August 29, 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 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.
4. Arkansas: After two straight sub-par NCAAs, might the Razorbacks surprise in 2014? One rival coach thinks so, “I’d say they will be the favorite.”
2013 results: 15th NCAAs, 1st South Central Regional, 1st SEC, 2nd Wisconsin Invite
Key returners, new additions in italics (lose #2, 5, 7 from NCAAs last year)
|Name||Class||# returner from NCAAs||Credentials|
|Shannon Klenke||SR||112||16:15/10:10 SC; 2nd in SEC XC, 8th at Wisconsin|
|Jessica Kamilos||SR||Ran in top 5 last year but didn’t run NCAAs; 9:32/16:28|
|Kaitlin Flattmann||SR||Redshirted last year; 9:28/16:23|
|Therese Haiss||SO||Transfer from Oregon; 4:22|
|Rebekka Simko||SR||Transfer from Penn St; 4:20|
|Aubree Worden||SR||Transfer from Florida St; 4:19/16:42|
The NCAA championship is both the best and worst thing about cross country. It’s brilliant because there is so much drama. The top 31 teams in the country square off simultaneously, producing a definitive result within half an hour. In what other sport do the top 31 teams all battle at once?
At the same time, other than conference, it’s the only meet that matters for many of the top teams. And if the success or failure of your whole season comes down to a single meet, and it doesn’t go well, that can make the 12-month wait for redemption for a team like Arkansas — that ran well all year and entered NCAAs ranked #3, only to finish 15th — seem interminable.
“I still scratch my head about what happened,” Razorbacks coach Lance Harter said earlier this month to LetsRun. “There was a conversation afterwards that it was a lot colder than we’d ever been a part of. Across the board, all seven athletes, I think we just panicked in the cold. Instead of focusing on racing, we were distracted by the elements.”
The Razorbacks have now experienced big disappointment at NCAAs two years in a row as in 2012, they went into NCAAs ranked 12th only to go home 18th, a performance that Harter called “the worst performance in school history,” though he said that before last year’s NCAA meet.
Arkansas’ success on the track in 2014 went a long way to healing those wounds. Harter says that he likes to use cross country as a springboard to indoor and, ultimately, outdoor track and he was very pleased with the performance of his team in the latter two. Indoors, especially, was fruitful for the Razorbacks as they won the DMR and Stephanie Brown (mile) and Dominique Scott (3k) both placed second in individual events.
That success has raised expectations both inside and outside the program. One rival coach is very high on the Razorbacks.
“My point of reference is when I start looking at the descending order list at nationals and Arkansas qualified a lot of people at indoor and outdoor NCAAs,” says Michigan State coach Walt Drenth. “I’d say they will be the favorite.”
Harter did not go that far his assessment of his team but feels that Arkansas some high-quality talent up front and great depth behind them.
“We’ll be led by Dominique Scott, Grace Heymsfield, Diane Robison and Jessica Kamilos and looking at how they progressed from cross country to indoor and outdoor, they progressed all the way through with a lot of lifetime bests,” Harter says.
Arkansas will also rely on senior Shannon Klenke, who was second at SECs and eighth at the Wisconsin Invite but just 165th at NCAAs. Three transfers — Therese Haiss, Rebekka Simko and Aubree Worden — provide solid depth, and perhaps more than that. “I think one of those people is definitely going to be a major player for us,” Harter said.
The Razorbacks do lose Brown, who was 82nd at NCAAs last year, as well as their #5 woman from NCAAs last year, Sandie Raines, who transferred. But the core, and the goal, remains the same.
“I think we’re capable of being a top-10 team and if everything lines up right, we could challenge for being in the top five,” Harter says.
3. Georgetown: Hoyas Returns 6 of 7 From Last Year’s 5th Place Team
2013 results: 5th NCAAs, 2nd Mid-Atlantic Regional, 2nd Big East, 1st Pre-Nats, 1st Paul Short
Key returners (lose #4 from NCAAs last year)
|Name||Class||# returner from NCAAs||Credentials|
Year 2 under head coach Michael Smith was a lot smoother than Year 1 and the Hoyas moved up seven places at NCAAs to finish fifth in 2013. With #4 woman Rachel Schneider the only loss, Georgetown is well-positioned to contend for its second national title in a four-year span (the Hoyas won in 2011 before coach Chris Miltenberg departed for Stanford).
Samantha Nadel (47th), Haley Pierce (52nd) and Katrina Coogan (60th) led a balanced attack last year and all should be higher up in 2014. Coogan, the daughter or US Olympians Mark and Gywnn, made the biggest leap of the three on the track, getting down to 15:34 in the 5k. To this point in her career, Coogan has been better on the track (7th and 5th in the 3k at indoor NCAAs) than in cross country, but if she puts it together in Terre Haute, she’s capable of a top-15 finish.
Behind the top three, Madeline Chambers and Rachel Paul were solid contributors a year ago and can be counted on to deliver consistent performances at the #4 and #5 spots. They will have to — and hope one of Nadel, Pierce and Coogan can step up — if the Hoyas are to challenge the likes of Michigan and Michigan State for the national title.