2021 NCAA DI Women’s Cross Country National Coaches’ Poll – Preseason
NEW ORLEANS – Welcome back to (a normal) cross country season!
Here is the preseason edition of the NCAA Division I Women’s Cross Country National Coaches’ Poll for the 2021 campaign, which was released on Tuesday by the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA).
NCAA Division I — Women's Cross Country
This Week's National Top Five
Cross Country Polls & Rankings
For the first time since 2003, BYU headlines the National Coaches’ Poll at No. 1 after receiving eight of 11 possible first-place votes. NC State received two first-place votes and will enter the season ranked No. 2, followed by third-ranked Stanford (1 FPV), fourth-ranked New Mexico and fifth-ranked Michigan State.
Coming off of a dominating performance in Stillwater, Oklahoma, to capture the program’s fifth national title, the Cougars could return the majority, if not all, of its championship squad. That squad includes four All-Americans and five that finished in the top-50 – Anna Camp-Bennett (11th), Aubrey Frentheway (15th), Whittni Orton (17th), Sara Musselman (33rd) and McKenna Lee (41st). The possible return of their entire top-7 and mix of newcomers gives BYU a strong chance at defending its crown.
The Wolfpack, who finished with runner-up honors at the NCAA Championships, returns a loaded squad that includes three All-Americans in Hannah Steelman (5th), Kelsey Chmiel (9th) and Katelyn Tuohy (24th). Chmiel and Steelman not only had an excellent cross country season, but also qualified for both the NCAA Indoor and Outdoor Track & Field Championships. NC State also brought in several newcomers and transfers that are expected to bolster their lineup.
The Cardinal, which finished third at the 2020 NCAA Division I Cross Country Championships, is bringing back six runners from their championship team. Julia Heymach, who finished 13th individually for All-America honors, is their top returner. Heymach also shined on the track, as she finished sixth in the 5000 at the NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships before running 4:04.84 in the 1500 at the U.S. Olympic Team Trials – Track & Field, which sits No. 4 on the all-dates, all-time collegiate list. Stanford also added a strong freshman class to mix with its returners.
The Lobos, although finishing sixth at the 2020 NCAA Division I Cross Country Championships, is eyeing a podium finish in 2021. The Lobos return their entire squad that ran at the NCAA meet, which include All-Americans in Adva Cohen (22nd) and Gracelyn Larkin (25th). New Mexico welcomes a slew of transfers from NCAA Division I and Division II universities, including Abbe Goldstein from Harvard.
The Spartans finished fourth at the NCAA Championships for the program’s best finish since winning the team title in 2014. Five of the Spartans’ top-7 will be returning this season and will be led by All-Americans Jenna Magness and Lynsie Gram, who finished 16th and 34th, respectively. Both women also continued their success on the track as Magness finished fifth indoors and fourth outdoors in the 5000, while Gram qualified for the NCAA Outdoor Championships in the 10,000.
Here are the remainder of the top-10 teams in the preseason National Coaches’ Poll: No. 6 Arkansas, No. 7 Alabama, No. 8 Colorado, No. 9 Minnesota and No. 10 Washington. The Crimson Tide will start the season with a program-best ranking in the National Coaches’ Poll. Alabama finished eighth in the spring and welcomes back a loaded lineup that has individual champion Mercy Chelengat and third-place finisher Amaris Tyynismaa, while adding a seven-time NJCAA Champion from New Mexico JC in Flomena Asekol. The Golden Gophers will also kick off the year with their best ranking since the 2009 season and welcome back an All-American in Bethany Hasz (8th).
Mark your calendar for Saturday, November 20, as the 2021 NCAA Division I Cross Country Championships will take place at Apalachee Regional Park in Tallahassee, Florida.