DI Mid-Atlantic Region Preview
NEW ORLEANS – Over the years the Mid-Atlantic Region has given us some memorable races.
This year promises to be no different as ranked teams pack each race.
Princeton hosts this year’s meet, which is set to begin on Friday at 12 p.m. EDT with the women’s race, followed an hour later by the men’s 10K.
Princeton, New Jersey should be renamed Parity City come Friday.
All four of the ranked teams in the field – No. 10 Penn State, No. 14 Georgetown, No. 23 Princeton and No. 26 Villanova – have legitimate shots at winning the team title.
Over the past three years, there hasn’t been a back-to-back winner in the Mid-Atlantic. The Nittany Lions won in 2012. The Wildcats captured their fourth title in the past five years in 2013. And then the Hoyas edged West Virginia for the crown last year.
According to the latest National Coaches’ Poll, Penn State is the favorite to bring another title back to Happy Valley and with how the Nittany Lions are peaking at the right time, that’s not a far-fetched assumption. Two weeks ago Penn State upset then-second-ranked Michigan at the Big Ten Championships and put four runners inside the top-12 in the process. That came on the heels of a 10th-place finish at the deep Wisconsin adidas Invitational in October.
Georgetown can breathe easier it doesn’t need to contend with Providence – at least for this week. The Hoyas put three runners in the top-10 at the BIG EAST Championships, but that wasn’t enough to take down the Friars. Georgetown ran its most complete team to date and looked strong, using a spread of less than one minute in Cincinnati, Ohio. An even tighter pack would do wonders for the Hoyas’ chances at a repeat here.
Princeton enters the meet fresh off a win at the Ivy League Heptagonal Championships. The Tigers were a distant third last year, but will be buoyed by what should be a top-10 finish by Ivy League champion Elizabeth Bird.
The stars need to align for Villanova to walk away with the title, yet it would be far-sighted to count a team of that caliber out. The Wildcats were third at the BIG EAST Championships and fourth last year at this meet.
Pick a runner, any runner.
This isn’t a magic trick.
The race is just that wide-open.
However, here are three runners who should have their say if they all run up to their potential – Georgetown’s Andrea Keklak, Penn State’s Tori Gerlach and Princeton’s Elizabeth Bird. Don’t ask us what order they’ll finish in, though.
If this year’s regular-season 8K results translate through to this weekend’s 10K race in the Mid-Atlantic Region, this one should be very interesting.
No. 15 Georgetown, led by Jonathan Green, is the top-ranked team in the field entering these championships – but not by much. The Hoyas emerged victorious in the Big EAST Championships two weekends ago by the smallest of margins – only one point separated them from No. 22 Villanova, 33-34.
In addition to an early-October win over the Wildcats at the Paul Short Run, the Hoyas will look to make it three victories over Nova this weekend as they seek their first region crown since 2012.
Villanova will try to shore up the depth problems that have plagued them all season long. Few teams in the country can match Nova’s front three of Patrick Tiernan, Jordy Williamsz and Rob Denault, but Nova’s No. 4 and No. 5 runners have kept these Wildcats tamed throughout the 2015 season.
The Wildcats need to be careful in Princeton this weekend. Having elected to race against very few projected NCAA Championships-qualifying teams in 2015, the Wildcats would likely not have the resume needed to earn an at-large berth to Louisville for NCAAs if they finish outside the top-two automatic qualifying slots.
One of the ranked teams Villanova did race but fell to this year was No. 23 Penn at the Princeton Invitational. The Quakers were able to get six men across the finish line before the Wildcats’ No. 4 man. Led by All-American Tommy Awad, Penn is looking to make its first NCAA Championships appearance since 1975.
After crushing the field at the Big EAST Championships and winning every race he’s entered this year, Tiernan of Villanova is the man to beat in 2015. He claimed the title in 2013 but finished runner-up to Matthew Fischer of Penn State a year ago. The three-time Big EAST Champ and 2014 All-American will look to reclaim that title this year.
He’ll be joined at the front, as usual, by teammates Williamsz and Denault.
Georgetown’s Green will put up a fight after finishing runner-up to Tiernan in the Big EAST, sixth at Pre-Nationals, and third at the Paul Short Run.
Penn’s Awad was third in this meet a year ago and is coming off a win in the Ivy League.
Keep an eye on Omar Hassan of UMBC, the American East Champ who was fourth at Princeton behind Nova’s top three and ahead of Awad. Navy could also provide an individual dark horse in Lucas Stalnaker and/or Stephen Schroeder.