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: Men's Team Preview

November 7th, 2016

The defending champs look primed for a repeat but anything can happen on NIRCA's most challenging championship course. See who is in contention for the men's team title on the unforgiving Hershey hills this weekend.

No one expected the events that unfolded in Lexington, Kentucky one year ago. A team champion emerged in their first ever trip to the National meet after coming in with one of the slower average times of any regional champ. A runner-up trophy was given to a club who didn’t even finish in the top three at their regional meet. And the two-time defending champions, fresh off a dominant performance in 2014, checked in at third. Will we see the same craziness unfold in Hershey this weekend? Probably not, but expect those three podium teams from 2015, UC Davis, Penn State, and Indiana, to come in with the target on their backs this time and make another run at the title.

DavisMen

The men from UC Davis bring an almost identical roster to Chocolate Town USA from their 2015 title team. Nathan Kwan, Blake Zufall, Adam Cobert, Eric Jones, Clancy McConnel, and Chris Myers know what it takes to win this thing and that veteran experience combined with overwhelming talent should make the Aggies tough to take down. The defending champs repeated as the Pacific Regional champs running an average time that was 0:20 faster than they ran on the same course the year before. That’s good news. And if you think the daunting hills of Hershey will trip the west coast boys up, think again. Crystal Springs was a brutal, hilly course so the Aggies know how to win on a difficult terrain. Kwan, 10th a year ago, is one of the top individual runners in this championship and that will give his club a low stick to kick off the scoring. Their 0:41 spread was second only to Indiana among regional champions coming in so even if Kwan is off, there are plenty of teammates close behind to aid the scoring.

Penn State was a just as much a surprise as UC Davis was at 2015 Nationals. And just like their foes from across the country, PSU has been rolling this year and should be on the short-list of contenders for the national title this time. The Nittany Lions have some of the fastest team averages this season, flirting with breaking the 26-minute barrier on a few occasions, most recently in winning a deep Mid Atlantic Region with a 26:06 average a 0:58 spread. Penn State is led by freshman Andrew Sell and will put on the line in Hershey quite a few runners who have never been in the Championship race at NIRCA, including Sam Lapp and Dan Wilcko who went 1-2 in the B race in Lexington. Penn State has the talent and arguably a home course advantage (many of the PSU runners competed on this Hershey course in high school) but will their youth hold up against more experienced squads?

PSUmen

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We didn’t know much about perennial powerhouse Indiana for much of the fall season until the Great Lakes Regional where they once again won a title over strong competition. Behind familiar NIRCA names of Ethan Worthington, Andrew Jankowski, and David Eichenberger IU averaged a solid 26:28 with a NIRCA-best 0:40 spread. Unlike championship IU squads in the past, there may not be an individual champion threat on the roster but with depth and one of the tighter spreads in the meet the Hoosiers have a great shot to reclaim the team title and at the very least can continue their streak on the podium.

IUmen 

Another perennial power that is fresh off a regional title is Iowa State. The Cyclones just barely held off Great Plains rival Illinois 39-41 but did it with two of the top runners in the region, and possibly the country. Back for ISU is the 2015 individual national champ, Rob Scanlon, who ironically was third at regionals and second on his team. Jason Thomas won the meet in 26:00 while Scanlon ran 26:19. Will Graham was right behind him but the ISU spread for their top five was 1:48. For Iowa State to make it back on the podium, and even win, they will need Scanlon and Thomas to be in the individual title mix and tighten that spread.

IowaStmen

Oregon was eighth a year ago and returns a strong core from that team, including one of the top individuals in NIRCA, Ryan Jones. The Ducks recently recorded a 27:01 team average at the Beaver Classic but also have a sub-26 average earlier this season on a fast course. In Hershey, expect them to be somewhere in between and as always a contender to make noise in the team race.

Princeton has been the biggest surprise of the 2016 season and they hope to ride that Cinderella story to the podium in Hershey this weekend. The Tigers went from being mid-pack in a strong Mid Atlantic Region a year ago, and never a club in the conversation of a team title at Regionals let alone Nationals, to the 2016 regional runners-up and a national ranking headed into this weekend. Leif Fredericks leads a deep team that averaged 26:23 at Lehigh and has an early season win over Penn State. The Tigers were almost 30 points behind the Nittany Lions a few weeks ago but also looked primed to pull off an upset through 7k of the race before fading. This is a dangerous club that has been relishing the underdog role.

North Carolina State is the best shot for a Southeast club to make the podium and the Wolfpack looked dominant in taking the regional title. A 27:01 average came against little competition from a team standpoint and a 1:13 spread isn’t bad. Josh Rees-Jones will look to start the NC State scoring with low points and an All-American finish of his own.

In addition to Indiana, the Great Lakes has at least two other clubs looking for hardware and if favorites slip up, perhaps a national title. Cincinnati and Michigan were second and third at the regional and both within 20 points of the Hoosiers, posting averages of 26:31 and 26:24. Michigan actually took the first two individual spots at Great Lakes with Lucas Peterson and Ross Pendergast comfortably ahead of third place Jack Randall from Cincy. But depth did the Wolverines in last time out. Their front runners will need to be up front in Hershey to give Michigan a chance.

Other clubs to keep a close eye on include the Mid Atlantic third place team Virginia Tech, Illinois and Minnesota out of the always strong Great Plains, Purdue who was in the mix at Great Lakes, and the Northeast Regional champs from Binghamton.

PREDICTION: Hard to bet against the defending champions who bring almost everyone back and come in looking faster than last year. So we won’t. UC Davis repeats with Penn State taking the runner-up trophy again in a close race. Iowa State benefits from some low sticks and has a tighter spread this time out to take 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

Binghamton

28:25

1:50

Southeast

North Carolina State

27:01

1:13

Mid Atlantic

Penn State

26:06

0:58

Great Lakes

Indiana

26:28

0:40

Great Plains

Iowa State

26:47

1:48

Pacific

UC Davis

26:38

0:41

 

Team Championship History

YEAR

NATIONAL CHAMP

RUNNER-UP

3RD PLACE

2015

UC Davis (106)

Penn State (125)

Indiana (149)

2014

Indiana (23)

Michigan (149)

Illinois (162)

2013

Indiana (66)

Iowa State (93)

Penn State (114)

2012

Oregon (42)

Indiana (65)

Iowa State (115)

2011

Illinois (87)

Iowa State (115)

Virginia (128)

2010

Michigan (63)

Wisconsin (100)

Virginia (101)

2009

Wisconsin (62)

Illinois (105)

Michigan (128)

2008

Wisconsin (35)

Oregon (89)

Michigan (99)

2007

Oregon (42)

Michigan (47)

Illinois (102)

2006

North Carolina (54)

Illinois (62)

Michigan (74)

 

Top 10 All-Time Team Averages at NIRCA Nationals

Rank

Team

Average Time

Year

Nationals Course

1

Illinois

25:04

2011

McAlpine Creek Park
(Charlotte, NC)

2

Iowa State

25:20

2011

McAlpine Creek Park
(Charlotte, NC)

3

Delaware

25:22

2011

McAlpine Creek Park
(Charlotte, NC)

4

Minnesota

25:23

2011

McAlpine Creek Park
(Charlotte, NC)

5

Virginia

25:24

2011

McAlpine Creek Park
(Charlotte, NC)

6

Indiana

25:39

2011

McAlpine Creek Park
(Charlotte, NC)

7

Oregon

25:44

2011

McAlpine Creek Park
(Charlotte, NC)

8

Wisconsin

25:49

2011

McAlpine Creek Park
(Charlotte, NC)

9

Indiana

25:54

2014

Forest Akers Golf Course
(East Lansing, MI)

T10

Oregon

25:58

2012

Hershey Parkview XC Course
(Hershey, PA)

T10

UC Davis

25:58

2015

Masterson Station Park
(Lexington, KY)

 


Tommy Otterbine, NIRCA

#nircanats #previews