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Great Plains Regional: Men's and Women's Preview
October 18th, 2018
Iowa State graduated all top 5 men from one of most dominate teams ever, can they defend their title? Can Northwestern women repeat or will the Schulz sisters lead Illinois to team glory?
Great Plains Regional Preview - Men (Urbana-Champaign, IL)
After a two year absence, the Great Plains Regional returns to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign with 1st place completely up for grabs. After sweeping Regionals and Nationals, winning by 47 points over Illinois, and ducking 55 points under Penn State’s team, Iowa State - in what may have been the greatest team season ever - graduated all their top 5 runners and is again upperclassman and graduate student heavy. Jacob Hebior leads the Cyclones being the only top-30 finisher returning this season (placing 12th last year), and is supported by Will Schrantz, MacCoy Benzen, Wesley Graham, and Cole Shurbert-Hetzel. Not having raced in any NIRCA qualifiers this year, it is yet unknown where they stand but they will attempt to fill some very big shoes. Also be on the lookout as they have apparently been growing “NIRCA staches”.
Illinois might be the favorite on paper as they return 6 runners from the top 30 at Nationals last year and are boosted by Ryan Somerfield’s return. Interestingly, he did not race cross country last year, but finished 15th at the 2016 Regional. Josh Mollway leads the Illini with a 7th place Great Plains Regional finish in 2017 and was also their top finisher at Nationals, finishing 37th. Brian Butcher and Josh Feldman both broke into the top 20 last year at the Great Plains Regional, 13th and 17th respectively, and will look to support Josh. We could also see Illinois’ top 5 consist of Connor Farrell, Eli Walker, Nathanial Oommen, or Cody Lund this weekend. Illinois is certainly one of the deepest teams in the country this season and will likely make a run of their own.
Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Washington University will also be top contender, with each team making a push of their own for a podium spot. Minnesota is led by Jace Galley and Shamus Zenk, finishing 10th and 16th last year. The Badgers have a trio of returners who placed in the top 30 last year, Kevin Dado (14th), Evan Routhier (15th), and Jack Prazich (29th) and we expect to see a great race as these three challenge their fellow Big Ten rivals for the top team spot on the podium. Washington University may struggle to land on the podium as a team, but the club has a great shot at claiming the first runner across the finish line this weekend with their secret weapon, Bram Osterhout, who’s the highest-placing returner for this year with a claim to the fifth place finisher spot in 2017.
1st – Illinois
2nd – Wisconsin
3rd – Minnesota
Iowa State University
Great Plains Regional Preview - Women (Urbana-Champaign, IL)
After a very tight race last year, Northwestern edged out Illinois, 51 to 55, and Wisconsin finished 3rd with 66 points, everyone should expect the same this year. Illinois and Northwestern return no less than 4 runners from the top 30 and Wisconsin returns 3 but they all have the depth to challenge for 1st place.
Illinois is the obvious choice on paper since they have 6 runners returning who placed in the top 30 last year, not to mention the 22 other runners they have racing in the Regional; benefit of racing in your own backyard. The Schulz sisters will lead the way for Illinois as Julia finished 2nd last year and Anneliese finished 7th during last year’s Regional. They will be supported by Vicky Dent (13th), Noel Brindise (18th), Riley Maloney (26th), and Tiffany Yathaputanon (29th) as they try and prevent Northwestern from repeating.
Northwestern may not have the same depth as Illinois, but their top end talent makes them tough to beat. Hannah Anderson finished 1st last year by 16 seconds over 2nd place, Julia Schulz from Illinois, and will look to repeat this year. The rest of the Wildcats returners from last year’s regional are Megan Beach (12th), Emma Kumer (14th), and Izabela Stankiewicz (19th). They will need combination of team pasta dinners and “guac-offs” plus one or two other racers step up if they are to repeat as champions.
Wisconsin might end up in a similar situation as last year as they find themselves with the talent to make it onto the podium, but 1st and 2nd may be just out of their reach. Megan Beuchel, who finished 9th last year, will look to challenge for top 3 and secure some much needed points. Kaylee Sadeghpour-Hess (24th) and Molly Baus (25) will help Megan but they will need a few others to step up and have a strong race if they hope to remain on the podium and fight for a higher finish.
While their teams may not have the firepower to compete for a top 3 finish, Emily Stava (11th) from Washington University and Molly Stuckmeyer (21st) from Missouri will both look to have a top 10 finish individually.
1st – Illinois
2nd – Northwestern
3rd – Wisconsin
Michael Potter, NIRCA