Update 4/12/21

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

Based on the current info available, 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.

2017 NIRCA National Cross Country Championships Women’s Preview

November 9th, 2017

The 2017 NIRCA XC Nationals Women’s Championship race features both an individual and a team with targets on their backs as defending champions. But this race is shaping up to be one of the tightest in NIRCA history.

TEAM

Penn State University enters as the two-time defending champs and the standard-bearer of the Association, having won five of the previous 11 national titles and finishing on the podium (top three) 10 of those 11 years. The Nittany Lions come in fresh off another Mid Atlantic Regional title but by the absolute smallest of margins, a one-point victory over Princeton. Suzanne Stein has led PSU all season and is also the Mid Atlantic individual champ. Stein should provide a key low stick but this Penn State team is not as deep as their last two championship squads, as evident by the close call in Bethlehem three weeks ago. Baylee Robey, Leah Narkevic, and Hannah Morris were all in the top 15 at Regionals and helped to give Penn State a 23:03 team average, tied for the best across all Regionals this year.

The team most likely to derail what would be a Penn State dynasty is the one who has been chasing them relentlessly the past few seasons. Last year’s national runner-up and the second best squad from the Mid Atlantic this year, Princeton University, has been one of the fastest-rising women’s programs in NIRCA history. With seniors Lindy Zeng and Avery Kratzer providing veteran experience and sophomores Barrett Gray (3rd at regionals), Alice Wistar, and junior Yuzki Oey, the Tigers averaged 23:07 in Bethlehem and scored 59 points.

Coming in with an almost identical team average at Regionals to Penn State and Princeton is the perennial Great Lakes power, University of Michigan. The Wolverines have owned the Great Lakes and have two national titles to their name, the most recent coming in 2014 – on this same East Lansing course. Behind a 1-2 finish from Anna Piccione and Audrey Ladd and Allison McLean and Amberlee Kreis also in the top 10, Michigan averaged 23:03 and scored just 30 points to run away with the title in Shelbyville, IN.

Another club that can vie for the crown is Great Lakes runner-up, Michigan State University. While the Spartans were 26 points back of Michigan in Shebyville, they had a respectable 23:37 average and have the advantage of running on familiar territory in East Lansing. In fact, MSU’s first podium finish came the last time they took to the Forest Akers Golf Course three years ago, and this team was third last year. Erin Zimmer should provide Michigan State with an early point boost as they try to stun the field for a first-ever national title.

Pacific Regional champs, University of California Davis, have one of the individual race favorites in Sally Keating, who brings a ton of NIRCA experience into this meet. Keating easily won the Pacific Regional and led Davis to the team title with 35 points and a 24:16 average on arguably the most difficult regional course.

Northwestern University shocked the competition in Iowa City to win the Great Plains, knocking off one of the most consistent NIRCA power-house programs, University of Illinois, 51-55. The Wildcats averaged 24:38 and were led by individual champ Hannah Anderson.

No stranger to being in the mix for a title is Southeast Regional champ University of North Carolina. The Tarheel women averaged 24:25 a few weeks back and bested in-state rival North Carolina State University 55-64. In the Northeast Region, Northeastern University repeated as champs averaging 25:42.

Other teams to watch include Stanford University (second at Pacific), University of Virginia (third at Mid Atlantics), University of Maryland (fourth at Mid Atlantics), University of Illinois (second at Great Plains), University of Wisconsin (third at Great Plains), and North Carolina State University (second at Southeast).

 

INDIVIDUAL

Few outside of the Southeast Region knew Katelyn McCracken’s name before the 2016 national meet. Then the Duke senior smoked the competition in Hershey and has been full speed ahead since. Fresh off another Southeast title, McCracken is the one everyone will be going after on Saturday and you can bet that everyone knows her name. The Duke standout went 21:26 in Spartanburg, almost 30 seconds better than runner-up Gracie Griffith of Clemson, and the fastest time of any regional winner this year. A win on the Forest Akers Golf Course would make McCracken the first ever back-to-back women’s champ in NIRCA’s 12-year history and the second two-time champ, joining Florida’s Betsy Suda who won the 2011 and 2013 titles.

Suzanne Stein enters with the second fastest regional time, covering the Lehigh University course in 21:50. The Penn State sophomore was 14th a year ago and looks primed to contend for the individual title. She will have plenty of company from her Mid Atlantic counterparts in Pittsburgh’s Jenny Orie, Princeton’s Barrett Gray, and West Virginia’s Lauryn Falcone. Orie was 144th in 2016 but served noticed with a runner-up finish at this year’s Mid Atlantics. Falcone is a returning All-American and Gray was just outside the top 30 in Hershey.

The highest returning finisher, not named McCracken, is UC Davis’ Sally Keating. Aside from her Pacific Regional title this year, Keating has performed well on the national stage, placing third last season. Her time at Pacifics, 22:11, comes on a challenging Crystal Springs XC Course, putting her well within striking distance of the title in East Lansing.

The Great Lakes features a few former All-Americans who will be in the hunt for the championship. It starts with the Michigan duo of Anna Piccione and Audrey Ladd, who went 1-2 in Shelbyville. Piccione was 24th at the 2016 national meet and is the reigning regional champ in GL. Michigan State’s Erin Zimmer, third at regionals, was 8th in Hershey in 2016, 12th in Lexington in 2015, and 30th in East Lansing in 2014. All three were under 23 minutes at Great Lakes.

The Southeast Region will also provide a contender in Georgia’s Cydney Seigerman, who went 22:11 for a third place finish. Out of the Great Plains, keep an eye on Northwestern’s Hanna Anderson (the regional champ in 23:14) and in the Pacific, Stanford’s Kiah Hardcastle (runner-up in 23:08) should contend.

Two other top 10 finishers from 2016 nationals who will toe the line this Saturday include Indiana’s Emily Wagoner and Oregon’s Dana Fry.

 

PREDICTIONS

TEAM: 
The Ivy League has never produced a team or individual national champion…until now. Princeton’s experience pays off when it counts the most, winning a tight one over Michigan and Penn State, respectively. 

INDIVIDUAL: 
A mix of veterans, newcomers, and runners who have made huge improvements from a year ago makes for a closer race than last year. But the result is the same. Duke’s McCracken becomes the first ever back-to-back champ. UC Davis’ Keating is a close second and PSU’s Stein holds on for third.

 

Highest Returning Finishers from 2016

Katelyn McCracken, Duke, 1st
Sally Keating, UC Davis, 3rd
Emily Wagoner, Indiana, 6th
Erin Zimmer, Michigan State, 8th 
Dana Fry, Oregon, 10th
Lauryn Falcone, West Virginia, 13th 
Suzanne Stein, Penn State, 14th 
Lindy Zeng, Princeton, 16th 
Karleigh White, Pittsburgh, 17th 

 

NIRCA Women’s National Champions

Year

Champion

College/University

Time

Course

2016

Katelyn McCracken

Duke

22:10

Parkview XC Course, Hershey, PA

2015

Kaitlyn Johnson

Georgetown

22:00

Masterson Station Park, Lexington, KY

2014

Cara Donohue

Minnesota

22:24

Forest Akers Course, East Lansing, MI

2013

Betsy Suda

Florida

22:22

Parkview XC Course, Hershey, PA

2012

Becky Boyle

Indiana

22:31

Parkview XC Course, Hershey, PA

2011

Betsy Suda

Florida

21:27

McAlpine Creek Park, Charlotte, NC

2010

Danelle Woods

Illinois

21:54

IU XC Course, Bloomington, IN

2009

Lauren Philbrook

Penn State

21:59

Eagle Crest Golf Course, Ypsilanti, MI

2008

Kelsey Armstrong

Clemson

22:30

Penn State Golf Course, University Park, PA

2007

Jen Laser

Indiana

23:45

IU XC Course, Bloomington, IN

2006

Ruth Mick

Penn State

22:35

Lock Haven XC Course, Lock Haven, PA

 

 

All-Time Top 25 6k Performances at NIRCA XC Nationals

1

Besty Suda

Florida

21:27

McAlpine Creek Park

2011

2

Becky Boyle

Indiana

21:42

McAlpine Creek Park

2011

3

Danelle Woods

Illinois

21:54

Indiana XC Course

2010

4

Lauren Philbrook

Penn State

21:59

Eagle Crest Golf Course

2009

5

Kaitlyn Johnson

Georgetown

22:00

Masterson Station Park

2015

6

Cassi Knight

Penn State

22:04

Indiana XC Course

2010

7

Katelyn McCracken

Duke

22:10

Hershey Parkview Course

2016

8

Lauren Philbrook

Penn State

22:13

Indiana XC Course

2010

9

Kristen Mohrer

Oregon

22:15

Eagle Crest Golf Course

2009

10

Megan  Mocogni

Illinois

22:21

Masterson Station Park

2015

11

Betsy Suda

Florida

22:22

Hershey Parkview Course

2013

11

Mollie Pozzolo

Michigan

22:22

McAlpine Creek Park

2011

13

Ganna Bowen

North Carolina

22:23

McAlpine Creek Park

2011

14

Cara Donohue

Minnesota

22:24

Forest Akers Golf Course

2014

15

Kristen Mohrer

Oregon

22:25

Indiana XC Course

2010

16

Maddie Stark

Penn State

22:26

Eagle Crest Golf Course

2009

17

Emma Grimes

Illinois

22:29

Forest Akers Golf Course

2014

18

Kelsey Armstrong

Clemson

22:30

Penn State Golf Course

2008

19

Sarah Brewer

Michigan

22:31

Eagle Crest Golf Course

2009

19

Becky Boyle

Indiana

22:31

Hershey Parkview Course

2012

19

Liz Novack

Pennsylvania

22:31

Hershey Parkview Course

2016

22

Amanda Zamora

Illinois

22:32

McAlpine Creek Park

2011

22

Julianne Schnepp

Penn State

22:32

Indiana XC Course

2010

22

Rachel White

Michigan

22:32

Penn State Golf Course

2008

25

Michaela Alamillo

Oregon

22:33

McAlpine Creek Park

2011

 

 

Team Championship History:

YEAR

NATIONAL CHAMP

RUNNER-UP

3RD PLACE

2016

Penn State (78)

Princeton (154)

Michigan State (165)

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

2

Penn State

22:46

2010

Indiana University XC Course

T3

Illinois

23:04

2011

McAlpine Creek Park

T3

Virginia

23:04

2011

McAlpine Creek Park

5

North Carolina

23:18

2011

McAlpine Creek Park

6

Penn State

23:25

2011

McAlpine Creek Park

T7

Virginia

23:26

2012

Hershey Parkview XC Course

T7

Michigan

23:26

2014

Forest Akers Golf Course

T7

Penn State

23:26

2016

Hershey Parkview XC Course

T10

Virginia

23:29

2013

Hershey Parkview XC Course

T10

Penn State

23:29

2015

Masterson Station Park

 


Stephanie Bartley, NIRCA

#nircanats