ACC XC Championships Preview

The ACC Championships will be held Friday morning in Tallahassee, Florida. The men’s 8K race kicks off at 9:03am ET followed by the women’s 6K race at 9:45am ET – both of which are live online via ESPN3.

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MEN’S CHAMPIONSHIP 8K RACE

Men’s Team Storylines

Can No. 2 Syracuse Challenge for a National Title this Year?
The pieces all appear to be in place for a title run. Justyn Knight and defending conference champ Martin Hehir look as good as expected – if not better – and the emergence of Colin Bennie as a potential All-American bodes well for the Orange, who won this meet with a healthy 32 points a year ago. Add in Joel Hubbard and Dan Lennon (who will be looking to regain the same form that nearly made him an All-American a year ago), and that is a top five that can run with anyone in the country.

Deep Virginia Team to Challenge for Conference Title
Virginia disappointed in this race a year ago, finishing fourth on their home course. That entire group is back and looking for redemption. The No. 7 Cavaliers were fourth in a very deep Wisconsin adidas Invitational field two weekends ago, led by ninth-place Henry Wynne. They ran well as a pack in Madison as one of only four teams with five finishers inside the top-80, but they will need former All-American Kyle King to be better than their No. 5 runner in 77th place.

NC State & Virginia Tech Look to Continue Their Rise
Both No. 12 NC State and No. 18 Virginia Tech started the season outside the national top-30 but have both worked their way inside the top-20. NC State parlayed an impressive early-October runner-up finish at Notre Dame to a seventh-place finish at Wisco, as George Parsons and Meron Simon led a pack of four runners inside the top-60 – a feat only three teams accomplished. Va Tech got the individual win from Thomas Curtin at Pre-Nats, and they finished sixth overall in a tight team race. Only Colorado, Oregon and UTEP were stronger through three runners than the Hokies.

Florida State & Louisville with Something to Prove
Vote-receiving Florida State is on the comeback trail after some early-season stumbles behind a strong front three of Zak Seddon, Jack Goodwin and Harry Mulenga. Louisville – another team with a strong trio in Ernest Kibet, Edwin Kibichiy and Japhet Kipkoech – will look to bounce back from a disappointing 11th-place finish at Pre-Nats.

Men’s Individuals to Watch

The Favorites: Justyn Knight and Martin Hehir, Syracuse; Thomas Curtin, Virginia Tech; Shaun Thompson, Duke; Edwin Kibichiy, Louisville; Henry Wynne, Virginia

The Challengers: Zak Seddon, Jack Goodwin & Harry Mulenga, Florida State; Ernest Kibet & Japhet Kipkoech, Louisville; George Parsons & Meron Simon, NC State; Colin Bennie, Syracuse

WOMEN’S CHAMPIONSHIP 6K RACE

Women’s Team Storylines

Top-10 Showdown Between Virginia & NC State
This should be a fantastic showdown between a pair of top-10 teams in No. 7 Virginia and No. 8 NC State. The two were only separated by 23 points at the Wisconsin adidas Invitational two weekends ago as UVA was third with 217 points and NC State was fourth with 240. Virginia was tighter up front with three top-30 finishers in Cleo Boyd, Iona Lake and Megan Rebholz (only winner No. 1 New Mexico had more), while NC State showed superior depth with six runners in the top 80 (second only to, again, New Mexico).

This race should be even closer as NC State’s two-time National Athlete of the Week Ryen Frazier likely won’t finish 38th overall like she did at Wisconsin in her first collegiate 6K race.

There isn’t a more decorated women’s program in the ACC than No. 8 NC State, though the Wolfpack haven’t won an ACC title since 2006. Virginia has waited even longer since its most recent title: the Cavaliers went back-to-back in 1981 and 1982 en route to back-to-back NCAA titles.

Syracuse & Notre Dame Moving Up; Former Champs UNC & FSU Look to Rebound
No. 16 Syracuse and No. 17 Notre Dame were similarly evenly matched at Wisconsin, finished 11th and 12th, respectively, 382-415. Margo Malone leads a more balanced Syracuse squad, while the front-running duo of Molly Seidel and Anna Rohrer power the Irish. Defending conference champ No. 29 North Carolina has an uphill climb to repeat, while unranked Florida State will look to get back on track toward resuming an ACC title streak that lasted from 2008 through 2013.

Women’s Individuals to Watch

The Favorites: Molly Seidel & Anna Rohrer, Notre Dame; Ryen Frazier, NC State; Margo Malone, Syracuse

The Challengers: Cleo Boyd, Iona Lake & Megan Rebholz, Virginia; Laura Hottenrott, Boston College; Samantha George, NC State; Grace Barnett, Clemson; Carolina Alcorta, North Carolina; Carmela Cardama Baez, Florida State