WEEKEND PREVIEW: Battle In Beantown, Wolfpack Invitational & More

WEEKEND PREVIEW: Battle In Beantown, Wolfpack Invitational & More

NEW ORLEANS — If you think of the cross country season as an immersive meal at a fine dining establishment, your enjoyment of it will go up exponentially.

You can’t get to the dessert without first eating the salad. And you can’t get a taste of the entrée until you get through the appetizers (but sometimes they’re the best part).

The first few weeks of the season are like the appetizers and salad. While they’re still good, they’re not going to fill you up and make you want the rest of the meal more.

With the Roy Griak Invitational, Joe Piane Notre Dame Invitational and Wisconsin adidas Invitational fast approaching, this weekend’s slate of the Coast to Coast Battle in Beantown and the Wolfpack Invitational/adidas XC Challenge, in addition to a few others, makes it a good whetting of the taste buds.

Coast to Coast Battle in Beantown (Boston College)

Friday, September 16 | 3:30 p.m. ET

Men’s Ranked Teams: No. 6 Arkansas, No. 20 Providence
Women’s Ranked Teams: No. 3 Providence

Last year the Coast to Coast Battle in Beantown featured some star power on each side with the eventual national champion Syracuse men, led by meet champion Justyn Knight, taking on Dartmouth, Florida State and Purdue’s Matt McClintock. Then on the women’s side, Providence thumped Georgetown and Syracuse in a solid early season test.

One year later, we should see a good battle in the men’s race between sixth-ranked Arkansas and 20th-ranked Providence.

The Razorbacks will be sending an abbreviated roster headlined by NCAA steeplechase runner-up Franklin Tonui, 2015 NCAA XC All-American Jack Bruce and Austen Dalquist (89th at NCAAs).

The Friars, led by graduate student Julian Oakley, are looking to get a bad taste out of their mouths from last year after fading down the stretch and not making it to NCAAs.

Providence’s women, however, got on the podium last year (4th) and are favorites to return to it again this year. The Friars are currently ranked third by the coaches.

This weekend also gives Providence an opportunity to steal another first-place vote from either New Mexico or Colorado since the first- and second-ranked teams in the poll aren’t racing. The Friars, who own two first-place votes, have a great chance to do so as they’ll enter Sarah Collins, Bri Ilarda (debut), Katie Lembo and West Virginia transfer Amelia Paladino, among others.

Wolfpack Invitational/adidas XC Challenge (NC State)

Friday, September 16 | 5:35 p.m. ET

Men’s Ranked Teams: No. 13 Virginia, No. 27 NC State, RV Florida State
Women’s Ranked Teams: No. 5 NC State, No. 14 Virginia

Last year the Wolfpack Invitational/adidas XC Challenge featured the smashing debut of Ryen Frazier for NC State. Frazier, a freshman at the time, shattered the 5K course record with her time of 16:06.5 and crushed the field by more than 30 seconds.

This year Ryen Frazier and her sister Wesley Frazier aren’t entered, but that shouldn’t squash any excitement because cross country fans will see the first installment of the heated rivalry between the women’s teams of NC State and Virginia.

Last year the Wolfpack and Cavaliers waged a pair of epic battles in the postseason — first at the ACC Championships in Tallahassee, Florida and then on Virginia’s home course at Panorama Farms during the Southeast Region Championships.

One day before Halloween at ACCs, NC State and Virginia were tied at 30-all through three finishers. Then Sarah Astin edged Erika Kemp at the line to give the Cavaliers a one-point lead. Two runners later, Megan Rebholz gave Virginia the conference title.

Two weeks later, the Cavaliers’ depth sent them to the regional crown. Virginia put five in the top-15, compared to the Wolfpack’s three. NC State had the lead through two finishers, yet the Cavaliers pulled ahead on their way to a 53-74 win.

NC State and Virginia both entered multiple athletes from last year’s scoring lineups at NCAAs. The host Wolfpack entered four (Rachel Koon, Kaitlyn Kramer, Megan Moye and Alyssa Rudaswky) compared to three for the Cavaliers (Sarah Astin, Emily Mulhern and Megan Rebholz). This race will also mark the debut of standout transfer Beth Hawling for Virginia (21st at the 2015 European Cross Country Championships).

Of note: NC State’s Erika Kemp will race unattached. Kemp finished 57th at NCAAs last year.

In the men’s race, there could be a good battle at the front of the pack between Florida State’s Harry Mulenga, NC State’s George Parsons and Virginia’s Chase Waverling.

Mulenga earned USTFCCCA National Athlete of the Week honors two weeks ago for his winning efforts at the Covered Bridge Meet (20:04.4 over 6.4K). Parsons finished 63rd at NCAAs last year and is coming off a track season that saw him place 20th in the 10000. Waverling was 55th in Louisville, Kentucky last November to lead the Cavaliers.

Otherwise, we’ll see a grand total of seven runners from Florida State, NC State and Virginia who competed at NCAAs last year (10 if you count Mulenga, Parsons and Waverling). They are Virginia’s Brent Demarest, Thomas Madden and Zach Herriott, Florida State’s Michael Hall and Grant Nykaza as well as NC State’s Bakri Abushouk and Zack Langston.

Best of the Rest

Harvard-Yale-Princeton Tri

Saturday, September 17 | TBD

This meet has the largest concentration of ranked teams this weekend as the 22nd-ranked Princeton women go up against No. 26 Harvard and No. 29 Yale. It should be a great preview of XC HEPS on October 29, which will be hosted by Princeton.

Vanderbilt Commodore Classic

Saturday, September 17 | 10 a.m. ET

On the men’s side, you’ll see 28th-ranked Louisville, last year’s upstart in the postseason, take on this year’s potential dark horse in Middle Tennessee State. The women’s race will feature 19th-ranked Mississippi State (with the Price sisters) and 26th-ranked Vanderbilt, without the services of sophomore Caroline Pietrzyk.

Oregon Bill Dellinger Invitational

Friday, September 16 | 8:15 p.m. ET

There will be four ranked teams and one big debut tomorrow in Eugene, Oregon. The second-ranked Oregon men — led by four of its top-5 runners from NCAAs last year (minus three-time defending champion Edward Cheserek) — face No. 22 Portland. The fourth-ranked Oregon women, who are debuting Georgetown transfer Samantha Nadal, take on the 30th-ranked women from Portland.