't look back until the end of the race. Down the home stretch, I was so tired. Then it was like a year's worth of emotion came out. You couldn't have written a better story."
Grgas-Wheeler finished the 6K race in a time of 20:30.5, seven seconds ahead of second-place Sabrina Monro from the University of Montana. It wasn't her best time ever at the course, but considering the conditions, she was satisfied.
"I've never run in such strong winds," she said. "The first 800 meters were into the wind, then we went into a little woods, then we came out and it was windy again."
The frozen ground wasn't her friend either.
"I wish I wouldn't have worn such long spikes," she said. "Now, I've got some blisters."
But Grgas-Wheeler wasn't feeling any pain as she basked in the glow of a national title, her third overall, but just her first in cross country.
"It's something I've wanted for so long," she said. "Cross country has always been my favorite, and this is the greatest. It's like I've completed what's been missing."
Grgas-Wheeler won't waste too much time celebrating, however. She still has a NCAA Outdoor Track season to prepare for, and after that, hopefully a professional track career, but on Monday afternoon she was looking forward to taking a little break.
"I'm going to kick back and enjoy it," Grgas-Wheeler said. "I feel like a ton of bricks have been lifted off my chest."
Grgas-Wheeler also said that her boyfriend, Adam Goucher, who, ironically, was Colorado head coach Mark Wetmore's only other national cross country running champion, was not the source of any of the aforementioned pressure.
But at least now, he won't be the only one in the relationship with national cross country championship bragging rights.

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