by John Kellogg
November 7, 2012
Editor’s Note: LetsRun.com’s coaching/stat guru John Kellogg has done what basically no one else in the world would have the expertise/patience to do – predict what is going to happen at Friday’s NCAA D1 cross-country regionals. The top two teams in each region and top four individuals not on a team that qualifies will make it to NCAAs. Then 13 at large teams will be added in and two at large individuals.
We imagine even the great John Kellogg is bound to have missed someone in these predictions, so if you have corrections, please email them to us.
Mr. Kellogg seemingly comes out of hibernation every few months to make predictions in the running world. He did Regional previews in 2011 and 2008 and in the spring of 2011, he said it wouldn’t surprise him if someone ran faster than 2:03:59 in Boston and then Geoffrey Mutai ran 2:03:02 and after the race everyone (except us) was saying the unthinkable had happened.
Mr. Kellogg has scoured the season’s results – with the most weight given to recent (conference meet) performances – to take a guess at who should be the top 25 individuals and few teams in each of the nine regions. A lot of runners were considered for the top 25 and he’ll undoubtedly get quite a few wrong – someone just outside his top 25 has just as good a chance as someone who just made it – and there are always a couple of huge surprises. Team scores are generally based on the strengths of the top teams relative to each other (discounting many of the runners outside the top 25 or so from non-contending teams) and will probably end up being higher than he’s listed them due to displacement from those individuals. In short, this is a pretty good general idea of who should be in the hunt, but it’s still bound to get a bunch of it completely wrong. So basically this is all for S&Gs. We hope you enjoy them. For more on the logic behind the picks, please see last year’s instructions.
Give Us Your Own Predictions in the LetsRun.com NCAA Fan Polls.
Missouri State Cross-Country Course, Springfield, Missouri
The #1-ranked Oklahoma State Cowboys scored 24 points at Big 12 to destroy two highly-ranked teams in Texas and Oklahoma and will strut their stuff again here, but are likely to keep things under control with an NCAA spot in the bag and the big meet only eight days away. Girma Mecheso led the Cowboys with a 2nd place at Big 12, but Shadrack Kipchirchir is the top returner in the region and Tom Farrell is their top returner from NCAAs last year, where he was 31st. Kipchirchir and Farrell were right behind Mecheso in 3rd and 4th at Big 12, as OSU enjoyed an eight-second 1-5 spread. There are plenty of Cowboys to choose from when trying to pick an individual winner in the region. Tulsa’s Chris O’Hare has been superb this season and may find this race ripe for his picking, especially if OSU keeps the reins tight and pack runs one last time before Nationals. O’Hare won at Notre Dame early on, beating Texas A&M’s SEC champ-to-be Henry Lelei to the line, and was 2nd at Conference USA behind UTEP’s Pre-Nationals winner Anthony Rotich. Oklahoma has taken a back seat to their in-state rivals, but the Sooners have some great runners of their own. Patrick Casey was the lone Sooner to crack the OSU top five at Big 12, where he ended up 5th. Bill Kogel was 9th in the region last fall and was the squad’s top finisher in 29th at NCAAs last year.
As strong as the Midwest has been in the past, it seems to be tougher than ever to make the All-Region team now. Pieter Gagnon (Minnesota) was 15th in the region last year and his team qualified for Nationals, but he hasn’t looked like a contender for an individual spot this season and Minnesota needs a miracle to qualify. Lone individuals not on top teams often wait until the season’s end to peak for the chance to run at NCAAs. Last year, UMKC’s Cosmas Ayabei stormed to 7th in the Midwest, but his results this season have been so sketchy that a repeat appearance in the top 10 will be a stunner.
Girma Mecheso (Oklahoma State)
Chris O’Hare (Tulsa)
Shadrack Kipchirchir (Oklahoma State)
Tom Farrell (Oklahoma State)
Patrick Casey (Oklahoma)
Kirubel Erassa (Oklahoma State)
Shane Moskowitz (Oklahoma State)
Kevin Williams (Oklahoma)
Andy Heyes (Tulsa)
Bill Kogel (Oklahoma)
Mohamed Hrezi (Iowa State)*
Riley Masters (Oklahoma)
John Simons (Minnesota)*
Joseph Manilafasha (Oklahoma State)
Paulo Pinheiro (Tulsa)
Jannis Topfer (Illinois)*
Hayden Legg (Missouri)*
Evan Landes (Kansas)**
Hunter Mickow (Illinois)
Max Storms (Missouri)
Andrew Weaver (Oklahoma)
Michael Krsnak (South Dakota State)
Fabian Clarkson (Oklahoma State)
Bryant Blahnik (Missouri)
Don Wasinger (Kansas)
With 42 and 45 points in last year’s Regional, OSU and OU were well clear of third place Tulsa’s 120. The Cowboys only had a pack of four at the front rather than the five they could have this time, so there’s a chance they score in the 20s and have the entire squad make All-Region. They did, in fact, beat the rival Sooners with a 24-point total at Big 12 (OU in 3rd at 62) with 7 in the top 20, and the competition here won’t be noticeably tougher for them than the conference meet was. With the addition of O’Hare, Tulsa should score under 100 this time, but that will probably still keep the Golden Hurricane well shy of 2nd. Illinois and Missouri look close to each other on paper. Illinois was farther up in the standings than Missouri was at Wisco and went on to score a very good 86 points for 4th at Big Ten, but Missouri has been improving rapidly and tied Texas A&M for 3rd at SEC. Minnesota qualified for NCAAs last year; it’s looking extremely unlikely for them this time.
**Assuming Missouri gets in as the last team over Arizona
Aliphine Tuliamuk-Bolton is the defending Regional champion and is undefeated this season, including a win at Pre-Nationals over a few runners who might wind up in the top 10 at Nationals. The 9-time All-American comes in as the favorite, but not an overwhelming favorite by any stretch. The Iowa State duo of Betsy Saina and Meaghan Nelson were 2nd and 4th in the meet last year and went on to 9th and 17th at NCAAs. They are probably the top one-two in the country so far, rivaled only by Oregon’s Jordan Hasay and Alexi Pappas. Saina is the reigning national indoor 5k champion. She and her teammates are so good that five Cyclones blew across the line in front of Minnesota’s Laura Docherty at Wisconsin, and Docherty went on to finish 9th at Big Ten and has a reasonable shot at top 10 in this region. Freshman Crystal Nelson and Samantha Bluske have been Iowa State’s 3 and 4 this fall, finishing 26th and 30th at Wisco and 8th and 9th at Big 12.
Those having the best chances of breaking up the Iowa State party should be Monika Juodeskaite and Natalja Piliusina (Oklahoma State), Mareike Schrulle (Iowa) and Jessica Engel (Oklahoma). Juodeskaite has spearheaded the Oklahoma State attack all season and was 4th at Big 12. Piliusina, a middle distance specialist with a 1,500m PR of 4:09.51, was 9th in the region last year to lead OSU and was 7th at Big 12 this season. Schrulle has been among the best in the country this fall, with an outstanding 12th at Wisconsin and a runner-up at Big Ten. Engel won overall against Arkansas and OSU at Chile Pepper and finished 5th at Big 12. She was 5th in the region last year.
Aliphine Tuliamuk-Bolton (Wichita State)
Betsy Saina (Iowa State)
Meaghan Nelson (Iowa State)
Monika Juodeskaite (Oklahoma State)
Mareike Schrulle (Iowa)
Jessica Engel (Oklahoma)
Natalja Piliusina (Oklahoma State)
Crystal Nelson (Iowa State)
Samantha Bluske (Iowa State)
Laura Galvan (Kansas State)
Courtney Laeger (Illinois)
Katy Moen (Iowa State)
Laura Docherty (Minnesota)
Audrey Huth (Northwestern)
Taylor Petersen (Iowa State)
Molly Kayfes (Minnesota)
Colleen Riley (Iowa State)
Kate Kujawa (Oklahoma State)
Jacqueline Campos (Oklahoma State)
Michelle Moriset (Northwestern)
Gina Valgoi (Loyola, Ill.)
Victoria Hanna (Oklahoma State)
Katie Moraczewski (Minnesota)
Margo Richardson (St. Louis)
Alyssa Schneider (Illinois)
Imagine how awesome Iowa State would be if Tuliamuk-Bolton and Semehar Tesfaye (now at Arkansas), both former Cyclones, were on the current squad. But they aren’t. That leaves poor Iowa State with only two of the top 10 runners in the country so far this season and keeps alive some other team’s chances for a national title. At Big 12, Iowa State took the top two spots as expected and tallied 34 points to blitz nationally-ranked Oklahoma State (81) and Texas (87), finishing 7 runners in the top 18 (OSU’s 3rd was 20th). The Cyclones defeated Oklahoma State 64-119 at the Regional last year and are even better this year. They stand a slight chance of placing 5 in the top 10. Meanwhile, OSU and Minnesota are both nationally-ranked teams and should easily nab the 2nd and 3rd team spots.