Weekend Recap: Wisconsin, Pre-Nats, DIII Action
NEW ORLEANS—We’ll be updating this page all weekend with recaps and analysis.
DIII Action in Wisconsin and Elsewhere
Very, very quick takeaways from today’s DIII meets in Wisconsin. You can go through the full results from Oshkosh and La Crosse here.
The men’s Midwest region is outrageous. Six Midwest men’s teams beat the Mideast No. 1 Johns Hopkins and three teams beat Great Lakes No. 1 Wabash at Oshkosh, and that’s with MW No. 3 and 4 UW-Platteville and UW-La Crosse racing at UWL. Could the Midwest get eight teams to nationals? It’s hard to imagine less than seven making it.
North Central might be unbeatable. After losing to DII No. 2 Grand Valley State by 11 at Notre Dame, the Cardinals beat the Lakers (who did appear to be missing their #5 from Notre Dame) by 33 points today. Not that the transitive property is particularly applicable in cross country, but St. Olaf and UW-Eau Claire have traded the No. 2 spot all season. NCC beat UWEC by 104 points today.
Will UW-La Crosse move up to No. 2 in the men’s poll? They beat St. Olaf by one point at home today.
Can the Johns Hopkins women be beat? With Division II teams removed, they only beat No. 4 MIT by ten points today. As mentioned above, the transitive property isn’t really fair, but MIT lost to No. 3 Middlebury last week.
Whoa, Lucy Cheadle and Sophia Meehan. The DIII duo (Cheadle out of WashU, Meehan from Hopkins) knocked off DII stars Samantha Rivard and Allyson Winchester at Oshkosh. (Rivard and Winchester were 2-3 at DII nationals in the 5k last spring) Cheadle and Rivard were just a second apart at 5k before Cheadle put a ridiculous 12 seconds on the field in the last kilometer.
There were 664 finishers in the men’s race at Oskhosh, so maybe the results don’t tell us as much as we think.
Slightly further east, the No. 5 SUNY Geneseo women remain on track to have a shot to give coach Mike Woods a podium finish as a retirement present. The Knights blew out the No. 7-ranked hosts at Oberlin.
Pre-Nationals Women’s Race
The regular season is over—the postseason begins in two weeks with conference meets the day after Halloween— and we only know one thing about the women’s national picture: Michigan State is probably the best team in the country. Other than that, we don’t know much. (And that’s fine!)
What we learned today at Pre-Nats (results here):
-Add Rachel Johnson to that increasingly long list of national championship contenders. After Iowa State’s Crystal Nelson routed Shelby Houlihan, Emma Bates, etc. at Wisco yesterday, the Baylor senior broke away earlier and won more comfortably in Terre Haute today. Johnson lost to Houlihan at Roy Griak but beat Nelson there. Today, she beat Meg Curham of Princeton and Katrina Coogan of Georgetown by more than 15 seconds.
— Mitch Kastoff (@mtchkstff) October 18, 2014
-Speaking of Coogan, she led her No. 4 Georgetown squad to a surprise 110-139-143 win over No. 3 Oregon and No. 1 Michigan. The Hoyas will almost certainly jump up to No. 2 in this week’s national polls, and will likely go into nationals having only lost to Michigan in early September. They won today without Samantha Nadel, who was 47th at nationals last year.
-If we’re going to give Gtown that caveat, Oregon has an even bigger one: they have yet to debut Waverly Neer and Sarah Baxter. The closer we get to the end of the season (nationals are just five weeks away), the less likely it is that either debuts at full strength by conferences or regionals.
-Both Pac-12 teams, the Ducks and No. 7 Colorado, have to leave Indiana feeling pretty good about themselves. Oregon did it with pack running—less than ten seconds from 1 to 5—while the fourth place Buffs were led by an impressive 7th place finish from sophomore Erin Clark. That’s a 21-place improvement from this meet last year for Clark.
Pre-Nationals Men’s Race
That’s Why They’re the Unanimous No. 1
This wasn’t even close. There was a point after the race when their No. 4 runner Jake Hurysz – who finished ninth overall – was removed from the results (chip timing error) – but defending champion No. 1 Colorado would still have managed to defeat No. 2 Oregon by 50 points, 38-88.
Blake Theroux gave winner Ed Cheserek a run for his money as the runner-up finisher followed by Ammar Mousa in eighth, Hurysz in ninth, Pierce Murphy in 12th and Connor Winter in 14th. All this without Morgan Pearson, who was seventh in this race last year and 17th at NCAAs.
Once the Buffaloes made their move at the 5k mark, this race was over. That’s when Moussa surged into the lead and his teammates followed suit to occupy six of the top 10 individual positions.
To that point the Buffs were patient, sitting in a pack in between 20th and 30th at two kilometers, moving up into the teens at three kilometers and then following the natural progression into the single digits in the second half of the race.
From the 5k split to the finish line, eventual Theroux moved up 10 spots, Saarel moved up 10 and Hurysz jumped up seven.
The question has been asked whether this is the best Colorado men’s team ever following their stellar performance at the Rocky Mountain Shootout, and after a result like this, it’s hard to say it’s not.
Oregon Tried A Similar Tactic, But it Fell Through
Similar to the Buffaloes, the No. 2 Ducks had four men in the top 20 at the 5k split. But where the Buffaloes charged on from that point, UO wasn’t able to get any more wind under its wings. It went as expected at the top of the Ducks scoring line-up as winner Ed Cheserek moved up two spots and third-place Eric Jenkins moved up one, but the rest of the team trailed off in the final three kilometers.
Daniel Winn held relatively steady, dropping just one spot to 18th; Tanguy Pepiot dropped seven to 25; frosh Travis Neuman dropped one to 41st; highly-anticipated frosh Blake Haney fell eight to 76 and frosh Sam Prakel took a huge 51-spot dive to 82nd (he was their No. 5 at 5k).
Cheserek and Jenkins were 1-2 on the agonizingly long homestretch, but Theroux and Hurysz were able to sneak in ahead of Jenkins.
They Ducks may not have shown all their cards, however, as Jake Leingang and Matthew Melancon – both potential scorers for Oregon – compete in the open race. They still could very well be the No. 2 team in the country. After all, they did beat upset Wisconsin champ No. 6 Syracuse three weekends ago at the Battle in Beantown (we know, we know: September results don’t really mean much).
How About Non CU or UO runners?
It was home sweet home for Indiana State’s John Mascari, who was the top non-CU-or-UO finisher today in sixth-place, as well as for another Indiana runner in Matt McClintock of Purdue less than a second back in seventh. Keeping with the Indiana theme, Erik Peterson of Butler showed his runner-up performance at Notre Dame wasn’t a fluke with a 10th-place finish here.
Perhaps somewhat disappointing was Anthony Rotich of UTEP, who dropped down five spots over the course of the final 3k to finish seventh overall. He was the runner-up here a year ago, and is a two-time XC All-American.
Pack of Georgetown Hoyas Surprise the Field in Third
The vote-receiving Hoyas entered as the eighth-highest ranked program running their "A" squads (No. 21 Southern Utah did not), but ultimately finished an impressive third-place with 148, about 60 points behind runner-up No. 2 Oregon and more than 120 ahead of No. 26 Furman.
GTown – following the example of their women teammates who upset No. 1 Michigan just minutes earlier – had the second-best back behind Colorado. Ahmed Bile led the way in 21st-place and their No. 5 came through in 35th less than 10 seconds back. They joined Colorado as the only two teams with five finishers in the top 35.
Wisconsin Men’s Race
That was a thrilling individual race—at least three times in the last 800 meters, I was convinced that either Maksim Korolev or Futsum Zienasellassie was toast. At 23:00 on the clock (so just inside 300 meters to go at the pace they were running), Korolev made the decisive move, eventually beating Futsum by four seconds.
About that pace. The last 2ks from both the women’s (6:07 2k/4:54 pace) and men’s (5:20 2k/4:17 pace) both seem outrageously fast. But, both races were total jogfests at halfway and featured enormous hard moves late from some of the best runners in the country.
Jonathan Gault points out on Letsrun that Syracuse’s 85 point win today is actually more similar to Wisconsin’s 66 point win in 2011 than Northern Arizona’s 121 a year ago. That 2011 Wisco squad dominated NCAAs, while NAU nearly knocked off Colorado last fall.
Either way, only two teams—Colorado and Oregon—are definitely ahead of Syracuse at this point, and only one more—Oklahoma State—can even nebulously claim to be better than the Orange right now. Coach Chris Fox will definitely be watching pre-nats closely tomorrow: I wrote yesterday that: “If Oregon wins, all of a sudden the Pac-12 meet becomes a major referendum, and dreams get significantly larger in Stillwater and Flagstaff.” Replace “Flagstaff” with “Syracuse” now.
What a day for the Northeast Region! Some brilliant prognosticators might have picked ‘Cuse to win, but nobody would have taken them in an exacta with Iona. The Gaels were just the tenth highest ranked team in Madison, coming in at No. 14 in the nation. Even scarier, they sat out Kieran Clements, who’s their top returner from nationals last year.
Heavy Iona ties in third place, as former Gael boss Mick Byrne’s No. 9 Wisconsin team beat pre-meet favorites NAU, Portland, and Stanford.
Speaking of NAU, the No. 3 Lumberjacks can expect to take a tumble in this week’s coaches poll. They barely beat No. 9 UCLA in Seattle two weeks ago; most voters and observers took that as something of a fluke. That result was almost exactly repeated today: NAU 225, UCLA 236. The bright side for them is that Zienasellassie has clearly returned to his fall 2013 form after a difficult 2014 track season.
Wisconsin Women’s Race
What a women’s race at the Wisconsin adidas Invitational Friday morning.
Billed as the top race of the regular season with 26 nationally-ranked (or vote-receiving) teams and a dozen or so NCAA individual contenders, the race did not disappoint. Here are some of the takeaways.
Michigan State is absolutely for real
If there was any doubt surrounding the Spartans following their dominant Roy Griak win, it was certainly silenced today. MSU put three in the top 15 – led by runner-up Rachele Schulist and ninth-place Leah O’Connor – and six in the top 45 (no other team had more than three in that range) to score 87 points to runner-up No. 5 Arkansas‘ 191. Whenever a team halves the score of another top-five team (one receiving a first-place vote, no less), they are legit.
Since 2011 – when this meet truly became the premier event it is today – no team has even come close to MSU’s 87 points. Arizona won it a year ago with 117 points, Iowa State two years ago with 109 and Washington three years ago with 199. Notably, none of those teams won NCAA team titles.
MSU actually trailed Arkansas – a team facing its first true test of the season – through the first half of the race in the team standings, but the Spartans were patient and made their moves at the right time to ultimately clinch the decisive win. What other team in the country can say they have a former conference champ (Sara Kroll, 2012) as their No. 5 runner?
With this result, they embolden their case for the No. 1 rank currently held by in-state rival Michigan. The Wolverines have a test of their own tomorrow against No. 3 Oregon and No. 4 Georgetown that could very well determine who leaves this weekend with the No. 1 spot.
Iowa State has the best one-two punch in the NCAA
It was surprising enough when Schulist picked up the pace late and tried to pull away from a field featuring such runners as Shelby Houlihan, Emma Bates, Liv Westphal and others. It was a shock when Crystal Nelson of Iowa State made a move on Schulist and dropped the hammer on the field just moments later to win the race in 19:35 by four seconds over Schulist and six over Houlihan of Arizona State – the Roy Griak champ to Nelson’s third in Minnesota in late September.
Remember when we asked in our weekend preview whether or not Iowa State had the best one-two punch in the country? Nelson and teammate Katy Moen answered that question decisively.
Moen crossed the line just eight seconds later – neck-and-neck with BC’s Liv Westphal and ahead of such big names as Bates, Elise Cranny, Dominique Scott, O’Connor and Colleen Quigley just behind her. That duo was 3-4 at Roy Griak for sevent points and topped it today with a 1-5 showing for six points in an even stronger field.
Their No. 8 Cyclones still have some work to do – they were third overall with 212 points . They got one more top-30 runner in Margaret Connelly but suffered at the back end of their scoring lineup as their Nos. 4 and 5 finished 83rd and 107th. Also of note, 2013 All-American Bethanie Brown did not compete – more on that as it develops.
The Individual Race is still very much up in the air
Though the final result was a head-turner (eventual 2013 NCAA champ Abbey D’Agostino won this race only four seconds faster last year, and eventual 2012 top-10 finisher Laura Hollander was just two seconds faster that year) the fact that about 10 women were packed up with just 2k to go in the race – with only Nelson and Schulist distinguishing themselves at the end – suggests a similarly tight race at NCAAs.
Expect the race to not only be similarly close, but feature most of these same runners – plus a few others who are running tomorrow at Pre-Nats. No Kate Avery of Iona today, though, leaving at least one more wrinkle in the individual title picture.
Big Performances from No. 20 West Virginia, No. 15 Wisconsin and No. 27 Vanderbilt
West Virginia in particular caught people by surprise as the Mountaineers finished fifth after coming in as the 15th-highest ranked team in the field. Jillian Forsey was 11th for WVU, while Katie Gillespie came through in 24th.
Wisconsin was similar to West Virginia – the Badgers edged out the Mountaineers, 227-245, for fourth place – led by 12th-place Sarah Disanza and 22nd-place Molly Hansen. Wisco especially needed these head-to-head wins with both No. 1 Michigan and No. 2 Michigan State currently occupying the Great Lakes Region’s two auto-bids to NCAAs.
Vandy was ninth – tied with current No. 10 Virginia and just ahead of current No. 13 North Carolina – after entering as the 20th-best team in the race.
Not so much from No. 6 Stanford, No. 9 Florida State and No. 10 Virginia
Without last year’s fourth-place NCAA finisher Aisling Cuffe, No. 6 Stanford appeared to struggle to a seventh-place finish. Cranny was a strong low stick for the Cardinal in seventh, but the rest of their scoring lineup finished nearly a minute back in the 50s, 60s and 80s. Perhaps they might be boosted by open race winner Vanessa Fraser (20:56 by seven seconds)?
Florida State was disappointing for the second consecutive meet, dating back to their blowout loss to Guelph/defeat by a short-handed Georgetown squad at Paul Short. FSU finished eighth here today, as Colleen Quigley was well off the lead back in 13th place overall. She and Linden Hall (41st) were the lone FSU runners in the top 50.
Virginia was tied with Vandy for ninth, though the Cavaliers are running without its top NCAA returner Maria Hauger. The Cavs put three in the top 51, but their Nos. 4 and 5 were back in the 100s.