2015 NCAA XC Conference Preview, Part II: What To Watch On Saturday & Sunday
October 29, 2015
It’s conference week across the country, which is a very good thing in college cross-country. Conference results matter to athletes, coaches and alumni, and while teams may leave a banged-up athlete on the bench for conference, most of the squads we see this weekend will resemble the ones that will toe the line at NCAAs in Louisville in three weeks’ time.
College XC can be hard to follow as it is, and considering few of these meets are televised, much of what we’ll have to go on this weekend comes in the form of tweets, Instagram posts and result pages. However you’re following the action (hopefully at a cross country course near you), we’ve got you covered with our preview below. We’ll hit all the major conferences and tell you what storylines to monitor this weekend.
This is the second of a two-part preview. Part I previewed the Friday meets (except for the Heps, which has its own men’s preview here). Part II (this article) deals with the rest of the weekend’s action.
Big 12 Championships (OSU Cross Country Course, Stillwater, Okla.)
When: Saturday, 11:00 a.m. ET
Ranked men’s teams: No. 6 Oklahoma State
Ranked women’s teams: No. 11 Iowa State, No. 23 Oklahoma State
Results will be: HERE
- How good are the Oklahoma State men? As usual, the No. 6 Cowboys skipped the major midseason invitationals, instead running the Crimson Classic in Tuscaloosa, Ala., on October 16. The men trounced the field there, winning with 27 points, but the competition was weak — the runners-up were Texas A&M, ranked third in the poor South Central Region. Sophomore Cerake Geberkidane was the Cowboys’ clear #1, winning the race in 23:40 (course was 8,042 meters), though the pack behind him was spread out. Vegard Olstad was OSU’s #2 (5th, 24:19), followed by NCAA 1500 champ Chad Noelle (8th, 24:39) and Joshua Thompson (10th, 24:43) and Brian Gohlke (11th, 24:45). OSU shouldn’t be challenged at Big 12s (they are the only ranked team and have won the last seven titles) so we won’t know their full potential until NCAAs, but we should at least get a rough outline of where they’re at right now. Most importantly, we’ll see if Craig Nowak, who was 16th at NCAAs last year, is running more like his old self — he was only 51st in Tuscaloosa. Oklahoma, who was second at the Virginia/Panorama Farms Invitational but only 22nd at Wisconsin, could provide a measuring stick for their in-state rivals.
More: Pan American Junior Champion Connor Hendrickson and the Texas Longhorns eye their first cross country Big 12 title.
- The women’s race is full of question marks. No. 11 Iowa State, led by individual title contenders Perez Rotich and Erin Hooker (23rd and 24th at Wisconsin) will be favored to win its fifth straight title, but nothing is certain in this race. 16:03 woman Becky Straw should be capable of more than she showed at Wisconsin (98th) and if Bethanie Brown (37th at NCAAs in 2013) races (she hasn’t yet in 2015), the Cyclones could make some noise at NCAAs. But until they deliver — and Big 12s represents a prime opportunity — Iowa State’s potential is uncertain. The same could be said for the teams looking to dethrone them. No. 23 Oklahoma State has yet to run against top competition and unranked West Virginia (9th at NCAAs last year but still without top runner Jillian Forsey) has been disappointing this fall. Baylor has a strong front-runner in Maggie Montoya (top returner from ’14 and top Big 12 finisher at Wisconsin) but not much behind her. Finally, look out for Kansas freshman Sharon Lokedi — the Kenyan was fourth overall at Pre-Nats, two spots ahead of Erin Finn.
Big East Championships (The Golf Center at King’s Island, Mason, Ohio)
When: Saturday, 11:00 a.m. ET
Ranked men’s teams: No. 14 Georgetown, No. 24 Providence, No. 25 Villanova
Ranked women’s teams: No. 6 Providence, No. 18 Georgetown, No. 28 Villanova
Results will be: HERE
You can watch this meet online via Fox Sports Go and the Fox Sports Go app — open Fox Sports Go and select BIG EAST from the channel dropdown menu.
- Will the sleeping giants wake up? In the preseason, we ranked both the Villanova men and Georgetown women among the top five teams in the country. Now, neither is in the top 15. The lady Hoyas were only seventh at Pre-Nats — though Samantha Nadel, their top finisher at the Coast-to-Coast Battle in Beantown, was absent. At full strength, Georgetown may be able to give No. 6 Providence (5th at Wisco without top runner Catarina Rocha) a scare, but the Friars likely remain the class of this field. The Villanova men’s problems are more serious. The Wildcats’ top three is incredibly strong — Patrick Tiernan, Rob Denault and Jordy Williamsz went 1-2-3 at the Princeton Invitational two weeks ago — but Nova lost that race to then-unranked Penn as their #4/#5 runners finished well down the field. While a strong top three could help Nova at NCAAs, they’re in trouble against a Georgetown squad that already beat them badly this year at Paul Short.
How good is Patrick Tiernan? Tiernan has won all three of his races so far this year, posting victories at the Main Line Invitational, Paul Short Run and Princeton Invitational. But we’ve yet to see him go all-out. Teammate Jordy Williamsz has been on his tail all year (he was second at both Paul Short and Princeton), but if the Aussie teammates find themselves ahead of the field, they likely won’t be trying to kill each other for the individual victory. The men most likely to make it an honest race come from other schools. Georgetown’s Jonathan Green was third behind Tiernan and Williamsz (only four seconds back of Tiernan) at Paul Short and took sixth at Pre-Nats; Butler’s Erik Peterson won the Virginia/Panorama Farms Invitational and was eighth at Pre-Nats. Both could make the race interesting but if Tiernan wins convincingly, it’s a sign he could return to his top 10 at NCAAs (he was ninth in 2013 and 18th in 2014).
Big 10 Championships (Sydney Marovitz Golf Course, Chicago, Ill.)
When: Sunday, 11:45 a.m. ET
Ranked men’s teams: No. 5 Michigan, No. 19 Michigan State, No. 27 Wisconsin, No. 28 Indiana
Ranked women’s teams: No. 2 Michigan, No. 15 Penn State, No. 21 Michigan State, No. 22 Minnesota, No. 30 Purdue
- Can Michigan sweep? The Wolverines have been the class of the league in both genders this year. The Michigan women ascended to No. 2 in the polls after winning Pre-Nats, while the men were almost as good, taking third at Wisconsin. On paper, both teams are comfortable favorites, but a sweep is exceedingly rare — it hasn’t happened since 2000, when Wisconsin took both titles on its home course. The Michigan men will also be battling a long drought — they haven’t won since 1998. The main obstacle sticking in the Wolverines’ way is Wisconsin — winners of 15 of the last 16 titles. Many expected the Badgers to be an NCAA podium contender this fall, but the team has struggled with injuries and finished a disappointing 17th at their own invitational, despite running all of their top healthy runners. With two-time defending Big 10 champ Malachy Schrobilgen and Wisconsin Invite 10th placer Morgan McDonald, the Badgers are very strong through two, but their next runner at Wisco was Russell Sandvold in 80th — Michigan had six in before him. Wisconsin coach Mick Byrne has coaxed big performances out of his athletes at championship meets in the past, so it wouldn’t be a surprise to see his squad threaten the Wolverines on Sunday. But with how well UM has been running this year (they were also second at the Greater Louisville Classic), it will be a tough ask. The women’s path to the title should be easier (Penn State, the next-highest-ranked team, was 10th at Wisconsin) as Michigan will look to claim its sixth Big 10 Championship since 2002.
Compelling individual races. Schrobilgen, the top Big 10 finisher at Wisco, is the best bet to win (again) but McDonald, Mason Ferlic of Michigan (13th at Wisco) and Matt McClintock (19th at NCAAs) are all threats to his title. On the women’s side, the top two returners from NCAAs both reside in the conference. But Wisconsin’s Sarah Disanza (2nd last year) is redshirting and Michigan State’s Rachele Schulist (4th) didn’t run at Wisco. Neither did MSU’s Lindsay Clark (11th at NCAAs last year), who has spent this season battling back from injury. If none of them make it to the line, Michigan’s Erin Finn (6th at Pre-Nats) and Shannon Osika (13th) both have a shot to win it.