Sometimes the Pre-NCAA meet is more for the teams ranked 20th-30th in the nation who are trying to get at-large points for NCAAs than it is for the top teams and individuals in the country. That was not the case this year as Sammy Chelanga, Susan Kuijken and the Washington women put on brilliant exhibitions.
On a day that was overall much slower than last year, the men's and
women's 8k course records went down thanks to fine performances by
Florida State's Susan Kuijken and Liberty's Sam Chelanga, while the Washington women showed why they are #1 in the country. We recap the races one-by-one below.
put the times in perspective, please realize that 50th place on the
men's side was 20.8 and 18.5 seconds slower today than it was last year
for the blue and white races respectively. On the women's side, the
discrepancies in the times wasn't as significant as 50th place was 4.4
and 4.6 seconds slower respectively for the white and blue races.
Men's White Race: Samuel Chelanga The NCAA Champ
Individual Race Individually, Liberty's Samuel Chelanga put on a show for
the ages. As he approached the mile mark, we looked at our watch and as
we saw it turning from 4:09 to 4:10, we thought one thing, "Is there
something wrong with our watch?" Nope - 4:18. He was miles ahead of the
field and his lead would only continue to grow. It really was something
special to watch. Having watched Chelanga destroy the course record at
the Paul Short Run two weeks ago, we weren't shocked at all, but other
college coaches were. As we waited for Chelanga to come up to us just
past the two mile mark, a college coach from the West coast asked us,
"Could he really be that good or is he making a monumental mistake?" No
mistake at all.
Mr. Chelanga is the 2008 NCAA champion. Any of the other aspirants like Galen Rupp of Oregon can only beat him by laying back and running with the pack and hoping that maybe Chelanga gets in a crazy battle with another Kenyan or goes out too hard in another effort to break a course record. So far in 2008, Chelanga doesn't seem content to just win - he wants to make history.
In the end, Chelanga did end up with the course record. He broke last year's NCAA champion Josh McDougal's course record of 22:56.4 by running22:51.3. Hard to believe that McDougal doesn't even have the Liberty school record on the Indiana St. course anymore.
Afterwards, Chelanga told the Terre Haute Tribune Star, "I was just trying to push myself and test my ability to compete
nationally. I feel pretty confident and wasn't that tired at
the end of the race, so I feel like I will be able to do well."
Indiana State coach John McNicholsadded this quote about Chelanga's run, "That was unbelievable. To see somebody go out in a field like this and make it look like a high school senior running against a
junior high team, that's just unbelievable. That's the national
champion we were looking at. No guarantees obviously, but we sure
haven't seen anyone else in the country that looks like that."
The second most noteworthy performance was turned in by Stanford's true freshman Chris Derrick, who ran a stellar 23:34 for 4th.He certainly lived up to the hype. In the team battle, there were some big-time surprises and big-time disappointments.
Team Battle - Big-Time Disappointments
The disappointing teams were led by the #3-ranked CU Buffaloes, who finished 9th. Head coach Mark Wetmore didn't try to hide the disappointment as he said,"These were not the results that we had hoped for, but now we know where we are and what work
we have to do." Actually, we take that back; the most overrated team in this race had to be #21 Texas, as they finished 27th in the white race alone. Before you write off the Buffaloes however, we will point out that last year in this race, the Oklahoma St. Cowboys only finished 8th but they went on to be 3rd at NCAAs. The coach who is the best in the business at peaking when it matters most is Mr. Wetmore, so don't write the Buffs off yet.
The Big-Time Surprises were led by #10 Stanford, which won the men's white race, as well as unranked Indiana, which came in 8th. Other teams having good days included #18 BYU, which finished 3rd as well as #23 UCLA, which finished 5th. 16th-ranked Auburn had a good day as well as they finished 4th. Crazy to think that after 34 straight conference wins that Arkansas is not only likely to lose - they
are likely to finish no better than 3rd, as Alabama and Auburn seem a lot better on paper.
Thus the question for the day is did John McDonnell (former Arkansas coach) and Jason Vigilante (former Texas coach) (and Peter Tegen with the Stanford women) pick the perfect times to leave their former schools, as it looks like both are in for long years? One other question we have is why do some teams even bother to run the varsity race of Pre-NCAAs? We'll be nice and not name names, but why not stay at home or run the Open race if you have five guys over 27:00?
Men's Blue Race: OSU Runs in the JV Instead
Individual Race Nothing was nearly as interesting from this race as in the white race, but there were certainly a few things of note. Alabama's Tyson David
got the individual win in 23:30 - some 39 seconds slower than what
Chelanga ran later in the White race. Before you totally discount
Tyson's performance, we will point out that he ran his last 3k slightly
faster than Chelanga. In his battle for the title, David ran his last
3k in 8:37 to Chelanga's 8:39. But does that mean Chelanga is
vulnerable? No. His first 5k was 41 seconds faster than David's and he
was totally unchallenged and nearly ran his last 3k as fast.
Last year's Foot Locker individual champ Mike Fout of
Florida St. was 51st. Not bad for a freshman, but it confirmed what many
were already thinking - Fernandez and Derrick are the bigger talents.
How did Fout win last year? Derrick probably was spent from having to
run NTN and Fernandez mis-timed his peak at the Cal state meet.
Team Battle - Big-Time Disappointments
2nd-ranked Oklahoma State
finished 23rd in the team battle. Normally this would be a disaster, but
Oklahoma State didn't run any of their top five from their victorious
team at the Cowboy Jamboree here. They did run freshman phenom German Fernandez, who was their #1 man at the Cowboy Jamboree, in the Open race (think JV race). He was joined in the JV race by teammates John Kosgei and Colby Lowe. While OSU certainly was within
the rules to run their studs in the Open race and while we think it's
technically probably a smart coaching move, it rubbed us and a lot
of the spectators the wrong way. Imagine if you went to a big-time
mid-season matchup in college football like Texas - Oklahoma and none
of the starters played. You pay big money to find out that they played in
a JV game after the regular game.If the youngsters need to see the course so desperately, then come to the other meet at Indiana St. earlier in the yearor run them in the varsity race.
The trio of Fernandez, Kosgei and Lowe went 1-2-3 in the JV race in
times that would have placed them 4th, 8th and 14th overall in the blue
race. Throw in Ryan Vail and David Chirchir, who didn't
race at all but were OSU's #2 and #3 at the Cowboy Jamboree, and it's
clear OSU would have almost certainly put 5 in the top 20 here if
they'd run their full team. A fine early-season performance for OSU, which
was only 8th at Pre-Nats last year before getting third at NCAAs.
26th-ranked Syracuse had an off day as they finished 15th.
Teams Having Good Days #6 Alabama more than lived up to the hype as the SEC favorites by winning the race. #16 Northern Arizona also did well as they were 3rd.
Top Team Results Top 20: 1. 89 Alabama, 2. 113 Northern Arizona, 3. 146 Michigan, 4. 212 Florida State, 5. 234 Minnesota, 6. 242 William & Mary, 7. 273 Cal Poly, 8. 315 California 9. 321 Providence, 0. 366 North Carolina St., 11. 401 Notre Dame, 12. 430 Butler, 13. 431 Dartmouth, 14. 464 Eastern Kentucky, 15. 467 Syracuse, 16. 486 Miami (Ohio), 17. 496 Washington St., 18. 512 Iowa, 19. 518 Missouri, 20. 521 UMass Amherst
Top 10 (Name, 2k split, 5k split, Final Time)
1 1 43 Tyson David Alabama 5:49 14:53 23:30.1
2 2 1010 David McNeill Northern Arizona 5:53 14:53 23:30.7 3 3 858 Hassan Mead Minnesota 5:52 14:54 23:33.1 4 4 1044 Patrick Smyth Notre Dame 5:48 14:52 23:38.3 5 5 49 Augustus Maiyo Alabama 5:50 14:53 23:39.6 6 6 1215 David McCarthy Providence 5:50 14:54 23:40.8 7 7 1734 Mark Korir Wyoming 5:49 14:53 23:43.2 8 8 861 Chris Rombough Minnesota 5:52 14:57 23:47.3 9 9 41 Emmanuel Bor Alabama 5:50 14:53 23:48.4 10 10 814 Ciaran O'Lionaird Michigan 5:49 14:53 23:50.6 More Blue Race Coverage:*Full Results: TeamIndividual
Men JV/Open: (OSU, Fernandex) *Results *Post-Race Interviews from Flotrack (Race video coming) *Blue Men's Photo Gallery (Captions coming)
Women's Blue Race: Washington Is For Real
The story from the Women's Blue Race came across loud and clear - the #1-ranked Washington Huskies are for real. Some, including the LetsRun.com
faithful who ranked them #2 in the LetsRun.com polls, were a bit
suspicious of the Huskies being ranked #1 by the coaches' polls, but
Greg Metcalfe's Huskies put any doubts to rest with a truly dominating
performance. The Huskies, led by true freshman Kendra Schaaf (via Canada, 20th at World Junior XCs last year) and Christine Babcock
(national high school record at 1500 with 4:16.42, competed at the Olympic
Trials), who placed third and fourth respectively, placed four in the
top 10 and dominated the meet, scoring a super-impressive 36 points.
Coach Metcalfe was rightfully pleased with his teams performance. He said, "In
talking to our women they honestly thought we could have seven in the
top 25. We just were very aggressive and at 3K we had five in the
top 10 and it just shaped up to be an outstanding day. We just did what
we've done every other weekend. Ultimately did I think we would score
36 points? No. But this group is capable of excellence and showed it
again today. You know you're going to have great team success when five
women are thinking about winning a race."
On the individual side of things, North Carolina's Brie Felnagle, 11th at NCAAs last year (NCAA 1,500m champ in 2007), got a convincing 11-second win in 20:01, over Auburn's Hollie Knight.
Big Surprise: Villanova Women (Positive), Stanford Women (Negative)
In the 1990s, if you discussed NCAA women's cross country, you talked
about one school, the Villanova Wildcats.The Wildcats won six straight
NCAA titles from 1989 to 1994 and picked up a 7th title in 1998. The
last ten years had seen a decline for the Wildcats but they were the
big surprisers on Saturday. Ranked only #15 coming in, the Wildcats
were a surprising second in the Blue Race, comfortably ahead of #4-ranked Minnesota.
The Stanford Cardinal have been the team of the 2000s in women's cross country (the last 3 NCAA titles, and 4 of the last 5), but they had a disappointing performance on Saturday as they only finished 7th in the Blue Race (they were ranked #6 in the nation coming in). But this message board thread points out that the Cardinal ran without Alex Gits and Claire Collison. Blue Race: Top 10 Individuals:
Name (3k split, finishing time)
1 1 961 Brianna Felnagle North Carolina 10:01 20:02.4
2 2 91 Hollie Knight Auburn 10:02 20:13.4
3 3 1593 Kendra Schaaf Washington 10:01 20:14.7
4 4 1585 Christine Babcock Washington 10:03 20:15.2
5 5 1589 Marie Lawrence Washington 10:04 20:17.8
6 6 819 Nicole Bush Michigan State 10:02 20:19.1
7 7 1719 Gwen Jorgensen Wisconsin 10:02 20:19.3
8 8 1588 Katie Follett Washington 10:03 20:20.3
9 9 679 Beverly Ramos Kansas State 10:04 20:20.6
10 10 1201 Danette Doetzel Providence 10:02 20:23.8 Team Results (Top-20): 1. Washington 36;
2. Villanova 126; 3. Minnesota 198; 4. Michigan State 215; 5. Florida
233; 6. Wisconsin 247; 7. Stanford 248; 8. Rice 263; 9. Iowa 283; 10.
New Mexico 296; 11. Providence 334; 12. BYU 372; 13. Oklahoma State
431; 14. Indiana 438; 15. Arizona 446; 16. Georgia 467; 16. Washington
State 467; 18. Auburn 498; 19. Miami (Ohio) 513; 20. North Carolina 518.
Susan Kuijken of Florida State put on an exhibition during the final 2
kilometers of the women's White Race on Saturday in Terre Haute, as she
demolished the field over the final 2k to set a course record of
19:48.2. Afterwards, Kuijken told the Terre Haute Tribune Star
that the pre-race plan was to try to push things the last 2k if she
felt good. That is exactly what she did, as she crushed the field by 22
seconds over the last 2k. Super-impressive. Perhaps even more impressive is
that Kuijken said she did not feel good with 2k to go. She said, "Coach
[Karen] Harvey (wife of Canadian miler Kevin Sullivan) told before the
race that if I felt good with 2K to go, that I should make a real push
and try to win the race. I didn't really feel all that good with 2K
left, but I decided at that moment to go ahead and make a strong push
for the win. I kept hearing the announcer mention that I had a lead and
had a chance at the course record when I got the finish in sight, so I
made a final push and just let loose down the stretch.'
Rounding out the top 5, Michigan (11th-ranked coming in - finished 3rd),
Illinois (17th-ranked coming in - finished tied for 4th), and Georgetown
(18th-ranked - finished tied for 4th) all did better than expected,
while Louie Q's Arizona State squad did slightly worse (ranked 8th,
finished 6th in its race). While Colorado is not supposed to be
very good this year with world beater Jenny Barringer red-shirting,
it's still shocking to see them in twentieth (they have 2 NCAA crowns
Women's White Race Results
Name (3k split, finishing time)
1 1 432 Susan Kuijken Florida State 10:03 19:48.2
2 2 794 Nicole Edwards Michigan 10:04 20:20.8
3 1644 Janet Jesang Western Kentucky 10:03 20:22.2
4 3 528 Katie Engel Illinoi 10:04 20:22.6
5 4 1188 Liz Costello Princeton 10:03 20:24.1
6 5 438 Lesley Van Miert Florida State 10:03 20:24.6
7 6 1367 Alex Becker Tulsa 10:04 20:27.8
8 7 109 Erin Bedell Baylor 10:03 20:34.3
9 8 997 Veronica Pohl Northern Arizona 10:03 20:36.6
10 9 932 Lara Crofford Nebraska 10:15 20:38.3 Team Results (Top-20): 1.
Florida State 89, 1. Princeton 89 3.Michigan 168 4. Illnois 186 4.
Georgetown 186 6. Arizona State 202 7. Baylor 203 8. Stony Brook 265 9.
Nebraska 350 10. Northern Arizona 374 11. Syracuse 375 12. UC Davis 395
13. Notre Dame 420 14. UC Riverside 461 15. California 474 16. William
and Mary 487 17. UC Irvine 505 18. Tulsa 518 19. Columbia 543 20.