2015 NCAA Regionals Women’s Cross-Country Preview: Who’s On Track To Qualify For The Big Dance?

*What do you think? Vote in the 2015 LetsRun.com Regional Polls.
*MB: Official 2015 NCAA XC Regional Live Discussion Thread

By LetsRun.com
November 12, 2015

Shortly after 4:30 p.m. Eastern Time on Friday, the fields for the 2015 NCAA Cross Country Championships will be set. All nine of the NCAA Regional Championships will have concluded by then; all that will remain is for the results to be published and the proper formulas applied to generate the 31 men’s and 31 women’s teams that will head to Louisville’s E.P. “Tom” Sawyer State Park on November 21 for the Big Dance.

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We here at LetsRun.com expect to be able to publish the NCAA qualifiers within minutes of the final results being posted thanks to the amazing computer program of former Duke runner and now Olympic Trials qualifier (and Harvard Ph.D. candidate) Bo Waggoner. Check out our live messageboard thread on Friday – MB: Official 2015 NCAA XC Regional Live Discussion Thread – as we’ll be running the program all day long, telling you who is in and who is out after each of the regional results come in.

Friday is one of the best days to be a college cross country fan, but it’s also one of the most hectic. To prepare you for Friday’s races, we’ve used Bo’s program to project the qualifiers for NCAAs based on results up to this point and the most recent USTFCCCA Regional Rankings (we used those rankings to project the results at regionals). This is our women’s preview; if you want to check out our men’s preview, go here.

After projecting the fields, we previewed each region. You can find those previews, including links to live results (where applicable), below. If you want a quick and dirty summary, scroll all the way to the bottom where we’ve outlined each region in two sentences.

If the regionals go according to form, this is who will be in NCAAs. Unlike with the men, there will be hardly any ranked teams left out.

Automatically selected (projected to finish top-two at Regionals)
1. Michigan
2. Notre Dame
3. Penn State
4. Georgetown
5. Oklahoma State
6. Iowa State
7. New Mexico
8. Colorado
9. Providence
10. Syracuse
11. Mississippi State
12. Vanderbilt
13. Arkansas
14. SMU
15. Virginia
16. NC State
17. Oregon
18. Boise State

At-large teams*
19. Stanford
20. Washington
21. Villanova
22. Princeton
23. Utah
24. Weber State
25. BYU
26. Michigan State
27. Minnesota
28. Yale
29. Columbia
30. William & Mary
31. North Carolina

*It was necessary to make a few assumptions based on whether a school was was running an A team or a B team at a certain meet. Check out this article for those assumptions, as well as the logic behind why each team was selected.
*LRC  2015 NCAA Regional Projections Assuming Everything Goes According To Form

Total bids by region
5: Mountain
4: West, Mid-Atlantic, Northeast, Southeast
3: Great Lakes, Midwest
2: South, South Central

Ranked Teams That Will Be Left Out
No. 30 Gonzaga (first team out)

Unranked Teams That Would Be Dancing
Columbia (#31 in the votes)
SMU (#37 in the votes)

Below, you’ll find analysis of all nine regions. There’s a quick cheat sheet of the teams/regions to watch for at the bottom of the article.

South Regional
Live results *
Official site
Harry Pritchett Running Park, Tuscaloosa, Alabama
Start times: 10 a.m. ET (women); 11 a.m. ET (men)

USTFCCCA Regional Rankings

  1. No. 17 Mississippi State #
  2. No. 27 Vanderbilt #
  3. Lipscomb
  4. Alabama
  5. Ole Miss
  6. Auburn
  7. Florida State

# = projected qualifier

NCAA 1500 champ Rhianwedd Price will look to lead Mississippi State to its first-ever NCAA berth

NCAA 1500 champ Rhianwedd Price will look to help Mississippi State to its first-ever NCAA berth

Surprising Mississippi State leads this region after taking second at SECs behind Arkansas — the Bulldogs’ best finish in program history. Mississippi State has a chance to make more history on Friday — if they finish in the top two, the Bulldogs will be the first women’s team from the state of Mississippi to compete at the NCAA XC meet. They shouldn’t have much of a problem accomplishing that as Mississippi State beat the region’s second-ranked team, Vanderbilt, at SECs (95-112). NCAA 1500 champ Rhianwedd Price is only their third woman so they are pretty good (her twin sis was #6 at SECs)

Alabama was well back of those two in that meet (143 points) but there is one team that could play spoiler: Lipscomb. The Bisons (yes, we had to look that up) were a respectable 5th at the Greater Louisville Classic on October 3, one place behind No. 21 Minnesota and ahead of Wisconsin. Since then, Lipscomb (who, like Mississippi State, has never sent a men’s or women’s team to NCAAs) hasn’t faced any serious competition but did manage to take nine of the top 12 places at the Atlantic Sun Championships.

The problem is that Lipscomb, unlike Mississippi State and Vanderbilt, didn’t run Pre-Nats/Wisconsin and, therefore, has no at-large points. Both Mississippi State and Vanderbilt will make it as an at-large team if they finish third; Lipscomb has to finish second or better.

Whatever happens, it’s likely history will be made. Florida State used to own this region (the Seminoles have made nine straight NCAA appearances) but with coach Karen Harvey and star Colleen Quigley out of the picture, it has regressed this season (7th at ACCs, 23rd at Wisconsin) leaving the door open for others.

South Central Regional
Live results * Official site
Watts Cross Country Course, College Station, Texas
Start times: 11 a.m. ET (women); 12 p.m. ET (men) 

USTFCCCA Regional Rankings

  1. No. 3 Arkansas #
  2. SMU #
  3. Rice
  4. Texas
  5. Stephen F. Austin
  6. Baylor
  7. Texas A&M
Arkansas has made it to NCAAs the past four years; that streak is a lock to grow in 2015

Arkansas has made it to NCAAs the past four years; that streak is a lock to grow in 2015

Aside from No. 3 Arkansas, this region is putrid. The second-ranked team, SMU, was 32nd (!) at Wisconsin and lost to Tulsa, a squad ranked sixth in the Midwest Region, at its conference meet. Baylor was actually the highest-placing team from the South Central at Wisconsin (outside of Arkansas) in 30th, but the Bears were 8th at Big 12s, well behind regional rival Texas (158-195). There’s really not much to say about the South Central. Arkansas could probably run a B team and still qualify; the only way this region gets more than two teams in is if Arkansas runs a C team and finishes third (Could you imagine if the Razorbacks did that and finished fourth? They’d push the third-place team in, giving the South Central four teams).

Southeast Regional

Live results * Official site
Panorama Farms, Earlysville, Virginia
Start times: 12 p.m. ET (women); 1 p.m. ET (men)

USTFCCCA Regional Rankings

  1. No. 6 Virginia #
  2. No. 8 NC State #
  3. No. 22 William & Mary #
  4. No. 28 North Carolina #
  5. Eastern Kentucky
  6. Virginia Tech
  7. Clemson
Virginia will look to add a regional crown to its ACC title (courtesy UVA Track & Field/CC)

Virginia will look to add a regional crown to its ACC title (courtesy UVA Track & Field/CC)

Annually one of the more competitive regions, the Southeast has two teams with a ton of points (ACC champ Virginia was 3rd at Wisconsin; NC State was 2nd at Notre Dame and was 4th at Wisconsin) that should get in barring a bad case of food poisoning/broken-down bus/act of God. But the next two teams, William & Mary and North Carolina, are very much on the bubble — they’re the last two teams in according to our projections (W&M is #30, UNC is #31). Since it will be tough to break up the top two (W&M was 224 points back of NC State at Wisconsin; UNC was 75 points back at ACCs), the Tribe and the Tar Heels will likely have to rely on an at-large berth.

And that means rooting for the status quo. Any surprise team getting into NCAAs means one less at-large berth for the Southeast, which makes the battle for third in this region extremely important — whichever team is fourth could wind up on the outside looking in. That’s not to say that taking third means a team is a lock to make NCAAs; it just gives that school more wiggle room in the at-large process.

Northeast Regional
Official site
Franklin Park, Boston, Massachusetts
Start times: 12 p.m. ET (women); 1 p.m. ET (men)

USTFCCCA Regional Rankings

  1. No. 4 Providence #
  2. No. 19 Syracuse #
  3. No. 29 Yale #
  4. Columbia #
  5. Brown
  6. New Hampshire
  7. Cornell

No. 4 Providence has made 25 of the last 26 NCAA meets and it would be a humongous shock if the Friars didn’t make it 26 of 27 on Friday. After them, No. 19 Syracuse will be favored to take second; the Orange were 11th at Wisconsin and that performance should be enough to see them through to Louisville even if they finish third or fourth.

As on the men’s side, the most important team in the Northeast is Columbia, who has wins over Vanderbilt and SMU (nearly everyone who went to Wisco got a point over SMU). If they Lions are fourth (their current regional ranking), they will push in whoever finishes third — projected to be Yale, who beat Columbia at Heps. If Columbia is third, it will get in but Yale will be left at home (apart from Columbia, Yale hasn’t beaten anyone else who projects to make NCAAs). If Columbia is fifth, then the Northeast will only send the two auto qualifiers as the Lions will be blocked from pushing anyone in.

Mid-Atlantic Regional
Official site
West Windsor Fields, Princeton, New Jersey
Start times: 12 p.m. ET (women); 1 p.m. ET (men)

USTFCCCA Regional Rankings

  1. No. 10 Penn State #
  2. No. 14 Georgetown #
  3. No. 26 Villanova #
  4. No. 23 Princeton #
  5. West Virginia
  6. Penn
  7. Pittsburgh

As of now, this region is projected to get four teams into the Big Dance. They would all get in pretty early, too — Villanova is the third at-large team selected, Heps champ Princeton the fourth. But that’s because Princeton has several points and would push Villanova in; if we put Princeton third at regionals and Nova fourth (very possible considering Princeton is ranked higher in the coaches’ poll), suddenly Nova is the last team in — meaning it is very much on the bubble. Essentially, Princeton will go if it finishes in the top four, but schools like Villanova and West Virginia (8th at NCAAs last year) will likely have to beat Princeton — or one of the top schools, such as Big 10 champ Penn State or Big East runner-up Georgetown — in order to earn a bid.

Georgetown is actually in a precarious position. Their seventh-place finish at Pre-Nats didn’t earn them any points. Neither did runner-up showings at Big Easts and the Coast-to-Coast Battle in Beantown. If Princeton earns one of the auto spots instead and Georgetown finishes third, the Hoyas would be left out.

The Hoyas show you the problems with the current at-large system. Georgetown clearly belongs at NCAAs but because they went to Pre-Nats and not Wisconsin, they may be left out.

Midwest Regional
Official site
Rim Rock Farm, Lawrence, Kansas
Start times: 1 p.m. ET (women); 2 p.m. ET (men)

USTFCCCA Regional Rankings

  1. No. 13 Oklahoma State #
  2. No. 16 Iowa State #
  3. No. 21 Minnesota #
  4. Kansas
  5. Bradley
  6. Tulsa
  7. Oklahoma
Oklahoma State is coming off its first conference title since 1986 (courtesy Oklahoma State)

Oklahoma State is coming off its first conference title since 1986 (courtesy Oklahoma State)

Iowa State earned a ton of points by finishing seventh at Wisconsin. The Cyclones are in as long as they finish in the top four (though an auto qualifier is more likely). Minnesota, by virtue of wins over Vanderbilt and SMU, will get in with points if it finishes third. The danger team in this region is Oklahoma State. The Cowgirls ran a terrific race at Big 12s, overhauling a 17-point deficit at halfway to win handily over Iowa State, 34-52. But to make it back to NCAAs after a two-year absence, OSU will have to run well again on Friday. If Minnesota takes an auto spot and OSU finishes third, the Cowgirls will find themselves in a tiebreaker situation with Gonzaga for the final at-large spot (assuming the other regionals play out to form). Because the tiebreaking procedure isn’t entirely clear (Oklahoma State and Gonzaga have no common opponents), we can’t say for sure which school gets in. Clearly the Cowgirls are better off finishing in the top two than sweating it out on the bubble.

Great Lakes Regional
Live results * Official site
Zimmer Championship Course, Madison, Wisconsin
Start times: 1 p.m. ET (women); 2 p.m. ET (men)

USTFCCCA Regional Rankings

  1. No. 7 Michigan #
  2. No. 15 Notre Dame #
  3. No. 18 Michigan State #
  4. Wisconsin
  5. Purdue
  6. Eastern Michigan
  7. Ohio State

Michigan (Greater Louisville/Pre-Nats champs) and Notre Dame (12th at Wisconsin, 3rd ACCs) are in very good position to get in, and Michigan State is also on track to receive an at-large bid. Right now, those are the only three teams projected to go to Louisville.

Wisconsin and Purdue have outside chances at NCAAs. The easiest way for either of them to go would be to finish in the top three — any of the ranked teams in this region should have enough points to push them in. That will be tough, though. Michigan (58 points) and Michigan State (104) were well ahead of Wisconsin (139) and Purdue (149) at Big 10s two weeks ago. Wisconsin or Purdue could get in on their own, but it would require other projected qualifiers to run poorly in their regionals. The key is that SMU still has to run well — that’s currently the only point Wisconsin and Purdue can claim (if Baylor switches places with SMU at the South Central Regional, that’s fine too). But the Badgers and Boilermakers need to be focused on a top-three finish — which obviously requires beating each other, too — as there are simply too many variables to get to NCAAs with a fourth-place finish.

Mountain Regional
Live results * Official site
UNM North Golf Course, Albuquerque, New Mexico
Start times: 2 p.m. ET (women); 3 p.m. ET (men) 

USTFCCCA Regional Rankings

  1. No. 1 New Mexico #
  2. No. 2 Colorado #
  3. No. 20 Utah #
  4. No. 25 Weber State #
  5. No. 24 BYU #
  6. Air Force
  7. Northern Arizona

New Mexico and Colorado will cruise and as things stand Utah, thanks to wins over Georgetown and SMU, should make its first-ever appearance as well. BYU has a ton of points, so the Cougars are almost certainly in with a top-five finish. The one school that needs to be on alert is Weber State. The Wildcats came up mostly empty in big races at Roy Griak and Pre-Nats, so they’ll have to beat either Utah or BYU in order to get pushed in.

West Regional
Live results
Jefferson Golf Course, Seattle, Washington
Start times: 3 p.m. ET (women); 4 p.m. ET (men)

USTFCCCA Regional Rankings

  1. No. 4 Oregon #
  2. No. 9 Boise State #
  3. No. 11 Stanford #
  4. No. 12 Washington #
  5. No. 30 Gonzaga
  6. Eastern Washington
  7. Cal Poly

As in the Mountain, four teams in this region have a plethora of points. But the fifth, Gonzaga, is very much on the bubble (they’re the first team out) so in order for the Bulldogs to earn their first NCAA berth, they need to beat one of the top four schools or hope for upheaval in other regions so that they can get in as an at-large team. Beating one of the top four will be a big ask, however. Gonzaga raced Oregon, Stanford and Washington at the Washington Invitational on October 2 and the scores weren’t close. The Bulldogs finished with 200 points; the closest out of Oregon, Stanford and Washington was Stanford at 60.

That means that Gonzaga will be rooting against Yale, Weber State and Villanova, the three teams that are currently projected to be pushed in. If Gonzaga does get in on points, it will be nothing short of amazing. The Bulldogs’ only point comes courtesy of BYU, whom they beat on a tiebreaker to win the West Coast Conference — their first conference title in 20 years. The Zags’ fifth scorer in that race, Amelia Evans, finished in 25th place with a time of 22:12.4 — an identical time to the 26th-place runner, Samantha Mattis of San Diego. If Evans’ kick wasn’t already dramatic enough, earning her team the conference title, now it may also be the deciding factor in whether Gonzaga gets to NCAAs for the first time ever.

Pay Attention To …

If you read the whole preview, you’ll know which schools/regions to look out for, but we’ll recap them quickly here.

  • South: Mississippi State and Vanderbilt should go with top-three finishes; Lipscomb needs to beat one of them in order to go.
  • South Central: Arkansas is a lock; no one else has points, so SMU, Rice, Texas, Baylor et. al will battle it out for the second auto spot.
  • Southeast: Virginia and NC State should nab the auto spots. William & Mary and UNC are the last two teams in as of now, so they’ll have to root for no upsets in other regions.
  • Northeast: Expect Providence and Syracuse to go 1-2. Columbia goes as long as it finishes in the top four; everyone else will need to finish in the top four and hope Columbia pushes them in.
  • Mid-Atlantic: Georgetown needs to grab an auto spot; Penn State, Villanova and Princeton should have the points to earn at-large spots if necessary.
  • Midwest: Iowa State and Minnesota have the at-large points to get in; Oklahoma State needs to beat one of them.
  • Great Lakes: Michigan and Notre Dame are locks. Michigan State is a safe bet to get in; Wisconsin and Purdue need to finish in the top three or hope for help elsewhere.
  • Mountain: Four teams will go; Weber State needs to finish in the top four to make it five.
  • West: Top four teams all have a ton of points; Gonzaga needs to break them up or get help in other regions.

What do you think? Vote in the 2015 LetsRun.com Regional Polls. We’ll compile the votes and then run the computer program to see who gets in and who is left home after the fans’ vote. Discuss this topic in our fan forum: MB: Official 2015 NCAA XC Regional Live Discussion Thread.

Men’s Preview: LRC 2015 NCAA Regionals Men’s Cross-Country Preview: Who’s On Track To Qualify For The Big Dance? What Two 2014 Podium Teams Will Be Left Home?

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