When Arizona posed for a celebratory video and interviews following its first-ever Pac-12 women’s cross-country championship last week, freshman Maria Larsson was nowhere in the picture.
That’s because she was undergoing medical treatment after a remarkable finish in Louisville, Colo., decked by altitude sickness.
Arizona won the team title 69-75, and Larsson, who had been running with the lead pack most of the race, collapsed about 50 yards from the finish. She was disoriented and weak.
Had she remained on the ground for even 10 more seconds, enough runners would have passed her, and Arizona could not have won its first Pac-12 championship in 28 attempts.
But Larsson struggled to her feet, wobbled, and somehow walked/jogged to the finish line, No. 24 overall at the 5,500-foot-elevation course.
I watched the replay on the Pac-12 Networks; Larsson fully collapsed after she crossed the finish line.
“She doesn’t necessarily remember the last 2k, but her body really shut down,’’ UA assistant coach Mo Huber told a reporter in Colorado. “She even said to me shortly after she got out of the emergency room that if it wasn’t for this team and what we wanted to accomplish, she would have dropped out.’’
Yet somehow, the coveted freshman recruit from Sweden, was able to get to her feet and finish 24th in the NCAA’s most difficult distance-running conference.