August 26, 2014
The 2014 NCAA cross country season kicks off next month and LetsRun.com is previewing what to expect this fall. We’re counting down the top 10 teams in America, two at a time. Then we’ll move on preview he 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 her place at NCAAs in 2013 and subtracting the number of seniors in front of her. We believe that Megan Patrignelli (listed as a senior in ’13) will return in 2014. Sara Sutherland (Texas) will run as a grad student at Colorado. Waverly Neer (Columbia) and Brianna Nerud (Syracuse) have transferred to Oregon. If you know of any other transfers or seniors returning in 2014, please let us know.
10. Iowa State
2013 results: 13th NCAAs, 1st Midwest Regional, 1st Big 12, 5th Wisconsin Invite
Key returners, new additions in italics (lose #4, 6 from NCAAs last year)
|Name||Class||# returner from NCAAs||Credentials|
|Margaret Connelly||SR||Grad student from Brown was 130th in 2012; 9:34|
Despite losing their top two runners from an 11th-place team in 2012 (individual champion Betsy Saina and 16th-placer Meaghan Nelson) and coach Corey Ihmels , the Cyclones barely regressed last season, taking 13th at NCAAs under new coach Andrea Grove-McDonough and director Martin Smith. That’s because Iowa State got big performances from Crystal Nelson (192nd in ’12, 32nd in ’13) and Bethanie Brown (37th, #3 freshman at NCAAs). Those two will again be counted on to lead ISU to a fourth straight Big 12 title and a fifth straight Midwest Regional title.
Nelson and Brown are proven quantities but how the Cyclones fare at NCAAs this year will depend on the placings of their #3, 4 and 5 runners. Katy Moen (77th in ’13) should be a reliable third option and after a breakout track season, could be right with Nelson and Brown at the front of the Cyclone pack. She went from 5k/10k PRs of 16:34 and 35:17 to 15:56 and 33:32 last spring and if that progress carries over, Iowa State’s Big Two could become a Big Three, giving them a much better chance of a top 10 finish.
Behind Moen, the Cyclones will be looking for two runners from the group of Perez Rotich, Andrea Toppin, Margaret Gannon and new additions Margaret Connelly and Olivia Robertson to emerge as scorers at NCAAs. Given the team’s quality up front, the #4 and 5 runners will only have to be about 100th and 150th overall at NCAAs for Iowa State to place in the top 10. But, to use a baseball analogy, 150th isn’t “replacement-level” — you can’t just plug in anyone and count on a top 150 finish. Rotich was 158th last year and has run 16:32 on the track; it’s not hard to see her making a jump this fall. And grad student Connelly was 130th while running for Brown in 2012. That sort of performance would certainly help the Cyclones this fall. The only question is whether she’s healthy — she’s finished just one race since then.
Now in her second year, head coach Andrea Grove-McDonough has a nice core to build around (Nelson is a junior while Brown is only a sophomore) and should be able to post the program’s first top-10 finish since 2011. Anything higher than that — this year or beyond — will depend on just how good Nelson and Brown can get.
2013 results: 7th NCAAs, 1st Mountain Regional, 2nd Pac-12, 7th Pre-Nats
Key returners, new additions in italics (lose #1, 2, 7 from NCAAs last year)
|Name||Class||# returner from NCAAs||Credentials|
|Sara Sutherland||SR||58th at NCAAs in 2012; 4:18/9:10/15:50|
The Pac-12 was a strong conference a year ago and should be even better this year, but aside from Arizona (who finished 2nd at NCAAs), Colorado was clearly the #2 team in the Pac-12 with a runner-up finish at the conference meet and a 7th-place finish at nationals. Head coach Mark Wetmore knew going in that some of his younger runners would have to step up, such as then-freshmen Melanie Nun and Erin Clark and then-sophomores Carrie Verdon and Jenny Desouchet.
“It was a bit of a building year in that we would have some freshmen filling in at varsity positions and that’s always a puzzle, and that’s about how it turned out,” says Wetmore. “In our case, they mostly exceeded what I was hoping for, and we’re going to be in that situation again this year.”
That’s because Colorado loses it’s top two from last year’s NCAA meet in 2012 NCAA steeple champ Shalaya Kipp (9th last year), as well as Abbey Levene (59th at NCAAs). Verdon, who ran 15:59 and 33:42 on the track this year, will be counted on to lead the team this fall with a more experienced supporting cast of Nun, Clark and Desouchet behind her.
The key runner for the Buffaloes could be grad student Sara Sutherland, formerly of Texas. She missed the cross country season last fall but was 59th at NCAAs in 2012 and ran 9:10 and 15:53 indoors in 2014. If she can step in and perform as well as Levene did this year, Colorado will be very dangerous.
Arizona has suffered heavy losses from last year but Oregon and Stanford have both gotten better, meaning that the Pac-12 will be competitive once again in 2014. For Wetmore, the goals for this year’s team begin with Pac-12s and will hopefully end up with the Buffaloes on the verge of the podium at NCAAs.
“Our goals would be to contend for the conference championship, although it’s an extremely formidable conference,” Wetmore says. “And then to race well at the NCAAs and finish higher than a year ago.”
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