Quick Takes - 2017 XC Nationals
November 13th, 2017
Stats, highlights & takeaways from the 12th NIRCA XC National Championships
Iowa State captured a long-awaited team crown. The Cyclones have finished in the top 10 each year dating back to 2010 (including two runner-up finishes and one 3rd place from 2011-2013), but the title has eluded them. While dominating the Great Plains Region for several years now, Iowa State finished 7th-6th-6th at the past three championships. Those races are in the rearview mirror now after their dominant 39-point performance in East Lansing on Saturday.
Speaking of dominance up front, the men’s top three teams truly separated themselves this year. A gap of nearly 100 points from 3rd to 4th shows that you had to be truly excellent to make the podium. Oregon placed three runners in the top 15 but still finished 3rd.
Despite the gap to Oregon in third, kudos to the Purdue men who finished 4th in their top performance ever. Purdue has sent a team to every NIRCA XC Nationals, a testament to their club history, but had a previous best finish 6th (2007), and more recently, 11th (2016). A big day for the Boilermakers who nearly made the podium.
While an Iowa State team win was a first, a Cyclone runner taking the men’s individual title was most definitely not. Andreas Lommer picked up right where Rob Scanlon left off to give Iowa State three consecutive individual wins (Scanlon - 2015 & 2016, Lommer - 2017). Given that the Cyclones started their scoring with a ‘1’ for the past two years as well, the jump from 6th to 1st in the team standings speaks even more to their great team performance at Forest Akers. Lommer and teammate Jason Thomas went 1-2 at Great Plains and 1-3 in East Lansing.
Consistent excellence has also been the story for UC Davis grad student Nathan Kwan, who again led the way for his team with his third straight top 10 individual performance. Kwan has improved each year he’s run NIRCA XC Nationals (10th - 2015, 3rd - 2016, runner-up -2017), building one of the more impressive resumes for NIRCA male distance runners.
A blast from the past was leading the way for Indiana on Saturday - but only familiar to those who’ve been around for a while. 2008 National Champion Matt Flaherty, in graduate school at IU, ran to an impressive 4th this year in his return to NIRCA nine years later!
Oregon’s Ryan Jones, a pre-race favorite, finished 9th to earn his third straight top-10 finish. No doubt Jones was hoping for more, but nonetheless he has had a strong last three years.
The Michigan women won their third title on Saturday (2008, 2014, 2017), adding to their extensive NIRCA success. Certainly considered a contender going into the weekend, the Wolverines weren't predicted to be as dominant as they were, but ran superbly. Penn State, runner-up this weekend, still has the most crowded trophy case however, with five cross country championships (2006, 2009, 2010, 2015, 2016). Virginia is the only other women’s team with multiple team titles, having won back-to-back in 2012 & 2013.
The Princeton women made the podium for the second straight year, taking the third place trophy. Having finished 8th in 2015, this year’s squad validated their ascension to being one of NIRCA’s top teams.
Duke’s Katelyn McCracken entered rarified air on Saturday as she repeated as women's champ. McCracken is the second woman to win two XC titles (Betsy Suda, Florida, 2011 & 2013), but the first back-to-back champion. Both athletes earned their two titles on very different courses and in different conditions, solidifying their cross country prowess.
This year’s top returners showed their mettle yet again. McCracken (Duke - 1st in 2016), Sally Keating (UC Davis - 3rd in 2016), Emily Wagoner (Indiana - 6th in 2016) and Erin Zimmer (Michigan State - 8th in 2016) finished 1-3-6-7, with Wagoner and Zimmer switching order. Pretty remarkable consistency.
Erin Zimmer’s NIRCA arc looks a lot like Nathan Kwan’s. She has placed 30th (2014), 12th (2015), 8th (2016) and now 6th and has played a huge part in the MSU women’s success over the last several years.
Lindy Zeng of Princeton improved from 16th to 9th, while Penn State sophomore Suzanne Stein jumped from 14th to 2nd, firmly putting her name in the conversation for individual top honors in future years.
THE YOUNG GUNS
The University of Michigan had both of the top freshmen in the meet. On the men’s side, Tyler Opdycke was the Wolverines’ second runner in 16th overall, while Audrey Ladd finished 8th overall and 2nd on her team for the women’s champs.
No underclassmen placed among the top 10 individuals for the men, as compared to three sophomores and a freshman on the women’s side.
The frosh/soph races featured Michigan and Penn State heavily up front, the women’s race looking eerily like the Championship. Penn State appeared in control of the men’s race, perhaps foreshadowing future title hopes for the Nittany Lions.
The Michigan women’s victory came with some powerful alliteration - their scoring five of Anna, Audrey, Alison, Amberlee & Amytess led the Wolverines to A big win on Saturday.
109 racers finished the 2017 NIRCA Nationals Open 5K, a new record!
Saturday’s high temp of 34 F was, believe it or not, a degree warmer than the high at the prior coldest NIRCA XC Nats, 2014 in East Lansing. However, this past Friday’s cold snap kept the average temp well under 30 F for the 2017 meet, solidifying it as new NIRCA’s Ice Bowl. Hope you’ve all thawed out!
Full results from the 2017 NIRCA XC National Championship can be found here.
Greg Haapala, NIRCA