2018 XC Nationals: Men's Team Preview

November 9th, 2018

No clear favorite means it’s anyone’s race, but will there be a first-time champion?

Nine of the ten fastest team times this season have been posted by different schools, leaving this race wide open.  The best team time was posted by Michigan at the Little Tens Invitational, 25:28, who also posted the fourth fastest time while at Spartan Grand Classic.  The rest of the teams all come from the Mid-Atlantic and Great Lakes Region, aside from North Carolina State out of the Southeast Region, leading to some familiar teams continuing their battles from Regionals.

 

Penn State comes into the weekend with one goal in mind, to finally win a National Championship on the men’s side, having finished second in 2015 and 2017 and third in 2016 and 2013.  They return three top-30 runners, headlined by Joseph Clark who finished seventh last year with a time of 25:49, but has not surpassed that time yet this season. Other familiar faces near the front of the PSU pack include Matt Beyerle, 14th, and Daniel Wilcko, 23rd.  While those three have not had as strong of a season as they hoped, their team has been supported by senior Raymond Friend, and juniors Matthew Balogh and Andrew Hanna, who placed first and fifth during the Freshman/Sophomore race last year in East Lansing.  The Nittany Lions are rounded out by freshman Nicholas Deamer. Keep an eye out for Penn State to shine on the biggest stage and build on their Mid-Atlantic Regional Championship, where they posted an average time of 26:22, their fastest time of the season.

 

UC Davis claimed their first National Championship in 2015, followed it up with a second place finish in 2016, and then were disappointed to finish ninth last year.  They return three top 100 runners from that team and are coming off a Pacific Regional Championship where they finished with a time of 26:30. The Aggies are led by two-time All-American Nathan Kwan, who is the highest returning runner, as the Nationals runner-up in East Lansing, clocking the fastest time of any runner at Regionals.  Grad student Clancy McConnell, eighth in 2017, and Jon Horvath, second at Regionals, team up with Kwan and plan to score some much-needed single digit points. They will need the rest of their team to step up if they hope to return to the podium.

 

Michigan has one of the more interesting teams over the past few seasons.  It may seem odd to label a team “interesting” when they’re a traditionally strong team with six top-three all-time finishes, yet they have not placed top three since 2014. MRun has three returning runners from the top 100 at Nationals last year but only one finished top 20.  Tyler Opdycke, 16th, has been pushing the Wolverines all season long, claiming one second place finish and two first place finishes, one of which was at Regionals.  Despite the lack of multiple top returning runners, they have won every race this season with an average time of 26:09. Their other returners from last year’s sixth-place team are Lynus Zullo, 78th, and Adam Sawicki, 82nd, who finished ninth and eighth, respectively, at the Great Lakes Regional.  Michigan just edged out Indiana 35-36 in a close race in Shelbyville, IN, but had their top five runners finish within 0:28 seconds of each other. This is the consistency they have displayed all season that they will need to rely on if they hope to win it all.

 

Princeton finished fifth last year hope to make a push for top three as they bring back four top 100 runners from that squad.  They are led by tenth place finisher, Liam Collins, and Zartosht Ahlers, 18th, and then Ben Giugliano and Gerry Angelatos, 70th and 80th.  Don’t take much stock in their seventh place finish at the Mid-Atlantic Regional since Ahlers, Giugliano, and Angelatos did not run.  At the Tigers’ home race, the Princeton Invitational, they finshed second and had a team time of 26:06, which was good for the sixth best team time this season.  Watch out for Princeton as they attempt to finish top three for the first time in school history.

 

North Carolina State has no top 100 runners on this team but may make a splash in Lexington after claiming the lowest point total of  all the Regional Champions, scoring an incredible 20 points, 63 points higher than second place Georgia Tech. In truly incredible fashion, their top five runners finished all in a row at Regionals to claim second through sixth place, with their sixth runner finishing eighth.  They will certainly face stiffer competition this weekend but are coming in confident and ready to play spoiler on the day. They should have the same top five made up of Spencer Husen, Turner Chaundy, Matthew Staehle, McKinney Brooks, and Ryan Bennison.

 

A few more teams to keep an eye out for on Saturday at Masterson Station Park.

Oregon may have only finished third at the Pacific Regional but should be a team to keep an eye out for as they have three runners who finished in the top 40 last year en route to a third place team finish in 2017.  Robert Pederson placed 11th, just missing out on a top ten finish, and then came August Howell and Eric Beyerle, 35th and 39th respectively.  Like their Pacific Regional counterpart, they will need the rest of their team to have a strong outing if they hope to defend their third place title.

Indiana just narrowly lost out to Michigan at the Great Lakes Regional, 35-36, and are looking forward to a chance to upset the Wolverines.  Their two top 100 returners are Nicholas Bergen, 36th last year, and Nick Brouch, 74th, but their top two runners from Regionals are Jared Reckard, second, and Alexander Livernois, 7th.  The Hoosiers may not have enough for a top three finish, but should land firmly in the top ten.

Virginia Tech only has two returning top 100 runners but based on times at Regionals, has the second and third fastest runners.  Harrison Wood was 50th at Nationals last year and second at the Mid-Atlantic Regional while Connor Lee was 96th but took first at one of the most competitive Regionals.  If they can secure a couple single-digit points at the top, then they have an outside shot to place.

Illinois brings a strong team with three returning top 60 runners and three more who finished top ten at the Great Plains Regional.  Josh Mollway finished 37th last year and claimed second at Regionals and will lead the Illini.  Brian Butcher, 48th, and Josh Feldman, 59th, will need to have a strong performance if they hope to fight for a top ten spot.

Purdue was outmatched at the Great Lakes Regional but could be a force to reckon with in Lexington.  Nate Veldt finished 15th in 2017 and is their highest returning runner.  Their other top 100 returners, Connor Sandt, Matthew Sraders, and Michael Howell, all finished within 18 seconds of each other and will need a similar performance if they hope to find themselves in the top three.

 

Prediction:

Michigan completes the sweep of the Men’s and Women’s races leaving Penn State in second still seeking their first ever Championship while Purdue finishes third.

 

2018 Regional Champions

Region

Champion

Average Time

Mid-Atlantic

Penn State

26:22

Great Lakes

Michigan

26:27

Great Plains

Illinois

26:53

Southeast

NC State

26:50

Northeast

Northeastern

29:24

Pacific

UC, Davis

26:30

 

Team Championship History

Year

National Champ

Runner-Up

3rd Place

2017

Iowa State (39)

Penn State (94)

Oregon (97)

2016

Oregon (52)

UC Davis (69)

Penn State (108)

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

2

Iowa State

25:20

2011

McAlpine Creek Park

3

Delaware

25:22

2011

McAlpine Creek Park

4

Minnesota

25:23

2011

McAlpine Creek Park

5

Virginia

25:24

2011

McAlpine Creek Park

6

Indiana

25:39

2011

McAlpine Creek Park

7

Oregon

25:44

2011

McAlpine Creek Park

8

Iowa State

25:45

2017

Forest Akers Golf Course

T9

Wisconsin

25:49

2011

McAlpine Creek Park

T9

Penn State

25:49

2017

Forest Akers Golf Course

 

 


Michael Potter, NIRCA

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