Michigan Takes the Top Spot in the Preseason DI Women’s Cross Country National Coaches Poll

By Kyle Terwillegar, USTFCCCA

August 26, 2014   

NEW ORLEANS – If today’s preseason NCAA Division I Women’s Cross Country National Coaches Poll is any indicator, distance running fans are in store for an exciting and unpredictable 2014 fall campaign.

NCAA Division I National Coaches Poll Top 5 – Women

1)Michigan 2)Oregon 3)Florida State 4)Stanford 5)Georgetown
Michigan Oregon Florida State Stanford Georgetown
View Complete Women’s National Coaches Poll

Michigan, with all seven of its runners from its fourth-place 2013 NCAA Championships team back in 2014, was tabbed as the preseason favorite with half of the 12 first-place votes in the poll released Tuesday by the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA), while four other teams split the remaining six first-place nods.

Splitting the remaining six first-place votes were No. 2 Oregon with three, and No. 4 Stanford, No. 5 Georgetown and No. 7 Arkansas with one each. Florida State did not receive a first-place vote, but was nestled in amongst that group at No. 3.

National PDFs: Preseason Top 30 Summary | Week-by-Week 2014 | Week-by-Week All Time
Regional Rankings: Preseason Summary

For the Wolverines, this is the first time the program has been ranked No. 1 – at least since 1995, the year to which the USTFCCCA archives date back.  During that time, the Maize and Blue have intermittently flirted with the top spot. They achieved the No. 2 rank four times in the mid-2000s, most recently during the preseason and week one of the 2007 season.

Leading the charge in Michigan‘s ascent to No. 1 was sophomore Erin Finn, who finished 30th as a true freshman a year ago in what has become her signature front-running style. The outdoor 10,000-meter All-American leads a contingent of five returners – all but one of whom are juniors or younger – who finished in the top 105 last year.

Coincidentally, Finn’s Wolverines are the preseason favorites in the year of the 20th anniversary of Michigan’s all-time best cross country team, which finished runner-up at nationals in 1994. If recent history holds true with Michigan, this year could be even more momentous: each of the past four preseason women’s favorites have gone on to win the title.

Recent History of Women’s Preseason No. 1

Year
Preseason No. 1
NCAA Finish
NCAA Winner
Preseason Rank
2013 Providence 1 Providence 1
2012
Oregon
1
Oregon
1
2011
Georgetown
1
Georgetown
1
2010
Villanova
1
Villanova
1
2009
Washington
3
Villanova
5

Meanwhile, the most recent of those champions, Providence, didn’t fare nearly so well in Tuesday’s poll. After losing All-Americans Emily Sisson and Laura Nagel, the Friars dropped all the way down to No. 18 to start their national title defense campaign. That’s a far steeper drop than any defending champion – men or women – has ever suffered at least far back as the beginning of the USTFCCCA archives in 1995, leaving returning two-time All-American Sarah Collins and her Friars a tough climb back to the top.

The next-most severe falloff? The 2000 BYU women started at No. 6 after winning the 1999 national crown.

Arizona – last year’s runner-up to Providence – lost several key runners and consequently dropped out of the National Coaches Poll altogether to begin 2014.

Speaking of recent national champions, No. 2 Oregon will be looking to take back the crown they wore in 2012 after a disappointing 14th-place national finish last year. The Ducks return three top-100 finishers from a year ago, but counting Lindsey Crevoiserat’s 42nd-place finish in 2012 at UConn and recent transfer Waverly Neer’s 40th-place showing in 2011 Oregon has five women with top-100 credentials – plus last year’s 101st-place finisher.

Add in top-flight high school recruit Sarah Baxter – after all, Oregon has had decent luck with first-year runners of late – and the Ducks are in a strong position to potentially reclaim their title.

No. 3 Florida State had its streak of six consecutive national podium finishes snapped a year ago with an uncharacteristic eighth-place showing, but the national consensus is that FSU will be right back in the thick of the race again in 2014. The rank certainly isn’t new territory for the program: FSU has been ranked No. 1, 2 or 3 in 31 of the past 39 polls dating back to 2010.

Two-time All-American and top-10 finisher Colleen Quigley returns along with two other top-100 finishers.

Coming in at No. 4, Stanford is trending high after an 11th-place national finish a year ago. The rank is thanks largely in part to not only one of the nation’s top returners in two-time All-American Aisling Cuffe, but also two very strong recruits in Nike Cross Nationals (high school) runner-up Elise Cranny and Australian Anna Laman. Both Cranny and Laman were 1500 meters finalists at this past summer’s IAAF World Junior Championships in Eugene, Ore.

This could be a resurgence for Stanford, as the last time the Cardinal was ranked in the preseason top four was 2008 – the final year in a string of 13 consecutive top-four preseason nods that included five national titles and five more podium finishes.

Rounding out the top five was Georgetown in the exact same position as at NCAAs a year ago. Two women – Katrina Coogan and Annemarie Maag – who ran for the Hoyas’ 2011 national championship team and also ran in 2013 are back, looking to take one more crack at another crown. Coogan is among the four top-100 finishers Georgetown returns this year, tied for the most in the nation with top-ranked Michigan and No. 6 Michigan State.

The aforementioned MSU Spartans (sixth in 2013), No. 7 Arkansas (15th in 2013), No. 8 Colorado (seventh in 2013), No. 9 Iowa State (13th in 2013) – the only team with two returning All-Americans in Crystal Nelson and Bethanie Brown – and No. 10 Virginia (ninth in 2013) complete the top 10.

The No. 10 slot for Virginia is the Cavaliers’ first appearance in the women’s top 10.

No conference put more schools in the top 30 than the six from the ACC, including two top-10 squads in FSU and Virginia. Both the Pac-12 and Big Ten were represented by five squads. The Pac-12 put three in the top-10 – more than any other conference – in Oregon, Stanford and Colorado, while the Big Ten had two in Michigan and Michigan State.

The NCAA Division I Cross Country Championships will be held November 23 in Terre Haute, Ind.

 

USTFCCCA NCAA Division I

Women’s Cross Country National Coaches’ Poll

2014 Preseason — August 26

next poll: September 16
Rank Institution (FPV) Points Region Conference Cross Country Coach (Yr*)
2013 FINAL
1 Michigan (6) 342 Great Lakes Big Ten Mike McGuire (23rd)
4
2 Oregon (3) 330 West Pac-12 Robert Johnson (3rd)
14
3 Florida State 316 South ACC Karen Harvey (8th)
8
4 Stanford (1) 314 West Pac-12 Chris Miltenberg (3rd)
11
5 Georgetown (1) 311 Mid-Atlantic Big East Michael Smith (3rd)
5
6 Michigan State 303 Great Lakes Big Ten Walt Drenth (11th)
6
7 Arkansas (1) 283 South Central SEC Lance Harter (25th)
15
8 Colorado 277 Mountain Pac-12 Mark Wetmore (20th)
7
9 Iowa State 264 Midwest Big 12 Andrea Grove-McDonough (2nd)
13
10 Virginia 259 Southeast ACC Todd Morgan (3rd)
9
11 New Mexico 227 Mountain Mountain West Joe Franklin (8th)
10
12 Butler 222 Great Lakes Big East Matt Roe (8th)
3
13 Syracuse 212 Northeast ACC Chris Fox (10th)
22
14 Villanova 177 Mid-Atlantic Big East Gina Procaccio (15th)
19
15 Washington 166 West Pac-12 Greg Metcalf (13th)
17
16 Wisconsin 142 Great Lakes Big Ten Mick Byrne (1st)
21
17 Boston College 141 Northeast ACC Randy Thomas (23rd)
NR
18 Providence 136 Northeast Big East Ray Treacy (31st)
1
19 Oklahoma State 125 Midwest Big 12 Dave Smith (6th)
NR
20 West Virginia 111 Mid-Atlantic Big 12 Sean Cleary (8th)
24
21 Virginia Tech 106 Southeast ACC Ben Thomas (14th)
NR
22 SMU 93 South Central American Cathy Casey (10th)
31
23 Vanderbilt 86 South SEC Steve Keith (9th)
27
24 Dartmouth 74 Northeast Ivy Courtney Jaworski (1st)
16
25 Minnesota 57 Midwest Big Ten Sarah Hopkins (2nd)
20
25 William and Mary 57 Southeast Colonial Natalie Hall (1st)
12
27 NC State 50 Southeast ACC Laurie Henes (9th)
NR
28 Weber State 40 Mountain Big Sky Paul Pilkington (8th)
NR
29 Penn State 31 Mid-Atlantic Big Ten John Gondak (1st)
25
30 Arizona State 25 West Pac-12 Luis Quintana (1st)
NR
Others Receiving Votes: Boise State 22, Baylor 17, Cornell 16, Utah 15, Duke 11, Princeton 9, Texas A&M 8, Toledo 7, Alabama 5, Harvard 1, Northern Arizona 1
(* year as effective coach of that team in women’s cross country)