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2018 XC Nationals: Women's Team Preview

November 8th, 2018

Will Michigan become the 4th team, 3rd school, to repeat as Champions or can someone upset them and prevent the next dynasty?

If you look up the definition of dominate in the dictionary, you’ll see two definitions:

Verb: To have a commanding influence on; exercise control over

Noun: University of Michigan Women’s Run Club

That is all that the women from Ann Arbor have done the last two years, dominate.  After placing fourth in the 2016 National Championship race, as a team they have finished first in every race during the 2017 and 2018 season and expect to do the same in Lexington.  Their average time on the season is 23:26, which is slightly slower than their 2017 National Championship time of 23:14, but that doesn’t leave much room for error for their competitors.  Michigan returns six of their seven runners from last year’s National Champion team, including their top four runners who placed in the top 20 and were separated by only 0:45 seconds. Anna Piccione, first at the Great Lakes Regional, has run very well this season and will lead the Wolverines along with Audrey Ladd, Allison McLean, and Amberlee Kreis.  The four of them combined for only 43 points in East Lansing last year, so long as Zoe Baxter, Freshman Abby Hiipakka, or Mollee Shultz finish no lower than 50th, Michigan should easily repeat as champions and cement their claim as one of the most dominant teams to run at NIRCA and a current powerhouse.  

Regional Champions: 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018

National Champions: 2008, 2014, 2017

 

Penn State has no intention of letting Michigan add themselves to NIRCA’s records of back-to-back champions; Penn State (2009 – 2010), Virginia (2012 – 2013), Penn State (2015 – 2016), but may not have enough top-end speed to compete with Michigan’s top four.  The Nittany Lions are led by Suzanne Stein, first at the Mid-Atlantic Regional and runner-up at Nationals in 2017, and Baylee Robey, second at the Mid-Atlantic Regional. They may be the best one-two punch in the Nation and will need to finish top five to give their team a chance.  Leah Narkevic and Rachel Wittmer were among Penn State’s top five scoring runners from their runner up team in East Lansing last year and will need strong outings to support Suzanne and Baylee. The rest of their squad is made up of Megan Ellery, and newcomers Freshman Chloe Conner and Junior Olivia Gettle.  Penn State posted the sixth fastest time of the season en route to winning their sixth consecutive Mid-Atlantic Regional Championship, 23:19, and are ready to carry their momentum down to the Bluegrass State in search of another first place trophy.

 

Purdue may prove to be one of the most intriguing teams this weekend.  They may only have three scoring women returning from the team that finished seventh at Nationals last year but may have an overall deeper team.  Nina Bouthier is one of the 15 fastest returning runners from East Lansing but has not run as fast this year by her standards and will look to return to her sub 24 minute time.  Faith Baer and Michaela Lewis are the other returners looking to help the Boilermakers find the podium. Purdue’s other runners are what will be the deciding factor for this team.  Senior Lucy Hilarides is having the fastest season of her career with two races under 22:40, including a second place finish at the Great Lakes Regional. Sophomore Lauren Orr placed third at Regionals and has posted two sub 23:00 races leading up to Nationals.  Don’t sleep on Purdue because they are gunning to upset fellow Big Ten rivals Michigan and Penn State.

 

Princeton has two runners who will be vying for a top ten finish as they seek to carry their team to a third consecutive year on the podium.  The Tigers will need to run like they did during the Princeton Invitational, where they posted a time of 23:00, which was good for the second fasted time of the season, and at the Mid-Atlantic Regional as they claimed second and ran 23:39.  Yuzki Oey and Barrett Gray, who both finished top 15 last year at Nationals, will need to score some single-digit points to give their team a chance. What may hurt Princeton the most is the absence of Catherine Song, an experienced NIRCA runner, but Alice Wistar was a scoring runner on their team last year and will look to build upon her tenth place finish at Regionals.

 

Illinois is coming to Nationals ready to get back onto the stage, where we’ve not seen them since their second place Nationals finish in 2014.  They won the Great Plains Regional by scoring a remarkable 24 points, 41 less than runner-up team Wisconsin. Any other year, scoring 24 points at a Regional would earn your team the title of the lowest score of any Regional champion, but powerhouse Michigan only scored 23 at the Great Lakes Regional.  This means the Fighting Illini should not be taken lightly. They are led by close friends, Julia Schultz and Anneliese Schulz, who finished 31st and 38th at Nationals last year and fourth and third at Regionals this year.  They were more than happy to welcome back Emma Burkhardt, second at Regionals, after a year off after graduating before returning for grad school, and were boosted by Freshman additions Amelia Bertaud and Grade Gudwien.  Keep an eye out for Illinois this weekend!

 

A few more teams of note for this weekend who could play spoiler on what is probably going to be a chilly day in Lexington.

Indiana is not bringing back the same top end speed as some of the aforementioned teams, but they are one of the most consistent remaining teams.  Their top four returners, Emily Ryan, Jamie Frederick, Anna Bouillet, and Christel Richard, finished within 0:23 seconds of each other last year, with an average time of 24:44.  If they can shave off some time and remain as consistent as last year, they may be the perfect underdog for a fantastic finish at Nationals. Even though they finished fourth at the Great Lakes Regional, six points outside of third, don’t count them out just yet.

North Carolina has a trio of runners from the top 100 from last year’s tenth place finish.  Lindsey Govan, Megan Perkins, and Bridget Sullivan (second at the Southeast Regional), hope to lead the Tarheels back for a top finish at Nationals, where they haven’t been since their third place finish back in 2013.  At Regionals, they defeated rivals Duke, in Wingate, NC, 47-49 with an average time of 25:22.

Maryland ran well as a team at the Mid-Atlantic Regional with an average time of 23:59, but ended up finishing fourth.  Shannon MacMaster finished 33rd at Nationals last year but ran a 22:46 at Regionals and could fight for a top ten individual finish and earn some valuable low points for the Terrapins.  She will be supported by Katrina Krabinski as they look to finish inside the top ten as a team.

Duke graduated All-American Katelyn McCracken, who was the first woman to win back-to-back National Championships, but are up to the task of replacing her.  A podium spot may out of their reach with no top 100 runners returning, but they will be focused on besting North Carolina after narrowly losing out at Regionals.  Freshman Kate Straneva was Duke’s highest finisher and will lead the Blue Devils.

After narrowly losing out to Penn State and Princeton, finishing third, at the Mid-Atlantic Regional, Pittsburgh has something to prove and will hope to improve upon their eighth place finish at 2017 Nationals.  Jessica Uhrin ran well at Regionals, placing fifth with a time of 23:06, and will pace the Panthers. Karleigh White finished eight at Regionals and if she can have another good outing, Jessica and her can secure some valuable low points.

Pacific Regional Champions, UC Davis, won with an average time of 24:09, and will be led by Megan MacGregor, first at Regionals, and Danika Newlin, who finished 54th at Nationals last year.  A podium spot seems out of reach but top ten should definitely be in play as they seek to improve on their best finish of 14th.

 

Prediction:

Michigan has too much firepower and joins the NIRCA record book and repeats as back-to-back Champions while Penn State falls just short, claiming second again, followed by Purdue claiming their first NIRCA Nats trophy and highest team finish.

 

2018 Regional Champions

Region

Champion

Average Time

Mid-Atlantic

Penn State

23:19

Great Lakes

Michigan

23:11

Great Plains

Illinois

23:45

Southeast

North Carolina

25:31

Northeast

Boston College

27:57

Pacific

UC, Davis

24:09

 

Team Championship History

Year

National Champ

Runner-Up

3rd Place

2017

Michigan (76)

Penn State (122)

Princeton (173)

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

Michigan

23:14

2017

Forest Akers Golf Course

6

North Carolina

23:18

2011

McAlpine Creek Park

7

Penn State

23:24

2017

Forest Akers Golf Course

8

Penn State

23:25

2011

McAlpine Creek Park

T9

Virginia

23:26

2012

Hershey Parkview XC Course

T9

Michigan

23:26

2014

Forest Akers Golf Course

T9

Penn State

23:26

2016

Hershey Parkview XC Course

 


Michael Potter, NIRCA

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