November 28, 2018
*Discuss this race in our high school forum
In the 14-year history of Nike Cross Nationals, only one woman has repeated as individual champion. And since 2006, only one team has beaten Central New York powerhouse Fayetteville-Manlius, helmed by legendary coach Bill Aris, which has claimed 11 of the last 12 national titles.
Expect both of those things to change on Saturday.
Individually, the story is the same as it was a year ago: North Rockland (N.Y.) High School junior Katelyn Tuohy. Tuohy spent last fall laying waste to course records around the Northeast, and her 2018 season has been more of the same. It would be a tremendous upset if she were to lose at the 2018 Nike Cross Nationals on Saturday, joining Sarah Baxter (2011-12) as the only two-time NXN girls’ champ.
But in the team race, things are very, very different in 2018. Usually you could pencil in — heck, you could Sharpie in — F-M as the girls’ team champs. But this year, it would take a huge performance for the Hornets to spring the upset as F-M did not win either the New York state meet or the NXN NY regional, falling to Saratoga both times. Granted, F-M lost those two meets by a combined three points, but there are several teams who head to Portland with a better resume than F-M (and Saratoga as well), led by Summit (Bend, Ore.) and a pair of Illinois powers, Naperville North and Yorkville.
Once again, the championships will be held at Portland’s Glendoveer Golf Course. In total, 22 boys’ teams, 22 girls’ teams and 100 individuals will be in the fields on Saturday. The big difference this year is the addition of five extra individual at-large slots per gender. In the past, the only way to qualify for NXN individually was to finish among the top five boys or top five girls at one of the eight NXN regionals or the California state meet.
This means that for the first time, athletes from states such as New York (where the NXN and Foot Locker regionals are held on the same day) can run NXN and Foot Locker. For instance, Jack Stanley, who attends Mendham High School in New Jersey, did not run the NXN NE qualifier on Saturday, choosing to run Foot Locker Northeast instead. He won that race, and NXN decided to give him one of the five at-large bids to NXN.
Obviously this new policy helps Nike because it allows them to bring in athletes who otherwise would not have qualified. But it’s also good for the athletes — in the past, athletes like Stanley would have to pick and choose between NXN and Foot Locker. Now, if they’re truly exceptional, they can run both (although some offered a spot are still skipping NXN). Now it’s time for Foot Locker to do the same and offer FL finals invites to the top five finishers at NXN. As it stands, athletes from the Foot Locker West Region cannot run both meets, as FL West is held on the same day as NXN finals.
Read more in our editorial from last year: LRC NXN/Foot Locker Is Broken — Here’s How to Fix It
We break down what you need to know about the girls’ race below; our boys’ preview will be published in a separate article.
When: Saturday, December 1, 2018. Girls’ race at 1:05 p.m. ET, boys’ race at 2:35 p.m. ET.
Where: Glendoveer Golf Course, Portland, Ore.
Girls’ Individuals: Season 2 of The Katelyn Tuohy Show
Last year, Katelyn Tuohy put together the greatest season ever by a female high school cross country runner (we ran through all the details in last year’s NXN preview), breaking course records at Van Cortlandt Park, Bowdoin Park, and, finally, Glendoveer Golf Course, where she set the NXN meet record of 16:44.7 to win by 40 seconds. By the end of the season, she had seven of top 25 speed ratings ever (speed ratings are a metric designed by Billy Meylan of the Tully Runners to compare performances on different courses/conditions. LRC swears by Meylan’s ratings). She did all of that as a sophomore in high school.
Amazingly, through the first two months of the 2018 season, Tuohy was even better. On September 22, she won the Ocean State Invitational in Rhode Island in 16:06.9, breaking the course record by 88 seconds and achieving a 175.7 speed rating — the third highest ever awarded by Meylan and better than Tuohy’s top 2017 speed rating of 172.1 from NXN (each point is worth roughly three seconds, so September 2018 Tuohy was over 10 seconds better than December 2017 Tuohy).
It didn’t stop there. Two weeks later, Tuohy headed to New Jersey’s famed Holmdel Park for the Shore Coaches Invitational and crushed the course record, running 16:21.0 (old CR: 17:27.9) to earn a speed rating of 177.0 — replacing her Ocean State run as the third-fastest ever in Meylan’s rankings (for an explanation on why it wasn’t the fastest ever, check out this article). And for good measure, she also broke course records at Sunken Meadow (16:53.0, 173.3 speed rating) and Bowdoin Park (lowering her own record from 16:52.4 to 16:45.2, 173.9 speed rating). Add in her 172.5 speed rating at the Rockland County Champs on October 25 (just five days after she set the Bowdoin Park CR), and Tuohy has five speed ratings in 2018 better than her highest speed rating from 2017 (the only race where she didn’t record a speed rating better than 172 was her season opener on September, a 3-mile race in which she paced a teammate).
For reference, the all-time speed ratings table now looks like this:
Time Speed Rating (Year) -------- ------------ ------ Amber Trotter (12) Redwood Valley CA 16:24.07 180.3 180 (2001) - FL finals (Orlando CR) Melody Fairchild (12) Boulder CO 16:39.2 177.9 178 (1990) - FL finals (Balboa Park CR) Katelyn Tuohy (11) Thiells NY 16:21.0 177.0 177 (2018) - Shore Coaches Invite (Holmdel Park CR) Katelyn Tuohy (11) Thiells NY 16:06.9 175.7 176 (2018) - Ocean State Invite (Goddard Park CR) Katelyn Tuohy (11) Thiells NY 16:45.2 173.9 174 (2018) - Section 1 Coaches Invite (Bowdoin Park CR) Cathy Schiro (12) Dover NH 16:46 173.7 174 (1984) - FL Northeast (VCP 5k record) Katelyn Tuohy (11) Thiells NY 16:53.0 173.3 173 (2018) - Suffolk Officials Invite (Sunken Meadow CR) Julia Stamps (10) Santa Rosa CA 16:41.9 173.0 173 (1994) - FL finals (Balboa Park) Katelyn Tuohy (11) Thiells NY 15:55.7 172.5 173 (2018) - Rockland County Champs (Bear Mountain 3-mile) Katelyn Tuohy (10) Thiells NY 16:44.7 172.1 172 (2017) - NXN finals (Glendoveer Golf Course CR)
Unfortunately, after her run at the Rockland County Champs, Tuohy picked up a knee injury that caused her to miss the NY Section 1 champs on November 3. Tuohy returned for the NY state meet on November 10, and though she still won by 18 seconds (an impressive margin considering the runner-up was last year’s NXN runner-up, Kelsey Chmiel of Saratoga), her speed rating was “only” 169.3 — her lowest since her season opener, but still six points higher than any other runner in the country has clocked in 2018 (in fact, the #2 speed rating is Chmiel’s 163.1 from that race).
Last week, Tuohy won by even more at the NXN NY regional (by 40 seconds over F-M’s Claire Walters; Chmiel was an additional 22 seconds back in third), though again, Tuohy’s 165.3 speed rating was her lowest since her season opener.
All of which is to say that even if the knee injury means that Tuohy isn’t operating at quite the same historic level as she was for the first two months of the season, she’s still the heavy favorite to win on Saturday. And perhaps her coach Brian Diglio instructed her to hold back a bit at states and NXN NY because of the injury before really letting it fly at NXN. We’ll see. Her course record from last year stands at 16:44.7, which came in rainy conditions (though, this being Portland, it’s supposed to rain on Friday and could well rain again on race day).
Behind Tuohy, Chmiel has a good shot to finish second once again as her 163.1 speed rating from the NY state meet was six points higher than the next-best speed rating by any non-Tuohy athlete in the field (156.6 by Emily Covert of Minneapolis Washburn, which she achieved in winning Foot Locker Midwest last week). And F-M’s top woman, Claire Walters, should not be overlooked. As mentioned above, she beat Chmiel by 22 seconds at NXN NY last week, and her 155.8 speed rating at the NY state meet ranks her #4 in the field in terms of top 2018 speed rating.
At least one messageboard poster does believe Tuohy will lose, however, picking Covert instead. MB: Tuohy will NOT win NXN
Where is Claudia Lane?/What about the sport?
Last year, we complained that two of the top high school cross country runners ever — Tuohy and Claudia Lane, who won her second Foot Locker title last year — would not get to race each other in a national championship. And unfortunately, it won’t happen in 2018, either. Tuohy is not running Foot Lockers, and Lane is not running NXN. In fact, Lane probably won’t be running any postseason races as she hasn’t raced since September due to an IT band injury (she could still run Foot Locker West this weekend, but that appears to be a long shot at this point).
This was part of our point last year: health is never a given. Tuohy and Lane were both healthy and incredibly fit at the same time last fall, yet they did not race each other. Now they’ll never race each other in a HS national XC championship (Lane is a senior) and may never end up racing each other in cross country (Tuohy could turn pro, one or both of them could regress, get injured, etc.). Last year will go down as a missed opportunity between two HS XC legends.
Girls’ Teams: A wide-open race
The girls’ team race at 2018 NXN should be very, very close. Just take a look at Meylan’s projection, which has the top three teams separated by just six points:
Overall Morning-Line Team Scores - Girls 1 Summit OR 178 (Northwest) 2 Naperville North IL 179 (Midwest) 3 Yorkville IL 185 (Midwest) 4 Mountain Vista CO 195 (Southwest) 5 Wayzata MN 200 (Heartland) 6 Great Oak CA 201 (California)
This is not an official prediction, but Meylan’s “morning line” assessment of how the top teams stack up against each other. But in the past, Meylan’s projections have been pretty accurately. Earlier this year, he said Saratoga would beat F-M by one point at the NY state meet and…Saratoga beat F-M by one point at the NY state meet.
Meylan has Summit, from Bend, Ore., as the top team in the country, just barely. Summit easily won the NXN Northwest regional, 54-106, over Jesuit (Portland, Ore.), Meylan’s 12th-ranked team. In fact, four of Dyestat’s top 14 teams in their national ranking ran at NXN Northwest, so for Summit to score just 54 against a field like that is some running (Dyestat also has Summit at #1 in their rankings).
But there are several teams that could win this race. Naperville North scored just 94 points at NXN last year to finish second — the lowest score by a girls’ team not named F-M since 2011. They return five of the seven girls from that squad, led by senior Alex Morris (12th at NXN last year) and are battle-tested as they beat another contender, Yorkville, at both NXN Midwest (69-84) and the Illinois 3A state meet (80-87). Yorkville can’t be discounted, however, as they did beat Naperville North at Roy Griak back in September (104-113).
Wayzata of Minnesota was the last women’s team other than F-M to win, back in 2013, and they are strong again in 2018. Last year’s third-placers, Mountain Vista (Colo.), remain strong as well, while Great Oak, which has won the last seven California Division I titles and finished in the top three at NXN in 2014, 2015, and 2016, will be dangerous once again.
And for those wondering what happened to Fayetteville-Manlius? Well, they lost four of their top seven (including three of their top five) and so far have not been able to adequately replace the departed runners. “Adequately” is a relative term — Meylan still has F-M in his top 10, while Dyestat has them 12th — but Manlius may be better suited to win in 2019, as five of its top six runners will return next year.
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