2018 Wisconsin Invite: NAU Men Send Message, Colorado Women Surprise, Wisconsin’s Morgan McDonald & Alicia Monson Sweep Individual Titles

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By Jonathan Gault
September 28, 2018

It was a tale of two races at the 2018 Nuttycombe Wisconsin Invitational. While the men’s race featured predictability and dominance, with wins by Wisconsin’s Morgan McDonald (23:17.3) and the Northern Arizona men (46 points), the women’s race saw a pair of big-time upsets as Wisconsin’s Alicia Monson (19:33.3) made it an individual sweep for the Badgers while No. 2 Colorado stunned the defending champion No. 1 New Mexico women, scoring 80 points (Boise State was second with 91 as New Mexico finished third with 130).

Is McDonald now the favorite for NCAAs?

Is McDonald now the favorite for NCAAs?

The two-time defending NCAA champion Northern Arizona men were undoubtedly the story of the day, winning their third straight title in commanding fashion. Running against a field that contained 18 of the top 30 teams in the country according to the most recent USTFCCCA poll (including seven of the top 10), the Lumberjacks put four men in the top eight en route to scoring 46 points — lower than the total NAU put up in both 2016 (78) and 2017 (50). And NAU accomplished all of this while holding out last year’s NCAA runner-up Matt Baxter. Yes that’s right, they held out their #1 man from last year and TOTALLY dominated.

Wisconsin is another program that will walk away from today’s meet feeling very good about themselves. McDonald, the Australian 5,000-meter champion with a 13:15 5000 pb, redshirted XC last year to give himself a shot at winning the individual on his home course in 2018. Today’s effort, in which he broke free of the field heading up the hill during the final kilometer and won in 23:17.3 — the fastest time on this course since 2013 — showed that McDonald is absolutely a threat to win it all at NCAAs which will be held on the same course seven weeks from tomorrow.

McDonald and NCAA 1500 champion Oliver Hoare (15th) led the No. 9 Wisconsin men to a surprising runner-up finish, but that was not the only thing the Badgers had to celebrate as earlier in the women’s race Monson broke away from New Mexico’s Weini Kelati rounding the final turn to pull off a shocker. Monson was only 139th at NCAAs last year but broke out with a 15:38 pb on the track in the spring and has only grown stronger since.

In the women’s team race, #2 Colorado, #5 Boise State, and #1 New Mexico all ran well up front as each school had three women in the top 13, but the Buffaloes’ superior depth won out as their #4 and #5 scorers, Tabor Scholl and Tayler Tuttle, finished in 19th and 38th, compared to 26th and 41st for Boise State and 35th and 83rd for New Mexico. 2017 NCAA 3k champion Dani Jones led Colorado by finishing fourth overall.

Results and analysis below.

Men’s top 50 individuals * Full results

Place TmPl   Bib Name                  Yr Team                    2k      4k      6k      Time Pace     
===== ==== ===== ===================== == ================== ======= ======= ======= ========= ===== 
    1    1   815 Morgan McDonald       SR Wisconsin             5:53   11:53   17:37   23:17.6  4:42 
    2    2   568 Edwin Kurgat          JR Iowa State            5:54   11:54   17:38   23:18.5  4:42 
    3    3   620 Tyler Day             SR Northern Arizona      5:53   11:53   17:37   23:21.3  4:42 
    4    4   519 James Sugira          FR Eastern Kentucky      5:53   11:53   17:37   23:22.3  4:43 
    5    5   625 Luis Grijalva         SO Northern Arizona      5:53   11:54   17:37   23:23.8  4:43 
    6    6   664 Nick Hauger           SR Portland              5:54   11:54   17:38   23:24.4  4:43 
    7    7   627 Peter Lomong          SR Northern Arizona      5:53   11:53   17:37   23:26.8  4:43 
    8    8   622 Blaise Ferro          SO Northern Arizona      5:54   11:56   17:38   23:29.0  4:44 
    9    9   499 Cole Rockhold         SR Colorado St.          5:54   11:55   17:39   23:29.6  4:44 
   10   10   423 Alfred Chelanga       SR Alabama               5:55   11:54   17:38   23:33.8  4:45 
   11   11   480 John Dressel          JR Colorado              5:55   11:55   17:41   23:35.1  4:45 
   12   12   426 Gilbert Kigen         SR Alabama               5:53   11:54   17:40   23:35.1  4:45 
   13   13   633 Ashenafi Hatte        JR Oklahoma State        5:54   11:55   17:41   23:36.3  4:45 
   14   14   441 Yusuke Uchikoshi      SR Boise State           5:56   11:56   17:40   23:37.0  4:46 
   15   15   813 Oliver Hoare          JR Wisconsin             5:53   11:54   17:37   23:37.9  4:46 
   16   16   699 Jaret Carpenter       JR Purdue                5:57   11:55   17:41   23:38.5  4:46 
   17   17   675 Caleb Webb            JR Portland              5:53   11:54   17:41   23:39.3  4:46 
   18   18   484 Eduardo Herrera       SO Colorado              5:55   11:55   17:42   23:39.9  4:46 
   19   19   811 Olin Hacker           JR Wisconsin             5:57   11:55   17:42   23:40.2  4:46 
   20   20   411 Mickey Davey          SR Air Force             5:53   11:53   17:41   23:40.7  4:46 
   21   21   726 Christian Ricketts    SO Southern Utah         5:58   11:58   17:42   23:42.2  4:47 
   22   22   494 Eric Hamer            SR Colorado St.          5:54   11:54   17:40   23:42.9  4:47 
   23   23   569 Festus Lagat          SR Iowa State            5:54   11:55   17:41   23:44.5  4:47 
   24   24   549 Kyle Mau              JR Indiana               5:56   11:58   17:46   23:45.9  4:47 
   25   25   619 Geordie Beamish       JR Northern Arizona      5:54   11:54   17:41   23:47.1  4:48 
   26   26   436 Miler Haller          JR Boise State           5:56   11:55   17:43   23:48.5  4:48 
   27   27   725 Aidan Reed            JR Southern Utah         5:56   11:54   17:42   23:49.1  4:48 
   28   28   804 Chandler Teigen       SR Washington St.        5:53   11:55   17:49   23:49.9  4:48 
   29   29   560 Jamie Dee             FR Iona                  5:54   11:58   17:50   23:50.5  4:48 
   30   30   736 Zach Long             SR Tennessee             5:54   11:56   17:48   23:50.8  4:48 
   31   31   567 Andrew Jordan         JR Iowa State            5:54   11:55   17:45   23:50.9  4:48 
   32   32   700 Curt Eckstein         SO Purdue                5:59   11:57   17:46   23:51.3  4:48 
   33   33   809 Ben Eidenschink       JR Wisconsin             5:54   11:55   17:46   23:51.4  4:48 
   34   34   482 Ryan Forsyth          SR Colorado              5:55   11:56   17:45   23:51.7  4:48 
   35   35   782 Casey Comber          JR Villanova             5:54   11:55   17:44   23:51.8  4:49 
   36   36   564 Dan Curts             SR Iowa State            5:55   11:57   17:48   23:53.2  4:49 
   37   37   435 Addison Dehaven       SR Boise State           5:54   11:55   17:47   23:53.9  4:49 
   38   38   711 Chris Olley           JR San Francisco         5:54   11:58   17:51   23:54.1  4:49 
   39   39   671 Emmanuel Roudolff-Lev JR Portland              5:53   11:54   17:38   23:54.6  4:49 
   40   40   667 Stuart McCallum       JR Portland              5:55   11:57   17:49   23:57.3  4:50 
   41   41   514 Jaime Romo            SR Eastern Kentucky      5:54   11:57   17:49   23:58.1  4:50 
   42   42   476 Tom Nobles            SR Charlotte             5:58   11:56   17:46   23:58.2  4:50 
   43   43   415 Trevor Siniscalchi    SR Air Force             5:53   11:54   17:54   23:58.2  4:50 
   44   44   409 Jacob Bilvado         SR Air Force             6:00   12:03   17:56   23:58.5  4:50 
   45   45   438 Jeff Lautenslager     SR Boise State           5:54   11:55   17:47   23:58.9  4:50 
   46   46   672 Noah Schutte          SR Portland              5:54   11:55   17:42   23:59.5  4:50 
   47   47   616 Ian Shanklin          SO North Carolina St.    5:56   11:57   17:50   23:59.6  4:50 
   48   48   433 Elijah Armstrong      SO Boise State           5:54   11:55   17:53   24:00.2  4:50 
   49   49   439 Ahmed Muhumed         FR Boise State           5:56   11:59   17:54   24:01.1  4:50 
   50   50   704 Brody Smith           SO Purdue                5:59   11:58   17:53   24:01.6  4:50

Men’s top 10 teams * Full results

1.    46  Northern Arizona                                   (  23:29.6  1:57:28.0   0:25.8)
2.   135  Wisconsin                                          (  23:44.9  1:58:44.4   0:59.7)
3.   140  Portland                                           (  23:47.1  1:58:55.1   0:35.1)
4.   152  Iowa State                                         (  23:47.9  1:58:59.2   0:53.6)
5.   160  Boise State                                        (  23:51.7  1:59:18.5   0:23.2)
6.   253  Colorado St.                                       (  24:00.3  2:00:01.5   0:55.3)
7.   267  Air Force                                          (  24:03.4  2:00:17.0   0:48.1)
8.   278  Colorado                                           (  24:02.9  2:00:14.1   1:10.2)
9.   317  Purdue                                             (  24:08.3  2:00:41.2   1:08.6)
10.  332  Southern Utah                                      (  24:09.4  2:00:47.0   0:57.7)

Quick Take: Should we just hand the NAU men the team title now?

Screenshot (2257)NAU won by 89 points and didn’t even run their #1 guy. They scored four fewer points than they did at this meet in 2017 — when they went on to win NCAAs by 53 points. Somehow, NAU lost an NCAA champion in Andy Trouard and chose not to run their top guy in Matt Baxter and got better. We spoke with a bunch of men’s coaches earlier this month for our NCAA top 10 countdown and several of them told us they feared that NAU was untouchable and that they would run away with NCAAs in November. That certainly looks like the case right now.

The best news for NAU is that their supporting cast has greatly improved. We knew going in that Tyler Day (3rd today) and Peter Lomong (7th) would run great as both men finished in the top 10 at NCAAs last year. But for Luis Grijalva (60th at NCAAs last year, 5th today) and Blaise Ferro (didn’t race XC last year, 8th today) to be right up there with them has got to be scary for the rest of the NCAA.

As for why Baxter didn’t run, NAU coach Mike Smith told us that “we’re just continuing to build him, his volume is real high right now and we’ll open him up in two weeks at Pre-Nats.” Smith said that Baxter made the trip to Madison with the team and that he worked out on the course this morning and “looked good.”

While NAU undoubtedly ran great today and are clearly the favorites to win NCAAs, we’re not going to hand them the trophy in September. They crushed some great teams today, including last year’s NCAA runners-up in Portland, but the #2 and #3 teams in LetsRun’s preseason rankings did not run in Madison. Our #2 squad, BYU, ran at Notre Dame instead, and they did about as well as could be expected, putting six men in the top 11 finishers to score 23 points (full results here). Of course, the field at Notre Dame was a lot weaker (No. 28 Furman was the only other ranked team), but we’re not writing off BYU just yet. Our #3 team, Stanford, has also yet to race its top guys this year, but several of them should feature in tomorrow’s Stanford Invitational.

Quick Take: Wisconsin is back, baby!

Wisconsin has failed to qualify for NCAAs in two of the past three years, in part because of some bad injury luck and in part due to some strategic redshirting (had McDonald run in 2017, Wisconsin almost certainly would have qualified). But with McDonald back and Olin Hacker (66th at NCAAs in 2016) healthy, the Badgers ran great today at home. A lot can change between now and November, but with the Badgers effectively scoring four guys thanks to McDonald’s brilliance, they could be a podium contender at NCAAs.

Quick Take: What happened to Alabama?

With three returning studs in Gilbert Kigen (4th at 2017 NCAA XC), Vincent Kiprop (7th), and Alfred Chelanga (37th) plus the addition of 8:32 steepler Noel Rotich, many expected big things out of Alabama in 2018. The USTFCCCA ranked them sixth in the most recent coaches’ poll, and we ranked them #6 in our pre-season rankings, even going as far as to wonder if they could win NCAAs if everything broke right.

Unfortunately for Alabama, everything broke wrong today. The Crimson Tide were already at a disadvantage as neither Kiprop nor prospective fifth man Kwemoi Ndiwa started the race. Once the gun went off, things went from bad to worse as three Alabama runners failed to finish, including Rotich. The result was that only four Alabama runners finished the race (Chelanga and Kigen finished a respectable 10th and 12th, respectively) and Alabama did not even register a team score.

Alabama coach Dan Waters said that injuries were to blame and that he doubts the 8:32 steepler Rotich will race again this season.

“We have been struggling all year,” Waters said. “Been one thing after another.”

One of the points we made in our article on the Alabama men is that it’s very hard to have depth in XC when you’re also trying to be competitive in track and field — there just aren’t enough scholarships to go around. Today was the proof. Now the question isn’t whether Alabama can get on the podium, but whether they can qualify for the NCAA meet at all.

Quick Take: Colorado was only the third-best team from Colorado

We can’t remember the last time Colorado lost to two Colorado schools in XC, but it happened today as the Buffs finished 8th, behind Colorado State (6th) and Air Force (7th).

Colorado didn’t run 13:30 5k man Joe Klecker and took a hit at the #5 spot as a result (Paxton Smith was 138th). Had Klecker run, that would have likely knocked around 120 points off the Buffs’ team score, enough to move them from 8th to 5th. But the fact that Klecker didn’t run may suggest something was wrong with him (a messageboard poster says he did travel to the meet with the team so maybe he’s close to racing like NAU’s Baxter) as Colorado ran the rest of their top guys.

Assorted bits and pieces

On paper, No. 26 Boise State looked to have massively overachieved by finishing 5th. In reality, the Broncos were just under-ranked (we had them #9 in our preseason rankings) as there was clearly a lot of talent on the roster…Purdue, in its second year under former Syracuse and Stanford assistant John Oliver, finished 9th overall, the top unranked team in the field…We saw a new individual name emerge in Eastern Kentucky’s James Sugira, who finished fourth overall. Sugira, who hails from Rwanda, has a pretty impressive resume as he finished 49th at World XC last year (senior race) and ran 13:46 for 5k at altitude in Uganda. He was also 7th in the 5,000 at this year’s Commonwealth Games, and based on today’s result should be a factor in the NCAA for years to come.

Who were the biggest overachievers and underachievers?

Below we took a look at how the 18 men’s teams ranked in the most recent USTFCCCA poll fared in today’s race (national ranking in parentheses) as well as the best performances by unranked teams.

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Women’s top 50 individuals * Full results

Place TmPl   Bib Name                  Yr Team                    2k      4k      Time Pace     
===== ==== ===== ===================== == ================== ======= ======= ========= ===== 
    1    1   402 Alicia Monson         JR Wisconsin             6:44   13:25   19:33.3  5:15 
    2    2   176 Weini Kelati          SO New Mexico            6:44   13:25   19:35.9  5:16 
    3    3   178 Ednah Kurgat          JR New Mexico            6:44   13:25   19:38.8  5:17 
    4    4    84 Dani Jones            SR Colorado              6:45   13:25   19:39.6  5:17 
    5    5    39 Allie Ostrander       JR Boise State           6:44   13:25   19:40.4  5:17 
    6    6    87 Makena Morley         SR Colorado              6:45   13:25   19:45.2  5:18 
    7    7   181 Charlotte Prouse      SR New Mexico            6:44   13:27   19:55.0  5:21 
    8    8    30 Katrina Robinson      FR Arkansas              6:44   13:25   19:55.3  5:21 
    9    9    43 Emily Venters         FR Boise State           6:44   13:27   19:58.2  5:22 
   10   10    38 Clare O'Brien         JR Boise State           6:45   13:25   19:58.4  5:22 
   11   11   376 Nicole Hutchinson     SR Villanova             6:44   13:26   19:58.9  5:22 
   12   12   372 Caroline Alcorta      SR Villanova             6:44   13:26   20:00.0  5:22 
   13   13    82 Sage Hurta            JR Colorado              6:45   13:29   20:00.5  5:22 
   14   14    33 Carina Viljoen        JR Arkansas              6:44   13:28   20:00.9  5:23 
   15   15   229 Sinclaire Johnson     SO Oklahoma State        6:44   13:26   20:04.1  5:23 
   16   16   254 Lauren Larocco        SR Portland              6:45   13:31   20:04.6  5:24 
   17   17    11 Jaci Smith            SR Air Force             6:45   13:25   20:05.4  5:24 
   18   18   126 Margaret Allen        SR Indiana               6:45   13:26   20:07.9  5:24 
   19   19    88 Tabor Scholl          JR Colorado              6:45   13:32   20:08.0  5:25 
   20   20    34 Taylor Werner         JR Arkansas              6:45   13:30   20:08.1  5:25 
   21   21   150 Cailie Logue          SO Iowa State            6:45   13:29   20:08.2  5:25 
   22   22   256 Taryn Rawlings        SR Portland              6:45   13:30   20:09.6  5:25 
   23   23   188 Elly Henes            JR North Carolina St.    6:44   13:28   20:10.0  5:25 
   24   24   134 Katherine Receveur    SR Indiana               6:45   13:27   20:14.4  5:26 
   25   25   397 Amy Davis             JR Wisconsin             6:45   13:30   20:16.9  5:27 
   26   26    35 Alexis Fuller         SR Boise State           6:46   13:36   20:17.4  5:27 
   27   27   406 Shaelyn Sorensen      SR Wisconsin             6:45   13:35   20:20.7  5:28 
   28   28   298 Angie Nickerson       SR Southern Utah         6:46   13:38   20:21.1  5:28 
   29   29   377 Rachel McArthur       SO Villanova             6:44   13:31   20:22.0  5:28 
   30   30   247 Julia Paternain       FR Penn State            6:44   13:29   20:22.7  5:28 
   31   31   147 Anne Frisbie          SR Iowa State            6:45   13:39   20:22.7  5:28 
   32   32   122 Paige Hofstad         SO Georgetown            6:45   13:35   20:23.0  5:29 
   33   33   166 Erin McDonald         SR Michigan State        6:45   13:38   20:24.2  5:29 
   34   34   156 Maggie Farrell        SO Michigan State        6:45   13:33   20:28.1  5:30 
   35   35   172 Adva Cohen            SO New Mexico            6:44   13:34   20:28.1  5:30 
   36   36   237 Juliana Mount         SR Oregon State          6:49   13:52   20:28.6  5:30 
   37   37   267 Abbey Wheeler         JR Providence            6:45   13:38   20:30.8  5:31 
   38   38    89 Tayler Tuttle         SR Colorado              6:52   13:50   20:32.5  5:31 
   39   39   312 Destiny Collins       JR Texas                 6:45   13:36   20:34.9  5:32 
   40   40    80 Val Constien          SR Colorado              6:52   13:50   20:35.6  5:32 
   41   41    40 Maxine Paholek        FR Boise State           6:48   13:49   20:35.9  5:32 
   42   42   183 Dominique Clairmonte  SO North Carolina St.    6:45   13:42   20:36.2  5:32 
   43   43   102 Alexandra Hays        SO Columbia              6:45   13:47   20:36.8  5:32 
   44   44   157 Annie Fuller          JR Michigan State        6:55   13:55   20:37.8  5:32 
   45   45   250 Alison Willingmyre    SO Penn State            6:45   13:41   20:39.6  5:33 
   46   46   257 Aoibhe Richardson     JR Portland              6:53   13:55   20:40.3  5:33 
   47   47   101 Erin Gregoire         SR Columbia              6:45   13:49   20:41.8  5:34 
   48   48   135 Sarah Schmitt         FR Indiana               6:46   13:50   20:42.2  5:34 
   49   49   104 Libby Kokes           SR Columbia              6:45   13:50   20:42.6  5:34 
   50   50   248 Danae Rivers          SO Penn State            6:50   14:03   20:44.9  5:34

Women’s top 10 teams * Full results

1.    80  Colorado                                           (  20:01.2  1:40:05.8   0:52.9)
2.    91  Boise State                                        (  20:06.1  1:40:30.3   0:55.5)
3.   130  New Mexico                                         (  20:08.5  1:40:42.5   1:28.8)
4.   156  Villanova                                          (  20:23.4  1:41:56.8   0:49.5)
5.   173  Arkansas                                           (  20:22.8  1:41:53.6   1:00.2)
6.   192  Wisconsin                                          (  20:25.1  1:42:05.5   1:24.4)
7.   208  Indiana                                            (  20:33.5  1:42:47.2   0:45.8)
8.   268  Michigan State                                     (  20:42.7  1:43:33.3   0:46.7)
9.   276  Iowa State                                         (  20:41.9  1:43:29.1   1:03.1)
10.  283  North Carolina St.                                 (  20:44.4  1:43:42.0   0:56.3)

Quick Take: What a performance from the Colorado women

Colorado had never raced on this course before today; Mark Wetmore likes his teams to get a chance to see the NCAA course, and as a result the Buffaloes always ran at Pre-Nats instead of Wisconsin. But with NCAAs at Wisconsin this year, Colorado is running both the Nuttycombe Wisconsin Invite and Pre-Nats. And for the women, the first trip to Wisconsin was a massive success. The strength of CU’s women in recent years has been their depth, and it was on full display today with four finishers in the top 19 and six in the top 40.

So how does Colorado’s performance today stack up against recent Wisconsin Invite champs? Very well, as it turns out. In the past four years, three teams have broken 100 points at Wisconsin, and all three went on to win NCAAs — Michigan State in 2014 (87), New Mexico in 2015 (32), and New Mexico last year (87).

But before you hand Colorado the title, remember that Boise State also ran extremely well today: the Broncos put three in the top 10 en route to scoring 91. Colorado showed today that it’s a serious NCAA title contender, but Boise State, New Mexico, and No. 4 Oregon all remain firmly in the championship conversation.

Screenshot (2243)Quick Take: New Mexico has some work to do at #5

It’s only September, so we shouldn’t overreact to these results. But many — including us at LetsRun.com — expected New Mexico to roll through the 2018 season and today showed that they won’t have it that easy. Weini Kelati, Ednah Kurgat, and Charlotte Prouse all finished in the top 10, as expected. But 9:29 steepler Adva Cohen faded to 35th after running with the leaders early and UNM’s #5 woman, grad transfer Hannah Nuttall, was 83rd.

Cohen’s track season didn’t end until August 12 as she finished 5th in the steeple at the European Championships, so she figures to improve as the season goes on. But if the Lobos are going to repeat at NCAAs, they have to be a lot better at #5. Even if UNM had gone 1-2-3-4 today, they still would have lost to Colorado as their #5 scorer outscored Colorado’s entire team.

They can start by adding in Sophie Eckel, who won the open race today (her time of 20:59.1, which would have made her UNM’s #5 in the seeded race at 73rd overall). There’s enough talent on the roster — their #5 at NCAAs last year, Alondra Negron, also ran the open race, finishing 11th — that the Lobos might be able to fix this problem by NCAAs. And they’ll have to, if they are to contend with Colorado.

Who were the biggest overachievers and underachievers?

Below we took a look at how the 15 women’s teams ranked in the most recent USTFCCCA poll fared in today’s race (national ranking in parentheses) as well as the best performances by unranked teams.

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