Update 6/12/21

The NIRCA Fall 2021 National Championship is (tentatively) on!

We are thrilled to announce that Fall XC Nationals is planned for November 6th, 2021 in Shelbyville, IN. These plans are subject to change as new information emerges, so keep checking here for immediate updates as they are available.

For the Fall 2021 season, Nationals eligibility criteria for club and individual participation will be waived. NIRCA fall season meets will all be considered Non-Qualifiers.

Regionals: tentatively planned, all dates TBD. Fall season: clubs hosting meets should submit their races for the NIRCA event calendar as soon as their events are confirmed.

2016 XC Nationals: Women's Team Preview

November 7th, 2016

Will the traditional powers add to their legacy or is 2016 the year for a first-time champion to emerge on the women's side?

How drastic has the landscape changed for women’s clubs in NIRCA over the last eleven seasons? Penn State scored just 24 points on their way to the 2006 national title. Last year in Lexington, a statistically better Penn State squad than that of a decade earlier, scored 121 points when they won. Translation: more talented runners from more clubs, coast to coast, are making the team competition a battle among a number of deep squads. They will fight for every position from runner one to runner seven this weekend in Hershey.

The defending national champions will aim to extend their already NIRCA record of four team titles when they make the short 100 mile trip from State College, PA to Hershey this weekend, and should be the favorite based on regular season and regional results. The Nittany Lions opened the 2016 season with a 23:12 average on a historically fast course at Lock Haven University. But that proved to be no outlier as PSU averaged an even faster time of 23:04 at their most recent race, the Mid Atlantic Regional at Lehigh University. Noemie Noulette and Ariane Abadi have led Penn State all year, including their 4-5 finish with sub-23 minute times at Mid Atlantics, and they are no strangers to the NIRCA championship scene. Katrina Helcoski, another veteran senior, and freshmen Suzanne Stein and Sarah Almarzooqui helped guide the Blue and White to not only NIRCA’s fastest average time across the regional meets but also the tightest spread of 0:26. It was that tight pack that led Penn State to the crown a year ago when just 0:22 separated one to five. As good as the defending champs look coming into Saturday, there will be plenty of challengers to keep the Lions from title number five.

PSUWomen

The Great Lakes Regional power and 2014 national champs from the University of Michigan are one of those clubs who will be in strong contention to take another national title. Despite some regular season struggles, the Wolverines are coming on strong at just the right time. Just when they looked vulnerable to continue their regional dominance, they were at their best taking the title in Shelbyville, IN with a 36-48 victory over a very good Michigan State club. At Great Lakes it was Colleen Conroy breaking the 23-minute mark to lead her club with a fourth place finish. Conroy has led the Maize and Blue all season and Anna Piccione (sixth at GL) has been a strong number two. Just like Penn State, the Wolverines likely will not have an individual national champ or even a top three finisher but will have one of the best groupings in the meet, evidenced by their 0:40 spread and 23:23 average.

Michiganwomen

Speaking of challengers from the Great Lakes, Michigan State has been having a banner season and was close to their in-state rivals at the regional meet. The Spartans don’t have a team title on their resume but that could change after this weekend in Chocolate Town. MSU nearly matched UM’s average time with a 23:26, which is one of the fastest in NIRCA this season. The Spartans success may rely on their top runners as their spread may not match that of Michigan’s or Penn State’s. Erin Zimmer and Tarah Thompson were second and third at three different NIRCA meets this year – Regionals, Little Tens, and the Spartan Classic. Single-digit points to kick off the scoring can go a long way to the Spartans title hopes.

North Carolina did not win a regional title or even make it into the conversation at Southeasts. But don’t be fooled, the Tarheels will look much different in Hershey than they did in Kernersville, NC and are a serious contender for the 2016 championship. Bridget Sullivan, Caroline Jennings and Aly Chura figure to be the top three for UNC and all looked great early on in the season, breaking 19 minutes on a 5k course. None of them toed the line at Regionals. While that was a 5k and it was two months ago, a team average of under 19 minutes can’t be ignored. But the Tarheels will be the biggest unknown in this field…just don’t be surprised to find them on the podium Saturday afternoon.

Another club that did not win, or even place, at Regionals but will have a shot at the podium is two-time champion and last year’s runners-up, University of Virginia. The Cavaliers uncharacteristically did not have an individual in the top ten at Mid Atlantics but ran that race without two of their top seven. Still, with a sub-24 minute team average and a history of running their best at Nationals, UVA can’t be counted out.

Sticking with the theme of unknowns, keep an eye on the Pacific Regional champions from Stanford. The Cardinal make the trip across the country with one of the top average times from Regionals (24:00) and it didn’t come on an easy course in Bellmont, CA. They will be without three of their top seven from the regional meet though but their top runner Amia Nash is set to compete.

Stanfordwomen

A club that is always a threat to the title is the Great Plains powerhouse Illinois. Coming off another regional title, the Illini are primed for championship season. Without a front-runner the Illini will rely on their grouping to get to the podium this time around. While the grouping was good on paper at Great Plains, going 6-7-8-11-14, the spread was 1:18 which likey won’t get it done, in the absence of a low stick at least. But if Illinois can clean that up, they can challenge.

A few clubs that weren’t in the conversation in early September but have made plenty of noise as the season progressed are Princeton, Pittsburgh, and Indiana. Princeton and Pitt were a distant second and third at the Mid Atlantic Regional but turned in fast times, 23:42 and 23:49 team averages respectively. Matching the theme of just about every team title contender this year, these clubs won’t have anyone in the mix for a top finish individually but have deep squads and tight spreads.

Indiana will try to take a different path to the podium. The Great Lakes third place team have one of the top runners in the meet in regional champ Emily Wagoner. She could start the team points with one. That is always huge but even more so in a year where most of the team contenders do not have a front runner and team scores should be on the higher end like last year. But a spread of over two minutes may be hard to overcome for IU.

 Other teams to keep an eye on are Penn (who will be with their top runner and multiple time All-American Liz Novak that was absent at Regionals), Oregon, UC Davis, North Carolina State, Miami (OH), Virginia Tech and Georgetown.

 

PREDICTION: A large, deep field will help Michigan State the most but Penn State’s great grouping and veteran leadership should lift the Nittany Lions to fifth national title, albeit with a high score. Michigan State takes the runner-up trophy ahead of regional rival Michigan in third.
Disclaimer: Previews and predictions are the opinion of one NIRCA board member who tracks race results from NIRCA member clubs throughout the Fall season. These previews and race predictions do not necessarily represent the view or stance of the Association’s Board or membership and should be viewed as educated guesses to generate excitement and conversation for the upcoming National Championship weekend! Please enjoy at your own risk.

 

 

2016 Regional Champions

REGION

CHAMPION

AVERAGE TIME

SPREAD

Northeast

Boston Univ.

25:55

2:57

Southeast

North Carolina State

24:58

2:44

Mid Atlantic

Penn State

23:04

0:26

Great Lakes

Michigan

23:23

0:40

Great Plains

Illinois

24:50

1:18

Pacific

Stanford

24:00

1:02

 

Team Championship History

YEAR

NATIONAL CHAMP

RUNNER-UP

3RD PLACE

2015

Penn State (121)

Virginia (155)

Michigan (163)

2014

Michigan (91)

Illinois (141)

Michigan State (145)

2013

Virginia (71)

Penn State (80)

North Carolina (97)

2012

Virginia (40)

Penn State (107)

Michigan (137)

2011

Illinois (85)

Virginia (87)

Penn State (103)

2010

Penn State (40)

Oregon (118)

Wisconsin (123)

2009

Penn State (29)

Oregon (109)

Duke (168)

2008

Michigan (51)

Penn State (65)

Oregon (137)

2007

Oregon (35)

Penn State (56)

North Carolina (57)

2006

Penn State (24)

Michigan (49)

North Carolina (85)

 

Top 10 All-Time Team Averages at NIRCA Nationals

Rank

Team

Average
Time

Year

Nationals Course

1

Penn State

22:45

2009

Eagle Crest Golf Course
(Ypsilanti, MI)

2

Penn State

22:46

2010

Indiana Univ. XC Course
(Bloomington, IN)

T3

Illinois

23:04

2011

McAlpine Creek Park
(Charlotte, NC)

T3

Virginia

23:04

2011

McAlpine Creek Park
(Charlotte, NC)

5

North Carolina

23:18

2011

McAlpine Creek Park
(Charlotte, NC)

6

Penn State

23:25

2011

McAlpine Creek Park
(Charlotte, NC)

T7

Virginia

23:26

2012

Hershey Parkview Course
(Hershey, PA)

T7

Michigan

23:26

2014

Forest Akers Golf Course
(East Lansing, MI)

T9

Virginia

23:29

2013

Hershey Parkview Course
(Hershey, PA)

T9

Penn State

23:29

2015

Masterson Station Park
(Lexington, KY)


Tommy Otterbine, NIRCA

#nircanats #previews