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LetsRun.com: The Week That Was In Running: November 16 - November 22, 2009
November 26, 2009 - Last week, the world of US distance running was dominated by one thing: NCAA cross-country. We break it all down for you and tell you who flopped (a ton of teams/individuals), who excelled (very few), and what to expect in 2010. Along the way, we talk about mid-d runners Andrew Wheating and Dorian Ulrey, give major props to Gina Procaccio and to the one team that seemingly did well on Monday (Villanova) and tell you why close to 75% of women All-Americans and 60% of men All-Americans had better start getting nervous.
What to make of the NCAA meet?
#1 Stanford finished 10th. Based on their on-paper strength versus a few other teams, there was really no reason why the Cardinal should have been in the title hunt in 2009, but given how well they had actually performed in 2009, there is no reason why they should have finished 10th.
#4 Portland finished 13th on the men's side. In hindsight, Portland should have never been ranked in the top 4, as - after their fourth man - they were bad ... really bad for a potential top 4 team. At the West Regional, Portland's fifth guy was only 40th.
We're not sure what happened at NCAAs, but we were watching the race with a coach of a top 20 program and at 4k, he said "My god, look how bad Portland is." I said what do you mean. He said, "They're holding down three of the bottom 10 spots."
We thought for sure he was mistaken, but he was basically correct. The stats reveal that at 3k, Portland's 5th runner was out in 9:10, which was 13th to last ... and he had 2 teammates behind him.
5th-ranked BYU was only 17th. 14th-ranked Georgetown was only 22nd.
And it's not like the Oklahoma State Cowboys were all that amazing. We're sure that in Stillwater they are very happy to have won the their first national title since 1954, but in reality (especially given Stanford's meltdown), the meet shouldn't have been close.
In our preview, we talked about how loaded OSU was on paper in 2009 and the fact that it was a debate as to who would win was surprising. We also said that if Oregon somehow won, they should put up a bronze statue of Vin Lananna in Terre Haute. Well, sculptors across America were getting excited midway through the race, as Oregon almost pulled off a monumental upset.
The Cowboys' top 4 all ran well as Ryan Vail, Colby Lowe, John Kosgei and Girma Mecheso were all in the top 25 in the team scoring. But how in God's name was German Fernandez 97th? We know he's had injury problems and Dave Smith can talk about how he sacrificed for the team, but a 13:25 guy who was in the top 4 at Big 12s should never been outside the top 50. He simply laid a goose egg out there.
Nothing to be totally ashamed about, as other great runners have done it before (including Bekele at World Cross, Solinsky at NCAAs in 2006 and Barringer at NCAAs this year on the women's side), but there is no denying that German simply didn't show up on Monday.
At Big 12s, Fernandez was 11 seconds ahead of Colorado's #1. Well, at NCAAs, CU's #1 was 44th. If Fernandez was just 11 second ahead of him, he'd have been 28th or 29th. Instead, he was 29 seconds behind.
To German's credit - and for this he deserves a major Thumbs Up - he never packed it in and passed a ton of people in the final 2k to help OSU win.
The Cowboys won because they got the transfer Mecheso from Auburn and they got a 6th year in Vail and because Colby Lowe improved a ton - from 80th last year to 10th this year.
Contrary To What Anyone Said, OSU Was The Favorite
Our pre-race analysis went to great lengths to say how good OSU was. OSU was the favorite on paper even though hardly anyone realized it. We said, "OSU should win but we always love to pick the underdog and that's Stanford in our book."
The LetsRun.com visitors picked Stanford to win in the NCAA polls. Stanford got more than 50% more first place votes than Oklahoma State. However, an interesting thing emerges when you look at the LetsRun.com NCAA Individual predictions. Oklahoma State, not Stanford, was the huge, huge favorite.
It's not an exact science, as voters could only vote for their top 10 individuals, but from those votes we can assign points and a predicted order of finish. What did we see? Oklahoma State was who should have won when you added up the predicted finish of their individuals.
Stanford's top 5 were predicted to finish: 2, 6, 26, 31, 35 = 100 points
OSU's top 5 were predicted to finish: 3, 5, 10, 16, 21, 30 = 55
OSU had 5 guys people were predicting to finish in the top 25. Stanford only 2.
Attention Versus TV And Larry Rawson: Samuel Chelanga Was The Favorite
Despite what was said on the TV broadcast, LetsRun.com visitors and our own NCAA preview confirm that Samuel Chelanga was the favorite. The announcers acted like Chris Derrick losing was a huge, huge upset. Nothing could be further from the truth. The LetsRun.com polls showed Chelanga was the favorite to win (more picked Chelanga to win than Derrick even though Derrick was the #1 pick overall).
How much is it to ask to get the TV announcers to come on LetsRun.com and educate themselves before the meet?
Our preview was right on the money when it said that a 24-year-old Kenyan who has run 27:28 shouldn't lose to 19-year-old American who has run 13:29. Chelanga is more than 4.5 years older than Derrick and significantly more accomplished on the track. On paper, the race shouldn't even be close and in actuality, it wasn't.
We talked a little bit after the meet with 2007 winner Josh McDougal and found the conversation to be fascinating. We hope to formally interview him in the near future, but he said he knew Chelanga would win - the only question was would he get the 30-plus second victory that he wanted. Chelanga did get an amazing 38-second lead at 8k but ultimately "only" a 24.8-second victory.
Talks of a 30+ second victory may seem a bit brash, but in reality, it's not brash at all. David McNeill, the runner-up, has a 10k PR of 28:03, which is 35 seconds slower than Chelanga's. Chelanga, we hope you are happy - you got the course record and can get your 30-second vicotry next year.
So who did well?
The only team that really seemingly wanted to win the meet and executed their plan to do that was a team that had underachieved all year - Oregon. The two-time defending champs were great and came within 16 points of winning it all.
Of course, Oregon did return four from the top 66 last year; plus, they also ran Daniel Mercado, who was 41st in 2007. So they were only great in the sense that they had been underachieving up until this point.
4th placer NAU only came in ranked #13, so they deserve some praise. And while Martin Smith certainly wasn't the right man for Oregon, he certainly is a fine college coach. His OU Sooners deserve praise for being the Most Improved Team In The Country, as they went from dead last (12th) in the Big 12 last year to 12th in the country.
So who has the inside track for the 2009 title? Two teams really. 4th placer NAU returns two from the top 10 and had no seniors in their top 6 at NCAAs. 2nd placer Oregon only had one senior in their top 5 and one would expect them to add Andrew Wheating next year.
Speaking of Wheating, it's reaonable to ask, "Would the Ducks have won 3 straight NCAA titles had he not been redshirted this year?" The answer might be yes. If Wheating finishes 34th in the team scoring, the Ducks would be the team champs. Is Wheating as good as Syracuse's Tito Medrano (who was 34th in the team scoring)? Possibly.
Look for Colorado to get back on the podium next year as well, as the 6th placers had zero seniors in their top 6. Of course, it won't be easy to be in the top 4 as four top-10 teams this year had zero senior scorers: #4 NAU, #6 Colorado, #8 Iona, and #10 Stanford.
LRC Top 5 For 2010 - #1 Oregon, #2 NAU (If they get a ringer in, they might be hard to beat, as they have a great top 2), #3 Stanford (Derrick & Heath are a great top 2), #4 Colorado (nice pack but need some frontrunners), #5 Wisconsin/Iona. Oh wait, we forgot OSU. As a result, maybe we should do it mathematically.
Looking at the top 4 returners from the top 10 teams this year in the team scoring and it's:
1. NAU 115
2. Oregon 118
3. Stanford 178
4. Iona 206
5. Colorado 211
6. OSU 232 (subtract at least 60 for where German should have been)
7. Wisconsin 279
Speaking of seniors in the top 5, the only team that will be wiped out from graduation was 8th-place New Mexico, which loses its entire top 5.
After last year's NCAA meet, we marveled at how good the high school class of 2008 was on the boys' side, as both Derrick and Puskedra were top 10 as true frosh and Fernandez likely should have been.
Well, while the class of 2008 was viewed as one of the all-time greats, the class of 2009 was clearly viewed as vastly inferior by college coaches last fall. And it showed in 2009, as the top American-born frosh was Portland's Trevor Dunbar, who was 76th.
Looking for the Big Surprise of 2009? Look no further than Arkansas miler Dorian Ulrey, who was 6th. The World Championships (1,500m) team member is turning into a monster. This was his first NCAA meet and he quipped afterwards, "Today was a great way to start my NCAA cross-country career."
His team didn't fare as well, as - despite the fact that they had two in the top 41 in the team scoring - they were only 26th. Arkansas was one of 3 teams that put two in the top 41 but didn't finish in the top 20, which is hard to do as 482 will get you 20th. The others? Auburn and Georgetown.
In terms of the women's race, #2 Villanova stepped up and dominated. Of all the teams at NCAAs, the Wildcats were the one that really had the best meet.
It may come as a surprise that last year's champs in #1 Washington were a well-beaten third. But in hindsight, it's not like the Huskies had an awful meet. Looking at the difference between their title team last year and this year, the Huskies did fine, as two returners moved up in the standings:
Follett 26st to 21st
Schaaf 12th to 2nd
... and two moved down:
Babcock 7th to 34th
Lawrence 25th to 31st.
So those four scored 70 last year and 88 this year. A little bit worse but honestly not that much worse. 50% improvement and deprovement may seem bad to a novice, but later on we'll show you that in reality only 26.1% of female All-Americans improve from one year to the next.
The reason why they didn't win was because they didn't have a solid 5th. Departed seniors Amanda Miller (34th last year) or Anita Campbell (51st) were missed, as the only other returner from last year's championship team in junior Lauren Saylor (who was 41st last year) struggled in 2009, as she was only 25th at PAC-10s and didn't run at NCAAs.
UW was amazing in 2008 and even if they were equally as amazing in 2009, they might not have won. If the Huskies returners, including Saylor, had all matched their places from 2008 they would have scored 85 points. Villanova won with 86.
In terms of teams that had good days, #8 FSU was 2nd, #9 Texas Tech was 4th (and if they'd had Sally Kipyego back, they would have been #2), #14 Duke was 8th and #21 Providence was 11th.
Teams that did poorly included #4 Oregon, which was 9th, #10 Stanford (16th), and #6 Colorado (20th). Even if Barringer had won, CU would have only been 11th.
And the mention of Colorado brings us to the story of the day - the meltdown of NCAA favorite Jenny Barringer of Colorado. The sub-4 1,500 runner came back this fall to try to win the one crown she coveted most - the NCAA XC individual title.
In hindsight, she wanted it too much, as she and Florida State's Susan Kuijken engaged in basically what ended up being a suicidal battle. So focused on each other, they ended up running each other into the ground. Barringer, stunned to not be in the lead, had what in our minds had to be a panic attack and ended up 163rd. Kuijken didn't totally crater, but her 13-second lead at 4k ended up being an 11-second defeat at 6k.
A total shocker. Barringer was the pick of 97.9% of all those participating in the LRC prediction contest.
A few comments: Barringer deserves praise for getting up after falling and finishing the race. She suffered the ultimate nightmare out there.
And the whole thing in some ways is sickly refreshing, as it shows that there is a reason why they hold the race. To determine the winner. All of the greats are beatable. Whether it's Kenenisa Bekele dropping out of World Cross in 2007, Chris Solinsky finishing 73rd at NCAAs in 2006, or Barringer finishing 163rd, awful, awful days are a possibility for everyone who laces it up and you never know what will happen.
While we're on Colorado, a major thumbs up to Colorado freshman Allie McLaughlin. She not only was the first finisher for the Buffs, she was fifth overall. Very impressive. Hard to believe CU, despite doing so well at Pre-NCAAs, would have only been 11th even if Barringer had won the meet and McLaughin was still 5th.
While fifth place for a freshman is amazing, a message boarder started an interesting thread: Have only 3 freshmen women EVER finished in the top 5 (3 counting Allie McLaughlin)? We find the stat hard to believe, especially considering the stereotype of female runners who are studs at an early age (usually high school). But going back through the most recent results,you see very few freshman in the top 5. Mark Wetmore looks to have another great one on his hands just in time with Barringer's departure.
Which brings us to our Stat Of The Week as well as our Free Coaching Tip. At first glance, one might be shocked looking at NCAA results to see how many people did worse in 2009 than they did in 2008. But in reality, that is the case every year.
Many coaches and runners fail to realize that when people do great things, a lot of things really went right to make that happen and that the next year things may not be so rosy.
Which brings us to our CONGRATULATIONS OF THE YEAR TO THE VILLANOVA WOMEN. They were simply sensational all season long and on Monday as well. And the reason why they won is because nearly all of the women were vastly improved in 2009 from past seasons. The 'Nova women had 4 women who competed in 2009 that also ran at NCAAs in 2008. Three of them were much improved and one of them was roughly the same.
#1 Amanda Morino - 35th last year, 6th this year.
#3 Bogdana Mimic - 67th last year, 22nd this year.
#4 Alison Smith - 220th last year, 24th this year.
#7 Kaitlyn Tallman - 92nd last year, 98th this year.
Additionally, 'Nova ran two other women who didn't compete at NCAAs last year but who had competed in the past and were way, way better this year than in the past.
Much Improved As Well
#2 Sheila Reid - Redshirted last year but was 178th in 2007, 13th this year
#5 Nicole Shappert - 90th in 2007 for Wake, 30th this year.
So of the six returnees, 5 were way better than in years past and one was a little worse but basically the same. Very good coaching by Gina Procaccio and as a result they are the champs.
We'll see if it was a fluke or not as next year, the Wildcats should repeat. They only lose 1 from the their top 5 and that was their 5th in Schappert. Runner-up FSU and #3 Washington only lose one scoring member as well, but FSU loses its #2 and Washington its #2.
Favorites struggled at the D2 and D3 meets as well.
At the D3 meet, pre-race heavy favorite Peter Kosgei totally bonked in the last 500 to finish 43rd as he struggled with the flu. North Central won its 13th NCAA D3 title and its winning margin of 131 points was the largest in D3 history. In the D2 women's meet, Neely Spence totally bonked as well and finished 43rd herself, as Jessica Pixler became the first D2 athlete to be a 3-time champ.
Quote Of The Week #2
Quote Of The Week #3
Other News From Last Week
Recommended Reads/Watches From Last Week
*HS Junior Joe Rosa Runs 14:56 At Holmdel |
Remembering The Last Week With The Quotes of the Day - Day-By-Day:
race is an ending point for a journey that's probably been longer than
any other one I've taken - four and a half years. When I came to CU, I
didn't tell Mark, 'I want to be an Olympian, I want to break a 4-minute
mile, I want to hold several collegiate records.'
I told him, 'I want to win a cross-country national championship.' I
think there's some irony, maybe some fate, in the fact that I'm going
to achieve what I came to do on my last race at CU. That's what I'm
going in trying to do."
in this world is perfect. Running round a small loop is boring, but for
me the advantages outweigh this and other disadvantages."
Tuesday: "Anybody who
watched her race as an age-graded athlete or freshman versus her junior
and senior year can see what a different athlete she was. I could have
just stayed with the 'blast from the gun, catch me if you can' style
throughout high school and she might have even had more high school
success. But we know, that kind of style won't work at the next level.
I wanted her to understand the sport. I wanted to do what I could to
help her have success at the next level. I didn't believe that
necessarily meant running her mile repeats faster, running higher
mileage or setting more records."