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.
Apalachee Regional Park, Tallahassee, Florida
The defending South Regional individual champion is Florida State’s David Forrester, who is still clawing his way back into shape following injury. The 16th placer at last year’s NCAAs, Forrester finished in 12th at ACC as the second FSU runner, so he may not be ready to defend his title here, but he’s headed in the right direction from more mediocre results earlier in the season. FSU teammate Breandan O’Neill crossed the line in 2nd place at ACC and he and his Seminole teammates may find this field easier than the conference foes, which included Virginia Tech, Virginia and NC State, all nationally ranked or at one time receiving votes. Ditto for Georgia, as the SEC is stronger at the top (with Arkansas) and marginally deeper than the entire South region. Matt Cleaver led the Bulldogs at SEC with a 5th place finish and could easily place higher than that here. Right behind Cleaver at SEC came Peter Okwera of Tennessee (Western Kentucky transfer) and Mark Parrish of Florida in 6th and 7th. FSU’s Jakub Zivec led the ‘Noles through the mid-season, including a very strong 10th place at Pre-Nats, so he could emerge as the individual winner on a banner day. MTSU has gone this season without Justus David, who was 3rd in the region a year ago and could have shaken things up at the top if back in the mix. Kennesaw State’s Nabil Hamid is the 4th returner. He hasn’t looked that strong yet this season, but his 6th place finish last year was a surprise, so perhaps he has a big race in store.
Breandan O’Neill (Florida State)
Matt Cleaver (Georgia)
Peter Okwera (Tennessee)*
Mark Parrish (Florida)*
David Forrester (Florida State)
Brandon Lord (Georgia)
Brian Detweiler (Georgia)
Jakub Zivec (Florida State)
Wes Rickman (Florida State)
Lucas Baker (Georgia)
Seth Proctor (Florida State)
Brett Richardson (Georgia)
Nabil Hamid (Kennesaw State)*
John-Logan Hines (Florida)*
Niklas Buhner (Auburn)
Paul Lagno (Florida State)
Nathan Wanach (Chattanooga)
Robinson Simatei (Middle Tennesse State)
Jimmy Clark (Florida)
Valentin Poncelet (Georgia State)
William Bridges (Florida State)
Matt Mizereck (Florida)
Josh Izewski (Florida)
Filip Jalovy (East Tennessee State)
Eduardo Garcia (Florida)
As most of the top runners in this region appear to be on a few dominant teams, and with the region containing fewer top teams than either the ACC or the SEC, the scores could be very low. Georgia had an extremely good result by nabbing 3rd at the Greater Louisville Classic in late September, even beating Texas (although the Longhorns were without Ryan Dohner and Kyle Merber in that one). But Florida State seems to have gained a slight edge on the Bulldogs based on the most recent results vs. common opponents. Prior results don’t carry over to the next race, though, so even if the Seminoles are hypothetically the favorites, they will need an A race here to come out on top, and they didn’t get one at their conference meet. Forrester’s continued improvement might be the deciding factor in the team race here. Florida (3rd on paper) might need to somehow get into 2nd to ensure a spot at NCAAs. The Gators did make Nationals last year and return the top 6 runners from that squad.
Number one-ranked Florida State won easy, peasy, lemon squeezy at ACC and the Seminoles could easily put 4 in the top 10 here if everything goes swimmingly. Often using a pack-running strategy, their team leader can vary from meet to meet, but Violah Lagat has been #1 for them in the last two outings, with a 4th place at Pre-Nationals and then winning the ACC individual title, thus earning the top seeding for the Regional. Teammate Amanda Winslow won this race last year but has been the 3rd or 4th FSU runner so far this season, finishing 11th overall at ACC. Colleen Quigley was the winner at Notre Dame early on and followed that race with 6th at Pre-Nats and 4th at the conference meet. It gets worse for rival teams – Kayleigh Tyerman was 17th at Pre-Nats and 5th at ACC, and freshman Georgia Peel was 14th at conference, giving FSU a scoring 5 perhaps only rivaled nationwide by Iowa State. Their #6 through most of the fall, Jessica Parry, was 20th in the South Regional last year. This is a strong team.
Florida is apparently redshirting middle-distance All-American Cory McGee, who was 6th in the region last year and would be the 3rd returner. In her absence, Florence Ngetich has taken the helm and most recently dashed to a runner-up finish at SEC. Ngetich was 9th in the region a year ago, is the 4th returner, and should be battling for the top spot. Vanderbilt has three excellent harriers in Hannah Jumper, Kristen Findley and Liz Anderson, all of whom produced solid finishes at Wisconsin. They are unlikely to be in contention for the individual win, but if the Commodores have a subpar overall team race and find themselves low enough in the standings, these three could be fighting for individual NCAA qualifiers. Other top individuals not on contending teams include Georgia’s Carly Hamilton (4th at SEC), Mississippi’s Katie Breathitt (9th at SEC this year, 15th in the region last year) and Georgia State’s Katharine Showalter (an excellent 6th at Chile Pepper, Sun Belt conference champion).
Violah Lagat (Florida State)
Florence Ngetich (Florida)
Colleen Quigley (Florida State)
Kayleigh Tyerman (Florida State)
Carly Hamilton (Georgia)
Amanda Winslow (Florida State)
Agata Strausa (Florida)
Hannah Jumper (Vanderbilt)
Kristen Findley (Vanderbilt)
Katie Breathitt (Mississippi)
Liz Anderson (Vanderbilt)
Katharine Showalter (Georgia State)
Georgia Peel (Florida State)
Callie Cooper (Florida)
Stephanie Ledgerwood (Southern Mississippi)
Anne Threlkeld (Mississippi)
Shelby Hayes (Florida)
Morgan VanGorder (Georgia)
Lauren D’Alessio (Samford)
Jessica Parry (Florida State)
Katelyn Greenleaf (Alabama)
Kayleigh Skinner (Mississippi)
Stephanie Strasser (Florida)
Jennifer Dunn (Florida State)
Rachel Roberts (Samford)
At last year’s South Regional, #1-ranked Florida State ran as a bunch, at halfway about 5-6 seconds off the pace controlled mostly by Vanderbilt and Florida, then rolled up to sweep the top three spots en route to a 34-point tally, with all 7 runners in the top 20. The Seminoles return 6 from that squad. Vanderbilt, 2nd last year with 54 points, has three very strong runners this season but has lacked depth, which should make it virtually impossible for the Commodores to get within 20 points of FSU this time. In fact, Vanderbilt was almost caught by Mississippi and wasn’t comfortably ahead of Georgia at SEC, which could make the race for third here interesting. Florida, however, is solid through five and improving quickly and might provide enough of an annoyance to make FSU have to run a bit to avoid an upset. Florida emerged victorious over 12th-ranked Arkansas 61-70 at SEC (a comfortable 58 points clear of Vandy) to move from 30th to 14th in the national poll.