by Scott Bush for LetsRun.com
October 31, 2013
What: 2013 Pac 12 Men’s Cross Country Championships
When: Saturday, November 2
Men: 10:40 am MT, Women 11:40 am MT
Where: Coal Creek Golf Course – Louisville, CO
Broadcast Info: Pac-12 network, tape-delayed on Nov. 4 9:30 pm ET
While the men’s team race seemingly boils down to two teams, the women’s race has one favorite, US#1 Arizona. While US#12 Oregon, US#13 Washington and US#16 Colorado all seem fairly even matched on paper, it’s the Wildcats who enter as the big-time favorites. Individually, the chase for the win is wide open with a half dozen favorites leading the charge.
Here’s the breakdown…
Everyone in the country knew Arizona had a good team coming into the year, but the key additions of University of Iowa transfer Kayla Beattie and freshman Maria Larsson have made all the difference, giving the team scoring depth it lacked prior to the start of the season. Their leader Elvin Kibet (the sister of 2009 and 2011 world championhip 5000 silve rmedallist Sylvia Kibet who LRC profiled in 2011: LetsRun.com Goes To Kenya – Post #3: A Workout With World Championship Silver Medallist Sylvia Kibet and 2009: Sylvia Kibet: Kenya’s Forgotten Lady) had a sub-par race at the Wisconsin adidas Invitational, finishing as the squad’s fourth runner, but it didn’t matter, as they cruised to a 117-136 victory over Arkansas.
With a 16 second 1-4 split, Arizona is showing they have the strongest quartet of talent, Junior Nicci Corbin joins the other three mentioned Wildcat runners, while they look to close the near 30 second gap from their fourth to fifth runner. If they can whittle that down under 20 seconds, this team seems unbeatable on paper.
While Arizona moved up the rankings after the Wisconsin adidas Invite / Pre-Nationals weekend, the rest of the conference seemingly fell.
The Other Contenders
US#12 Oregon finished fifth at Pre-Nationals, which seemed to disappoint those voting in the coaches poll in a big way. The Ducks ran a 18 second 1-5 split, which bodes well in a smaller meet like Pac-12s. Junior Megan Patrignelli is their rock, with Molly Grabill running well, too. They’ll look for their entire scoring pack to move up this weekend, with the off chance that All-American transfer Linday Crevoiserat joins the racing party (she’s entered).
US#16 Colorado looks strong on paper and only getting stronger. Behind the fantastic trio of Olympian Shalaya Kipp, experienced veteran Carrie Verdon and freshman standout Erin Clark, the Buffaloes look good and didn’t finish too far away from Oregon at Pre-Nationals.
Meanwhile, US#13 Washington is looking to find their rhythm. Without All-American leader Megan Goethals all season (read this amazing ESPN piece on her story), the Huskies have been finding a way to pull it together up front. Katie Flood has shown flashes of her former front running self, but they’ve been inconsistent. With Maddie Meyers and Amy-Eloise Neale backing up Flood, their front runners pushed them to a ninth place showing at Wisconsin, but they’ll need much better performances if they hope to push for a top two finish in Colorado Saturday.
Rounding out the top five team favorites, US#20 Stanford moved up nicely at Pre-Nationals, finishing ninth overall. The squad lacks obvious depth, which is hurting them in a big way this season, but Aisling Cuffe and Jessica Tonn proved they are top ten threats for NCAAs this fall with their runner-up and fourth place showings in Terre Haute. Low points up top always help, so the Cardinal will key off that.
Rounding out the rest of the top favorites, both US#26 Arizona State and Cal eye upset opportunities. Cal quietly won the white race at Pre-Nationals and have a strong top four, while Arizona State finished 14th at Wisconsin and follow the lead of pre-race individual contender Shelby Houlihan.
Rounding out the rest of the field are Oregon State, UCLA, USC, Utah and Washington State.
Where do we even begin with the individual field? There is some terrific up front talent in the Pac-12 race this year. While none of them are Abbey D’Agostino talented (yet), there are a half dozen standouts who should vie for the top spot Saturday.
Lets start with Cal junior Kelsey Santisteban. Who? She won the individual title in the white race at Pre-Nationals by nine seconds and would have placed tenth overall with her time in the blue race. Does that mean she can beat Aisling Cuffe, Jessica Tonn or the others who ran faster at Pre-Nats, maybe not, but she’s certainly worth keeping an eye on.
Cuffe and Tonn team up in the lead pack and should key off one another to try and break the rest of the field through the 6k race (at 5,300 feet). The two veteran racers know how to get the job done, but lack the closing speed of other top contender Shelby Houlihan.
Houlihan, a junior at ASU, finished fourth at the Wisconsin adidas Invitational, besting all of Arizona’s top runners and showing she’s a legit contender for top three at NCAAs in a few weeks time. Houlihan has terrific speed, which could bode very well if the race comes down to one final dash to the finish, which seems more amd more likely.
We’ll count Flood among the top five contenders, but she needs to step it up a bit, while few Oregon runners seem capable of challenging for top five at this point.
That means the rest of the front runners come from Colorado and Arizona. For the Buffaloes, Shalaya Kipp, Carrie Verdon and Erin Clark are all getting stronger, but it’s uncertain if they can really challenge for a top three finish just yet. Kipp is coming off some late season track racing, so she’s not yet sharp, but the trio do have an advantage with the race being held at 5,300 feet elevation.
Arizona should have all four of their top runners pushing for top ten, and maybe even top five, finishes. Kayla Beattie continues to rise and gain confidence. Beattie was a super star runner in high school but struggled at the University of Iowa. She has new found confidence this season with her change of scenery and finished seventh at the very competitive Wisconsin Invite last month. Elvin Kibet who was 19th at NCAAs last year, should bounce back after a disappointing 21st place finish at Wisconsin, while Maria Larsson and Nicci Corbin both finish in the top 20 and continue to gain steam.
The Pac-12 Championships promise to be exciting, surprising and always competitive. The conference proves year in and year out that it’s one of the very best, if not the best, conferences in the land and 2013 is no different.