LetsRun.com's Women's Preview Of The 2011 NCAA Cross-Country Championships

By LetsRun.com
November 18, 2011
LetsRun.com's Men's Preview Of The 2011 NCAA Cross-Country Championships
*Enter Our $200,011 NCAA XC Prediction Contest

November 18, 2011 - Last year at NCAAs, the Florida State Seminoles were 2nd and graduated three of their top five. Well, guess what? Coach Karen Harvey and the Seminoles are back in 2011 and seemingly better than ever.

Florida State enters NCAAs undefeated on the year, ranked #1 and looks to be the team to beat. It's hard to see them losing quite honestly. In an effort to show you why, we'll try to compare them to the their nearest competitors.

The #2 ranked team in the land is two-time defending champion Villanova. 'Nova graduated two of their top three from last year and has struggled a bit this year as they were just 5th at the Wisconsin adidas Invite behind Washington (ranked #3 currently), Vanderbilt (ranked #5 currently), and Arizona (ranked #8 currently). But really all of those teams were very close to each other, as 1st had 199 and 5th had 232.

Villanova, which is led by last year's individual champ Sheila Reid, did rebound and win the Big East title narrowly over Georgetown (ranked #4 currently) and Providence (who shockingly didn't make NCAAs despite being #5 in the country before regionals), as it was Villanova 54, Providence 63, and Georgetown 77. At the Mid-Atlantic regional, Georgetown and 'Nova tied for the title.

So basically, there are a bunch of teams in the #2-8 spots that are very close to each other on paper. Well, how does 'Nova and that group of schools stack up against Florida State? Not very well.

Florida State During The Season
The one school mentioned above that has raced Florida State is Georgetown. The Hoyas raced Florida State at Pre-NCAAs and the results weren't pretty. Final score: Florida State 46, Georgetown 99, as FSU put five in ahead of Georgetown's second runner. Now Georgetown and Villanova seemingly have improved since mid-season but not enough in our minds to challenge Florida State.

At the ACC meet, Florida State put on a clinic in pack running as they swept positions two through sixth. They even had a nice insurance policy, as their 6th runner Kayleigh Tyerman was 10th overall.

Finishing 14th at ACCs was Maryland's Julie Fricke. Why do we mention that? Because Fricke raced against both 'Nova and G'Town at regionals and she would have been 'Nova's 4th runner and Georgetown's 3rd. So it looks like FSU has six better than Nova's 4 and Georgetown's 3. It's hard to see FSU losing the team battle as a result.

Now Villanova does seemingly a little more firepower up front. A few low sticks really help at NCAAs. Considering Reid is likely to repeat her individual title, they will only be scoring four to FSU's five. And 'Nova does have a good # 2 runner in in Bogdana Mimic, who was 27th last year. But people need to realize Jessica Parry, who has been FSU's number three/four this year, was 22nd last year. It's hard to see FSU not packing up and getting the job done in the end.

Inaugural PAC-12 champion Colorado, which is ranked #6, got a number one vote in the final national poll that was released earlier this week. They have a nice 1-2 punch with Shalaya Kipp and World Championships team member Emma Coburn and they did get the best of Washington at PAC-12s, but we have zero idea why anyone would give them a first place vote. They, like a lot of teams, are most likely a podium team if they have a good day but they'll need some big help from FSU if they are going to win it.

Individual Title: The Top 5 From Last Year Are Back

2010 NCAA Results - Top 5
Place   TmPl    No.     Name    Class   School  3k  Finish
1   1   754     Sheila Reid     JR  Villanova   10:11   20:06.9
2   2   186     Emily Infeld    JR  Georgetown  10:12   20:09.2
3   3   471     Jordan Hasay    SO  Oregon  10:11   20:13.0
4       745     Risper Kimaiyo  SO  UTEP    10:11   20:16.1
5   4   711     Rose Tanui  JR  Texas Tech  10:11   20:17.6

Last year's race featured a gripping homestretch battle between Reid, runner-up Emily Infeld of Georgetown and Oregon's Jordan Hasay. If you like sequels, then you are in luck, as all three of them are back in 2011, as are the top 5 individuals from last year's race.

Reid should be favored no matter who you stack her up against, as she was the NCAA XC champ last year as well as the DMR and outdoor 1,500m and 5,000m champion.

Reid consistently beat Infeld all of last year in both Big East and NCAA competition, whether it was cross-country or track, and Reid won Big East this year, so we don't see why that trend wouldn't continue. Hasay did get the best of Reid for the first time in the NCAA indoor 3,000 last year, but Reid reasserted her dominance outdoors and she already beat Hasay this year at the Wisconsin Invite. Plus, Hasay didn't win the PAC-12 title, as she was third in a race won by Washington's Katie Flood.

If you are looking for an upset pick, UNC's Kendra Schaaf, who was second in 2009 while running for Washington, might be your woman. Schaaf had a dominating 27-second victory over all of the Florida State runners at ACCs three weeks ago. That being said, Schaaf was 8th at the adidas Wisconsin Invite - some 15.6 seconds behind Reid.

We conclude our preview with the predictions of LetsRun.com's prediction guru John Kellogg. Remember, JK is the guy who foresaw the possibility of a 2:03 in Boston before the race last April and he's also the only person in our prediction contest in 2006 who correctly predicted both individual and both team winners.

LRC Prediction Guru John Kellogg's Predictions/Rationale:

1. Florida State - Much like Wisconsin on the men's side, the Seminoles have blown everybody out with pack running this season (although not as tight a pack as the Wisco men have used). This team is a clear favorite to win it all. If they're instructed to stay together for a good deal of the race, they might not have anyone come up for top 10, but Amanda Winslow is their best bet for a single-digit individual finish.
2. Villanova - Last year's champs face a huge battle to repeat, but should be bolstered by at least a couple of runners in the top 20, including the possible individual champ.
3. Georgetown - 4th last year and coming on like gangbusters. The Hoyas tied 'Nova at the Mid-Atlantic Regional, led by Emily Infeld's runner-up to Sheila Reid. Infeld was 2nd at the Mid-Atlantic last year as well, then grabbed the runner-up spot to Reid at NCAAs.
4. Washington - Lost by 23 to Colorado at PAC-12s, where they edged 3rd-place Stanford by 2, but really looked ready to rumble their way to the podium when they ran the West Regional, where they drubbed Arizona 50-98. Some teams might have held back there, but this most recent result shows what the Huskies can do on a banner day, and I'm a big fan of recent team trends. Look for them to challenge for the podium, if not the outright win.
5. Colorado - The Lady Buffs blew out Washington, Stanford et al. in a shocker at the PAC-12, but were not so dominant at the Mountain Regional, settling for a tie with New Mexico. Perhaps they were just cruising. We'll see.
6. Vanderbilt - The Commodores have suddenly become nationally prominent, rising through the ranks in the SEC and the South region the past few years to win the conference and place 2nd to Florida State at Regionals this year and earn their first trip to Nationals. They may even have been higher-ranked at one point, but a couple of teams have really turned on the afterburners and look to keep Vanderbilt off the podium. They - along with a few other teams - should be close, though, and could do it on a good day.
7. Iowa State - They're without last year's number one Aliphine Tuliamuk (13th at NCAAs), who is now at Wichita State, but the Cyclones don't seem any worse than the 8th place they enjoyed last year. Betsy Saina and Meaghan Nelson could flirt with the top 10. Won the Midwest by 55 big points.
8. West Virginia - The team that tied for 4th place at Big Easts is possibly a podium team if they have a great day - shows you how good the Big East is. Only 7 points behind Villanova and Georgetown at the Mid-Atlantic.
9. Michigan - Apparently peaking just for Nationals, the Wolverines turned the tables on Michigan State with a decisive 32-point win at the Great Lakes Regional after the Spartans handed them a narrow conference loss.
10. Arizona - Led by a great 1-2 punch of Elvin Kibet and Jennifer Bergman (4th and 6th at the West Regional), the Wildcats might struggle at this level if their 5th doesn't come through. But 2nd in the West certainly exhibits a positive trend.

1. Sheila Reid (Villanova) - The defending champ. Big East champ and Mid-Atlantic Regional champ this year. The word "champ" appears next to Reid's name quite often.
2. Jordan Hasay (Oregon) - Lost at PAC-12s, but got revenge at the West Regional and seems to be timing it right for the big one. Will Reid (or someone else) still have her number this time?
3. Kendra Schaaf (North Carolina) - 2nd at the Big Show in 2009 while at Washington. After a not-too-shabby 8th at Wisconsin adidas in October, Schaaf has stepped it up yet another notch, making a mockery of the ACC competition and comfortably handling the Southeast Regional field.
4. Silje Fjortoft (SMU) - Dominated every race this year by whopping margins, humbling conference and regional champs-to-be in the process. Hopefully the Norwegian senior can exorcise some NCAA demons - she won the South Central twice prior to this year's win, appeared at Nationals 3 times and has a highest finish to date of "only" 40th (battling illness at year's end twice), but looks more ready for a big showing this year than in the past.
5. Risper Kimaiyo (UTEP) - 4th at NCAAs a year ago, Kimaiyo is coming on nicely in the championship portion of the season with a win at Pre-Nats and - for the 2nd straight year - a victory at the Mountain Regional.
6. Emily Infeld (Georgetown) - Runner-up last year. That might be hard to duplicate, but a single-digit score seems likely after a close runner-up finish to Reid at the Regional - just like a year ago.
7. Aliphine Tuliamuk (Wichita State) - 13th last year while at Iowa State. Midwest Regional champ this year.
8. Abbey D'Agostino (Dartmouth) - The Big Green sophomore burst onto the scene with a 15:40 5k for 3rd at outdoor NCAAs last year and has looked like a potential top 10 finisher throughout the fall season, with a 2nd to Kimaiyo at Pre-Nats and wins at HEPS and the Northeast Regional.
9. Deborah Maier (California) - 30th last year, Maier won at Griak and was 3rd at Wisconsin this season before sitting out PAC-12s while nursing an ankle injury, then bounced right back to claim the runner-up spot at the West Regional.
10. Tara Erdmann (Loyola-Marymount) - Five-time All-American was 25th a year ago after taking 4th in the West Regional. Finished 3rd in the West this year, so it looks like she's moving up.

Note: At Noon Eastern on Saturday 11/19, we will reveal the first look at the consensus picks from LetsRun.com Nation from our $200,011 NCAA XC Prediction Contest. If you haven't entered and want to give us your top 10, do so here.

*LetsRun.com's Men's Preview Of The 2011 NCAA Cross-Country Championships


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