October 1, 2015
October is upon us, and with it comes another weekend of NCAA XC action across the country. Last weekend, the Syracuse men and Providence women (both ranked #3 in the latest USTFCCCA coaches’ polls) dominated at the Coast-to-Coast Battle in Beantown. This weekend, we could see some even more impressive performances as the top-ranked teams on the men’s and women’s side, Colorado (men) and New Mexico (women) will both run their A squads for the first time this season. We’ll also get a look at UTEP stud Anthony Rotich and new teammate Jonah Koech against a strong field at the Notre Dame Invite, which will also feature freshman studs Anna Rohrer and Ryen Frazier in the women’s race. There’s still a long way to go in the season, but after this weekend should help us start sorting out the contenders from the pretenders. Here’s a guide to all the action.
(Discuss the action on our world famous fan forum: *MB: Official 10/2-10/3 Weekend NCAA XC Talk – Notre Dame, Paul Short, UW, Rocky Mountain, etc.)
Joe Piane Notre Dame Invitational (South Bend, Ind., Friday, 2:00 p.m. ET) * Entries
Ranked teams (men’s race): No. 17 New Mexico, No. 18 Arizona State, No. 23 Southern Utah, No. 26 Colorado State, No. 27 NC State, No. 28 Eastern Kentucky
Ranked teams (women’s race): No. 1 New Mexico, No. 14 NC State, No. 20 Notre Dame, No. 22 Vanderbilt
The men’s race is more competitive overall, with six ranked teams (versus four on the women’s side) but it’s the women’s race that will draw the most attention. Many of those eyeballs will be on No. 1 New Mexico. The Lobos won this meet last year handily, putting five runners in the top 18, and though three of the scoring members of that team are gone (including individual champion Charlotte Arter), UNM should score even fewer than the 49 points it tallied last year. In addition to sophomore Alice Wright (8th last year) and senior Calli Thackery (9th), New Mexico should hand season debuts to British import Rhona Auckland (15:27/32:22) and NCAA steeple runner-up Courtney Frerichs. The Lobos could easily put four runners in the top 10 on Friday.
That should be enough to carry New Mexico to a team victory, but the individual title is very much up for grabs. Frerichs, Auckland, Wright and Thackery will all be in the mix, but so too will NCAA 10,000 champ Molly Seidel of host Notre Dame. We’ll also get to see two of the country’s top freshmen in action in Notre Dame’s Anna Rohrer and NC State’s Ryen Frazier. Both Rohrer (who won the National Catholic Invitational by 12 seconds on September 18) and Frazier (who broke the course record by 22 seconds at the adidas XC Challenge on September 18) shone in their collegiate debuts. We’ll see just how good they are on Friday as they face serious competition for the first time. 2014 runner-up Agnes Sjostrom of SMU is the top returner, but she struggled mightily during the track season (SBs of 17:08 and 10:36 in the steeple).
Three of the top four men’s teams from a year ago won’t be returning to South Bend, leaving No. 17 New Mexico (third last year) as both the top returning and highest-ranking men’s squad in the field. Several of these teams raced last weekend; the best among them was No. 23 Southern Utah, who finished second to Michigan State at the Roy Griak Invitational. No. 26 Colorado State also raced there, and though top runners Jefferson Abbey and Jerrell Mock excelled, taking first and second, the youuthfult rest of the squad couldn’t quite do their part (apart from Abbey and Mock, the Rams’ entire top seven at Roy Griak consisted of freshmen). No. 28 Eastern Kentucky will look to rebound after finishing just sixth at the Virginia/Panorama Farms Invitational, falling to schools such as Yale and Campbell (the Colonels were without top runners Amos Kosgey and Ambrose Maritim).
Individually, there’s plenty of talent here. Indiana State’s John Mascari was third here last year and ultimately took eighth at NCAAs but he’ll be challenged by UTEP’s three-time NCAA steeple champ Anthony Rotich. Purdue’s Matt McClintock (second at the Battle in Beantown) and Penn’s Heps champion Thomas Awad should also be major factors. Then there’s UTEP’s Jonah Koech, who beat Rotich at the Kachina Classic on September 19. The 800 stud (his PB is 1:46), whom we mentioned in our individual top 10 season preview is new to the NCAA and it will be exciting to see where he finishes in his first major race.
Washington Invitational (Seattle, Wash., Friday, 6:15 p.m. ET) * Entries
Ranked teams (men’s race): No. 2 Stanford, No. 5 Oregon, No. 11 UCLA, No. 12 BYU
Ranked teams (women’s race): No. 4 Stanford, No. 5 Oregon, No. 15 Washington, No. 23 BYU
Assuming everyone on the entry list competes in Seattle, this should be an extremely entertaining meet. A quarter of the country’s top 12 men’s teams will be on hand, including Pac-12 rivals Stanford and Oregon. And almost all of the big guns from those two schools are on the entry list: Edward Cheserek for the Ducks, Sean McGorty and the Rosa brothers for the Cardinal. If the Rosas do indeed start, this race will offer an important look at their fitness. Jim redshirted all of last year while Joe has raced just once since NCAA XC last fall.
We should also get a look at two of the nation’s fastest freshmen in the Oregon duo of Matthew Maton and Tanner Anderson. Both are entered in the race (though even Oregon’s official website won’t fully commit that they are running) and displayed enough talent in high school that they could step into the Ducks’ top seven and be a factor right away. Maton became just the sixth U.S. high schooler to break 4:00 in May; Anderson won NXN in December. Oregon has entered what appears to be a full-strength squad, with NCAA 1500 third placer Blake Haney, Georgetown transfer Ryan Gil and 13:46 man Jake Leingang all on the start list. So we should get a good read on the Ducks’ future against a solid field in Seattle.
No. 11 UCLA and No. 12 BYU are also entered and it would also be extremely surprising if Portland, last year’s third placer at NCAAs, isn’t ranked in the next edition of the USTFCCCA coaches’ poll. Rob Conner‘s Pilots lost four of their top five from last year, but they’re perennially one of the deepest teams in America and it would be foolish to count them out on Friday. This is the first year since 2004 that Portland has been unranked at any time.
Cheserek is the heavy favorite to win this race if he runs it, and based on his performance at last week’s Stanford Invitational, McGorty is a strong pick for second (if he races it). Beyond that, it will be interesting to see how things unfold. How many can Oregon and Stanford put in the top 10?
As on the men’s side, Stanford-Oregon highlights the women’s action as both schools have entered full-strength squads. The Ducks have already debuted, winning the Bill Dellinger Invitational on September 11, but for the Cardinal, it’s a first look at Elise Cranny and Vanessa Fraser and a first real look at 15:11 woman Aisling Cuffe in 16 months (she ran the Fresno State Invitational on September 11 but tempoed it). Stanford could easily put in three before Oregon has one, but the Ducks have better depth than the Cardinal, which could be the difference in a smaller field such as this one. Assuming both teams run who they’ve entered, the winner here becomes the favorites for Pac-12s on October 30. Individually, Cranny won this race last year and she or Cuffe should be favored to do so on Friday.
Ranked teams (men’s race): No. 4 Wisconsin, No. 8 Iona, No. 10 Michigan, No. 13 Ole Miss, No. 28 Eastern Kentucky
Ranked teams (women’s race): No. 6 Iowa State, No. 8 Michigan, No. 11 Wisconsin, No. 13 West Virginia, No. 19 Penn State, No. 23 Minnesota
With NCAAs taking place in Louisville this year, many teams are going to want to take a look at the course at E.P. “Tom” Sawyer State Park and for those electing to run at the Wisconsin adidas Invitational in two weeks rather than Pre-Nats, this is their only chance. That means the Greater Louisville Classic has a strong field in both the men’s and women’s races, with a chance for several teams to make some serious moves in the national polls.
This will be our first real look at almost all of these teams and individuals, and there are a lot of questions right now, such as:
- Just how good are the Wisconsin men? Will an underclassmen-heavy team be able to make the leap many expect of them this year?
- Are the Ole Miss men a top-10 team? The Rebels’ bevy of transfers has upgraded the talent level in Oxford significantly. Can they take down Wisconsin, Iona or Michigan and prove they belong among the nation’s best?
- Who wins the individual men’s race? Wisconsin’s Malachy Schrobilgen was 10th at NCAAs last year, just ahead of Michigan’s Mason Ferlic (13th). They’ll take on Louisville’s All-American duo of Ernest Kibet and Edwin Kibichiy and D-II stud Johnnie Guy of Southern Indiana (28:47 PB; 8th at D-II champs on this course in ’14).
- How will the Iowa State women fare without Crystal Nelson? Prior to the season, head coach Andrea Grove-McDonough said she felt her Cyclones were capable of winning NCAAs even without Nelson, their top returner from a year ago. That will be put to the test after Iowa State announced that Nelson won’t be competing this fall due to a heart condition.
Where is Sarah Disanza‘s fitness at? Last year’s NCAA runner-up, we haven’t seen the Wisconsin junior since NCAA indoors in March. She should get her first test of the season in Louisville.(UPDATE: Disanza is not listed among Wisconsin’s entries). Michigan’s Erin Finn and Penn State’s Tori Gerlach (who won Penn State’s Harry Groves Spiked Shoe Invitational on September 11) should lead the way individually without Disanza.
Ranked teams (men’s race): No. 7 Villanova, No. 14 Georgetown
Ranked teams (women’s race): No. 9 Georgetown
Paul Short has lost some of its luster in recent years, but a clash of Mid-Atlantic powers Villanova and Georgetown should be interesting on the men’s side, particularly because Villanova isn’t splitting its squad between here and Washington, as it did last year. The Wildcats’ top man, Aussie Patrick Tiernan, ran 23:00 in Seattle last year; how fast can he go at Paul Short?
Princeton Inter-Regional Meet (Princeton, N.J., Saturday, 10:45 a.m. ET)
Ranked teams (men’s race): No. 19 Indiana, No. 24 Providence
Ranked teams (women’s race): No. 18 William & Mary, No. 21 North Carolina, No. 25 Villanova, No. 28 Princeton
After half of the Ivy League showed its hand at last week’s Coast-to-Coast Battle in Beantown, it’s time for Princeton to debut its big guns. The Tiger men are defending Heps champs, while the Tiger women are the only nationally-ranked Heps team of either gender, and they’ll face some solid competition at home on Saturday. The women’s race is the one to watch, with four ranked teams. Look for Emily Stites to lead No. 18 William & Mary to a win there. In the men’s race, Indiana is the highest-ranked team, though after losses to IUPUI and Indiana State at the Indiana Intercollegiate Championships two weeks ago, the Hoosiers may be over-ranked. Individually, Thomas Curtin of Virginia Tech has the most impressive resume (7:52/13:44) but he was only 16th at the Virginia Tech Alumni Invitational on September 18.
Rocky Mountain Shootout (Boulder, Colo., Saturday, 11:00 a.m. ET)
We don’t know who will be there apart from the No. 1 Colorado men and No. 2 Colorado women, but at the very least the Buffaloes’ performance at the RMS will give us an idea of where they stack up to previous versions of the team. Because CU usually runs full-strength squads here every year, year-to-year comparisons are possible (though inexact). For instance, last year we pointed out that the men ran faster — by far — than ever before at the Rocky Mountain Shootout and that Colorado team did indeed turn out to be the best squad in school history. Conditions on Saturday look okay (high of 60 degrees, though a little windy) but we’ll wait until the race is over to see exactly what the weather ends up being and how apt a comparison is to previous years.
Chile Pepper Cross Country Festival (Fayetteville, Ark., Saturday, 10:45 a.m. ET)
The No. 10 Arkansas women and the No. 15 Arkansas men are the main (read: only) draws here as they are the only college squads entered.
More: Discuss the action on our world famous fan forum: *MB: Official 10/2-10/3 Weekend NCAA XC Talk – Notre Dame, Paul Short, UW, Rocky Mountain, etc.