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. Message board poster “devils advocate” has run the numbers for the qualifiers on the men’s side which appears below and here. 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.
McAlpine Creek Park, Charlotte, North Carolina
Unlike a few of the regions, the Southeast should have a fairly large number of teams represented among the All-Region runners, and a top 10 finish may be required for an individual NCAA qualifier. The quality of competition at the top should also be quite intense and laden with experience at the regional (and national) level, as all of the finishers in places 2 through 7 from last year are back this time around (albeit one of those, Jake Hurysz, is in a different region). The top dog on paper is Greensboro’s Paul Chelimo, who has probably been the 5th or 6th best runner in the country so far this season. Chelimo has only been a winner once, at the Southern Conference meet, but his losses came to none other than Lawi Lalang and Stephen Sambu early on at Louisville and to Anthony Rotich at Pre-Nationals, and those runners have been three of the top four in the land this fall. No one can say Chelimo has ducked the competition! As good as he has been, however, there are a few others who could take the top spot in this region. Virginia Tech’s Will Mulherin, the ACC champion, was 5th in the region last year and 30th at Nationals. In addition to winning his conference meet this season, Mulherin was 6th at Pre-Nats. Soufiane Bouchikhi (Eastern Kentucky) raced to 13th at Wisconsin and won the Ohio Valley Conference by 27 seconds over several of his formidable teammates. Bouchikhi was 6th in the Southeast and 47th at NCAAs last year – and he may not be the top runner on his team. Ben Toroitich wound up in 10th at Wisco and was held out of the OVC meet, ensuring Bouchikhi would win his 3rd conference title. And we must not forget the top runner from the region at NCAAs last year other than Chelimo (who was 13th) – NC State’s Andrew Colley, who was 4th in the region and an outstanding 15th at the Big Show. With lower leg issues early this season, Colley was not raced until the ACC meet, where he finished 3rd; hence, he has to be rated below conference champ Mulherin. Other individuals who could make some noise include Upstate’s Gilbert Kemboi (11th in the region last year), who has raced sparingly but has a 2nd at Paul Short and a 27-second victory for the Atlantic Sun Conference title to his credit, and Louisville freshman Ernest Kibet (18th at Pre-Nats and 5th at Big East).
Paul Chelimo (UNCG)*
Will Mulherin (Virginia Tech)
Ben Toroitich (Eastern Kentucky)
Soufiane Bouchikhi (Eastern Kentucky)
Andrew Colley (North Carolina State)*
Gilbert Kemboi (USC-Upstate)*
Zach Gates (Virginia)
Ernest Kibet (Louisville)*
Paul Katam (UNCG)**
Kyle King (Virginia)
Joseph Chebet (Western Kentucky)**
Brayden Burleigh (Virginia Tech)
Alex McGrath (William & Mary)
Josh Hardin (William & Mary)
Luis Orta (Kentucky)
Thomas Curtin (Virginia Tech)
Everett Hackett (George Mason)
Matt Sonnenfeldt (North Carolina State)
Thijs Nijuis (Eastern Kentucky)
Mike Moverman (Duke)
Pat Schellberg (North Carolina)
J.J. Webber (Northern Kentucky)
Thomas Porter (Virginia)
Radford Gunzenhauser (William & Mary)
Amos Kosgey (Eastern Kentucky)
Eastern Kentucky auto qualified for NCAAs last year. Though the Colonels lost three of their top five, they restocked quickly. This season, it seems as though they’ve trotted out a new ringer or two for every meet. Their top two are fantastic and they probably have enough options for 3-4-5 scorers to take the win in this region even if they hold out one of their regulars. Based on the most recent results, Virginia Tech and Virginia should be hot on their heels. At the ACC meet, Florida State came in as a slight favorite, but the Seminoles were surprised by Virginia Tech and were also nosed out by a young, then-unranked Virginia squad that had two freshmen and two sophomores in their top five at that conference race. The Cavaliers will probably need to auto if they are to stay alive in the post-season, so expect them to go to the well in this tight-on-paper battle. The 10k distance normally favors age and experience, which could affect the younger runners, but Virginia does return Mark Amirault, who was 3rd in the region last year (and 27th at NCAAs). Amirault has struggled with injuries throughout his career (missing so many seasons as to be granted a rare 6th year by the NCAA) and was dinged up enough this season that he didn’t make his debut until the ACC meet, where he ended up 30th. That so-so result notwithstanding, his talent could re-emerge quickly and if it does, his experience at the regional level and beyond could provide a boost for the Cavaliers should their younger runners waver. William & Mary came out of nowhere last year to almost grab an auto spot. Can they surprise again?
North Carolina State
**At-large individual qualifier
A changing of the guard will occur at the front end of this Regional. The top five runners from last year (and 8 of the top 10) have graduated. In fact, 16 of last year’s top 25 have either run out of eligibility or are sidelined this season. There are, however, a couple of familiar names returning from missed seasons. Four-time All-American Catherine White is back in action for Virginia after missing the last two XC campaigns. White won this Regional way back in 2009 and was 4th at NCAAs that year. This season, she sped to 21st at Wisconsin and was runner-up at ACC. Duke’s Juliet Bottorff was even better at Wisco, placing 8th, and finished 5 seconds behind White in 3rd at ACC. Bottorff was injured for all of XC last fall but is somewhat famous for having prevailed over the field and the elements to win the 2011 10k national title in a death march of a race that featured mid-80s heat and brutal humidity and resulted in a few dropouts and at least one runner literally crawling across the finish line. Elaina Balouris (William & Mary) was 9th in this meet a year ago and is the second returner. A 10k national finalist, Balouris has been solid with 20th at Pre-Nats and a victory at CAA. But the favorite in the region may be a new arrival on the college elite scene – Kentucky junior Cally Macumber, who won the SEC crown, was 8th at Pre-Nats and has beaten White, Bottorff and Balouris this fall. The top returner from last year’s meet is Duke’s Madeline Morgan. Morgan was only the third Duke runner at ACC (17th overall) and will need to knock one out of the park to contend for the win here. The 11th placer in the Southeast last year, Dena O’Brien, has transferred to Virginia from the College of Charleston but hasn’t raced this season.
Cally Macumber (Kentucky)
Catherine White (Virginia)
Juliet Bottorff (Duke)
Elaina Balouris (William & Mary)
Chelsea Oswald (Kentucky)
Lianne Farber (North Carolina)
Katie Harman (James Madison)
Emily Stites (William & Mary)
Kelsey Lakowske (Duke)
Joanna Thompson (North Carolina State)
Jillian Prentice (Richmond)
Nicole Irving (Wake Forest)
Kayla Lampe (South Carolina)
Katie Gorman (James Madison)
Samantha Norman (North Carolina State)
Samantha George (North Carolina State)
Madeline Morgan (Duke)
Barbara Strehler (Virginia)
Suejin Ahn (Duke)
Bethany Sachtleban (George Mason)
Carolyn Baskir (Duke)
Stacey Nobles (James Madison)
Jennifer Klugh (Liberty)
Jess Cygan (William & Mary)
Ashley Brasovan (Duke)
As with the individuals, there should be a shake-up in the team standings from a year ago. Last year’s champions from Virginia haven’t looked nearly strong enough to repeat or even be in the top three, while last year’s 5th placers Duke and 9th placers William & Mary seem poised to easily vault into the top three this time following down years. Duke tallied 67 points at ACC to finish ahead of region rival NC State’s 86 score, taking second in the standings behind #1 nationally-ranked Florida State’s 35-point total. The other Southeast teams in the conference scored over 150 points. Duke’s excellent depth should prevail here, while CAA champs William & Mary and ACC 4th placers NC State figure to wage a tight battle for the other auto qualifier.
William & Mary
North Carolina State