MEET PREVIEW: Panorama Farms Invitational

MEET PREVIEW: Panorama Farms Invitational

NEW ORLEANS — Business is picking up in NCAA Division I Cross Country and this weekend’s schedule proves just that.

Two big meets are on the docket as multiple ranked teams take to the course at the Panorama Farms Invitational hosted by Virginia in Earlysville, Virginia and Minnesota’s illustrious Roy Griak Invitational in Falcon Heights, Minnesota.

QUICK LINKS: This Weekend’s Schedule | Panorama Farms Entries | Roy Griak Information

We’ll bring the action from both meets to your computer, tables and/or phones LIVE beginning tomorrow afternoon on the debut of the National Results Wall, presented by the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA). That can be found by visiting USTFCCCA.org.

This post, however, will serve as your all-encompassing preview for the Panorama Farms Invitational, which is set to begin Friday, September 23 at 10 a.m. with the women’s race, followed 30 minutes later by the men’s.

Let’s get started with the men’s race since it has the potential to break the polls.

Men’s Race: Big Dogs Come Out To Run

Ranked Teams: #1 Syracuse, #4 Stanford, #11 Virginia, #12 BYU, RV Princeton

If the entry list reflects exactly who will toe the starting line come Friday at 10:30 a.m., cross country fans are in for a treat.

Top-ranked and defending national champion Syracuse goes head-to-head against fourth-ranked Stanford, 11th-ranked Virginia, 12th-ranked BYU and Princeton, a team that fell just outside the poll this week.

The Orange are expected to be out in full force this weekend as Colin Bennie and Justyn Knight should make their debuts. Bennie and Knight, both juniors, had breakout 2015 XC seasons as they finished 8th and 4th at NCAAs, respectively, to lead Syracuse to its first NCAA title since 1951. Those frontrunners should add to an already stacked lineup featuring Lamar transfer Iliass Aouani, Philo Germano, Joel Hubbard, Adam Palamar and Virginia transfer Adam Visokay, which rolled to the team title at the Harry Groves Spiked Shoe Invitational earlier this season.

Many pundits, including FloTrack, see the Cardinal as a major threat to an Orange repeat. Stanford is ranked No. 1 by FloTrack and has a dynamic one-two punch in the guise of Grant Fisher and Sean McGorty. Last year at NCAAs, McGorty finished 7th and Fisher took 17th in his 10K debut. Fisher and McGorty should be joined in Virginia by Garrett Sweatt (64th at NCAAs last year) and Sam Wharton, an XC All-American from 2014 (39th place), among others.

The host Cavaliers won’t have Henry Wynne, who has yet to debut after a long track season, but could run out most of its lineup on its home course. Fans could very well see four of the seven runners Virginia trotted out at NCAAs last year: Chase Weaverling (55th), Thomas Madden, Brent Demarest and Zack Herriott.

Dylan Farnsworth is the Cougar to watch in Friday’s race (74th at NCAAs last year as a freshman), while the Tigers bring a roster that won last weekend’s Harvard-Yale-Princeton tri by a comfortable margin.

Another name to look out for individually is that of Campbell’s Lawrence Kipkoech, the reigning NCAA DI National Athlete of the Week. Kipkoech is coming off a big win at the Wolfpack Invitational over Florida State’s Harry Mulenga and will be looking to make it two in a row to continue building off a strong track season where he was a double qualifier in the 5000/10000.

With all of these big names, it could make for a fast race up front. But most of the focus should be on the team race.

If Syracuse captures the team crown, it further cements its spot atop the poll as the undisputed No. 1. Should Stanford have its day, there could be a seismic shift in the poll come Tuesday when its announced LIVE on "Cross Country U."

Women’s Race: Chances For Individuals, Teams To Impress

Ranked Teams: #14 Virginia, #16 Syracuse, #19 BYU, RV William & Mary, RV Princeton

If you look at the latest USTFCCCA Regional Rankings, two of the five women’s teams that will be at Friday’s meet own top-2 spots in their respective regions, which is key come championship season. If NCAAs was tomorrow, 14th-ranked Virginia and 16th-ranked Syracuse would have their tickets punched to Terre Haute, Indiana.

Conversely, teams like 19th-ranked BYU (third in the Mountain Region), Princeton (fifth in the Mid-Atlantic) and William & Mary (third in the Southeast) still have work to do and must beat quality opponents to earn at-large bids.

Thus, this weekend is critical to each of those five teams entered, no matter their current positioning.

Keep an eye on the individual race, too, as it should be a battle between Coastal Carolina’s Annie Bothma and William & Mary’s Regan Rome. On this weekend last year, Bothma had a breakout race at the Roy Griak Invitational (3rd) and will look to use the Panorama Farms Invitational this year as a springboard with hopes of staying healthy. Rome finished 25th at NCAAs last year and most recently placed 7th in the 5000 on the track this past June at NCAAs.