The Warm-Up Lap (Part 2): Division I Conference Championships Preview
Ranked Teams Per Conference
NEW ORLEANS – With a pair of teams in action for the first time as the nation’s top-ranked teams and multiple meets with significant National Coaches Poll and potential at-large bid implications, Division I’s conference championship weekend is poised to be a great one.
After looking at several of the biggest meets in Division III this morning, The Warm-Up Lap refocuses its gaze to Division I for the afternoon to look ahead to the debuts of the Colorado men and the Arizona women as No. 1 teams in a loaded Pac-12 field and a handful of other meets featuring numerous top-30 match-ups.
The full lineup of Division I conference meets — and all of the pertinent details surrounding them — can be found on the USTFCCCA Conference Championships Central page.
Nine men’s meets and seven women’s races feature multiple top-30 teams, headlined by the Pac-12’s 10 total ranked teams between men and women. The new-look Big East opens with a top-10 trio facing off, while the West Coast Conference pits two top-six teams against one another as Portland strives to maintain its WCC legacy and BYU looks to upset it.
Keep reading for previews for those conferences and more, including looks at the Big Ten, ACC, Ivy League and Mountain West championships, and what the remaining top-10 teams are up against.
|12:00 PM ET||Mountain West Cross Country Championships
(Colorado Springs, Colo.)
|9:55 AM ET||Atlantic 10 Cross Country Championships
|10:55 AM ET||The American Cross Country Championships
|11:50 AM ET /
8:50 AM PT
|West Coast Cross Country Championships
|1:00 PM ET||GNEAC Cross Country Championships
How will Arizona’s women and Colorado’s men react to their newly-acquired No. 1 status in their first meet? They certainly won’t have a chance to ease into the role as the Wildcats will be up against five other ranked teams and the Buffaloes three.
Ranked Women’s Teams
|26. Arizona State|
Arizona’s women have impressed in both of their major competitions thus far, riding their significant depth to team titles at the Roy Griak Invitational and the Wisconsin adidas Invitational, facing formidable fields in both races. Elvin Kibet led the way at Griak with a runner-up finish, while Kayla Beattie paced the Wildcats at Wisconsin in seventh place.
While Arizona has been working its way up the rankings, defending Pac-12 and NCAA Champion No. 12 Oregon has been moving in the opposite direction. The Ducks were fifth at the Pre-National Invitational, nearly 100 points behind team champion Georgetown, and were the only team in the top 12 without a top-20 individual finisher. Megan Patriginelli, who has been the top runner for much of the season, placed 25th.
On the flip side, Oregon was one of only three squads to place its five scoring runners within the top 60 finishers, something No. 5 Florida State, No. 7 Butler and No. 10 Virginia couldn’t accomplish.
Other teams that dropped in the rankings in the wake of the Pre-Nats/Wisconsin weekend were No. 13 Washington, No. 16 Colorado and No. 20 Stanford. Washington was ninth at Wisconsin, while Colorado was seventh and Stanford ninth at Pre-Nationals. Stanford was the only team with two top-five finishers at Pre-Nats — runner-up Aisling Cuffe and fourth-place Jessica Tonn — but none of the other runners could crack the top-70.
Another contender for the individual title comes from No. 26 Arizona State, as former National Athlete of the Week Shelby Houlihan will look to build on a season that already includes a dominant Griak win and a fourth-place showing at Wisconsin — both over her in-state rivals from Arizona.
Some of the biggest news in the cross country world comes out of the Pac-12 this week as The Bowerman finalist and 2011 NCAA Champion Lawi Lalang of Arizona has reportedly been shut down for the remainder of the season.
UA likely to shut down NCAA's top distance runner Lawi Lalang for Pac12 and NCAA cross country finals. Calf injury. Back for spring 5k, 10k
— Greg Hansen (@ghansen711) October 30, 2013
While Lalang is still listed on the Pac-12 entry list, a calf injury will reportedly keep him out until indoor track season. This will obviously have a significant impact on the Pac-12 and national individual competitions, opening up the Pac-12 individual race for a new winner for the first time since 2010.
Now, to the team race.
In addition to its No. 1 rank, the Colorado men have more at stake than just national poll positioning as the reigning Pac-12 Champions will look to defend both their title and their turf as the host school.
The Buffaloes were both top-heavy and deep en route to a Pre-Nationals team title with two top-10 finishers and all five scoring runners within the top 28 finishers for a team total of 90 points — taking the win over conference rival No. 4 Oregon with 113 points.
Sophomore Morgan Pearson finished seventh to lead the pack, followed shortly thereafter by first-year runner Ben Saarel in ninth. A herd of three followed in 22nd, 24th and 28th to round out the lineup. Considering it was the team’s first true test of the season, expect even more from the Buffaloes this weekend on their home course.
At No. 4, Oregon has been debuting its full roster in fragments, and despite a runner-up finish at Pre-Nationals it doesn’t appear the Ducks have taken their final form just yet. First-year phenoms Edward Cheserek and Jake Leingang have been a huge addition to a team loaded with veteran talent in Parker Stinson and Mac Fleet. Cheserek finished fourth overall at Pre-Nats, while Stinson and Fleet were 15th and 16th.
In a separate race, French steeplechase transfer Tanguy Pepiot made his Duck debut in winning the open race at Pre-Nats. He is entered for the Pac-12 meet this weekend, as is high-profile Northeastern transfer Eric Jenkins, who may make his Oregon debut this weekend. He had been entered for the Pre-Nationals race but did not run.
A team that made significant gains at Pre-Nationals was No. 13 Stanford, which jumped 17 spots in the rankings following a fourth-place showing. The Cardinal were led by their own sensation freshman in Sean McGorty in fifth place, along with Erik Olson and Jim Rosa in 13th and 14th, respectively. Stanford was the only team to place three runners inside the top 15 finishers.
Led by fourth-place individual finisher Aaron Nelson, No. 25 Washington finished 15th at the Wisconsin Invitational.
The Pac-12 Championships will be broadcast on tape delay on the Pac-12 Network beginning Monday, Nov. 4 at 9:30 p.m. ET. Check the USTFCCCA Broadcast Schedule for full listings.
Big East Championships
Saturday, Nov. 2 | Meet Home | Somers, Wis. (Host: Marquette)
Ranked Women’s Teams
First Championship Meet
Nowhere in the country is there a bigger grouping of top-10 teams than in the first women’s championship race in the new-look Big East, as No. 3 Georgetown, No. 4 Providence and No. 7 Butler will all duke it out.
The Hoyas of Georgetown — the final champions of the old Big East last season — didn’t have a top-10 individual finisher in their Pre-Nationals championship over then-No. 2 Florida State (now No. 5), but what they did have was a close-knit scoring group. Led by Samantha Nadel in 14th, the Hoyas put their five scorers within the top 32 finishers and their top six in the top 50. In contrast, only sixth-place Michigan was able to put even four finishers in the top 50.
In that same race, No. 7 Butler claimed three top-30 individual finishes, led by 10th-place Katie Clark, to finish third overall. The Bulldogs and Georgetown were the only two teams in the field with three finishers within the top 30 individuals.
While Georgetown’s and Butler’s strengths are their depth, No. 4 Providence features the top 1-2-3 punch in the nation behind Emily Sisson, Sarah Collins and Laura Nagel. The trio finished runner-up, fifth and ninth, respectively, in a loaded Wisconsin adidas Invitational field, but the lack of a strong No. 5 runner doomed the Friars to a third-place finish behind No. 1 Arizona and No. 2 Arkansas.
Another team to watch is Villanova, receiving votes nationally. The Wildcats feature last year’s old Big East champion Emily Lipari, and will look to bounce back from a disappointing 16th-place finish at Pre-Nats.
No. 19 Providence and No. 26 Villanova are the top contenders in the men’s championship race.
|18. North Carolina|
|23. Notre Dame|
Ranked Women’s Teams
|5. Florida State*|
|22. Notre Dame|
|27. Boston College|
Coming off its first Pre-Nationals since 2009 at which it didn’t emerge as a team champion, No. 5 Florida State turns its focus to the ACC Championship. FSU has claimed the meet five years in a row, and with a potent 1-2 duo in Colleen Quigley and Hannah Walker, it is going for a sixth.
Quigley took fifth at Pre-Nats and Walker Was sixth, but FSU’s final three scorers couldn’t keep pace with Georgetown en route to a runner-up finish to the Hoyas, 117-162. That wasn’t FSU’s first sign of vulnerability this season, as No. 9 New Mexico nearly defeated it at the Notre Dame Invitational in early October.
Fewer than 30 points behind FSU at Pre-Nats was No. 10 Virginia, which finished fourth as a team and will likely challenge for the win this weekend. Led by 11th-place Barbara Strehler, the Cavaliers displayed impressive depth with six runners finishing among the top 70 finishers, a feat bettered only by winner Georgetown.
No. 19 Syracuse, No. 22 Notre Dame and No. 27 Boston College are the remaining ranked teams in contention for the ACC crown. Not ranked but still a significant factor could be Duke, which was ranked No. 4 early in the season but has since fallen out of the poll after poor team showings at Notre Dame and Wisconsin. Former National Athlete of the Week Juliett Bottorf is the top returning finisher, placing third a year ago.
On the men’s side, No. 14 Syracuse was the final champion of the old Big East and will look to start a new streak as a member of the ACC. In order to do so, the Orange will have to deal with defending champ Virginia Tech, No. 18 North Carolina and No. 23 Notre Dame.
Big Ten Championships
Ranked Women’s Teams
|6. Michigan State|
|29. Penn State|
Much of the national focus on the Big Ten this year has centered around the No. 7 Wisconsin men. Gone are most of the runners from the Badgers’ 2011 NCAA title team, leaving the 14-time defending Big Ten champions a relative unknown in the early part of the season. A fourth-place showing at the Boston College Coast-to-Coast Battle in Beantown early in the season wasn’t promising, but these young Badgers appear to have risen to the program’s lofty expectation with a fourth-place team finish in a loaded Wisconsin adidas Invitational field.
Wisconsin didn’t have any true front-runners at the meet with freshman Malachy Schrobilgen and junior Michael VanVoorhis leading the way in 20th and 21st. But to earn the fourth-place showing with veteran Rob Finnerty having an off-day back in 116th place, Wisconsin looks to be in good form to extend its streak.
No. 16 Michigan and No. 24 Indiana will provide the biggest challenges for the Badgers on paper. The Wolverines were ninth at Wisconsin behind Mason Ferlic’s 12th-place finish, while Indiana split its squad between Pre-Nats and Wisconsin. The Hoosiers were 17th at Wisconsin and 21st at Pre-Nats.
The No. 14 Michigan women are defending Big Ten champions, but will have to overcome the rival Spartans of No. 6 Michigan State in order to bring another title back to Ann Arbor. MSU finished fourth at Wisconsin behind 22nd-place Leah O’Connor and 25th-place freshman Rachele Schulist. The x-factor for the Spartans will be, of all people, defending Big Ten champion Sara Kroll, who has not competed in uniform for MSU yet this season but easily won the "B" race at Wisconsin running unattached.
The Wolverine women were sixth at Pre-Nationals behind 16th-place freshman Erin Finn.
A quartet of ranked teams are hot on Michigan’s trail in the National Poll, making this race one of the deepest in the nation. No. 15 Minnesota, No. 21 Indiana, No. 28 Wisconsin and No. 29 Penn State will all be going for the team title and crucial head-to-head wins to count toward potential at-large consideration into the NCAA Championships.
The Big Ten Championships will be broadcast on tape delay on the Big Ten Network beginning Thursday, Nov. 14 at 12 p.m. ET. Check the USTFCCCA Broadcast Schedule for full listings.
West Coast Conference Championships
Ranked Women’s Teams
|17. San Francisco*|
West Coast Conference men’s cross country is synonymous with Portland, as the Pilots have taken 33 of the past 34 conference titles. The one other team to win a title during this stretch has been BYU in 2011 — the Cougars’ first year as a member of the conference.
Portland regained control with a title a year ago, and the two teams are as evenly matched as ever going into the 2013 edition with BYU at No. 5 and Portland right behind at No. 6. An early-season match-up went in the favor of BYU, but a lot of time has passed since that September meeting.
Led by Tylor Thatcher and Jason Witt, the top BYU finishers at the Roy Griak and Wisconsin invitationals, respectively, the Cougars are perhaps the deepest team in the nation. BYU finished runner-up to No. 2 Northern Arizona at the Wisconsin adidas Invitational. 121-174, and the Cougars were the only squad at the meet to place eight runners inside the top 100 finishers. Even NAU only had six within the top 100, granted they all finished top-50.
Portland was right behind in third place at Wisconsin, paced by Scott Fabule’s 15th-place showing individually. Only NAU’s five scorers crossed the finish line in fewer positions than Portland’s, as the Pilots’ five were across within the top 61 finishers. The duo of Fauble and William Kincaid finished second and third a year ago.
On the women’s side, No. 17 San Francisco is going for its fifth title in a row and Eva Krchova is aiming to defend her individual title.
Saturday, Nov. 2 | Meet Home | Princeton, N.J. (Host: Princeton)
Ranked Women’s Teams
It has been quite a year for the Ivy League, with as many as six teams appearing in the men’s and women’s National Coaches Polls at one time.
The Princeton men and Cornell women were preseason top-10 picks nationally, but as Heptagonals roll around a different pair of big-statement teams lead the Ivy League in the poll: the No. 10 Columbia men and No. 11 Dartmouth.
A signature win at Notre Dame propelled the Columbia men into the top 10, and a sixth-place showing at Wisconsin among a crowded field of ranked teams backed up its top-10 claim. The Lions’ strength is their strong pack mentality, as their top four finishers at Wisconsin — led by Jake Sienko in 34th — all claimed top-50 spots individually.
In order to earn the Ivy League title, Columbia will have to get past No. 15 Princeton, the defending champion. The Tigers posted an identical sixth-place showing at Pre-Nationals behind a similarly strong pack. Sam Pons in 35th was the top finisher, and Princeton’s top four all came through before spot No. 55. Chris Bendsten is the defending Ivy League champ.
In opposition to Columbia and Princeton, No. 21 Harvard’s hopes are pinned to a pair of front-runners in Maksim Korolev and James Leakos. Korolev was runner-up to Arkansas’ individual national title contender Kemoy Campbell at Wisconsin and Leakos was 10th after claiming victory a few weeks earlier at the Paul Short Run. The drop-off to the rest of the team was severe at Wisconsin as the Crimson finished 13th overall, despite being the only team in the field with multiple top-10 finishers.
With well-established top options, the team title could likely be decided by the latter halves of each team’s scoring roster.
Switching gears to the women’s race, former National Athlete of the Week Abbey D’Agostino — the 2012 national runner-up and three time 2013 track national champion — is the undisputed top individual in the conference and leader of the No. 11 Dartmouth squad. The Big Green finished seventh at Wisconsin with two other top-40 finishers.
D’Agostino was the Ivy League champ in 2011 after not competing in the meet a year ago.
Battling not only Dartmouth but each other in the rankings are No. 23 Princeton and No. 24 Cornell. Princeton was 10th at Pre-Nationals while Cornell — a top-10 squad earlier this season — finished 15th at Wisconsin.
|9. New Mexico*|
|20. Boise State|
|22. Colorado State|
|28. Air Force|
Ranked Women’s Teams
|9. New Mexico*|
|25. Boise State|
At No. 9 in both the men’s and women’s National Coaches Polls, New Mexico is the favorite in both races at the Mountain West Championships.
The men are coming off a strong fifth-place team finish at the Wisconsin adidas Invitational behind seventh-place finisher and defending MW champion Luke Caldwell, who was also the individual runner-up at the Notre Dame Invitational. The Lobos will look to defend their championship for a fourth consecutive season and run their streak to five.
Standing in their way are a pair of upstarts in No. 20 Boise State and No. 22 Colorado State. Boise State first made an impression this season with a close runner-up finish to No. 4 Oregon at the Ducks’ Bill Dellinger Invitational followed by an eighth-place showing at Pre-Nats, while Colorado State made statements with a runner-up finish at Roy Griak and a fifth-place showing at Notre Dame.
No. 28 Air Force is also looking to challenge for conference title honors on its home course.
New Mexico’s women have won five consecutive Mountain West titles. Five was also the margin of defeat in their surprise runner-up showing to then-No. 2 Florida State (now No. 5) at the Notre Dame Invitational. The Lobos put three finishers in the top 11, led by third-place runner Samantha Silva. Most recently they finished sixth at the Wisconsin Invitational.
Individual Pre-Nationals champion and former National Athlete of the Week Emma Bates’s No. 25 Boise State squad is the top challenger.
Other Top 10 Men’s Action & Notes
Defending men’s national champion No. 3 Oklahoma State is going for its sixth straight Big 12 title. The Cowboys rested their top squad at Pre-Nationals but already have a victory over No. 2 Northern Arizona under their belts. No. 27 Oklahoma and No, 29 Texas will challenge.
Speaking of No. 2 NAU, the Lumberjacks will try to follow up their dominant Wisconsin adidas Invitational title with their seventh Big Sky title in a row and their 10th in the past 11 seasons. Futsum Zienasellassie finished sixth to lead six NAU runners in the top 50. No. 30 Southern Utah is also in the field.
In the MAAC, No. 8 Iona will be going for its 23rd consecutive title — the longest active streak in all of Division I, and third only to North Central (Ill.)’s 39 and Calvin’s 26 in DIII. The Gaels finished third at Pre-Nationals behind seven finishers in the top 80, making Iona the only team to put all of its runners even in the top 100 finishers.
No. 12 Arkansas will look to continue its SEC domination, having won 20 of the past 22 league titles. Individual Wisconsin winner Kemoy Campbell led the Razorbacks to a seventh-place showing in Madison.
Other notable streaks include William & Mary’s 13 consecutive Colonial titles, Liberty’s eight straight Big South crowns and Eastern Kentucky’s seven OVC titles in a row.
Other Top 10 Women’s Action & Notes
No. 2 Arkansas will be going for its first SEC title since last taking the crown in 2008, ending a streak of three in a row. The current Razorbacks are looking to start a new streak, and with the depth they showed in a runner-up finish at Wisconsin it will be tough to stop them. Led by Grace Heymsfield in sixth, Arkansas had three top-15 finishers and all seven runners came across the line among the top 80 finishers. Only New Mexico and Minnesota had even six top-80 runners.
No. 8 Iowa State is coming off an impressive fifth-place showing at Wisconsin, led by 10th-place finisher Crystal Nelson. The Cyclones have won the past two titles.
Just as with the men, the longest active women’s conference championship streak belongs to Iona, which has claimed eight MAAC titles in a row. Quinnipiac’s seven in the NEC, Stony Brook’s six in the America East and streaks of five by Florida State and New Mexico in the ACC and Mountain West, respectively, are the next-longest active streaks.