Great Lakes Regional: Men's and Women's Preview
October 31st, 2019
The Michigan women’s and men’s teams look to continue their winning streaks and defend their titles from 2018, while several teams look capable of an upset.
Great Lakes Regional Preview - Women (Shelbyville, IN)
In the eight year history of the Great Lakes Regional, the University of Michigan has not lost the meet. Their results so far this year create a strong case for them to continue that streak. The Wolverines return their top six runners from their 2018 Regional and National Championship Team. Led by the 2018 regional individual champion Anna Piccione, the team won last year with all of those six runners in the meet’s overall top eleven. This year, Michigan has continued their team winning steak, taking first place at the AkRun Invitational (15 points), Little Tens Invitational (27 points), and Spartan Grand Classic (23 points). After Piccione, Michigan has seen a scoring five consisting of both their top returners from last year, Audrey Ladd (fourth), Alison McLean (sixth), Mollee Shultz (seventh), Amberlee Kreis (eighth) and Zoe Baxter (eleventh), and some new faces including: Anna Nagelhout (third overall at AkRun Invitational, fifth overall at Little Tens, seventh overall at Spartan Grand Classic) and Devon Krasner (tenth overall at Little Tens, fifth overall at Spartan Grand Classic).
Despite Michigan’s string of victories, no team in the country has been as close to ending their recent streak as Purdue University. Most notably, Purdue placed second at the 2018 National Championship meet by a narrow 14 points. In that meet, Purdue actually posted a faster average time (22:27) than the Wolverines (22:32) in what was the fastest average time in NIRCA National Championship history. Despite losing their top runner in Lucy Hilarides (second in 2018), the Boilermakers do return Lauren Orr (third), Lauren Heeger (13th), Nina Bouthier (15th), and Faith Baer (18th) from their top seven at this meet in 2018 which placed seven runners in the top 17. The team also brings back Emma Keesling, who placed 33rd at 2018 Nationals after not running at last year’s regional meet. This year, Purdue won their home meet with a perfect score of 15 points led by Keesling and Bouthier. They were joined by Peggy Magro, Megan Casey, and Catharine Pickford as the rest of their top five runners in that race. Purdue placed second (49 points) to Michigan (27 points) at the Little Tens Invitational. While they will need some very big races to upset the defending champions on Saturday, Purdue has shown over the last two years that on the right day, they can be the team to end Michigan’s streak.
Michigan State did not field a full women’s team in 2018, but has traditionally been a very strong team on both the Regional and National scale. Charlotte Etienne placed fifth overall at this meet in 2018 and has been leading the Spartans to some great results this season. Michigan State placed third at the Little Tens Invitational with 60 points, just 11 behind Purdue, and second at the Spartan Grand Classic with 45 points. After Etienne, the team’s top runners have included: Caitlin Henne (third at Spartan Grand Classic), Taylor Ward (sixth at Little Tens), Amanda Young (15th at Little Tens, 11th at Spartan), Bailey Montgomery (17th at Little Tens, 13th at Spartan), and Amanda Montgomery (19th at Little Tens, 16th at Spartan). With a full team at the Great Lakes Regional this year, they will surely be looking for a spot on the podium and the chance to defeat Purdue and Michigan.
There will be plenty of other teams looking to get onto the podium this weekend. Ball State University took second place at their home meet, MC5, and recently took third at the Spartan Grand Classic. The University of Cincinnati beat Ball State by one point at MC5 for first place. At the AkRun Invitational, Ohio State University placed second to the strong Michigan team. Grand Valley State University finished fourth at both Little Tens and the Spartan Grand Classic. All these teams looking to create a tight race in Shelbyville for the top team spots.
In the individual competition, the top returners are: Anna Piccione of Michigan (first in 2018), Lauren Orr of Purdue (third), Audrey Ladd of Michigan (fourth), Charlotte Etienne of Michigan State (fifth), and Alison McLean of Michigan (sixth). While Piccione is the top returner from last year’s regional meet, Orr is the top returner from last year’s Nationals with her third overall finish in Lexington. Besides those top returners, Emma Keesling of Purdue (second at Little Tens in 21:56) and Lauren Kemper of the University of Cincinnati (first at MC5) will be looking to battle for the individual title.
Teams: University of Michigan keeps their streak of regional titles. Purdue University finishes in second. Michigan State University grabs the last podium spot.
Individuals: Anna Piccione (Michigan) defends her regional title, followed closely by Emma Keesling (Purdue). Charlotte Etienne (Michigan State) closes out the top 3, in a mirroring of the team results.
Great Lakes Regional Preview - Men (Shelbyville, IN)
University of Michigan returns to Shelbyville as the defending Regional and National Champions. While Tyler Opdycke (first in 2018), William McElgunn (fifth), Adam Sawicki (eighth), and Brandon Shepherd (eleventh) have all returned from the 2018 team’s top five runners to race for the Wolverines this season, Opdycke and Shepherd are both absent from this weekend’s entry list. Regardless, Michigan has showcased incredible depth this season which should keep them in great position to defend their title this weekend. At the AkRun Invitational, Michigan scored a perfect 15 points with scoring members including Sawicki, Lincoln Johnston, Andrew Dingwall, Christopher Reischel, and Andy Beck. They then won their home meet, Little Tens, with 24 points over Purdue University (44 points). Most recently, they finished with another victory (20 points) at the Spartan Grand Classic. Opdycke, Shepherd, and Patrick Fegan added their names to members of the Michigan team who have placed in their top five this season. Between those three meets, the Wolverines have seen eight different runners in their top five, seven of whom have run under 26 minutes this year. While they might be more vulnerable this weekend without their top runner in Opdycke, Michigan will be looking to retain their title with solid races from the rest of their team. It will be hard for anyone else to match their depth, but their top competitors will surely be trying their best to run away from the Wolverine pack.
No team has won more Great Lakes Regional titles than Indiana University with six (2011-2016). They have also never finished worse than second place. In 2017, the Hoosiers were second to Purdue. Last year, they were only two points behind a Michigan team that went on to win the National Championship. Indiana returns Jared Reckard (second), Alexander Livernois (seventh), Nick Brouch (19th), and Zac Leinheiser (32nd) from their top 7 at this meet in 2018. While track results do not always predict cross country success and they are often overlooked in the fall, it needs to be noted that Indiana runners placed first (Reckard), third (Livernois), and fourth (Brouch) in an utterly dominating performance at the NIRCA Track Nationals 5k last spring. This year, Indiana placed second to Purdue (38 points to 27 points) at the Boiler Up Invitational. After Reckard (26:17), Livernois (26:21), and Brouch (26:40), Eli Eckert (27:29) and Abel Spalding (27:41) made up the team’s top five runners.
The Hoosiers looked stronger at the beginning of October in non-NIRCA competition at the Louisville Classic. There, Livernois led the team in 24:52, followed by Reckard (25:02), Brouch (25:22), Eckert (26:24), and Spalding (26:33). There is certainly an argument for Indiana having the most dangerous top three runners not just in the region, but in the country. With the rest of their team looking to close the gap to their top three as we enter championship season, Indiana is a threat for reaching the top of the podium both this weekend and in Richmond if they are successful in that.
Purdue University placed third in 2018 and returns five runners from their top seven last year: Matthew Sraders (fourth), Conner Sandt (twelfth), Alex Johnson (21st), Michael Howell (27th), and Siddharth Nathella (28th). This year, Purdue won their home meet with 27 points over Indiana (38 points) led by Sraders and Sandt who finished first and second overall. Lukas Hessini, Ethan Edwards, and Paul Burka made up the rest of their top five. At the Little Tens Invite, Purdue finished second to Michigan with David Czerwonky, Patrick Foster, and Brandon Dimitri as the team’s third through fifth runners behind Sraders and Sandt. With lots of depth and Sraders and Sandt as threats for the individual title this weekend, Purdue will be looking to win their second regional title (first in 2017). They will certainly need big races from whomever ends up as their third, fourth, and fifth runners to close the gap to their impressive top two.
Michigan State brings back two runners from last year’s overall top 30: Paolo Guarano (22nd) and Jack Aman (23rd). Guarano has been having a very impressive season, helping lead the Spartans to a third place finish at Little Tens and winning the individual title at the Spartan Grand Classic where the team finished second to Michigan. With Guarano vying for an individual title this season, Michigan State could earn a podium finish with strong races from the rest of their team.
The individual competition looks to be centered around the top runners from the teams looking for the team title: Matthew Sraders and Conner Sandt from Purdue, Paolo Guarano from Michigan State, Jared Reckard and Alexander Livernois from Indiana, and a variety of runners from Michigan including Christopher Reischel and Adam Sawicki. With how tight the team race will likely be again this year (Michigan and Indiana were separated by just two points last year), the individual race between these school’s top runners will have a big impact.
Teams: Michigan successfully defends their title in another close race over Indiana in second and Purdue in third. Less than six points separate the top two teams.
Individuals: Jared Reckard (Indiana) wins over Matthew Sraders (Purdue). Paolo Guarano (Michigan State) finishes in third.
Michael Potter, NIRCA