The Warm-Up Lap: Washington & Notre Dame Invites Among the Biggest College XC Action
NEW ORLEANS – No extended analogies or metaphors to kick of this week’s Warm-Up Lap explaining aspects of cross country; only extensive preview coverage of the weekend’s top action around the country.
Of the 181 NCAA cross country teams that appeared in the National Coaches Polls this week in their respective Divisions, three-quarters of them (135, to be precise) will be hitting the trails this weekend. You can see where each of them will be competing here.
Many of them will be gathering at this weekend’s featured meets – all of which will be covered live on the brand-new USTFCCCA National Results Wall.
Many of Division I’s top teams will head to either the Notre Dame Invitational on Friday or the Washington Invitational on Saturday. Some premier DI teams will also be heading to Lehigh’s Paul Short Run, the Greater Louisville Classic, and Arkansas’ Chile Pepper Festival.
Also notably, defending men’s champion No. 1 Colorado will host its Rocky Mountain Shootout.
Washington Invitational (SAT)
UPDATE: The Stanford trio of Maksim Korolev, Joe Rosa and Jim Rosa will not compete in this race, nor will Aisling Cuffe or Cami Chapus for the Stanford women. It has been reported that both Cuffe and Chapus have suffered injuries. Further, Stanford’s top two first-year runners, Elise Cranny and Anna Laman, will debut.
It’s fitting that the weekend’s slate of featured meets should end with the Washington Invite as the finale; with five of the top 10 men’s teams, two of the top four women’s teams, and potentially as many as 16 of last year’s top-100 NCAA men’s finishers and seven top-100 women’s finishers, there will certainly be some fireworks.
Headlining the nine nationally ranked men’s teams in the field will be No. 2 Northern Arizona, competing in its first big meet of the year, against the likes of No. 5 Portland, No. 6 Stanford, No. 7 Indiana and runners from No. 9 Villanova. No. 13 Virginia, No. 20 UCLA, No. 26 Oklahoma and host No. 28 Washington will also compete.
Aside from getting a very early glimpse at a piece of the National Championships picture between those top-10 teams, it will also be an opportunity for those teams currently outside the top-two of their regions – Portland, Stanford, UCLA and Washington are 2-5 in the West; Oklahoma is third in the Midwest – to gain those all-important head-to-head victories.
Stanford may compete without the nation’s No. 2 returner in transfer Maksim Korolev and All-American Joe Rosa (see update at the top), who both ran last weekend at Stanford’s home meet, and Virginia also ran this past weekend at its home meet, but the rest of these teams enter the meet fresh and well-rested.
Speaking of Korolev, should he race he could be one of the 10 former All-Americans on the starting line (entry lists have not yet been made public). He would be one of four top-10 finishers from a year ago, up against NAU’s two-time AA Futsum Zienasellassie (4th), Stanford’s Jim Rosa (5th) (see update at the top) and Villanova’s Patrick Tiernan (9th).
Other All-Americans include two-time AA Scott Fauble of Portland (13th 2013, 26th 2012), Kyle King of Virginia (18th), Aaron Nelson of host Washington (20th), and Matt McElroy (25th) and transfer Tyler Byrne (29th) of NAU. In addition, 2012 AA Lane Werley of UCLA (26th) may also be in the race.
The women’s race may only feature four teams – No. 3 Oregon, No. 4 Stanford, No. 13 Villanova and No. 15 Washington – but they certainly have pedigree. Dating back to 2003, these programs have combined to win eight of the past 11 national titles (Oregon, 2012; Villanova, 2009-10; Washington, 2008; Stanford, 2002/2005-07).
This will be the first action for Oregon since its Bill Dellinger Invitational in early September, and will be the 2014 debut for a number of its top runners, including a pair of top-100 NCAA finishers in Annie Leblanc (66th) and Megan Patriginelli (70th), along with 101st finisher Molly Grabill. A top-50 finisher in 2012, Lindsay Crevoiserat will also run for the first time since her seventh-place showing at Dellinger.
Stanford could debut last year’s fourth-place NCAA finisher Aisling Cuffe (see update at the top) for the first race of her final season as a Cardinal, in addition to highly touted frosh Elise Cranny (see update at the top).
One frosh who will run is Sarah Feeny of Utah, the champion of last year’s adidas Dream Mile and Brooks PR Invitational mile races who elected to stay close to home and compete for the Utes. She will likely be joined by top-100 NCAA returner Rebekah Winterton (89th).
Other potential top-100 returners from a year ago in the field include Nova’s Stephanie Schappert (91st) and Stanford’s Cami Chapus (95th) (see update at the top).
Notre Dame Invitational (FRI)
By the numbers, no meet features a bigger contingent of men’s ranked teams than the Notre Dame Invitational on Friday. Ten men’s teams in the top 30 are in the field, led by the No. 10 BYU Cougars facing their first big test of the season.
Among the teams they’ll face off against are No. 15 New Mexico, No. 16 NC State, No. 18 Tulsa, No. 19 Michigan and No. 22 Southern Utah, last week’s surprise champs at the Roy Griak Invitational. Columbia was last year’s surprise champion at this meet: will any of these teams service that role in 2014?
Head-to-head victories will be at a premium for these teams, as all the teams in the field except NC State, Tulsa and No. 24 Florida State are currently ranked outside the top two teams in their respective regions – and consequently firmly in at-large consideration.
Three-time reigning team champion Florida State has moved to Paul Short this year, and only two ranked women’s teams are in the field with No. 12 New Mexico and No. 30 Penn State. A win for Penn State, currently third in the Mid-Atlantic Region, would be a boost to its at-large candidacy.
Individually, the past three individual men’s champions have all had ties to the indoor mile. 2011 and 2012 champs Miles Batty of BYU and Chris O’Hare of Tulsa won in South Bend before months later setting collegiate indoor mile records. Last year’s winner Anthony Rotich of UTEP didn’t set a mile record, but he beat someone who did – 2011 national XC champ Lawi Lalang of Arizona – to win the NCAA title in the event.
Rotich will be taking his talents to Arkansas this weekend and perhaps the top contender to take his place as the ND champ is someone from his other signature event, the steeplechase. Michigan’s Mason Ferlic is the top XC returner from a year ago in the field at ND on Friday, having finished 22nd a year ago at NCAAs with two win already under his belt in 2014.
In the field with him are a pair of other returning All-Americans from a year ago in former National Athlete of the Week John Mascari of Indiana State (32nd), who also has two wins on the young season; and Purdue’s Matt McClintock (37th). Plus the first man out of All-America status, Butler’s Tom Curr (41st), will also be toeing the line.
Reigning winner Juliet Bottorff of Duke has graduated and 2012 ND Invite individual women’s champ Colleen Quigley of Florida State is going for the win this weekend at Paul Short, leaving Princeton’s Megan Curham (34th at 2013 NCAAs), NC State’s Joanna Thompson (36th) and Ohio State’s Katie Borchers (40th) as the top national returners in the field. Eastern Michigan’s Victoria Voronko will likely also challenge for the win.
The Gold races will feature some of the top teams in Divisions II and III. The women’s race features perhaps the top Division II showdown of the year with No. 1 Grand Valley against No. 4 Minnesota Duluth and No. 8 Hillsdale. Division III’s No. 11 Calvin and No. 23 North Central (Ill.) are also in the field.
The No. 2 GVSU men are up against No. 24 Hillsdale, not to mention No. 1 North Central (Ill.) of Division III. DIII Great Lakes Region rivals No. 16 Wabash and No. 25 Calvin, along with No. 28 UW-Oshkosh, will also toe the line in that race.
Lehigh Paul Short Run (SAT)
So many elite meets around the country are now taking place on this particular weekend two weeks before the Pre-National/Wisconsin extravaganza, and combined with last week’s big meets, Lehigh’s Paul Short Run doesn’t feature nearly as many top-tier Division I programs this year as in years past.
What the meet does deliver is a women’s match-up between No. 5 Georgetown and No. 6 Florida State – whose trip to Bethlehem is part of a departure from their normal Notre Dame/Pre-Nationals schedule. While the Hoyas are holding out several key runners – including Samantha Nadel and Katrina Coogan – FSU will charge ahead with its full roster of top runners, including two-time All-American Colleen Quigley.
Scheduled to run for Georgetown are two top-100 NCAA finishers from a year ago in Haley Pierce (52nd) and Madeline Chambers (99th).
They might all be chasing Iona’s Kate Avery, who finished third at the NCAA Championships a year ago after leading for much of the race. Avery, who impressed at the Commonwealth Games this summer, is making her 2014 XC debut after her extended track season.
Lining up against them in the Gold race will be a slew of top teams from Divisions II and III. No. 2 Adams State, led by multiple-time All-American and track champion Lauren Martin, heads a DII contingent that also includes No. 22 Stonehill and No. 25 Shippensburg.
Two-time defending Division III National Champion No. 1 Johns Hopkins is taking on top DI competition for the second weekend in a row – the Blue Jays were the only non-DI team at Boston College a week ago – as well as facing would-be DIII usurpers in No. 3 St. Lawrence and No. 10 Williams. The Ephs, especially, would like to use this meet to make a bounceback statement after dropping from No. 2 to No. 10 with last weekend’s home meet loss.
While the men’s Gold race match-up between No. 9 Villanova and No. 13 Iona looks promising on paper, a closer look at the entry list reveals otherwise. Villanova will only be bringing some of its top runners – All-American Sam McEntee (27th) will be in the race – while others will travel to Washington for the inaugural Washington Invitational.
Likewise, Iona – which raced some of its top runners last weekend at Virginia – will not run UVA runner-up Gilbert Kirui or top returners Kieran Clements (57th) and Jake Byrne (71).
That leaves the door wide open for two-time reigning Division II champion No. 1 Adams State to swoop in for the win. The Grizzlies were fourth in a tough Roy Griak field a year ago, and return a core of runners that could deliver a team title back to Alamosa, Colorado. Reigning individual champ Tabor Stevens and teammates Kevin Batt and Matt Daniels – who combined for three of the top four places at the 2012 NCAA Championships – are all scheduled to run.
ASU isn’t the only DII team in the field: No. 8 Lock Haven, No. 14 American International with Mike Biwott (4th at NCAAs), No. 17 Shippensburg with indoor mile champ and former National Athlete of the Week Brayden Burleigh, and No. 23 Franklin Pierce will all look to take their best shots at the current kings of DII cross country. Aaron Dinzeo of California (Pa.) (5th NCAAs) will also look to challenge Stevens & co. on the individual front.
Division III will see three top-10 teams going at it in No. 4 St. Lawrence, No. 8 Johns Hopkins and No. 10 Williams, along with No. 23 Bates.
Greater Louisville Classic (SAT)
This meet features several nationally ranked Division I teams, including the No. 11 Wisconsin men and a contingent of No. 23 Eastern Kentucky‘s runners in the Gold race, plus an up-and-coming Middle Tennessee squad Flotrack spotlighted a few weeks ago. The women’s Gold race will feature No. 16 Wisconsin, No. 23 West Virginia and No. 28 Virginia Tech.
From an individual perspective, the women’s race features a potential national dark horse contender in Teghan Henderson of Chattanooga, who was 20th at NCAAs a year ago as a sophomore. She’s already claimed wins at the Commodore Classic and PowerAde Invitational this year. Joining her in the field as a returning All-American is Wisconsin’s Emma-Lisa Murphy (35th). Other top-100 finishers from a year ago include Sarah Rapp of Virginia Tech (55th) and Kaitlyn Fischer of Missouri (79th).
Wisconsin’s Malachy Schrobilgen (33rd at 2013 NCAAs) is the lone men’s national top-100 finisher from a year ago in the field
Taking center stage at this meet, however, will be the Division II competition – the NCAA Championships will be run here December 6, after all, so it serves as a Pre-National meet of sorts.
The women’s Gold race will include contingents from five top-20 DII teams, headlined by No. 8 Hillsdale and No. 11 Winona State. The Chargers will face their first scored competition of the season after a solid debut at Michigan State, while the Warriors already have three team victories under their belts this season – but a win at Louisville would certainly be the biggest.
Also in the field are No. 13 Cal Baptist, No. 16 Southern Indiana and No. 17 Edinboro.
Headlining the men’s Gold race on the DII front is No. 5 Southern Indiana, led by junior Johnnie Guy. The returning national top-10 finisher was third in this race a year ago. The Screaming Eagles won their home meet in early September and finished fourth in the mostly Division I Kentucky Bluegrass Invite, with Guy and teammate Tyler Pence taking second and third overall. No. 11 Mount Olive will also compete in the top race.
Competing in the Blue race for the men are No. 21 Edinboro, No. 24 Hillsdale and No. 25 Cal Baptist. No. 24 Montevallo and No. 22 Hope of Division III are in the women’s blue race.
UW Eau-Claire Blugold Invitational (FRI)
In mid-September, the Division III men’s cross country landscape was turned on its head when national scene newcomer UW-Eau Claire defeated then-No. 1 defending national champion St. Olaf, at St. Olaf, no less. Of course, as with all early-season meets, the results must be taken with a grain of salt, but with both teams running most of their top guys, that outcome might not be too far from the truth.
The two will square off again this Friday, this time at Eau-Claire for the Blugold Invitational. Look for the individual battle between two-time national third-place finisher Grant Wintheiser of No. 3 St. Olaf and No. 2 UWEC’s top runner Josh Thorson – who finished 1-2 at St. Olaf earlier this season – to continue.
These two squads will be joined by a host of other nationally ranked teams in No. 5 Central (Iowa), No. 7 UW-Platteville, No. 15 UW-La Crosse and No. 26 UW Stout. The No. 5 Dutch will have a number of men challenging for the individual win, including last year’s fourth-place national finisher Eli Horton and the duo of Isaac Steffenmeier and Cole Decker.
Looking back to a year ago, St. Olaf didn’t even win this meet en route to its national title. The Oles, running the same squad that would ultimately hoist the NCAA trophy, finished runners-up to eventual national third-place UW-La Crosse, 54-80.
The women’s race will feature four nationally ranked teams, including three in the top 20 in No. 14 UW-La Crosse, No. 16 Carleton and No. 20 St. Olaf.
Just this past weekend at Roy Griak, the No. 14 Eagles won the Maroon III race (St. Olaf was a close third) led by individual winner Laura Mead. The Oles will likely debut their own No. 1 for the first time this season, 2013 national runner-up Noelle Olson.
Arkansas Chile Pepper Festival (SAT)
The No. 7 Arkansas women and No. 17 Arkansas men are the main draws for their own Chile Pepper Festival. Last season saw the Razorback men take on one of the nation’s top contenders for the NCAA individual title in 2012 NCAA winner Kennedy Kithuka of Texas Tech, and they’ll face a similar test this year as they line up against two-time NCAA steeplechase champ Anthony Rotich of UTEP.
Rotich’s inclusion in the field is particularly interesting considering the dynamic between he and Arkansas’ Stanley Kebenei, who may have defeated Rotich for the steeple title this summer had he not stumbled on the final barrier.
Arkansas’ women will welcome No. 24 Baylor – ranked for the first time since 2009 – coming off its fifth-place finish at Roy Griak. If she competes, Griak runner-up Rachel Johnson could square off with Arkansas’ slew of top runners, including former National Athlete of the Week Dominique Scott.
The men’s race will also feature several closely matched Division II squads in No. 13 West Texas A&M, No. 15 Missouri Southern and No. 18 Sioux Falls. The No. 14 Missouri Southern women will contest the women’s race.
Women’s Top 30 – DI
Women’s Top 25 – DII
Women’s Top 35 – DIII