2021 XC Nationals: Women's Team Preview

November 4th, 2021

Two familiar teams look to lead the way in the team race this weekend.

While the individual race looks wide open for the Women’s Championship this weekend, there appear to be two familiar favorites in the team competition: Michigan and Penn State


The Regional Champions


In 2019, Michigan became the first 3-peat Champions in NIRCA XC history, and they are poised to turn that into a 4-peat this weekend. If their historical success isn’t reason enough to believe in Michigan this weekend, they also had the most dominant Regional victory by both points scored (22) and average time over 6k (22:56). At this point, nobody on the Michigan women’s roster was on a team that didn’t win the national championship, and it will take an incredible performance by another team to put a stop to Michigan’s incredible streak.


Another favorite this weekend is a perennial contender, Penn State. Penn State is the most recent team champion not named Michigan (2015 and 2016), and ties Michigan for the most total NIRCA XC team titles at 5. At the Mid-Atlantic Regional, Penn State won over a deep field with a team score of 46 and their average time of 23:31 was the second fastest of all regional winners over 6k.


The second lowest team score at a regional race belongs to Cal Poly from the Pacific Regional (contested over 5k this year). With a team score of 29 points, Cal Poly was led by individual contender Catherine Ratliff. They took the Pacific title thanks to the front-running from not just Ratliff, but also Mira Mohan and Cameron Bader who are coming off of top 5 regional finishes. If they can all find themselves at the top of the field this weekend, Cal Poly could be tough to beat.


Brown University out of the Northeast Regional had the lowest 1-5 runner gap time of any regional winner at 1 minute and 4 seconds, and will be using that depth to contend for a podium finish this weekend. Brown averaged 24:31 two weekends ago, led by Grace Dorantes (4th, 24:07) to win their region with a team score of 37.


NC State won the team title at the Southeast regional with a team score of 30, another dominant finish as seen across most of the team competitions at this year’s regional meets. They will be looking to improve upon their 14th place finish from 2019, and are led by the Southeast regional champion Clare Peters. 


The Great Plains Regional title was captured by Wisconsin with a team score of 35. Wisconsin did not race at Nationals in 2019, so they will be bringing a roster of runners to their first NIRCA XC Championship, hoping to become the first podium finisher out of their region since Illinois in 2014. They are led by Lauren Fitzsimmons, Allie Levin, and Anna Nguyen - who all finished in the top 6 in their regional race.


The Top Returners


Oregon State University finished 2nd in 2019, but will unfortunately not be competing this weekend in Shelbyville.


Purdue University is coming off of a 4th place finish in 2019 and a 2nd place finish in 2018 (where their team set the record for fastest team average at a NIRCA XC National Championship, despite narrowly missing out on the team title). They return no runners from either of those teams, and did not compete at the Great Lakes Regional, so it is hard to predict how they will do this weekend. Despite the lack of results, they certainly should not be counted out and could be a contender up front based on the team’s recent success.



Prediction:

There have been 14 NIRCA XC Championships, and 10 of those have been won by either Penn State or Michigan. Based on this year’s results, it will take an incredible race to prevent one of those teams from capturing their 6th team title.


1st - Michigan

2nd - Penn State

3rd - NC State


2021 Regional Champions

Region

Champion

Average Time and (1-5 Gap)

Great Lakes

Michigan

22:56 (1:18)

Great Plains

Wisconsin

24:54 (1:09)

Mid-Atlantic

Pittsburgh

23:31 (1:54)

Northeast

Brown

24:31 (1:04)

Southeast

NC State

25:29 (2:33)

Pacific

Cal Poly

20:44* (3:07)

 *5k distance


Team Championship History

Year

National Champ

Runner-Up

3rd Place

2019

Michigan (68)Oregon State (137)Penn State (158)

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

22:29

2019

Pole Green Park

3

Michigan

22:32

2018

Masterson Station Park

4

Penn State

22:39

2018

Masterson Station Park

5

Penn State

22:45

2009

Eagle Crest Golf Course

6

Penn State

22:46

2010

Indiana University XC Course

7

Illinois

22:50

2018

Masterson Station Park

T8

Illinois

23:04

2011

McAlpine Creek Park

T8

Virginia

23:04

2011

McAlpine Creek Park

10

Oregon State

23:11

2019

Pole Green Park

Patrick Kenney, NIRCA

#previews #nircanats