2019 XC Nationals: Women's Team Preview

November 14th, 2019

The question on everyone’s mind going into Saturday is whether or not Michigan will become the first team in NIRCA history to three-peat.

UCLA Men’s Basketball (1964 - 1975), Chicago Bulls (1991 - 1998), United States Women’s National Soccer Team (1996 - 2003), and UConn Women’s Basketball (2000 - 2010) are some of the most dominant teams to ever compete together. With a win on Saturday, you could add the University of Michigan Women’s Run Club (2017 - ????) to this list.  They scored 76 points in 2017 and 88 points in 2018 while having the same top four runners each year in Anna Piccione, Audrey Ladd, Allison McLean, and Amberlee Kreis.  These Wolverines all return this year and are the newest Fab Four on campus since the 90’s (yes I know that was the Fab Five) and hope to make history in Richmond on Saturday.  

Their regular season average times were down a bit as not all of their top runners participated at the Little Tens Invitational, where they took first with an average time of 22:51, and AkRUN, where they finished first but with an average time of 25:35.  Ultimately they showed up at the Great Lakes Regional as they claimed their ninth consecutive title an average time of 23:02. With a strong showing by their Fab Four and the likely fifth runner being Devon Krasner, 12th at regionals, or Julia Roarty, 14th at regionals and 5th during the 2018 Nationals JR/SR/Grad race, they appear primed to make NIRCA history.

Regional Champions: 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019

National Champions: 2008, 2014, 2017, 2018

 

Illinois hasn't won since 2011, with their highest finish since then being second in 2014, but they are running hard this year and will be looking to return to the top.  The Illini won the Great Plains Regional with a nearly perfect score of 17 and will look to build off that race to try and podium. They will be led by three top 100 finishers from 2018 in Julia Schultz, 17th, Grace Gudwien, 30th, and Amelia Mertaud, 69th and the first place finisher at regionals in Natalie Sarris, 22:49.  They will attempt to keep the race close and hope for Michigan to falter to give them a chance.

 

In a bizarre turn of events at the 2018 Nationals, Purdue set the NIRCA record for the fastest average team time, 22:27, despite finishing second and will attempt to add a championship to that record this year.  The Boilermakers finished in second at the Great Lakes Regional, 69 points ahead of third place Notre Dame. The talent is there for Purdue who can seriously challenge for the championship if their second through fifth runners can cluster their finish like they did last year when Emma Keesling, Nina, Bouthier, Lauren Heeger, and Faith Baer all finishing within 0:36 second of each other.  Lauren Orr is returning following a third place finish in 2018 and will pace her teammates but it remains to be seen if they have enough speed to dethrone Michigan.

 

Virginia Tech shocked many when they took the Mid-Atlantic crown away from Penn State with a commanding 45 to 70 victory for first place; everyone except themselves.  The Hokies are running with confidence and will do whatever it takes to claim another first place trophy this year. While they lack the championship race experience like several of these other schools, they have a strong top four in Elizabeth Buckley, Katherine Wardinski, Sarah Seay, and Marybeth Myers.  Buckley will pace the team as she finished 16th in 2018 with a time of 22:28 and ran nearly 0:35 second faster at regionals this year. If the others do their part and all run sub 23:00 minute races, they will stand a chance to add more hardware to their trophy case this season.

 

Despite having the reigning National Champion and fastest female runner in NIRCA history in Suzanne Stein, Penn State may not have enough firepower to keep up with some of the other top teams after a third place finish in 2018.  The Nittany Lions are reeling a bit after their attempt at an eighth consecutive Mid-Atlantic Regional Championship was rejected by Virginia Tech and will arrive in Richmond with a chip on their shoulder.  Baylee Robey, who finished ninth at the 2018 Nationals, did not run at Regionals and will be a welcome addition to their championship race roster, giving them two returning top ten runners with Stein. Camille Bromley, Megan Ellery, and Katherine Nelson are likely to round out their top five and all finished 11th, 19th, and 33rd respectively at regionals.  Never count out Penn State but they face an uphill battle this weekend.

 

A team that will create some intrigue this weekend is Oregon State.  The Beavers did not participate at Nationals in 2018 but won the Pacific Regional in convincing fashion with a 24 to 45 score over second place UC, Davis.  Their top five runners all finished within 0:30 seconds of each other in San Carlos, CA, which is a recipe for success at Nationals. Their anticipated top five would be Casey Sauter, Zoe Simmons, Bridget Price, Isabella Ayala, and Allison Krein who finished second, fourth, fifth, sixth, and seventh, respectively, at Regionals.  The lack of Nationals experience may cause some nerves but if they can cut down on their average Regional time of 23:54, which would have been good for 11th at Nationals last year, then they will be a team to keep a close eye on.

 

A few more teams of note for this weekend who will look to finish top ten on a chilly Richmond day:

North Carolina finished second to NC State at Regionals and but will race with more talent from their regionals team as Janet Scott, first in two races this year, joins the championship squad.  While a podium finish may be a long shot, a top ten finish is within grasp as they will be led by Bridget Sullivan, who finished 15th at the 2018 Nationals. Sullivan and Scott will be supported by Bryn Foster, Lauren Copperthwaite, and Lauren Dicktel who all ran sub 24:30 times last year.

Pittsburgh finished third at the Mid-Atlantic Regional thanks to a pair of top six finishes by Caroline Roumpz and Kristen Fast, who wins the award for best last name in the field of runners this year.  If Ellen Annas and Karleigh White can cut their time down, the Panthers may surprise a few teams.

By their standards, Princeton’s fifth place finish at the Mid-Atlantic Regional was disappointing but they will look to bounce with Barrett Grey leading the charge on Saturday.  Grey finished tenth in 2018 and then seventh at this years regional. Should the rest of her supporting cast of Catherine Song, Alice Wistar, and Claire Cook capitalize on the moment and reduce their times, they can cement their names into the record books.

Boston College will look to play spoiler on the back of a second place regional finish where their top three runners, Emma Saart, Isabelle luke, and Amanda L’Esperance will be hoping for a good race.  A top ten finish will be the Eagles measuring stick this weekend.

Honorable Mentions:

Maryland

NC State

Stanford

UC, Davis

 

 

Prediction:

1st - Michigan

2nd - Illinois

3rd - Purdue



2019 Regional Champions

Region

Champion

Average Time

Great Lakes

Michigan

23:02

Great Plains

Illinois

23:36

Mid-Atlantic

Virginia Tech

22:50

Northeast

Cornell

25:03

Southeast

NC State

25:37

Pacific

Oregon State

23:54

 

Team Championship History

Year

National Champ

Runner-Up

3rd Place

2018

Michigan (88)

Purdue (102)

Penn State (123)

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

Purdue

22:27

2018

Masterson Station Park

2

Michigan

22:32

2018

Masterson Station Park

3

Penn State

22:39

2018

Masterson Station Park

4

Penn State

22:45

2009

Eagle Crest Golf Course

5

Penn State

22:46

2010

Indiana University XC Course

6

Illinois

22:50

2018

Masterson Station Park

T7

Illinois

23:04

2011

McAlpine Creek Park

T7

Virginia

23:04

2011

McAlpine Creek Park

9

Michigan

23:14

2017

Forest Akers Golf Course

10

UC, Davis

23:17

2018

Masterson Station Park

 

Written by: Michael Potter & Patrick Kenney


Michael Potter, NIRCA

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