The Warm-Up Lap Part 1: Pre-National Invitational 2013

By Kyle Terwillegar, USTFCCCA

October 16, 2013   

Meet Information

Saturday, October 19 | Terre Haute, Ind.
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NEW ORLEANS – Teams from around the country will be descending upon quiet Terre Haute, Ind., for the Pre-National Invitational this Saturday to get a preview of the LaVern Gibson Championship Cross Country Course — site of the 2013 NCAA Championships — against some of the nation’s top competition.

Believe it or not, even with 26 ranked teams between the men’s and women’s races, this is the second-largest meet of the weekend behind Wisconsin’s 34. But with three of the nation’s top four men’s teams and the past two women’s national champions doing battle with the nation’s No. 2 team on the same course that will host the national championships in a month, this meet is second to none.

Since it’s such a big weekend, check back tomorrow for the second installment of The Warm-Up Lap, complete with a preview of the Wisconsin adidas Invitational and news and notes from the other divisions.

Men’s Storylines

Ranked Men’s Teams
Pre-Nationals

1. Oklahoma State
2. Colorado
4. Oregon
9. Tulsa
10. Princeton
12. Indiana*
18. Iona
19. Boise State
23. Villanova
24. Georgetown
29. Stanford
RV. Oklahoma
RV. Florida State
RV. Duke
RV. Virginia Tech

* Split between Pre-Nats & Wisconsin

With 12 ranked teams and four more teams that received votes in the most recent National Coaches Polls, the plotlines run thick in Terre Haute this weekend.

Can Oklahoma State take down another No. 2 team? Though neither squad ran at full strength, the No. 1 Cowboys dispatched a then-No. 2 Northern Arizona squad at the OSU Cowboy Jamboree at the end of September. Now the defending champions are slated to take on No. 2 Colorado at Pre-Nationals.

OSU took down the Lumberjacks, 29-57, in that early-season match-up behind four finishers among the top seven, led by runner-up Kirubel Erassa. The squad has been idle from competition since.

If they are to make it 2-0 against No. 2 teams this year, the Cowboys will have to do so with the second squad and without Erassa and their stable of All-Americans, including Tom Farrell, Shadrack Kipchirchir and Joseph Manilafasha. In the line-up for the Cowboys are Craig Nowak, Chad Noelle and a number of other runners looking to make a statement to be included in the team’s late-season plans.

Recent history has not been kind to men’s teams that enter Pre-Nationals No. 1 in the country and win the Pre-Nats team title. In 2009 and 2010 Stanford won its races as the nation’s No. 1 team, but didn’t capture the NCAA team title in either year, finishing 10th and fourth, respectively, in those years.

Colorado, which moved to No. 2 to replace NAU following its loss to OSU, is something of an unknown as it has not yet seen its first major test of the season. Blake Theroux won the Colorado Rocky Mountain Shootout as the Buffaloes performed well against Division II power Western State (No. 2 in DII), but the squad has not seen top Division I competition yet this season.

The Buffaloes will be without All-American Jake Hurysz, but Theroux will lead a group that includes Connor Winter (65th at NCAAs in 2012) and the official debuts of highly-touted recruits Ben Saarel and Zach Perrin.

Top-10 Tussle: By no means will OSU and Colorado be alone in this race.

No. 4 Oregon will roll out its full squad for the first time after competing twice this season — to great success — with a squad similar to last season’s, led by Parker Stinson and Jeremy Elkaim, supplemented by first-year phenoms Edward Cheserek and Jake Leingang. They will be joined this week by Northeastern transfer Eric Jenkins, who had a breakout track season in 2013; returning 1500 meter national champ Mac Fleet; and French steeplechase transfer Tanguy Pepiot.

No. 9 Tulsa dropped a bit following a runner-up finish at  Notre Dame, but leading duo Marc Scott (seventh) and Chris O’Hare (eighth) showed they are one of the nation’s top one-two punches with their performances.

Rounding out top-10 participation is No. 10 Princeton, which was third at Notre Dame. The senior duo of Tyler Udland and Chris Bendsten finished ninth and 11th in South Bend.

Just outside the top 10 is No. 12 Indiana, which is the only team this weekend splitting its squad relatively equally between Pre-Nats and Wisconsin.

At-Large Auditions: With regional championships about a month away and only conference championships remaining in the meantime for a number of squads, this weekend is a prime opportunity to earn some important head-to-head victories for at-large consideration.

The top two teams from each region will move onto the NCAA Championships with 13 more teams selected at-large. Pre-Nationals will serve as a chance for teams currently on the bubble (No. 3 and No. 4) in their regions to bolster their cases should regionals not go their way.

Here are some teams looking to solidify their resumes this weekend, just in case.

  • No. 18 Iona has run a number of its top student-athletes this season, but has not truly let them go and race. Now is as good a time as any as it sits fourth in the Northeast Region behind upstart No. 8 Columbia, No. 11 Syracuse and No. 17 Providence, and just ahead of No. 27 Dartmouth.
  • Following a strong runner-up showing to No. 4 Oregon a couple weeks back, No. 19 Boise State is on the bubble at third in the West Region, but behind them are three nationally ranked teams in No. 21 UCLA, No. 29 Stanford and No. 30 Arizona State, along with vote-receiving Washington. The Broncos have the opportunity for an important head-to-head win over Stanford, but the other three will be at Wisconsin.
  • Oklahoma, receiving votes nationally, is ranked third in the Midwest Region, but just behind the Sooners are the No. 22 Golden Gophers of Minnesota, who are held in higher esteem nationally. A strong showing in Terre Haute would go a long way in evening the playing field.
  • Duke, receiving votes nationally, is currently on the outside looking in at No. 4 in the Southeast Region with a chance to impress against many of the nation’s top teams.

Individuals to Watch: Defending NCAA Champion Kennedy Kithuka of Texas Tech hasn’t yet lost in a Red Raider uniform, making him the favorite to take the individual title at Pre-Nationals. Should he claim his 12th win in a row — three of which have come this season — he would try to become just the third Pre-Nationals individual champion since 2004 to duplicate the performance at the real deal in November and take home the NCAA title. Liberty’s duo of Josh McDougal (2007) and Sam Chelanga (2010) are the other two.

Kithuka was pushed in his last outing by Arkansas’ Kemoy Campbell, who won’t be in the field, winning by less than 10 seconds. Who will attempt to dethrone the champ in Terre Haute?

The field features 16 other top-100 finishers from last year’s NCAA Championships, including five other All-Americans. Defending Pre-National champion Anthony Rotich of UTEP is the top challenger on paper, as the sophomore finished fourth at the NCAA championships as a freshman and is coming off a big Notre Dame Invitational win.

Rotich has a little bit of recent history working in his favor, as since 2004 three Pre-Nationals individual champions have gone on to claim NCAA individual titles in the year after their Pre-Nats triumph. Josh Rohatinksy of BYU took Pre-Nats in 2005 and the NCAA title in 2006; Josh McDougal of Liberty won his first Pre-Nats title in 2006 and his NCAA title in 2007; and Sam Chelanga of Liberty won his first Pre-Nats crown in 2008 before taking his first NCAA title in 2009.

Seniors O’Hare of Tulsa (20th at NCAAs), Jakub Zivec of Florida State (21st), Matt Johnsen of Lamar (33rd) and Theroux of Colorado are the other returning All-Americans.

 

Women’s Storylines

Ranked Women’s Teams
Pre-Nationals

2. Florida State
5. Georgetown
6. Oregon
11. Stanford
12. Colorado
14. Michigan
16. Virginia
18. Villanova
19. Oklahoma State
20. Butler
21. William and Mary
23. Princeton
27. Penn State
RV. West Virginia
RV. Boise State

A total of 13 ranked teams and two more that received votes nationally last week will toe the starting line in Terre Haute this weekend, making for an impressive field filled with impressive storylines.

Can Florida State Break its Pre-Nats Curse? As the top-ranked team in the field, should No. 2 Florida State take the team title it wouldn’t be at all a surprise. After all, FSU has won its race in each of the past three seasons dating back to 2010.

It has emerged from Pre-Nationals as the top-ranked team in the country in each of the past two seasons, but one thing Florida State hasn’t done during this three-year stretch is parlay its Pre-National title into an NCAA National Championship. FSU took fourth at the two most recent NCAA Championships, and was the runner-up in 2010 after a No. 3 rank in the polls the following week.

History aside, the FSU women of 2013 look strong after taking the Notre Dame Invite team title — through relatively narrowly over No. 7 New Mexico by five points –behind runner-up Colleen Quigley and fourth-placer Hannah Walker. The Quigley-Walker pairing is one of the most dynamic in the country.

After a tune-up at its home Florida State Invitational in which the full squad took the first two miles at a controlled pace before hammering home the final mile, FSU should be sharp for Pre-Nationals.

Ghosts of Champions Past: If Florida State is to take its fourth consecutive Pre-Nationals title, it will have to do so over the past two NCAA Champions: No. 5 Georgetown and No. 6 Oregon. Both squads are something of wild cards, as neither has debuted their full complements of runners to this point.

Georgetown, which hasn’t yet properly debuted its top two returners from its 2012 NCAA squad in juniors Madeline Chambers and Katrina Coogan, still won both the Paul Short Run and the Dartmouth Invitational. Remaining potential scorers sophomore Nadel, senior Rchel Schneider and freshman Haley Pierce all picked up the slack at Paul Short, finishing 11th, 13th and 15th within 10 seconds of one another in the 400+ runner field.

Oregon hasn’t fared quite as well without its top squad fully in action, having slipped from No. 3 to No. 6 since the preseason. With UConn transfer Lindsay Crevoiserat, nearly an All-American a year ago, set to make her debut along with former Huskie and current Duck teammate Julia Zrinyi, the Ducks should be near full strength this weekend. The transfers will join the Ducks’ early-season top flock in Megan Patriginelli, Molly Grabill, Abbey Leonardi, Maggie Scmaedick and Sarah Penney.

Interestingly enough, both of those programs finished runners-up at Pre-Nationals to Florida State prior to winning their national titles in 2011 and 2012, respectively.

Just slightly farther down the rankings at No. 11 and No. 12 are another pair of former Pre-National/NCAA champions from further back in time, Stanford and Colorado, respectively.

Stanford, which swept Pre-National and NCAA titles from 2005 to 2007, is No. 11 in the nation this season. The Cardinal has competed sparingly this season, with top returner junior All-American Aisling Cuffe and senior Jessica Tonn taking the top two spots at their home Stanford Invitational at the end of September.

Colorado is a long time removed from its 2006 NCAA title and its last Pre-National win in 2009, but is moving back toward the top at No. 12 in the nation in 2013. Like Stanford the Buffaloes are fresh, having not competed since the end of September. Senior Shalaya Kipp, a steeplechase NCAA champion two seasons ago, will make her 2013 debut along with many of the Buffaloes other top runners.

On the At-Large Bubble: Though regionals are still about a month away, this weekend at Terre Haute is a prime opportunity for a handful of teams to make region rankings statements. Two teams from each region (18 teams total) will automatically advance to the NCAA Championships, with the remaining teams battling for 13 at-large positions.

Some of the most notable teams currently jockeying for top-two position in their region or posturing for at-large honors:

  • Believe it or not, No. 6 Oregon is the No. 3 team in its West Region behind No. 3 Arizona and No. 4 Washington, and just ahead of No. 10 San Francisco and No. 11 Stanford. The Ducks and Cardinal are the only two of the aforementioned teams at Pre-Nats, and both are battling for positioning in the region
  • The meet will have a large impact on the Mid-Atlantic Region, with the top five teams all in action. In order of regional rank, No. 5 Georgetown, No. 23 Princeton, No. 18 Villanova, West Virginia (receiving votes) and No. 27 Penn State.
  • No. 20 Butler is third in the Great Lakes Region, and has an opportunity to move up in the region against No. 14 Michigan.

Individuals to Watch: Last year’s individual Pre-Nationals champion, Aliphine Tuliamuk-Bolton of Wichita State, exhausted her eligibility following the 2013 track season, leaving the door wide open for a new individual champion in 2013.

A total of nine returning All-Americans from the 2012 national championships and six more who missed the honor by mere seconds are included in the field, leadlined by a pair of top-10 runners in Kentucky senior Cally Macumber and Cal Poly sophomore Laura Hollander — both of whom have already earned National Athlete of the Week honors in 2013.

Macumber has already won two races and finished runner-up in another, while Hollander dazzled in the opening week of the season but has not competed since.

Quigley of No. 2 Florida State finished 12th at last year’s NCAA meet, right ahead of former National Athlete of the Week Elaina Balouris of No. 21William & Mary in 13th.

Aisling Cuffe of No. 11 Stanford and Katie Clark of No. 20 Butler were separated by hundredths of a second in 21st and 22nd, respectively, last season, as were Emily Lipari of No. 18 Villanova and Emily Stites of William & Mary in 25th and 26th. Ohio’s Julie Accurso (38th) rounds out last year’s All-Americans in this race.

After redshirt seasons in 2012, expect Boise State’s Emma Bates and Colorado’s Kipp to contend for the individual title, as well. Bates has already performed well in 2013, having defeated all collegians — including runners from No. 5 Washington and No. 6 Oregon — at Oregon’s Bill Dellinger in early October.

Eastern Kentucky’s Ann Eason is also a name to watch, having already defeated Macumber earlier this season at Louisville.

Recent History

Men’s Pre-Nationals Champions: Before and After

Year
Pre-Nationals
Team Champ
National
Rank
(Before)
National
Rank
(After)
NCAA
Finish
2012
Colorado
7
2
3
2011
Colorado
8
6
3
2010
Stanford (Blue)
Oklahoma (White)
1
16
1
5
4
5
2009
Oregon (Blue)
Stanford (White)
7
1
2
1
2
10
2008
Alabama (Blue)
Stanford (White)
6
10
5
2
10
3
2007
NAU (Blue)
UTEP (White)
15
20
2
3
4
10
2006
Colorado (Blue)
Iona (White)
4
5
2
3
1
3
2005
Stanford (Blue)
Colorado (White)
5
3
4
3
6
5
2004
Colorado (Blue)
Stanford (White)
3
2
4
2
1
6
BOLD = NCAA Champion

Looking back through the 2004 Pre-National Invitational and including both the Blue and White races that were evenly split until 2010 (16 total races), team and individual success at Pre-Nationals hasn’t always translated to NCAA Championships success.

Five times since 2004 has the winner of either the women’s blue or white race (or the main race from 2011 on) at Pre-Nationals gone on to win the NCAA team championship in November, but not since Washington in 2008. It has been even longer since a men’s squad has taken both a Pre-Nats title and a National Championship, as Colorado in 2006 was the last to do so, and the only other time it happened on the men’s side since 2004 was with the Buffaloes in 2004.

Strangely enough, the past two NCAA women’s team champions didn’t even win the Pre-National meet, as both the 2012 Oregon and 2011 Georgetown squads finished runners-up to Florida State at Pre-Nats before winning national titles.

That isn’t to say that team champions at Pre-Nationals haven’t found success at the National Championships. In 2009 both the Oregon men and Florida State women parlayed team Pre-Nats championships into runner-up showings at NCAAs. More than two-thirds of the men’s champions since 2004 (11) have gone on to a top-five finish at NCAAs, while three-quarters of the women’s teams (12) have found similar success.

Women’s Pre-Nationals Champions: Before and After

Year
Pre-Nationals
Team Champ
National
Rank
(Before)
National
Rank
(After)
NCAA
Finish
2012
Florida State
1
1
4
2011
Florida State
3
1
4
2010
Florida State (Blue)
Georgetown (White)
3
5
3
5
2
4
2009
Colorado (Blue)
Washington (White)
19
1
3
1
20
3
2008
Washington (Blue)
Florida State (White)
1
3
1
3
1

3

2007
Stanford (Blue)
Princeton (White)
1
8
1
4
1
14
2006
Stanford (Blue)
NC State (White)
1
5
1
2
1
19
2005
Stanford (Blue)
Michigan (White)
3
2
2
3
1
6
2004
Stanford (Blue)
Colorado (White)
1
4
1
3
5
1
BOLD = NCAA Champion

The results of Pre-Nationals, combined with Wisconsin’s results, are likely to stir up the National Coaches Polls next week significantly. New No. 1 teams may even emerge as a result. However, No. 1 teams that win at Pre-Nationals since 2004 have not fared particularly well at NCAAs. Stanford’s men in both 2009 and 2010 were No. 1 in the country both before and after a Pre-National team title, but finished fourth and 10th at NCAAs those same years — a pitfall the current No. 1 Oklahoma State men will look to avoid.

Women’s teams that won Pre-Nats and became No. 1 in the country have had better luck with three going on to win titles, but five others have failed to bring home the team title in November.

Individually, two men and one woman have claimed Pre-Nationals titles and then gone on to win the big trophy in November. Liberty’s Sam Chelanga (2010) and Josh McDougal (2007) both accomplished the feat on the men’s side, as did Illinois’ Angela Bizzarri (2009) in the women’s competition.

Three-quarters of the individual men’s champions (12) and women’s champions (12) at Pre-nationals since 2004 went on to capture top-10 finishes at NCAAs.

Three more women’s Pre-Nationals champions since 2004 finished runners-up at NCAAs, in addition to two other men.