2021 XC Nationals Recap
November 8th, 2021
Stats, highlights, and takeaways from this weekend's National Championship meet.
Below are some thoughts to recap our Nationals weekend!
Northeastern's Depth wins them the Team Championship
Northeastern had an incredible day across all 3 men’s races. First, they took home the Team Championship in a very close race, with 115 points to Michigan’s 128 and Illinois’s 140. On top of that, Northeastern men also won the Fr/So race (Max Manganiello, 26:09) and the Jr/Sr/Grad race (Harry Gould, 26:36). With that depth, it’s no surprise they captured the team title.
As mentioned in the Men’s Team Preview, a close race was certainly expected with the advantage going to the team that could get its 4-5 runners across the line first. That did end up being Northeastern who had the fastest 5th runner (31st place). It was actually Michigan or Illinois leading after 2-4 runners had crossed the finish line, but Northeastern was able to have their 3-5 runners come across together in places 29, 30, and 31 to edge out the competition.
Score through 1 runner
Increase in competitive parity across regions
For the first time since NIRCA has had its current regional alignments, the top 6 teams in the Men’s Championship race were comprised of 1 team from each region. In fact, it was the 6 Regional Champions that finished in the top 6 places.
Northeastern also became the first team from the Northeast regional to win a National Championship, meaning each region that holds a regional championship (so, excluding Heartland) has now had a team win the team title at a National Championship.
Looking at the team scores, 115 points is the highest ever score from a National Champion, and only the second time for a score over 100 points. However, this is not because Northeastern was not as strong as past champions - their average team time of 25:47 is the third fastest in NIRCA history, excluding 2011’s race at McAlpine Creek Park. The rise in team scores really highlights the growing competitive depth in teams across the country.
The margin of victory over the second place team (13 points) and third place team (25 points) are also the lowest since 2007’s National Championship, which had considerably less teams than current championships.
All this is to say, the parity across teams and across regions was greater than NIRCA has ever seen in the men’s team race. That’s a very positive sign for more exciting races in the upcoming years.
Impressive individual times
The Men’s Championship race had a thrilling individual battle over the last 3k from Champion Nick Wolk (Pittsburgh), Runner-up Eldon Warner (Illinois), and third placer Cameron Leonard (Northeastern) - a great reason to check out the aforementioned live stream replays if you missed the race.
The previous fastest time at NIRCA National Championships, excluding 2011’s race at McAlpine Creek Park, was 24:52 from Clancy McConnell of UC, Davis in 2019. That was bested by both Wolk (24:41) and Warner (24:45).
Michigan women continue their dominance
Michigan won their 4th straight team title on Saturday, extending their NIRCA-record streak. Their team score of 39 points is absurdly impressive, the lowest team score since Penn State’s 29 points in 2009. Considering that Michigan’s team was composed of 1 Freshman, 3 Sophomores, 2 Juniors, and 1 Graduate student, it looks like they will be returning most of this Championship team next year in hopes of continuing their streak.
Michigan’s average time of 22:39 is tied for the 4th best in National Championship history, and was an impressive 17-second drop from their team average at Regionals on the same course just two weeks earlier.
Penn State continues their own incredible streak
With their 3rd place finish this weekend, Penn State has made the podium at 6 straight National Championships (the longest active streak). The only longer streak historically is 8 straight podium finishes by… Penn State (2006 - 2013). The only year they have finished off of the podium is 2014.
North Carolina improves massively from Regionals
North Carolina came into Nationals a bit under-the-radar after finishing 2nd to NC State at the Southeast Regional. However, their 1st, 3rd, 4th, and 5th runners at Nationals did not compete at Regionals. With Janet Scott, Erica Fennimore, Bryn Foster, and Sofia Wong added to their team (along with Lauren Copperthwaite, Cici Lounes, and Andi Carnell), the Tar Heels finished as Team Runners-Up in the Women’s Championship race.
Savannah Carnahan leads wire-to-wire
Princeton’s Savannah Carnahan took the lead on the opening straight of the Women’s Championship 6k and never gave up the gap she seemingly instantly opened up on the field. Her winning time of 21:37 is the 4th fastest in NIRCA Championship history.
Georgetown and Ball State race to wins in the class races
Sara Barnhizer of Ball State became the Fr/So Individual Champion with a time of 24:35 (a dominant 24 second victory). The Jr/Sr/Grad title was won by Nell Haney of Georgetown in 24:30.
Georgetown also showcased impressive depth in the class races, with 2 of the top 3 athletes in the Jr/Sr/Grad race and 2 of the top 7 in the Fr/So race. The only other team that can say the same in the Fr/So race is North Carolina, which bodes well for both clubs in the championships to come.
Patrick Kenney, NIRCA