Only five of the 128 runners in the men's division of the NCAA Division II cross-country championships ran the correct course at the Victoria Country Club in Riverside.
Those five took five of the last six places in Monday's 10,000-meter race.
A detour taken by 123 runners shaved about 1,000 meters off the course--the steepest portion.
In theory, the fastest runner, Mike Delcavo of Western State College of Colorado, could have staked a claim for the national championship because the others were technically disqualified for leaving the course.
But to the relief of meet officials, no one challenged the results. Delcavo and the Western State coaches declined to protest out of respect for in-state opponent Adams State College, which placed five runners in the top 11 to win its second consecutive NCAA title.
The other four runners--Marlon Williams of Abilene Christian, Wade Becker of Bloomsburg (Pa.), and Jason Hendry and Ed O'Malley of Emporia State (Kan.)--were running in a pack behind all the other competitors and likewise did not offer official objections.
The results stood, but ill feelings linger.
"I'm upset," Delcavo told the Riverside Press-Enterprise. "If I had stayed on the wrong course, I would have finished respectably. But when you read the official results, I'm 123 out of 128 runners."
The misdirection started when the leaders neared the golf course's eighth hole. The route calls for runners to veer left up an embankment. Flags marked the way, and a course official stood about 100 yards earlier.
But there was no monitor at the turn. Thus, when the runners approached and lost their bearing, there was no one to ask.
"It was just a misperception of direction," said Adams State's Phillip Castillo, who finished second to teammate Shane Healy.