2012 NCAA Regional Formchart – Mountain Region

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by John Kellogg
November 7, 2012

Editor’s Note: LetsRun.com’s coaching/stat guru John Kellogg has done what basically no one else in the world would have the expertise/patience to do – predict what is going to happen at Friday’s NCAA D1 cross-country regionals. The top two teams in each region and top four individuals not on a team that qualifies will make it to NCAAs. Then 13 at large teams will be added in and two at large individuals.

Message board poster “devils advocate” has run the numbers for the qualifiers on the men’s side who appear below and here.

We imagine even the great John Kellogg is bound to have missed someone in these predictions, so if you have corrections, please email them to us.

Mr. Kellogg seemingly comes out of hibernation every few months to make predictions in the running world. He did Regional previews in 2011 and 2008 and in the spring of 2011, he said it wouldn’t surprise him if someone ran faster than 2:03:59 in Boston and then Geoffrey Mutai ran 2:03:02 and after the race everyone (except us) was saying the unthinkable had happened.

Mr. Kellogg has scoured the season’s results – with the most weight given to recent (conference meet) performances – to take a guess at who should be the top 25 individuals and few teams in each of the nine regions. A lot of runners were considered for the top 25 and he’ll undoubtedly get quite a few wrong – someone just outside his top 25 has just as good a chance as someone who just made it – and there are always a couple of huge surprises. Team scores are generally based on the strengths of the top teams relative to each other (discounting many of the runners outside the top 25 or so from non-contending teams) and will probably end up being higher than he’s listed them due to displacement from those individuals. In short, this is a pretty good general idea of who should be in the hunt, but it’s still bound to get a bunch of it completely wrong. So basically this is all for S&Gs. We hope you enjoy them. For more on the logic behind the picks, please see last year’s instructions.

Give Us Your Own Predictions in the LetsRun.com NCAA Fan Polls.

Mountain

Collindale Golf Course, Fort Collins, Colorado

Men

Individuals

John Kellogg

John Kellogg (r) enjoys the 2008 Heps XC meet with his former prized pupil, the 28:06 performer Wejo (dressed as the BK man)

Texas Tech’s Kennedy Kithuka has been the most exciting runner in the NCAA so far this season. Coming to Lubbock via Wayland Baptist University in nearby Plainview, Kithuka was already a great runner as a many-time NAIA champion (some of his wins by whopping margins). With track PRs of 13:28.61 and 28:18.97, he was already fast enough to – and occasionally did – beat plenty of NCAA Division 1 All-Americans. But few aficionados could have imagined he would be a threat to Lawi Lalang and Stephen Sambu for the Division 1 cross-country title this season. Lalang, after all, is the defending XC champ and multiple track champ who ran a faster 5,000m (13:08.28) last year than the great Henry Rono ever ran as a collegian. Sambu has been a scant few seconds behind his Arizona teammate Lalang in 2nd in the biggest meets all season, is an NCAA 10k runner-up and boasts PRs of 13:13.74 and 27:28.64. As good as Kithuka was at Wayland Baptist, these guys were in another league altogether.

It doesn’t look that way anymore. Kithuka has dominated some of the best runners in D-1 this season by such large distances that a looming showdown with Arizona’s two superstuds is generating excitement throughout the college running scene in anticipation of finding out how good this guy really is and what will happen if he’s challenged. Kithuka’s solo romps this year include a 22:27 8k win by 45 seconds over eventual Big Ten champ Zachary Mayhew at Rim Rock, a 28:53 10k at Chile Pepper to whallop seven-time All-American Girma Mecheso by 1:21 (granted, Mecheso and his Oklahoma State teammates were clearly pack running, but to stomp the number one team in the country by that much is eye-popping in any scenario), and a 22:53 8k at Big 12 to paddle Mecheso by 1:05, also finishing at least a quarter of a mile ahead of the other top runners from OSU, Texas and Oklahoma, all currently ranked in the nation’s top 8 teams. Texas Tech will be going almost 1,800 feet up in altitude for this meet, but that shouldn’t be significant enough to negatively affect Kithuka’s aggressive running.

Oh yeah, there are other runners in this region – and at least a few of them should end up as All-Americans. UTEP freshman Anthony Rotich was victorious at Pre-Nationals and then beat Notre Dame Invitational winner Chris O’Hare by 31 seconds at Conference USA. Rotich has probably been the 4th best runner in the country when at his best this season, but a long way from Kithuka it seems. Jared Ward (BYU) and Brian Shrader (NAU – transfer from Oregon) are both 2012 conference champions. Ward was 9th in this region a year ago and 58th at NCAAs, but teammate Rex Shields, who hasn’t run since the opening meet, is reputedly ready to go and could be a bigger factor if healthy, especially in the team race. Shields was 8th in the region last year and went on to a 22nd place finish at NCAAs. As usual, 2nd-ranked Colorado has a very powerful pack presence without a definitive standout yet, but North Carolina transfer Jake Hurysz produced their best individual result of the invitational part of the season with a 4th place at Pre-Nats, four spots ahead of Ward. Many of the good individuals not on top teams or in small conferences haven’t shown their cards until their conference meets and, being spread out among several conferences, it’s tough to draw a bead on how they will stack up in the Regional.

Kennedy Kithuka (Texas Tech)*
Anthony Rotich (UTEP)*
Jake Hurysz (Colorado)
Jared Ward (BYU)
Blake Theroux (Colorado)
Hugh Dowdy (Colorado)
Rex Shields (BYU)
Brian Shrader (NAU)
Futsum Zeinasellassie (NAU)
Tylor Thatcher (BYU)

Nate Jewkes (Southern Utah)*
Aric Van Halen (Colorado)
Jason Witt (BYU)
Luke Caldwell (New Mexico)
Ezekiel Kissorio (Texas Tech)*
Martin Medina (Colorado)
Elmar Engholm (New Mexico)
Matt McElroy (NAU)
John Coyle (Weber State)
Elphas Maiyo (UTEP)

Pat Zacharias (New Mexico)
Pierce Murphy (Colorado)
Ryan Barrus (Southern Utah)
Adam Bitchell (New Mexico)
Sean Stam (New Mexico)

Teams

Colorado is operating with smart pacing and tight pack running as the well-disciplined Buffaloes normally do, most recently winning a second PAC-12 team title in as many years by putting 7 in the top 18 to defeat a very strong (and 3rd-ranked) Stanford squad with a little wiggle room. The Buffs also defeated Mountain region rival BYU 72-127 at Pre-Nationals a few weeks back. BYU, meanwhile, lost a squeaker to Portland at the West Coast Conference meet in a mild upset. The Cougars might also face a real challenge from New Mexico here if Rex Shields isn’t quite up to form. The Lobos seem to have had a better result from their 4th and 5th men at the Mountain West meet than BYU had at WCC. They also beat Portland at Wisconsin. NAU took the top three places at Big Sky and could stay reasonably close to a Shields-less BYU squad through three runners as well, but will need big races from their next two to crack the top three teams here. All of the top four projected teams in this region are ranked in the top 18 in the current national coaches poll.

Colorado*
BYU*
New Mexico*
NAU*

*Projected qualifier

Women

Individuals

With only five of last year’s top 15 returning, there will be many new faces on the All-Region team, but there will also be some familiar faces battling for the first few spots. UTEP’s Risper Kimaiyo is the two-time defending champion, a three-time XC All-American (with a best NCAA finish of 4th in 2010) and has done nothing this season to warrant relinquishing the role of favorite for this race. Kimaiyo took 2nd to Aliphine Tuliamuk-Bolton at both Cowboy Jamboree and at Pre-Nationals, then won the Conference USA title. There will be a few worthy challengers for the individual win, though. Weber State, ranked 13th nationally, swept the top three spots at Big Sky and is led by sub-10:00 All-American steepler Amber Henry (6th in the region last year and 46th at Nationals), who dashed to 3rd place at Wisconsin prior to winning the conference title. Teammate Sarah Callister hasn’t been far behind, with 19th at Wisco and runner-up at Big Sky. New Mexico also has three low sitcks. Lacey Oeding took the title at Mountain West, followed by Charlotte Arter in 2nd. Regular season team leader Josephine Moultrie nailed a 9th place finish at Wisconsin but only ran 3rd for New Mexico at the conference, finishing 5th overall. Utah’s Amanda Mergaert, a 1,500m All-American, has finished 9th in the Regional the past two years. Mergaert was impressive in 15th at Pre-Nats and perhaps more impressive in 6th at PAC-12. NAU’s Rochelle Kanuho, 16th in the region last year and the 6th returner, was 27th at Wisconsin and 5th at Big Sky. NMSU’s Courtney Schultz was 8th last year and, though 2nd at the WAC, has raced too sparingly against tough opponents to rate in the top 10 at the moment.

Risper Kimaiyo (UTEP)
Amber Henry (Weber State)
Amanda Mergaert (Utah)
Sarah Callister (Weber State)
Lacey Oeding (New Mexico)
Shalaya Kipp (Colorado)
Taylor Thornley (Weber State)
Josephine Moultrie (New Mexico)
Rochelle Kanuho (NAU)
Jamie Smith (Southern Utah)

Charlotte Arter (New Mexico)
Carrie Verdon (Colorado)
Natalie Shields (BYU)
Holly Page (Wyoming)
Courtney Schultz (New Mexico State)
Rachel Viger (Colorado)
Susannah Hurst (Utah)
Samantha Diaz (Nevada)
Danielle Jewkes (Southern Utah)
Whitney Henderson (Colorado State)

Elizabeth Tremblay (Colorado)
Giselle Slotboom (Utah)
Sylvia Bedford (Southern Utah)
Melissa Fuerst (Air Force)
Kirsten Bradford (Southern Utah)

Teams

New Mexico and Colorado tied for the team win last year, but few of those runners are back (New Mexico lost their top four). Weber State, meanwhile, returns their top four from last year. The Wildcats squeaked past New Mexico by 18 points at Wisconsin (which would be about a 2-point margin in most conference meets), but 3rd runner Taylor Thornley produced a vastly better result than in that race to get 3rd at Big Sky, so Weber State looks to have the advantage going into the Regional. Both teams are excellent through three runners but may rack up some pesky points after that in a field this large and talented. Colorado’s top five were spaced out quite a bit at PAC-12, with a 1:02 spread, but a 5th place team finish in that conference is not too shabby, and they could figure in the team race here. Southern Utah, only ranked 5th in the region in the coaches poll, actually gave Weber State a good race at Big Sky and might make some real noise.

Weber State
New Mexico
Colorado
Southern Utah

All Regions:
*Northeast Region
*Mid-Atlantic
*Southeast
*South
*South Central
*Great Lakes
*Midwest
*Mountain
*West


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Posted in: College