SEC XC Championships Preview
The SEC Championships will be held Friday morning in College Station, Texas. The men’s 8K race kicks off at 11am ET followed by the women’s 6K race at noon ET.
MEN’S CHAMPIONSHIP 8K RACE
Men’s Team Storylines
Will Arkansas Keep its Run of Dominance Going?
Sitting at No. 8 in the National Coaches’ Poll following a superb third-place effort at the Pre-National Invitational, the Razorbacks look like strong contenders to claim their sixth consecutive SEC title and their 23rd in the past 25 years. Led by the trio of Austen Dalquist, Frankline Tonui and Christian Heymsfield, Arkansas was one of just two teams to put all five scorers across the line among the top 50 individual finishers at Pre-Nats – a feat accomplished by No. 1 Colorado but not by runner-up No. 3 Oregon.
We pose this question considering the significant amount of preseason hype surrounding the reigning South Region champion Ole Miss Rebels. After all, Ole Miss nearly took down Arkansas a year ago and seemingly only got stronger on paper with the addition of 2014 All-American transfer MJ Erb. Potential on paper and success on the course have been two different things for the Rebels this year, as they finished a humbling 24th at the Wisconsin adidas Invitational to drop completely out of the National Coaches’ Polls.
Erb, Sean Tobin, Robert Domanic, Craig Engels, Wes Gallagher & Co. still have time to turn their season around, but not much. A win over Arkansas or a competitive showing would absolve them of their slip-ups at Wisconsin and the Greater Louisville Classic earlier this year.
Men’s Individuals to Watch
The Contenders: Austen Dalquist, Franklin Tonui & Christian Heymsfield, Arkansas; Sean Tobin & MJ Erb, Ole Miss; Antibahs Kosgei, Alabama; Cameron Villareal, Texas A&M; Jacob Thomson, Kentucky
WOMEN’S CHAMPIONSHIP 6K RACE
Women’s Team Storylines
Will Arkansas Make it Three in a Row?
The Razorbacks have scored a paltry 32 points in winning each of the past two SEC crowns for a combined 144-point margin of victory. Following a strong runner-up finish at the Wisconsin adidas Invitational in a field that featured approximately two-thirds of the country’s nationally ranked teams, Arkansas will enter once again as the favorite. Individual national title contender and two-time reigning SEC champ Dominique Scott finished third overall to lead a Razorback squad that was one of only two teams in the loaded field with two top-20 individual finishers and four top-50 finishers.
While Arkansas may very well ultimately end up hoisting the trophy for the third year in a row, don’t expect such a wide margin of victory. No. 13 Mississippi State is riding an all-time program-best wave of momentum following a fifth-place Pre-Nats finish, and the duo of Marta Fritas and Rhianwedd Price could challenge Scott up front. Defending South Region champ No. 26 Vanderbilt is also improved from a year ago, coming off an 18th-place Wisconsin finish.
Vote-receiving Alabama could also pose a threat to those top-three teams, though much depends on the health of Rachael Reddy, who had been their top runner this season before dropping out of their home Crimson Classic two weekends ago. Katelyn Greenleaf nearly won that Crimson Classic in her stead, finishing third overall.
Women’s Individuals to Watch
The Favorites: Dominique Scott, Arkansas; Marta Fritas & Rhianwedd Price, Mississippi State; Chelsea Blaase, Tennessee
The Challengers: Devin Clark, Arkansas; Karis Jochen, Texas A&M, Katelyn Greenleaf, Alabama; Mary Alex England, Ole Miss; Brenda Kigen & Veronica Eder, Auburn; Caroline Pietrzyk, Vanderbilt