Weekend Recap: Pre-National Invitational
Women’s Team Breakdown
When it came down to it, five teams had a realistic shot at being crowned the team champ at the Pre-National Invitational – No. 2 Colorado, No. 4 Oregon, No. 5 Michigan, No. 7 Georgetown and No. 9 Stanford.
But which team out of that top-10 quintet would walk out of E.P. “Tom” Sawyer Park in Louisville, Kentucky with the championship belt around its waist following the 6K race? As it turns out, the team that has run the most like a “team” this season did.
The Wolverines, led by the talented duo of Erin Finn and Shannon Osika, edged the Buffaloes 131-151. Colorado received the all-important single point from Erin Clark, but Michigan was the only team to put its entire scoring lineup inside the top-50.
This was yet another strong performance from the Wolverines, who now have won three consecutive team championships. Michigan blitzed the field at the Commodore Classic and then rode Finn and Osika to a win at the Greater Louisville Classic two weeks ago.
Scores would show that the Buffaloes were close to the Wolverines, but Colorado’s depth wasn’t showcased Saturday morning. The Buffaloes’ fourth and fifth runners (Dani Jones and Melanie Nun, respectively) finished outside the top-60.
The fourth-ranked Ducks took third place behind Michigan and Colorado. Waverly Neer paced Oregon’s efforts with a eighth-place finish and Molly Grabill was 29th.
Rounding out the top-5 was the ninth-ranked Cardinal and in an upset, Mississippi State. Stanford ran without 2014 All-American Elise Cranny and Washington Invitational champion Aisling Cuffe. The Bulldogs, who received votes in the latest poll, had Marta Freitas and Rhianwedd Price both in the top-15.
Utah, another team that received votes in the latest poll, took sixth.
The seventh-ranked Hoyas ran the most complete lineup it had all season long and finished seventh with 381 points.
No. 27 Texas and No. 29 Cornell were two more ranked teams in the field and they struggled. The Big Red was 22nd behind two other Ivy League teams (Yale and Brown), while the Longhorns finished way back in 40th with 881 points.
Women’s Individual Breakdown
Pack running was the name of the game in the women’s seeded race.
At the 3K mark, 13 runners were within two seconds of each other. Included in that pack were athletes from 10 different teams as Mississippi State and Oregon were the only two programs with multiple runners in the mix.
Soon after, three of those runners – Colorado’s Erin Clark, Air Force’s Hannah Everson and Tennessee’s Chelsea Blaase – pushed the tempo. The rest of the pack, which included Michigan’s Erin Finn as well as Oregon’s Alli Cash and Waverly Neer, fell off the quickening pace.
Blaase, Clark and Everson traded the lead several times over the final 1K, but eventually Clark pulled away for the win in 20:00.5. This was Clark’s second consecutive individual title, as she also claimed the crown at the Rocky Mountain Shootout two weeks ago.
Everson, who ran the most consistent splits of the morning (9:59.3/10:01.9), finished second in 20:01.2. Blaase, competing as an individual, was third in 20:02.6.
Kansas’ Sharon Lokedi made a name for herself on the national stage with a fourth-place finish in 20:08.3.
It should be noted that Utah was the only team to put two runners in the top-10. They were Hannah McInturff (fifth, 20:09.0) and Sarah Feeny (ninth, 20:12.1).
Finn and Neer, who were both in the lead pack at 3K, faded to sixth and eighth. Brown’s Natalie Schudrowitz finished seventh and Stony Brook’s Christina Melian, also competing as an individual, took 10th overall.
Men’s Team Breakdown
As was widely expected, No. 1 Colorado – the two-time defending national champions – had no trouble dispatching the Pre-National Invitational field, winning 89-151 over No. 3 Oregon.
But, unexpectedly, the Buffaloes didn’t front-run as dominantly as they did a year ago. CU posted a lithe 35 points last year behind four top-10 finishers, while today – in an admittedly slightly deeper field with 17 teams in the national top 30 or receiving votes – only fifth-place Pierce Murphy and ninth-place Connor Winter reached that standard.
All-Americans Ammar Moussa and Morgan Pearson weren’t far behind in 14th and 15th, but fifth man John Dressel – a frosh running his first race in a Colorado singlet – was 46th. Notable in his absence was two-time top-10 NCAA finisher Ben Saarel, who was fourth in this race a year ago and ran unattached at the Rocky Mountain Shootout earlier this month.
This result, combined with No. 2 Syracuse’s excellent showing at Wisconsin adidas yesterday and a cavalcade of All-Americans at No. 4 Stanford potentially waiting in the wings, shows that Colorado may not be as invulnerable as this time a year ago.
Granted, this time of year isn’t what ultimately counts.
No. 3 Oregon got a rare runner-up finish from two-time defending national champion Edward Cheserek (Thomas Curtin of Virginia Tech held on wire-to-wire after jumping out to a significant early lead, while Ches was content to stick with the main pack), along with top-30 finishes from Jake Leingang (24th) and Travis Neuman (29th). Frosh Tanner Anderson wasn’t much farther behind in 40th, and Matthew Melancon rounded out the scorers in 56th. Oregon did not run with frosh Matthew Maton or Jeramy Elkaim.
The only top-six team without a finisher among the first 20 individuals across the line was third-place Arkansas. The No. 13 Razorbacks scored 164 behind 21st-place Austen Dahlquist and a pack of five top-50 runners, including 26th-place Frankline Tonui and 28th-place Christian Heymsfield. Colorado was the only other team in the field with as many.
Arkansas broke a National Coaches’ Poll tie at No. 13 on the course with UTEP, as the Miners were fourth with 197 points. Anthony Rotich and Jonah Koech were exceptional in third and fourth, respectively, while Cosmas Boit was 37th. Only Colorado had a better team score through three runners. However, the Miners remaining two scorers were 57th and 96th.
Though Jonathan Green came through with a sixth-place overall finish, his No. 10 Georgetown Hoyas didn’t live up to their rank and finished fifth with 214 points. Close behind was vote-receiving Virginia Tech with 223, led by the winner Curtin.
No. 22 California was seventh with 300 after a disappointing 42nd-place finish from All-American Chris Walden, while No. 29 Air Force was eighth with 318.
No. 23 Colorado State was ninth at 351, unranked UC Santa Barbara was 10th with 374, No. 17 Louisville had a poor showing on its home course to finish 11th with 401 points, and No. 25 Southern Utah was 12th with 428.
More nationally ranked results:
- Eastern Michigan (RV), 15th
- No. 30 Texas, 16th
- Purdue (RV), 20th
- Georgia (RV), 35th
- North Texas (RV), 38th
Men’s Individual Breakdown
Two weeks ago at the Princeton Inter-Regional Meet, Thomas Curtin of Virginia Tech sat back as Shaun Thompson of Duke took an early commanding lead that he would never relinquish, while Curtin wound up as the runner-up.
It’s was Curtin’s turn to front run on Saturday.
Curtin and Thompson both took the race out early on the 8K course, but it was Curtin who would never look back. After leading by more than 10 seconds over the chase pack at points during the race, Curtin crossed the line in 23:18.2 – just shy of five seconds ahead of a hard-charging Edward Cheserek of Oregon (23:22.8).
The two-time defending champ made up considerable ground on Curtin in the closing stages of the race, bringing along with him the UTEP duo of Anthony Rotich and Jonah Koech in third (23:23.5) and fourth (23:24.3), and Colorado’s top guy in Pierce Murphy (23:24.4).
Cheserek turned the jets on late in the race – reminiscent of his winning kick at last year’s NCAA Championships a year ago, albeit in a two-kilometer-shorter race – likely in preparation for a similar strategy on this same course in just over a month’s time.
Jonathan Green of Georgetown and Thompson of Duke came across next in sixth and seventh. Former National Athlete of the Week Erik Peterson of Butler was eighth, Connor Winter of Colorado was ninth, and Amon Terer of Campbell rounded out the top 10.
All-Americans and top contenders who got caught up in the big pack and were unable to respond to the big move late: Edwin Kibichiy of Louisville (13th), Ammar Moussa of Colorado (14th), Morgan Pearson of Colorado (15th), Jefferson Abbey and Jerrell Mock of Colorado State (16th and 17th), Lawrence Kipkoech of Campbell (18th), Japhet Kipkoech of Louisville (23rd), Matt McClintock of Purdue (27th), John Mascari of Indiana State (30th), Chris Walden of Cal (42nd), Ernest Kibet of Louisville (43rd), and Kevin Dooney of Yale (54th).