Division I Pre-National Invitational Preview

Division I Pre-National Invitational Preview

NEW ORLEANS Seventy-seven men’s and women’s cross country teams got votes in the last NCAA Division I National Coaches’ Poll.

Pre-National Invite

Meet Home
Saturday, Oct. 18

Women’s Blue: 11 a.m. ET
Men’s Blue: 11:35 a.m. ET
Women’s White: 12:15 p.m. ET
Men’s White: 12:50 p.m. ET


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This weekend, the Auburn men are racing at Alabama, the Villanova and Virginia Tech programs are at Princeton, Oklahoma State is at Santa Clara, and the New Hampshire women and Virginia men are off.

The other 68 teams are at either the annual Pre-National Invitational or Wisconsin. (Yesterday, we broke down Wisco scientifically here).

With the advent of that Wisconsin meet, the Terre Haute dry run has lost a little bit of its luster from its Bush-era heyday. A huge majority of ranked teams are in Madison this weekend. But that does have one upside: with smaller fields, Pre-Nats has scrapped its old format that split the best teams into two separate races, greatly improving the matchups in the top race.

Here’s a preview of those matchups at Pre-Nats:

Women’s Race:
Team Storylines
| Individual Storylines
Men’s Race:
Team Storylines | Individual Storylines

Women’s Team

No. 1 Michigan vs. No. 3 Oregon is the best team battle of the regular season so far.

Top-30 Teams

1. Michigan (8)
3. Oregon (1)
4. Georgetown
7. Colorado
22. Baylor
29. NC State
Northern Arizona (RV)
Penn State (RV)
Butler (RV)

The Wolverines and Ducks each have one really impressive win to their credit this fall, with Michigan having won Beantown three weeks ago and Oregon taking the Washington meet a week later. Whichever wins Pre-Nats is clearly one of the top two teams in the country (along with the top teams at Wisconsin). There isn’t much statistical meat to compare the teams by, as the Beantown meet only has two years of data while the UW invite debuted this fall.

Both squads showed impressive packing: Michigan’s 1-5 spread off of Erin Finn in Boston was 51 seconds, which would be a pretty much median spread for winning women’s teams. That clearly contains room for improvement, too. Taylor Manett was their No. 3 runner at NCAAs last fall but just No. 6 in Boston, while Anna Pasternak (their No. 5 at nationals last year) hasn’t raced since Iowa’s Big Ten preview in September.

Oregon’s No. 5 was just 19 seconds behind Lindsay Crevoiserat in Seattle, but its question marks are much larger than Michigan’s. They’re missing low sticks Waverly Neer and Sarah Baxter—they’re not entered for Saturday, and no one knows if or when they’ll debut.

No. 4 Georgetown could sneak up on people. After its shorthanded squad was blown out by Guelph of Canada at Paul Short, the Hoyas have Katrina Coogan and Andrea Keklak (but not Samantha Nadel) back for this weekend. They only lost to Michigan by 22 points—albeit in a small field—in Boston.

In 2009, Colorado pulled off a shocking win in the Blue race at Pre-Nats, vaulting the Buffs from 19th to third in the coaches’ poll. That turned out to be somewhat ephemeral, as Mark Wetmore’s squad finished just 20th at NCAAs that year. The now-No. 7 Buffs are the fourth and only other top-twenty team competing at Pre-Nats this year.

One team looking to bounce back this weekend is Butler. The returning national third-place team struggled to a 14th-place team finish at Roy Griak in late September, and subsequently skipped their scheduled trip to the Notre Dame Invitational the following weekend. The Bulldogs finished third at Pre-Nats a year ago before finishing third at NCAAs a month later on the same course.

What’s going on from a Regional Team Rankings perspective? Check out the breakdown below.

Great Lakes Region

1. Michigan
6. Butler
9. Eastern Michigan
10. Miami (Ohio)
11. Purdue
13. Central Michigan
14. Xavier
15. Ohio

Mid-Atlantic Region

1. Georgetown
4. Penn State
5. Princeton
7. La Salle
10. Pittsburgh

Midwest Region

4. Missouri
5. Bradley
6. Northwestern
7. Tulsa
10. Kansas
11. Kansas State
12. Wichita State
13. Southern Illinois
15. Loyola-Chicago

Mountain Region

1. Colorado
4. Wyoming
5. Northern Arizona
6. Utah
7. Montana State
8. Colorado State
11. Air Force
12. Southern Utah
13. Nevada
14. Texas Tech

Northeast Region

7. Yale
12. Connecticut

South Region

3. Lipscomb
11. Mississippi

South Central Region

2. Baylor
3. Rice
5. Lamar
7. Texas
8. Arkansas State
9. UT Arlington
11. North Texas

Southeast Region

4. NC State
8. Furman
9. Eastern Kentucky
10. Elon
11. Kentucky
13. Western Kentucky
14. Louisville

West Region

1. Oregon
8. UC Davis
11. California
12. Loyola Marymount
14. Washington State


Men’s Team

Top-30 Teams

1. Colorado
2. Oregon
21. Southern Utah
22. Colorado State
26. Furman
28. NC State
29. Tulsa
30. Texas
Georgetown (RV)
Penn State (RV)

The men’s team race in Terre Haute is even thinner than the women’s: there are just two top-20 teams. But it more than makes up for in power what it lacks in depth: it’s a No. 1 vs. No. 2 showdown.

Both the top-ranked Colorado Buffaloes and No. 2 Oregon Ducks have twelve runners listed in their entries for Saturday. Teams can only race seven. The most obvious intrigue is if star freshman Blake Haney is racing—he hasn’t put on an Oregon uniform yet, though he looked extremely fit racing unattached at Willamette.

Less obviously, is Morgan Pearson racing? He ran unattached at the Shootout. Perhaps with the best challengers to the throne, Northern Arizona and Stanford, looking more like podium threats than potential titlists, Mark Wetmore has calculated that Ben Saarel + Blake Theroux + Jake Hurysz + Pierce Murphy + Amar Moussa = more than enough to win nationals. Redshirting Pearson would mean that the Buffs have 6 of a presumptive top 8 back in 2015. Pearson may remain racing, waiting in the wings if an injury goes down, and have his status decided at the very last minute. Or, perhaps, this is total cockamamie speculation and we’ll see Pearson race attached on Saturday.

The stakes are simple. If Colorado wins, they’ve done nothing to lose their “prohibitive favorite” status. In each of their four Wetmore-era national title seasons—2001, 2004, 2006, and 2013—they also won Pre-Nats. If Oregon wins, all of a sudden the Pac-12 meet becomes a major referendum, and dreams get significantly larger in Stillwater and Flagstaff.

The next three highest-ranked teams are No. 21 Southern Utah, No. 22 Colorado State, and No. 23 Indiana. Only the Rams’ varsity will be in Indiana, though, as SUU and the Hoosiers are both sending their JV.

From a regional perspective, this meet – perhaps more than any other this weekend – has enormous potential to shake up Monday’s Regional Team Rankings. Check out the summary below:

Great Lakes Region

6. Eastern Michigan
7. Butler
8. Indiana State
9. Akron
11. Ohio State
12. Ohio
13. Purdue
14. Central Michigan
15. Miami (Ohio)

Mid-Atlantic Region

3. Georgetown
4. Penn State
8. Lehigh
11. La Salle
15. Pittsburgh

Midwest Region

3. Tulsa
7. Missouri
8. Kansas
9. Iowa
10. Bradley
11. Southern Illinois
12. Wichita State

Mountain Region

1. Colorado
5. Southern Utah
6. Colorado State
7. Air Force
8. Wyoming
11. Montana State
13. Texas Tech

Northeast Region

4. Yale
8. Cornell

South Region

4. Mississippi
11. Lipscomb

South Central Region

2. Texas
5. North Texas
7. UT Arlington
8. Rice
10. Baylor
12. Houston
13. Central Arkansas

Southeast Region

3. Furman
4. NC State
7. Louisville
9. Liberty
12. Duke
15. Kentucky

West Region

1. Oregon
9. Washington State
10. UC Santa Barbara
11. California
15. San Francisco


Men’s Individual

Good news? Ed Cheserek races sparingly enough (6 XC meets, 4 indoors, 6 outdoors) that any time we get the King race, it’s a treat.

Bad news? Barring any late developments, Ches won’t be racing head-to-head against Anthony Rotich of UTEP. Rotich and the Miners are listed in the White race. Minus Rotich, there’s no one in the field who can dream of challenging Ches.

UTEP ran in the Blue race last year, where Rotich, sandwiched by now-graduated Kennedy Kithuka and Chris O’Hare, actually beat Cheserek. Ches was fourth behind that international trio, and it remains the last time he lost a cross country race. We’d love nothing more than to be wrong and have Rotich show up on the line, making Saturday’s action infinitely spicier.

The best of the proletariat, excluding Ducks and Buffs, includes Texas’s Craig Lutz (15th at NCAAs), Indiana State’s John Mascari (32nd), and Purdue’s Matt McClintock (37th). Perhaps it’s unfair to put Lutz in that group, as he actually beat Rotich at NCAAs last November. And it’s a home meet for Mascari.

Women’s Individual

Some bridesmaid is going to get rice launched at them on Saturday. Terre Haute is hosting the runners-up from arguably the three best races of the season so far, as Finn was second at Boston College, Baylor’s Rachel Johnson was second at Griak, and NAU’s Melanie Townsend was second in Seattle. Unfortunately, bragging rights will be somewhat limited, as the women who won those three races are all in Madison on Friday afternoon.

The women’s individual picture is refreshingly muddied this fall, and whoever out of that triumvirate wins Saturday isn’t delusional in thinking they could challenge favorites Shelby Houlihan, Kate Avery, and Emma Bates. Johnson, of course, beat Bates at Griak.

The two next best names entered at Pre-Nationals are probably Butler’s Mara Olson and NC State’s Joanna Thompson, who were 26th and 36th, respectively, at nationals last year. Regrettably, former National Athlete of the Week Courtney Frerichs of UMKC is in the White Race.

Of note, last year’s 10th-place national finisher Kelsey Santisteban of Cal is not listed among the meet’s entries. She has yet to debut in 2014.

The Track Internet

This is not internecine squabbling; we definitely think you should watch everything live this weekend on Flotrack Pro, and if you want to ride with the message board of your choice, great. It’s shameless self-promotion: You really, really, really should follow along with us (and contribute to!) the National Results Wall.

If you’re watching at home, easy: get the live stream going on one device, and the Wall on another. If you’re out (hopefully at a meet), then checking the Wall on your smartphone is simply the only way to go. We’ll curate the best the internet has to offer in one place, plus our own analysis and reactions. Plus, absolutely no one will have more in-depth DII and DIII coverage.

Have fun at this weekend’s meets, or join us in these internet streets.