2014 Men’s XC Preview: #10 Villanova & #9 Iona
August 19, 2014
The 2014 NCAA cross country season kicks off next month and over the next two weeks, LetsRun.com will be previewing what to expect this fall. We’re counting down the top 10 teams in America, two at a time, starting with the men. Then we’ll move on to the women and finish up with previews of the individual races at NCAAs this fall. A lot can change between now and November 22 in Terre Haute — who thought Kennedy Kithuka would lose his title to a freshman last year? — so these rankings aren’t set in stone. Consider them refreshers on where each team is at entering the season and a rough guideline of what to expect his fall.
Note: We determined where a runner ranked among returners by taking his place at NCAAs in 2013 and subtracting the number of seniors in front of him. We believe the following listed seniors will return in 2014: Maksim Korolev (Stanford), Blake Theroux (Colorado), Michael Atchoo (Stanford), Johnny Gregorek (Oregon). Additionally, Tyler Byrne has transferred from Louisville to Northern Arizona and Reid Buchanan from Kansas to Portland. If you know of any other transfers or seniors returning in 2014, please let us know.
2013 results: 18th NCAAs, 1st Mid-Atlantic Regional, 1st Big East, 2nd Chile Pepper
Key returners (lose none from top seven finishers at NCAAs last year, assuming Tully is granted a sixth year of eligibility)
|Name||Class||# returner from NCAAs||Credentials|
|Alex Tully||SR||110||8:26/4:07 mile|
Villanova was only 18th last year, but it was hurt at NCAAs by off days from #3 and #4 men Rob Denault and Jordy Williamsz, who were 9th and 10th at the Mid-Atlantic Regional but just 160th and 205th at NCAAs. The course conditions may have had something to do with it as the speed-oriented Denault (2:24 1k PR) and Williamsz (1:46 800) probably would have preferred a quick, dry course rather than the cold, muddy mess that caused the waterlogged start line to be moved forward.
All five scorers from 2013 return, and it could be the entire top seven if sixth man Alex Tully is granted a sixth year of eligibility. The Wildcats have a keeper in Aussie Patrick Tiernan, who was 9th at NCAAs as a freshman last year and ran 13:31 in the 5k outdoors to take 6th at NCAAs. Finishing in the top 10 at NCAAs in XC, indoor and outdoor track — as Tiernan did last year — is very rare for a freshman, and he projects to be a very low stick in Terre Haute in November.
Tiernan’s countryman Sam McEntee is a very solid #2 as he was 27th last year and has run 3:36 for 1500. The #5 spot is a bit of a question mark, with Brian Basili (143rd last year), Harry Warnick (170th) and Tully (188th) all possibilities. That would be a problem on a top five team, but it’s not as big an issue for a team vying for the top 10, especially one with two big guns up front like Tiernan and McEntee. Plus, Denault and Williamsz ran well for most of the season last year before nationals. If they can improve, Nova will have a great shot to record its first top 10 finish since 2001.
2013 results: 6th NCAAs, 3rd Northeast Regional, 1st MAAC, 3rd Pre-Nats
Key returners (lose #1, 4, 6 finishers from NCAAs last year)
|Name||Class||# returner from NCAAs||Credentials|
|Kieran Clements||SO||33||4:00 mile/7:57/14:10/29:17|
|Chartt Miller||SO||Redshirted ’13; 4:00 mile/7:57 3k|
Aside from a disastrous day in 2012, when it entered the meet ranked #2 in the country and finished 29th, Iona has finished in the top 10 at NCAAs every year since 2002. It’s a run of excellence that began under Mick Byrne and has continued under head coach Ricardo Santos, who took over the program in 2008 when Byrne left for Wisconsin.
Both Byrne and Santos have relied on foreigners — none of the Gaels’ five scorers at NCAAs last year were from the United States — and one of the benefits of that approach is that it allows them to reload with veteran talent rather than waiting a couple years for freshman to develop.
Of course that talent also departs sooner, and Iona will be hurt by the losses of Daniel Clorley (39th at NCAAs last fall) and Matt Gillespie (92nd). This year, the chief reinforcement is Chartt Miller, an Australian who redshirted last year in cross country but has run 4:00 for the mile and 7:57 for 3k. There’s also 7:59 American Otis Ubriaco, whose 2013 XC season was cut short due to mono.
Santos is bringing in a solid class including 3:45 Brit Liam Dee, 3:46 German Sebastian Hendel and another German, Johannes Motschmann, who was 12th in the junior race at the European Cross Country Championships in 2012. However, we might have to wait until 2015 to see any of them in an Iona singlet.
“We have a few good freshmen coming in but the plan is to redshirt them,” Santos says, though he added that once he’s seen what they’re capable of, he might lift the redshirt if he believes one could be a major scorer this fall.
With Clorley and Gillespie gone, the Gaels will need someone to step up and Santos believes that senior Jake Byrne could be that man. Byrne was 71st at NCAAs in 2013 and has run 14:01 for 5k. How Byrne and the rest of the returning talent develops — and, more importantly, how they run at NCAAs — will determine Iona’s success this fall.
“I think we have a team that’s capable of finishing in the top 15, hopefully in the top 10,” Santos says. “I don’t think we go backwards too much from the talent we had on the 6th-place team last year. There were a lot of teams last year that didn’t run well at the championships [in 2013]. We may be 20th if they re-run that race, but we ran well and others didn’t.”