November 30, 2016
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Fayetteville-Manlius High School has claimed nine of the 12 girls’ titles since Nike Cross Nationals’ inception in 2004, and on Saturday the Hornets and legendary coach Bill Aris will go for number 10 in Portland, Ore. F-M has rolled through the competition this fall and enters the meet as favorites, but there’s a big gap between the team’s #5 and #6 runners so if one F-M girl has an off day that would open the door for California’s Great Oak High School (3rd in 2015, 2nd in 2014) to win its first women’s title. Individually, Colorado’s Brie Oakley has been the nation’s top runner this fall and will look to become the second straight Coloradoan to win at NXN after Katie Rainsberger did it last year. Virginia’s Kate Murphy, who ran [4:07] for 1500 meters in June and made the Olympic Trials semifinals in July, has the best shot of taking her down.
Once again, the championships will be held at Portland’s Glendoveer Golf Course. The meet shifted to Glendoveer in 2014 after 10 years at Portland Meadows. In total, 22 boys’ teams, 22 girls’ teams and 90 individuals (five boys and five girls from each of the eight NXN regionals plus the California state meet) will be in the fields on Saturday. We break down what you need to know heading into Saturday’s meet. Our girls’ preview appears below; you can read our boys’ preview here.
When: Saturday, December 3. Girls’ race at 1:05 p.m. ET, boys’ race at 2:35 p.m. ET.
Where: Glendoveer Golf Course, Portland, Ore.
How to watch: Stream the meet live here (coverage starts at 12:30 p.m. ET).
We’ll save you some time: yes, Fayetteville-Manlius is probably going to win again. And considering none of F-M’s top five at NXN New York were seniors, they’re probably going to win in 2017 as well. We say it every year, but it is simply phenomenal that coach Bill Aris can churn out national champions, year after year, from a public school in Central New York. Here’s what you need to know about the 2016 edition.
(LRC Archive from 2010: Track Talk With Fayetteville-Manlius And Stotan Track Club Coach Bill Aris)
F-M returned three of its scorers from last year’s title team: freshman Claire Walters (24th last year at NXN as an eighth-grader), junior Palmer Madsen (37th in ’15) and junior Sophie Ryan (53rd in ’15). Walters has been the Hornets’ top girl in all six of her races this fall and though that would normally be a lot to handle for a freshman, we’re not worried about her at nationals considering how well she ran last year and F-M’s track record of success in the meet. Another freshman, Phoebe White, finished as F-M’s #2 at NXN NY. Normally when the top two runners on a high school team are freshmen, that team is in serious trouble. But age doesn’t seem to matter at F-M, where Aris can seemingly plug in anyone and win state titles.
The Hornets’ winning score (40 points) and average time ([18:27]) at regionals is right in line with previous F-M title squads, and the weather should help them out as well. Weather.com predicts rain every day from now until the race, and though it won’t be super cold on race day (high of 51, with no rain until the afternoon), the course should still be pretty muddy. Cool, wet conditions certainly favor F-M over the No. 2 team in the country, Great Oak (CA).
If F-M is to lose, one of its top five will need to have an off day. At NXN NY, the gap from the Hornets’ #5 to #6 was [1:00]; at the New York state meet on November 12, it was [1:47]. F-M almost always gets it right at NXN, but those gaps have been much smaller in the past; last year, the gap at NXN NY was just 23 seconds and the gap at states was just 15 seconds. If there’s a fall, illness or some other unforeseen circumstance affecting one of F-M’s usual scorers, this race becomes a lot more interesting.
Great Oak was 3rd at NXN last year, 2nd in 2014 and has won five straight California state titles. This year’s squad is looking good as well as they return four of their five scorers from NXN and recorded a similar performance at the California Division I state meet — last year they were 1st with 44 points and a [17:51] team average (state record), while this year they were 1st with 47 points and a [17:51] team average. At that meet, Great Oak beat in-state rival Davis, who finished second with 67 points. Davis, which returns four of five scorers from 2015, will be looking to follow a similar script to last year, where they also lost to Great Oak at states only to gain revenge and beat them at NXN (Davis was 2nd).
Perhaps the most valuable resource for high school cross country fans is TullyRunners.com, a site that assigns “speed ratings” to performances achieved at dozens of meets around the country. These speed ratings are inexact, but they’re meant to compare performances achieved on different courses and different weather and generally Tully does a good job with it — in each of the past two years, Tully’s pre-race projections have correctly called both the boys’ and girls’ team champs. So who is Tully projecting this year?
Overall Morning-Line Team Scores - Girls 1 Fayetteville-Manlius NY 66 (New York ) 2 Great Oak CA 98 (California) 3 Davis Senior CA 194 (California) 4 Carmel IN 211 (Midwest ) 5 Desert Vista AZ 229 (Southwest )
Going by Tully, it looks to be a two-horse race. F-M should win if its top five all run well, but if one of them falters, that opens the door for Great Oak, who has much better depth (#6 was 9 secs back at states with #7 a further 6 seconds behind).
Senior Brie Oakley of Grandview (CO) High School (9:29 3000 pb) is No. 1 in both Dyestat and MileSplit‘s national rankings, and she’s a MEGA talent: she only took up running last fall after spending 12 years as a soccer player and nearly beat 3-time Colorado 5A state xc champ Lauren Gregory at states. This year, with some training under her belt, she’s much better. Not only does she have the fastest XC 5k time of the season (16:44 at the Liberty Bell Invitational on September 9, Gregory was 2nd in that race in 16:52) but she’s undefeated and compares very favorably to another Colorado stud — 2015 NXN champ Katie Rainsberger, who led Oregon to the NCAA title with a 4th-place finish at NCAAs two weeks ago. Below, we’ve compared Oakley and Rainsberger’s performances at states and regionals.
Rainsberger in 2015: [17:39] 5k at Colorado state meet (157 speed rating), [17:07] 5k at NXN Southwest (149 speed rating)
Oakley in 2016: [17:07] 5k at Colorado state meet (165 speed rating), [16:56] 5k at NXN Southwest (158 speed rating)
What really stands out is Oakley’s performance at the Colorado state meet. In that race, held at 6,000 feet in Colorado Springs, Oakley ran 17:07 for the 5k course, 32 seconds faster than Rainsberger’s 2015 time. She beat the three-time state champ Lauren Gregory, who was 7th at NXN in 2013, 11th at Foot Lockers in 2014 and has run 4:48/10:15, by 1:25. Yes 85 seconds. Oakley’s speed rating of 165 in that meet was the highest tracked by Tully Runners in almost six years; you’d have to go back to Aisling Cuffe‘s 2010 Foot Lockers win (16:53 5k, 170 speed rating) to find a better one. Under the Tully system, each point on the speed rating system is worth 3 seconds in a race, and Tully’s NXN preview has no one within eight Tully points of Oakley so they aren’t expecting the race to be close at all.
(For more on Oakley, see this John Meyer feature on her in the Denver Post: Brie Oakley of Grandview is the latest of exceptional young female runners in Colorado).
So Oakley, who will run at Cal next year, is firmly ensconced as the favorite. Who will she be facing in Portland? Here’s a look at where the Dyestat top 10 will be competing in the postseason:
- Brie Oakley, Grandview (CO): NXN only
- Kelsey Chmiel, Saratoga Springs (NY): NXN only
- Annie Hill, Glacier (MT): NXN only
- Kate Murphy, Lake Braddock (VA): NXN only
- Claudia Lane, Malibu (CA): FL only (still needs to qualify at FL West)
- Nevada Mareno, Leeville Road (NC): FL only
- Allie Schadler, Rio Rico (AZ): NXN only
- Molly Born, Shawnee Mission Northwest (KS): NXN only
- Jessica Lawson, Corning (NY): NXN only
- Katelynne Hart, Glenbard West (IL): NXN only
Note: defending Foot Locker champ Weini Kelati is still in high school but turns 20 on Thursday — too old to run at NXN or FL
Undoubtedly, NXN will be the harder of the two races to win this year. Eight of the top 10 — including the entire top four — will be running NXN exclusively, while only two (one if Lane doesn’t qualify) will be running Foot Lockers.
In terms of who can beat Oakley, we think Murphy is the best bet. Murphy, an Oregon commit, is undefeated this fall and coming off a 17:13 5k win at NXN Southeast (11 seconds up on second). Murphy was a respectable 16th at NXN last year, but what’s most impressive are her track credentials: she’s run [4:07] for 1500 meters, the third-fastest ever for a high schooler, and [9:17] for 3k, which placed her 12th at the World U20 Champs in July. Murphy’s not as strong in cross country as she is on the track, but [4:07] is a ridiculous time; if the course is firm enough for her to use that speed late in the race, she’s the best bet to beat Oakley, but we don’t think it will happen – remember Mary Cain never won an NXN title either.
Arizona’s Allie Schadler, a 4:43 miler, is another one to watch. Her 157 speed rating at the Arizona state meet was #2 in the country this year behind Oakley, and she’s only lost once all year. Of course, that loss was to Oakley (by 19 seconds) at NXN Southwest, but Dyestat reported that Schadler rolled her ankle during the first mile. With two weeks to heal up, Schadler could close the gap in Portland.
Saratoga Springs sophomore Kelsey Chmiel (4:23 15/9:35 3k), the top returner from 2015 (4th), was ranked No. 2 in the country in Dyestat’s most recent rankings, but that was before she lost to junior Katherine Lee (Shoreham-Wading River, 4:28/9:39) at NXN NY. Montana’s Annie Hill, a junior, won the mile at both the Brooks PR Invite (4:41) and U.S. Olympic Trials HS race (4:44) earlier this year and though she won NXN Northwest, she was only 7th at the Montana state meet and has battled what she vaguely described to MileSplit as “health issues” this season. Others to keep an eye on include Lee (undefeated this year), junior Anne Forsyth (FL Midwest champ, 2:13 800 pb) and Utah 8th-grader Grace Ping. Ping, who is coached by Tom “Tinman” Schwartz (who also coaches Drew Hunter) was 4th at NXN Southwest and ran 16:36 for 5k at the Silicon Valley Turkey Trot on November 24 (an age-13 world record). She was 14th at NXN last year as a 7th-grader.
Below, we’ve listed the top 10 individuals based on their best 2016 Tully speed rating.
Name Grade School State Rating Region -------------------- ----- ------------------- ----- ------ --------- Brie Oakley 12 Grandview CO 165 Southwest ** Individual Allie Schadler 12 Rio Rico AZ 157 Southwest ** Individual Kelsey Chmiel 10 Saratoga Springs NY 157 New York ** Individual Molly Born 11 Shawnee Mission NW KS 155 Heartland ** Individual Jessica Lawson 12 Corning NY 154 New York ** Individual Katherine Lee 11 Shoreham Wading River NY 154 New York ** Individual Annie Hill 11 Glacier MT 154 Northwest ** Individual Kate Murphy 12 Lake Braddock VA 153 Southeast Lexy Halladay 9 Mountain View ID 152 Northwest ** Individual Emily Venters 12 Lawrence-Free State KS 152 Heartland ** Individual
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