Great Plains Regional: Men's and Women's Preview
October 31st, 2019
Illinois the favorites to sweep the men's and women's race but don't sleep on Wisconsin.
Great Plains Regional - Men (Champaign, IL)
Illinois will be running for a chance to repeat as the Great Plains Regional Champion in their hometown and has four of their top five finishers from last year back. Their top five finishers all finished in the top 10 with an average time of 26:53 as they cleared second place Wisconsin by 22 points. Those returners are Josh Mollway, second, Ryan Somerfield, third, Brian Butcher, sixth, and Justin Ostrem, ninth. None of them have participated in a NIRCA race this season but they are all seasoned runners who will look to lead their team to a perfect score of 15. The Illini are a deep team as they have nine total returners who finished in the top 30. In order to have a chance at the perfect score they will need one of those other five to step in. Connor Farrell, 15th, Nikita Smyrnov, 17th, Colin Kirkham, 23rd, Evan Patel, 27th, and John Kellum, 30th help round out their depth.
Wisconsin returns a pair of top 30 finishers and two runners who finished just outside of the top 30. Nick Juntunen, 19th, and Sam Jaeger, 20th, both ran a 27:39 last year and are the Badgers top returning runners after losing three individuals who placed in the top 10. Along with Illinois, none of the Wisconsin runners have participated in a NIRCA event this year but have the second most depth with their other top returning runners in Luke Kubasta, 32nd, and Owen Gage, 34th. While Illinois may have too much depth, second place appears to be within reach should they have a few more runners step up.
Illinois State may have no returning top 30 runners from last year but at the ISU Invitational, the team claimed first through fifth and had an average time of 28:02. Their top five was comprised of, in order, Alex Harrison, Joshua Crull, Brendan Krell, Jacob Lorenz, and Ignacio Gamboa. While their average time would have landed them in fourth place last year, with more runners and some added competition, they may have a shot to land on the podium.
Minnesota, Missouri, and Iowa State may lack enough depth to fight for first place but have some returners who will look to lead their team to the podium and potentially claim some individual honors. Jacob Hebior is the lone Iowa State top 30 returner as he finished 18th last year and will seek to be the pride and joy of the Cyclones. Matt Cota, 16th, and Grand Matthews, 35th, will represent Minnesota as they seek out a pair of top 15 finishes. Missouri will be led by Sam Bishop, 22nd, and Bradley Davis, 31st. They both posted sub 28:00 times last year and will need to cut down that time a bit in order to help the Tigers fight for a podium spot.
1st - Illinois
2nd - Wisconsin
3rd - Minnesota
Great Plains Regional - Women (Champaign, IL)
Illinois may not return their top two finishers from last year, but of the returning top 30 runners, the Illini have five of the top six individuals. Juliz Schultz finished fourth last year and will be the early favorite to finish first overall. The rest of their top five returners are Grace Gudwien, seventh, Amelia Bertaud, eighth, Noel Brindise, 15th, and Clare Oehler-O’Sullivan, 19th. Their depth doesn’t end there as Emily Condic finished 28th and will be ready to step up should any of their top five falter. Just like the men, the women will be seeking a perfect score and a repeat regional championship after finishing 41 points clear of second place Wisconsin with an average time of 23:45.
Wisconsin finds themselves in a similar situation as four of their top five do not return this year but they still have three individuals who finished in the top 30, so it’s the next woman up for the Badgers. Autumn Wickman, 17th, Rachel Weix, 27th, and Danielle Moczynski, 30th, will lead the team in an attempt to prevent the Illini from repeating as champions. The Badgers are bringing a smaller squad this year which puts some additional pressure on the others to step up in their bid for a spot on the podium.
Minnesota and Missouri are the other teams of note with some individuals who will be looking to bring home some hardware. Sally Heil from Missouri is their top returning runner as she finished 34th last year in Champaign, IL. The Tigers have a large squad but have many unknowns, placing a large burden on Sally to lead the team to a potential top three finish. Abby Witte and Mackenzie Thayer are the top returners for Minnesota as they finished 26th and 32nd respectively. They will need to have solid races for the Golden Gophers to finish higher than their team sixth place in 2018.
1st - Illinois
2nd - Wisconsin
3rd - Minnesota
Michael Potter, NIRCA