Friday, September 27, 2013

2013 Coast to Coast the Battle in Beantown Preview

Some thoughts on the big NCAA XC weekend starting today:

First off, shout out to @kyleustfccca for the hard work that he puts into his “the warm up lap” because a lot of the tedious work that I normally do was cut out for me.

Coast to Coast Battle In Beantown- Men

This is a very exciting race from a team perspective for me, but my excitement differs from the majority of the other previews about this race. I’m really intrigued by Syracuse’s Men’s team and think they are very good. In all honesty, I know that I have Oregon ranked very high (#2) and they have all of the pieces to be that good at the end of the year, Syracuse always looks good pretty early and they should look good in Boston. 

  Here’s the deal with Syracuse. Martin Hehir was so underrated as a Freshman last year. His individual title at the Big East XC Champs is out of this world good for a guy at that age. You add a healthy Joe Whelan, a sixth year for Griff Graves and some very good incoming freshman/redshirt guys and you have a very good team. 

Andrew Palmer looked very good early last year (especially at Wisco) and don’t be surprised to see him be Syracuse’s #3-4 this weekend. Kevin Hoyos is very talented and should be in the mix along with the rest of these possibles (this is how deep they are):

·                     Ryan Urie (Jr., 3:49 1500m, 14:29 5k)
·                     Reed Kamyszek (Jr., 8:09 Open 3k, 14:25 5k, 29:45 10k)
·                     Griff Graves (Sr., 14:18 5k, 71st NCAAs '12)
·                     Robert Molke (Sr., 8:13 Open 3k, 14:13 5k, 29:35 10k)
·                     Max Straneva (Jr., 8:22 Open 3k, 14:20 5k)
·                     Andrew Palmer (Jr., 14:15 5k, 30:07 10k)
·                     Dan Lennon (So., 2nd USATF Jr. 10k '13, 14:24 5k)
·                     Kevyn Hoyos (Redshirt Frosh, 4:12 1600m, 9:01 2 Mile, 6th US Jr. 5k '13)
·                     Nick Ryan (Fr., 4:05 1600m, 8:55 3200m, 3 X NXN Qualifier- 15th '13, 5th '12, 28th '11)
·                     Shawn Wilson (Fr., 4:11 1600m, 9:04 3200m, FL Finalist '12- 23rd)

With that being said, I definitely underrated Wisconsin early on in my preseason stuff (and felt the wrath of Derek Rubis because of it) and they will be right in the thick of things with the Orange of Syracuse. That grouping they showed a few weekends ago at the Sycamore meet proves they have the depth to get it done, 

I’m curious to see if they have anyone else that will separate themselves from the main group with Rob Finnerty. If Drew Shields is healthy, I think he is the guy to get it done. Otherwise, Alex Brill and Alex Hatz are the next likely candidates to do so.

Now that Oregon has said that they will not be running Eric Jenkins this weekend (don’t blame them-that’s gotta be awkward), they will not be as good as they will be in Terre Haute. Regardless, Parker Stinson is the class of the field and alongside much improved from xc last year Jeremy Elkaim the Ducks will be fine without Jenkins for the moment. 

I’m mostly really surprised no one has been talking much about the debut of the fab freshman from Oregon-Ed Cheserek and Jake Leingang. I’m really intrigued by how their initial races in uniform will be. Especially because I have Ches very high in my individual rankings (29th at the moment) that I am looking for some validation or a slap in the face- in terms of where he truly stacks with the rest of the NCAA.

Providence has Shane Quinn and a bunch of new athletes that I’ve yet to see really get after it, so I’m looking to see something solid out of them to put them in my rankings after this weekend. Transfer from Northeastern Brian Doyle (14:05 5k, 8:09 3k) adds to the Friar’s depth. 

Also, Julian Saad a grad student transfer from Fordham is talented having run 3:48 and 14:13 for 1500m and 5k, respectively. Ben Connor, Harvey Dixon and newcomer Hugh Armstrong (2nd in Irish XC Champs) will also be in the mix.

Other invididuals of note:

James Randon (HS PRs of 3:49 1500m, 8:20 3k, 8:52 2-Mile)- Very talented young freshman for Yale. I’m interested to see where he finishes up in comparison to the other real good freshman in the field (Cheserek and Leingang)

Prediction: Syracuse is too deep and normally looks pretty strong early, they should win the team title. With Hehir, Graves and Whelan up front, they will be solid and through seven are one of the deepest teams in the NCAA. Parker Stinson will win the individual honors, but Hehir, Finnerty and Quinn will be in the mix throughout.

Coast to Coast Battle In Beantown- Women

I definitely think the team battle here will be interesting, but a lot of people are stressing over the final scores of a race that really does not a mean a whole lot to several teams that are all but “locks” to make the Big Dance. All that it will really prove is that Providence is very good (and have the best top three in the NCAA) and that Oregon is deep and adding Zrinyi and Crevoiserat make them that much better. 

You cannot get too wrapped up in the early season stuff, because in the end all that really matters is what happens in Terre Haute in the middle of November.

With all of that being said, it is very fun to speculate (probably one of my favorite things to do) and so these results help us see where certain teams are at fitness wise, health wise, and the overall quality of the team as a whole.

I think Cornell is being greatly overlooked here and will be better than many think. They are a serious contender at being number nine in The Wood Report rankings and the USTFCCCA poll as well. Rachel Sorna and Emily Shearer will be right in the mix with the top girls for the majority of this race. Caroline Kellner, soon-to-be freshman star Taylor Spillane and Devin McMahon will follow them and if Oregon is not on their game, things could get real interesting.

Now like I said, in the long run none of that really matters (it does to some degree--pride, confidence, etc.), but it is fun to watch nonetheless.

Other individuals of note to watch for are:

Liz Westphal (9:26 3k, 16:22 5k) Boston College: her home turf, she will want to run well in what is sure to be her family and friends.

Morgan Mueller (9:44 3k, 16:31 5k, 10:13 3k Steeple) Boston College: the second part to BC’s pretty good top two. Mueller is in the same boat as Westphal, looking to run well in front of the home crowd, especially this being her senior year.

Gabi Anzalone (9:26 3k, 16:32 5k, 34:52 10k) Wisconsin: The finish of this spring’s track season was definitely not ideal for Anzalone (35th West Prelim 10k) and this meet will be her first chance to get back to where she was last year as an individual qualifier to NCAAs.

I’m a little confused on BC’s home page to the meet where it says that Syracuse’s women are going to be there when they also have entries into the Griak Invite as well. If the women of Syracuse do go to this meet, Brianna Nerud is another individual to keep an eye out for.

Prediction: Providence steam rolls close to home over Oregon. The top three of Sisson, Collins and Nagel are very good and the depth of Providence’s youth will come through for a smooth victory. Oregon’s women are challenged by Cornell very closely. Sarah Collins for the win.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

NCAA Women's Cross Country Top 31 Teams- September 17, 2013

After having the chance to do 31 different team previews for the upcoming season, solidifying who transferred where and who is hurt, this is my updated Top 31 Women's teams as of September 17, 2013. The points tab is how many points (according to my calculations) they will score at the NCAA meet. 

1 Duke 144- The main core of studs at Duke have yet to compete, but Botorff, Frazier and Lakowske are ready to prove they are just as good as the trio at Providence (see below). This Friday could be some of the ladies' first race in Cary, NC. The real test will be at Notre Dame in a few weeks.

2 Providence 172- The three headed monster of Collins, Nagel and Sisson have gone 1-2-3 in the first two races this season. With the amount of depth the friars have, Providence is REAL good.

3 Oregon 204- Getting Crevoiserat and Zrinyi from UCONN make this team even better. Grabill, Leonardi and Patrignelli have had their rust buster already this season and seem to be ready to lead the Ducks this year.

4 Florida State 244- Hannah Walker from the U.K. is real good and can roll with Colleen Quigley. The Seminoles have brought in some nice pieces (additions to depth) to replace the five scorers lost from 2012. Pippa Woolven, Anna Holdiman and Bridget Blake are all capable of being top five on any given day.

5 Arizona 276- Kayla Beattie and Maria Larsson (incoming transfers) really make the Wildcats much better and give Elvin Kibet and Nicci Corbin someone to run with up front.

6 Washington 280- Katie Flood appears to be back and ready to lead the Huskies. Losing Goethals is obviously a blow and the major reason why Washington dropped in the polls. Katie Knight ran well in her collegiate debut and Eloise-Neale still has not spiked up. The Huskies are still somewhat a mystery because of the amount of quality freshman they have that will need to step up in the place of Goethals.

7 Georgetown 311- Haley Pierce proved herself as the real deal this weekend at Dartmouth and is ready to step up and be a scorer for the Hoyas. She adds to the depth that Coogan and Chambers need to keep them a top ten team.

8 Stanford 314- Losing Cayla Hatton really hurts the Cardinal's hopes at a podium spot. Granted they are so deep and have so many quality athletes that they should be able to find someone to step up. Rebecca Mehra, Julia Foster and Tate Murray looked good at USF and are candidates to fill the roles left by the graduating seniors and Hatton.

9 Cornell 319- I was way off on my original poll position for the Big Red as they are much better than I had originally advertised. Sorna, C. Kellner, Shearer and Freshman Spillane are very talented. If they can get something out of Iacone, Devoe or MacMahon, this is a dangerous team.

10 Arkansas 337- The Hogs are so deep that I am not sure where to began to break down in a few sentences where they are at. Stephanie Brown looked good leading the way at their first meet a week and  a half ago. It is also interesting to see Sandie Raines already suiting up for the Razorbacks in the first meet of the season. Obviously, Coach Harter has a lot of trust in her ability and she will be a scorer for Arkansas this year.

11 Michigan 363- The first race of the year showed how good the Wolverines could be this year. If they decide not to red-shirt Jaimie Phelan. They have a very good core of girls that can be a top 40-60 finisher at NCAAs. Taylor Pogue, Shannon Osika, Erin Finn, Jaimie Phelan, Taylor Manett, etc. If they can get some consistency out of these girls, they will be much better than 11th.

12 William and Mary 380- Stites and Balouris are the real deal, McGovern, Hennessey and co. will be counted on to keep the spread as close as possible. Having these two low-sticks will come in handy at NCAAs where low-sticks have more of an impact.

13 Colorado 416- Shalaya Kipp will come around nicely towards the championships portion of the season and so we won't see much out of her early on. The good news is that the Buffs are actually pretty deep. Carrie Verdon, Jana Stolting, Courtney Bouchet are ready to help youngsters Erin Clark, Hagen Reedy and Melanie Nun make the transition to the NCAA. If they can do so smoothly, this is a very good team that will be scary come Terre Haute.

14 Villanova 416- Frosh Julie Williams looks pretty good early and adds depth to the Wildcats front five. It will be interesting to see where she marks up with Emily Lipari and Nicky Akande. Villanova will show where their fitness is at the Main Line invite next weekend.

15 Butler 431- Although this team lacks a bit in depth, the Bulldogs do have some very quality front runners. Katie Good from the U.K. won her collegiate debut against Bradley and Kirsty Legg was fifth at the same race. Legg is a 9:19 3k girl and had to have been tempo-ing the race or is coming off of injury. When Mara Olson and Katie Clark can get in the mix those are four pretty dang good athletes.

16 Oklahoma State 434- Samantha Nightingale looked good in her second ever race in a Cowboy uniform, finishing 8th after a slow start at the Bluegrass Invite this weekend. With Adela Hofmannova not too far off of her they are looking to be solid scorers for the 'Pokes. The main squad will be out in full force at the Cowboy Jamboree next week.

17 San Francisco 450- The Dons still haven't opened up the main scorers this season. Rumor has it that they are better than 17th and I'm intrigued how they will look at the Stanford Invite on the 28th of September. They have some pieces (Elena Burkard, Laura Suur, Eva Krchova, Jana Southeout--read my preview on them) and if they can do on the xc course what they have done on the track, they are better than 17th. Only time will tell.

18 Michigan State 455- Leah O'Connor won their home invite this past weekend going away. She is very good and with Sara Kroll and Julia Otwell in the mix the Spartans look to be good enough to challenge their Ann Arbor rivals at the Big 10 level. Saw some good things out of newcomers Shelby Jackson and Rachele Schluist (4:56 miler in HS) which is encouraging to the Spartan depth. Watch for the rest of the crew at Griak in a few weeks.

19 Notre Dame 466- The Fighting Irish women are probably better than 19th. It proves to be difficult to know where a team is at, fitness wise, when they have not raced anyone. When Molly Seidel, Kelly Curran, Gabby Gonzales, Meg Ryan and the Aragon sisters can finally spike up, we'll have a better clue if this ranking is true to reality. They host their big invite in a couple of weeks, but first the Catholic Championships are this weekend.

20 Penn State 467- Perfect scoring their home meet this past weekend, the Nittany Lions have a very solid core of athletes from 1-5. With only a :14 second differential between the first and fifth runners, this kind of grouping is indicative of a team that is capable of big things later on in the season. Emily Giannotti is good and is a great cross country runner that looks to be the leader of this talented squad.

21 Florida 486- Still holding out hope that McGee will be as good as I think she will be in cross this season. With her low points along with Agata Strausa, they are bound to be a low-20s finishing team at NCAAs. The Gators will need to see something from Shelby Hayes and Stephanie Strasser when they open up to help them score points early on in the season. Julie Macedo looked pretty good in her opener, which is good news for the Gators.

22 New Mexico 500- The Lobos did not run anyone at their home meet that will be a scorer for them later on in the season (maybe Sophia Torres). Interested to see Joanne Harvey and the kind of impact she can have off the bat. She is seemingly a very talented athlete and she will help push the pace with Charlotte Arter, Chloe Anderson, and Janna Mitsos.

23 Texas 510- No one has competed for the Longhorns so far this season that will score for them and the verdict is still out on the potential of this team. Marielle Hall and Sara Sutherland are a good 1-2 punch. Who will step up to support those two? Maybe Megan Siebert or Rachel Harper? We will find out this weekend (if Herbster decides to open them up) at the Ricardo Romo Classic (he might not because of the Texas Invite the following weekend).

24 Minnesota 558- I feel like this team is better than 24th and am excited to see where they finish at Roy Griak in a couple of weeks. They opened up early this season by perfect scoring poor Drake and South Dakota State. Griak will be fun to put their big guns up against some of the best in the NCAA.

25 NC State 565- Getting another year of eligibility for Emily Pritt could be huge for the Wolfpack. She was 17th NCAAs in 2009, but has not run a cross country race in uniform since. If she is actually healthy, and if Laura Hoer is too, this is another very underrated team. They open up this weekend in their home invite.

26 Vanderbilt 566- In a seemingly controlled effort in their home invitational Vanderbilt was good, but there still is much to be seen of the 'Dores. If Lily Williams can roll with Liz Anderson and they can find more production from their big time recruiting class, this is a top 20 team. They'll be seen at Griak in a few weeks and we can judge where this team is at a little better.

27 BYU 569- The Cougars looked good in their first race of the season, their home meet. BYU has a very good pack of girls that have improved quite a bit since last season (where they did not qualify to NCAAs). With a few other girls that are very talented that could be added to the mix in the next couple of weeks BYU could continue to get better. As for now, though, I like them at no. 27.

28 Iowa State 582- If the Cyclones can get as good of an effort out of Ejiro Okoro this season as they did last weekend, they will be deeper than initially thought. The transfer of Bethanie Brown adds to their depth as well. The drop from 26th is purely based on a few teams having run their main girls already and moved up through the rankings a bit. Iowa State's first real test will be at Griak in a few weeks.

29 Weber State 656- Without Amber Henry and Kayla Blackford (no. 5), Weber State almost beat BYU on their home course this past weekend. Had Henry been in the mix they would have won, but the Wildcats saw some nice running out of true frosh Summer Harper and redshirt frosh Kelsey Braithwaite. Those are a good three, if local product Jamie Stokes can continue to develop and Blackford can run like she did last season, Coach Paul Pilkington has nothing to worry about.

30 Harvard 736- The Crimson saw some nice things out of freshman Madeleine Ankehlyi this weekend whom I had failed to mention in their preview. She is a nice scorer to add to their mix and with Viviana Hanley running as well as she is now, Harvard should be sticking around in these rankings for much longer.

31 Texas A&M 762- Karis Jochen proved she is the real deal in her collegiate debut at the Rice Invite this past weekend where she finished second overall. Some help will be needed fromHillary Montgomery and the others to tighten the gap from 1-5 as :52 seconds probably isn't going to get it done towards the championship portion of the season.

Other teams of note: Toledo, Virginia, West Virginia and Princeton

NCAA Men's Cross Country Top 31 Teams- September 17, 2013

After having the chance to do 31 different team previews for the upcoming season, solidifying who transferred where and who is hurt, this is my updated Top 31 Women's teams as of September 17, 2013. The points tab is how many points (according to my calculations) they will score at the NCAA meet. 

1 OK State 95- No doubt the best team in the NCAA right now.

2 Oregon 148- Getting Jenkins and Tanguy (the steepler) makes them even deeper. They now have enough pieces that they are hands down a podium team.

3 Colorado 154- No results since their time trial. Once Hurysz gets healthy they will be very scary.

4 NAU 211- Looking forward to seeing the impact of Hardin and Freriks from this already stacked returning team from 2012.

5 New Mexico 224- The most underrated team in the NCAA. Beyond Caldwell and Millington, U.K. transfers Ross Matheson, Jake Shelley and Alex Cornwell make them even better. Plus Sean Stam, Adam Bitchell, Elmer Engholm, and Pat Zacharias are licking their chops for a chance to score for the Lobos. Joe Franklin's best team ever.

6 Arkansas 256- The best top three in the NCAA. Haile must stay healthy for them to have a chance at the podium. Gonzales is a huge pickup.

7 BYU 301- Beating Portland at home was huge, although both teams were "not taking it very seriously" that West Coast Conference rivalry is real. Thatcher looked good winning and Jason Witt is coming around (former Foot Locker finalist). Returned missionary Jon Nelson has scary upside.

8 Portland 305- If David Perry doesn't bonk at BYU this weekend, they beat the Cougars on their home course. Ryan Poland was not himself either, when him and Perry come around they are a very legitimate contender. (Charlie MacDonald had the best race of his career).

9 E. Kentucky 329- Adding Ambrose Maritim makes them even better than originally thought. Being named the national team of the year is a huge step for this program. Soufiane Bouchikhi and Wade Meddles are shoo-in All-Americans.

10 Syracuse 329- Looked good at the Dartmouth meet and didn't even run half of their best athletes. Whelan, Hehir, and Graves are a good 1-3.

11 Princeton 338- Perfect scored the Delaware meet. Interested to see them prove who they have at Notre Dame in a few weeks.

12 Florida State 344- Better than what people think. Getting Matt Mizereck from Florida was huge for them and Glen Yarham and Jakub Zivec, when healthy, will make their top five real solid. Must stay healthy to keep this position in the rankings.

13 Tulsa 359- Andy Heyes coming back really adds to Tulsa's front pack with Chris O'Hare. Dennis Hodapp, Adam Palamar and Marc Scott are a good five. With limited depth, can they stay healthy?

14 Notre Dame 402- The Irish are much better than what others think. Michael (Martin- joke) Clevenger, J.P. Malette, Scott Milling and Walter Schafer are a nice supporting cast to Jeremy Rae and Martin Grady.

15 NC State 403- Andrew Colley could be the best American in the NCAA right now (obviously a case can be made for Eric Jenkins and others). Crawford, and a bunch of unproven studs keep NC State in the top 15. Looking to see something out of Thomson, Engels, Link, Mansy and Parsons.

16 Stanford 403- So many pieces here. Probably better than 16th in the end- Erik Olson, the Rosa's, Stutzman, Graham are good leaders beside a great class- Wharton, McGorty, and Keelan.

17 Texas 404- Craig Lutz and Ryan Dohner are shoo-in All-Americans. Will Nation, Daniel Vertiz, Brady Turnbull, and Mark Pinales will be battling to score for the Longhorns. The Baylor meet was a good sign of where Nation and Roth and Moore are at this early.

18 Wisconsin 441- Good sign from the Badgers this past weekend at the Sycamore Invite. They are deep, just looking for solid front running from Rob Finnerty. He makes them so much better. Jacob Ershen is looking good for Wisco.

19 Virginia 448- Kyle King and Thomas Porter are a good 1-2. Adam Visokay is going to be big-time for the Cavs this year as a redshirt freshman.

20 UCLA 457- The Bruins have yet to run this year. Curious to see where Fay's fitness is coming off of that nasty injury at the West Regional 5000m.

21 Villanova 515- Jordy Williamsz had a good start to the season in a non scoring race. If he runs like he is capable of, he makes the Wildcats much better than 21st. Tiernan, McEntee and Denault are all very talented.

22 Georgetown 523- Brian King came out of nowhere and was the Hoyas no. 1 runner this weekend at the Navy Invite. Springer was right behind him and with those studs leading the way, this could be a better team than 22. Got to find some depth from Fahy, Darrah and maybe Bile.

23 Iona 561- We will see where the Gaels are at the Paul Short Invite in a few weeks. Iona could surprise us like they did last year and be better than this, but until they prove themselves, I like them at 23.

24 Michigan 588- It will be fun to see the Wolverines' spike up against the Cowboys in Stillwater in a few weeks. Ferlic, Royyan and Beams will be needed to roll up front and find some depth from Blacklaws, Posada, Yau, Mora, Albaugh, etc.

25 Auburn 610- Maybe the most intriguing team in the NCAA purely off of the fact that Auburn is finally relevant for the first time in a while. This weekend they did not look great, but without Jaworski and it being this early, it's hard to knock a team for possibly using a race as a tempo (probably a smart move this early). Things will be more revealing in their next race at the Panorama Invite at Virginia.

26 Florida 624- The Gators look to have four very strong athletes in Clark, Parrish, Hines and Garcia. If Freshman Carlos Miranda continues to improve and impress like he has early, he could be the five they need to qualify for NCAAs and keep their spot in the poll.

27 Washington 626- If Sumner Goodwin can be as good as he was in the Sundodger Invite, the Huskies have found another very good freshman that is "instant offense." Aaron Nelson is good and Jacob Smith and Andrew Gardner will find their way through the Husky pack this season. Washington could be better than what I thought initially.

28 Columbia 633- The Lions will be a mystery to the country of where their fitness is at until October 4th at Notre Dame. Much of their drop in ranking is solely based on their lack of racing early. Once we can see them race, obviously we can adjust their ranking accordingly. Columbia has solid middle distance and pure xc guys so it will be interesting to see how this squad comes together.

29 Iowa State 656- The Cylcones have a lot of question marks surrounding them still with the numerous changes that occurred in the off-season. According to the roster, Charlie Joslin-Allen of the U.K. is on the team (rumor had it that he was asked to not come) and he will help. Also, getting Martin Coolidge another year of eligibility adds to their depth. He is a 29:08 10k guy and should help them.

30 Georgia 725- Coach Patrick Cunniff has a good squad of five athletes that have NCAA experience. This team is one of the most up and coming teams in the NCAA and it will be interesting to see what Charlie Sparks, Brandon Lord and Luke Baker, especially, can do at Griak in a few weeks.

31 Mich. State 835- The Spartans hold onto the final spot in the poll this week. It seems as if the Spartans have three solid athletes (Rhynard, Carruthers, Wilson), but will need to see more from their depth in order to hang on to this spot.

Other teams of note: Indiana, North Carolina, and Arizona State

Friday, September 6, 2013

NCAA XC Men's Darkhorse Team- Wisconsin

Editor's note: For the next month, The Wood Report will be counting down projected team finishes in this year's NCAA Cross Country Championships in Terre Haute, IN.

Head Coach: Mick Byrne (6th) Season)
2012 National Finish- 2nd

Key Returners from 2012
  • Rob Finnerty (Sr., 3:41 1500m, 8:03 Open 3k, 14:15 5k, 49th NCAA XC '12)
  • Alex Hatz (Jr., 3:39 1500m, 14:23 5k, 113th NCAA XC '12)
  • Alex Brill (Sr., 3:46 1500m, 13:57 5k, 8:39 3k Steeple, 211th NCAA XC '12)
  • Drew Shields (Sr., 3:47 1500m, 8:55 3k Steeple, 112th NCAA XC '11)
  • Michael Van Voorhis (Jr., 8:12 Open 3k, 14:06 5k, 204th NCAA XC '12)

Impact Recruits/Transfers
  • Ryan Kromer (Fr., 4:14 1600m, 9:19 3200m, 8th FL Finals '12, 9th NXN '12)
  • Russell Sandvold (Redshirt Fr.- 4:09 1600m, 9:01 3200m, NXN Qualifier '11)
  • Malachy Schrobilgen (Redshirt Fr.- 4:11 1600m, 8:57 3200m, 44th NXN '11, 26th FL '11)

Season Preview

Just for the fun of it, I've decided to do a quick little preview on the Badgers because: One, there are a ton of Wisconsin fans that have asked me to do one; two, getting a sixth year for Finnerty pushes them into a top 30 team; and third, not previewing a team that was second at the Big Dance last year would be wrong. 

Here's the skinny on the Badgers: getting Rob Finnerty a sixth year was huge for them. I'm not saying that they could not make the meet without him, but when a team has at least one guy with a good chance of All-American at NCAAs and a good supporting cast, it instantly puts them in the picture. It was interesting the more and more I researched this team and looked at who they have, Wisco has some horses that people have forgotten about. 

For example, Drew Shields was an absolute stud in high school. 4th at Foot Locker in 2008 and 7th at NXN the same year. That's a big time high school runner right there. It is not that his talent has flown away, injuries and other things have obviously hindered his progression. With him healthy, he adds another dimension to this squad. 

Obviously, Finnerty, like mentioned before, is good and he is going to make everyone around him that much better. It will be hard for the Badgers to be at the same level that they were the past few years, losing Mo Ahmed, Maverick Darling and Reed Connor really hurts. The crazy thing is that Wisconsin has some pretty talented guys that have yet to have a break-out year in cross. 

Take Alex Brill as another example. This dude is a stud! All of his PRs are very quality and his 3k Steeple mark is in the top 10 of Steeple PRs of athletes returning in the country. Plus, he's run under the 14:00 minute mark for 5k and should be much better this year at NCAAs than his 211th place finish in Louisville. 

Alex Hatz is one more guy to add to the "stud-on-the-track" list that just needs to find his rhythm in xc. It's clear that he is much more of a middle-distance guy than a pure cross country runner. Being in the sub-4 mile club is a nice place to be in and his talent should shine this season when he is going to be counted on to step up. Finishing 113th last season at Nationals is promising for what he his capable of in 2013. 

Michael Van Voorhis is another athlete that struggled at NCAAs last season, but redeemed himself on the track. Finishing 204th in Louisville is good enough motivation for an athlete to get ready to roll and have a little redemption for the next year at Nats. 14:06 for 5k is a solid PR and definitely worthy of at least 140s or better at the Big Dance. 

Okay so that is just the returners. Without even mentioning the young guns who have yet to compete, it is clear that the Badgers have a ton of talented athletes that have not had much of a chance to prove themselves in cross country on the big stage. That played a big factor in my decision to originally leave them out of the top 30. The talent is there, just unproven. With a coach like Mick Byrne, he should be able to whip these guys around and make them cross country runners at last. 

The freshman (redshirt and true) are a huge x-factor for Wisconsin. Ryan Kromer was quite possibly the most consistent cross country runner as a prep last year. Placing top-10 at both NXN and Foot Locker (especially considering the gnarly conditions of the NXN course) is big time and he is the definition of a pure cross country runner. Disregard his track PRs because he could surprise a lot of folks if he is healthy. 

Malachy Schrobilgen has the most legitimate cross country experience of the three freshman racing their first time this season. Finishing right behind Craig Nowak at the 2012 U.S. Junior XC Nat'l Championships is a good sign of his ability and running on a huge stage like World Cross does a lot to a young athlete, in terms of opening their eyes of what they are capable of and from a goals standpoint as well. He ended up finishing 26th at Worlds, which is outstanding, and he will be a scorer for the Badgers this upcoming season. 

Russell Sandvold will be solid for the Badgers because he has a nice combination of good track PRs and also the ability to run well on the cross country course. Any help from him will be icing on the cake for Wisconsin as it is sometimes hard to immediately make an impact as a freshman. 

All three of these freshman have fantastic ability and it will be intriguing to see what they can do to help get the Badgers back to NCAAs for the "millionth" time in a row (will be 42nd if they do it again this year). 

To be honest, Wisconsin making the Big Dance this year is probably all but a done deal. Why would they not? A great coaching staff (adding Gavin Kennedy is huge for them--big time recruiter), solid returning pieces and some anxious young guns ready to start their career as Badgers, do not be shocked to see Wisconsin moving their way up the charts this season. With the freshman on the team nipping at the heels of the veterans all season long, and a historic streak of consecutive NCAAs on the line, Wisconsin's 2013 season could be the most intriguing season in the last 10+ years in Madison. 

Thursday, September 5, 2013

NCAA XC Top 31 Countdown: Men's #1- Oklahoma State

Editor's note: For the next month, The Wood Report will be counting down projected team finishes in this year's NCAA Cross Country Championships in Terre Haute, IN.

#1 Oklahoma State
Head Coach: Dave Smith (8th Season)
2012 National Finish- 1st

Key Returners from 2012
  • Tom Farrell (Sr., 3:58 Mile, 7:51 Open 3k, 13:15 5k, 9th NCAA XC '12)
  • Shadrack Kipchirchir (Sr.,  7:56 Open 3k, 13:38 5k, 29:08 10k, 18th NCAA XC '12)
  • Joseph Manilafasha (Sr., 24th NCAA XC '12, 8:16 Open 3k)
  • Kirubel Erassa (Jr., 3:58 Mile, 7:49 Open 3k, 13:47 5k)
  • Shane Moskowitz (Jr., 3:59 Mile, 8:07 Open 3k, 53rd NCAA XC '12)
  • Craig Nowak (So., US Jr.  Nat'l Champ XC '12, 24th World Cross '12, 8:15 Open 3k, 
  • Brian Gohlke (So., 14:11 5k, 29:28 10k)
  • Taylor Monaghan (Sr., 4:06 Mile, 8:56 3k Steeple)

Impact Recruits/Transfers
  • Matthew Fayers (Fr., 1:50 800m, 3:45 1500m, 4:01 Mile (17 yr old)
  • Brigham Hedges (Fr., 4:10 1600m, 9:12 3200m, 14:28 5k, 3 X NXN Qualifier)
  • Luis Martinez (Fr., 4:11 1600m, 9:13 3200m, 3rd NXN '12)
  • Chad Noelle (Transfer from Oregon- So., 3:59 Mile, FL FInalist '10- 10th place)
  • Charles Mathenge (So., From Kenya- 
Season Preview

Was this ever really a question? When only one runner is gone (Girma Mecheso) from the National Championship winning team, it is an easy decision. After a dominant 2012 campaign, the Pokes are ready to come back and do it all over again in 2013. With the majority of the team returning from 2012 (Fabian Clarkson left), Coach Dave Smith looks to have the overwhelmingly best team in the NCAA as we head into the 2013 season. 

Tom Farrell is the top returner from 2012 and is as good of a no. 1 runner than any team has in the NCAA. When Farrell is on, he is very good. His 13:15 5k PR is one of the best in the country and having him for one more season makes the Cowboys that much better. Farrell is the leader on this squad and really is the metronome for Oklahoma State. His speed has really come around quite well recently as he broke the four minute barrier this past track season.  

Shadrack Kipchirchir is in his final season in the bright orange kit for the Pokes as well. Kipchirchir came up huge for Oklahoma State in 2012 where he finished 18th individually and added one more All-American for the Cowboys to help solidify their title. He will be just as needed this season and in fact will be needed to help push Farrell up front. With these two leading the way, they will be able to help push each other in the key races. Both Farrell and Kipchirchir are capable of top 10 finishes at NCAAs in Terre Haute. 

The athlete that really solidified the NCAA title last fall in Louisville, was the efforts of Burundi-native Joseph Manilafasha. Stepping up huge for the Cowboys, Manliafasha found himself finishing 24th in the biggest race of the year. Being a pure cross country runner, Manilafasha does not have the track chops that some of his teammates do, he needs to stay healthy after xc season. Nevertheless, he is another All-American that the Cowboys can throw into the mix of things as we look at the 2013 season. 

The beauty of what the Cowboys have going for them is that all of their runners get a chance to train with some of the most talented athletes in the country day in-and day out. This allows their young athletes to improve at rates others cannot because of the quality of talent surrounding them to train with. This is exactly the case with Shane Moskowitz. After a year or so to be around some of the big-time runners in Stillwater, Moskowitz himself has now turned himself into one of the better harriers in the NCAA that returns from 2012. A breakout year helped Shane finish 53rd at NCAAs. He also had a very good following track season where he broke the 4-minute mile barrier. Moskowitz spent the summer injured,  but when he gets healthy he is going to be ready to deliver when it matters most, just like he did in 2012. 

This only begins to describe what Oklahoma State has coming back from their 2012 team alone. I mean we have not even touched Craig Nowak and his awesome post-NCAA XC season where he won the US Jr. XC Individual National Title and led the US team in Poland and finished 24th individually there. He will be a strong addition to their top seven (the fact that he was not in their top seven in 2012, shows how unbelievably good this team is). 

Brian Gohlke and Taylor Monaghan have really come around as of late as well and are products of being a part of a team of this caliber. Who knows, maybe they will be the next Shane Moskowitz's and finish top 60 this season at NCAAs?

The Cowboys also bring in a very good recruiting class mixed with some good transfers to implement into their top seven and to provide even more depth to their squad. One of the studs of this class is British youngster Matthew Fayers. As a seventeen year old Fayers ran 4:01 for a whole mile, and Dave Smith is very good at getting his miler-types to be good cross country runners, so this is a perfect fit for Fayers. 

Luis Martinez and Brigham Hedges were both prep standouts and have quality experience running at a high-level in high school. I could see them redshirting because the 'Pokes are just that deep. 

No team really ever wants to have the target on their back, but if there is a squad that can handle it, the Cowboys are as fit a team in the country for the spot. At this point it looks like it would take a bad day from Coach Dave Smith's team to not win a national title in Terre Haute. Colorado, NAU, Arkansas and a few others are champing at the bit at any opportunity to beat these guys. With the athletes returning and the studs they're bringing in, the overall favorites to win the National Championship in 2013--are the Oklahoma State Cowboys. 

NCAA XC Top 31 Countdown: Women's #1- Duke

Editor's note: For the next month, The Wood Report will be counting down projected team finishes in this year's NCAA Cross Country Championships in Terre Haute, IN.

#1 Duke
Head Coach: Kevin Jermyn (10th Season)
2012 National Finish- 7th

Key Returners from 2012
  • Juliet Bottorff (Sr., 9:21 Open 3k, 15:49 5k, 33:18 10k, 27th NCAA XC '12)
  • Kelsey Lakowske (So., 9:41 Open 3k, 16:41 5k, 20th NCAA XC ’12, 6th ACC XC ’12)
  • Carolyn Baskir (Jr., 9;49 Open 3k, 81st NCAA XC ’12, 20th ACC XC ’12)
  • Ashley Brasovan (Sr., 35:41 10k, 22nd ACC XC ’12)
  • Jessie Rubin (Jr., 9:47 Open 3k, 16:30 5k, 44th ACC XC ’12)
  • Gabby Levac (Jr., 16:13 5k, 61st ACC XC ’12)
  • Sophia Ziemian (Sr., 23rd ACC XC ’09, 146th NCAA XC ’09, 16:48 5k)
  • Lindsey Olivere (Redshirt Soph- 4:56 1600m, 10:35 3200m, 7th 2 Mile NBIN ’11)
  • Colleen Schmidt (Redshirt Soph- 9:40 3k (HS), FL Finalist ’09 -27th)

Impact Recruits/Transfers
  • Wesley Frazier (Fr., 4:45 1600m, 9:57 3200m, 15:55 5k (HS))
  • Haley Meier (Fr., 4:42 1600m, 3rd Dream Mile- 4:42)
  • Hannah Meier (Fr., 4:18 1500m (HS), 2nd Dream Mile- 4:40)
  • Olivia Bischof (Redshirt Frosh- 4:56 1600m (HS), 10:33 3200m (HS), FL Finalist ’11)
  • Allison Sturges (Redshirt Frosh- 4:47 1600m (HS))
  • Colette Whitney (Tr- Sr.- 4:55 1600m (HS), 10:27 3200m (HS)
  • Briana Jackucewicz (Transfer from Harvard – 16:43 5k)
Season Preview

Coach Kevin Jermyn is a very good recruiter and quite possibly the most underrated recruiter in the NCAA. After looking at the recruiting classes that he has brought in over the past few years in Durham, its unbelievable the kind of talent he has snagged. To be frank, the more and more this team was studied and the quality of runners on this team, he it almost became laughable--the overall level of talent that Duke has. 

Finishing 7th last year at NCAAs was big time for this program and they saw some awesome performances out of some unproven talent. With three of those athletes returning from 2012 and the best recruit in the country (and two other dang good recruits), Duke is looking like the best team in the country for 2013 (on paper). 

It all starts with the veteran leader Juliet Botorff. Her chops on the track and on the cross country course, make her the most valuable member of this Blue Devil squad. All-American finishes indoor and in xc last year, and a National Title in the 10k Outdoors in 2011 on her belt, she is the no. 1 runner on this team going into the 2013 season. 

The surprise on this Duke team last year was then-freshman, Kelsey Lakowske. Actually beating Botorff at NCAAs, Lakowske was surprisingly very good when it counted and ended up 20th individually in Louisville. Although her track season was cut to only a few indoor races and an ACC Championship 5k (finished 8th), Lakowske should be able to come back this xc season and provide the same fire up front that she did in 2012. If she can stay healthy and continue to progress as a runner, she will be another shoo-in All-American for the Blue Devils. 

Duke has so many quality girls that are coming back from 2012 that it would be hard to give in depth highlights on them, but as you can see above they have a lot of talent. Carolyn Baskir is a solid 4-5 girl on this team in 2013 and if she ends up being no. 5 and does just as well as she did last year (81st), Duke is in for a great year.  Gabby Levac made huge strides on the track this past spring, running 16:13 outdoors. If her progression is where it looks like, she could be the no. 4 runner for this squad. Jessie Rubin is another girl that improved a ton on the track and who knows where she could end up. Rubin would be a very solid 6-7 runner. Sophia Zieman will be back in action this year and has quality experience at the NCAA level. Lindsey Olivere and Colleen Schmidt are both coming off of redshirt years and have talent, it will be interesting to see where they end up on the depth chart. 

For the rest of the country, things for Duke only get scarier. Bringing in the no-brainer best senior distance runner in high school last season, Wesley Frazier, was huge for the Devils. Running 15:55 as a senior in high school is out-of-this-world good and she is the epitome of the phrase "instant offense." It she is not All-American this year, that would be a huge surprise. So you can count up at least three "shoo-in" All-Americans already. 

It gets deeper. The Meier twins from Michigan add depth to this already star-studded class. Hannah and Haley were outstanding on the track in 2013 and were 2nd and 3rd behind none other than Wesley Frazier in the dream mile. Both of the Meier girls are excellent track athletes, but will be able to help them in xc as well. 

Three high school studs that redshirted or transferred in will also be helpful for Duke. Allison Sturges, Colette Whitney, and Olivia Bischof, are also very unproven, but capable athletes. Briana Jackucewicz rounds out the runners that have not yet had a chance to prove themselves in a Duke uniform that are more components of a very, very deep squad. 

The ACC is going to be a big test for the Blue Devils as Florida State has won six straight titles. An upset-bid to do so is likely as Duke is loaded. In fact, they have 10 different girls that would be a lot of schools 1-5 in the NCAA. With the freshman Frazier pushing the veterans up front, it's a perfect balance of youth and naivety and experience and ability to make the Duke Blue Devils the number one team in the country headed into the 2013 season. They are the heavy favorites, as of right now, to win the NCAA title in Terre Haute. 

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

NCAA XC Top 31 Countdown: Men's #2- Northern Arizona

Editor's note: For the next month, The Wood Report will be counting down projected team finishes in this year's NCAA Cross Country Championships in Terre Haute, IN.

#2 Northern Arizona
Head Coach: Eric Heins (7th Season)
2012 National Finish- 4th

Key Returners from 2012
  • Brian Shrader (Sr., 3:43 1500m, 7:59 Open 3k, 14:15 5k, 15th NCAA XC '12)
  • Futsum Zienasellassie (So., 3:46 1500m, 13:50 5k, 31st NCAA XC '12)
  • Matt McElroy (Jr., 8:11 Open 3k, 14:08 5k, 66th NCAA XC '12)
  • Nathan Weitz (So., 3:44 1500m, 80th NCAA XC '12) 
  • Caleb Hoover (Jr., 14:05 5k, 8:44 3k Steeple, 75th NCAA XC '12)
  • Tim Freriks (Sr., 14:18 5k, 29:31 10k, 94th NCAA XC '11)

Impact Recruits/Transfers
  • Josh Hardin (Sr., From William and Mary-14:04 5k, 29:29 10k, 140th NCAA XC '10 (Frosh)
  • Korey Krotzer (RFr., From Ok. St.- 4:09 1600m, 9:01 3200m)
  • Andy Trouard (Fr., 4:08 1600m, 8:51 3200m, 29th NXN '12)

Season Preview

In 2012, Northern Arizona flew under the radar during the majority of the season and loved every  minute of it. In the process of being underrated all season long, the Lumberjacks slowly picked up the pace throughout the year. After dominating the Big Sky Conference meet and surprising Colorado and BYU by winning the Mountain Regional, NAU came back from a tough 10k performance in the Regional to get a podium spot as a team in Louisville. 

Coach Eric Heins has done an outstanding job recruiting and developing his athletes in his seven years at the helm in Flagstaff. This year he has a great mix of young talent and veteran athletes that make them one of the top programs in the NCAA. 

A lot of the success of the Lumberjacks goes with their leader Brian Shrader. Now that Diego Estrada is gone (granted he didn't run xc last year anyway) Shrader needs to step into that role in full force and take this team to a different level. His 15th individual finish in NCAAs last season was a huge step for him and he should be looking at a similar type of performance this season in Terre Haute. Although he was stricken with injuries during the track season this spring, he should be ready to lead NAU this fall. 

The athlete that could improve the most from last season to his is Futsum Zienasellassie (thank you copy and paste for that last name). Had Ed Cheserek not been around during his prep days, Futsum could have been Foot Locker champ at least one year (and challenged Verzbicas another). He is still very untapped and proved that on the track this spring where he ran a very solid 13:50 and qualified for NCAA Outdoors (finished 13th). It will be interesting to watch Ches and Futsum go at it again at NCAAs this season and who ends up beating who. Both of those guys are capable of top-25 performances on the right day. 

There were not very many freshman that had as good of a year on the track than Nathan Weitz did this most recent outdoor season. For a freshman (that was pretty unheralded) to come right out of high school and make NCAA Outdoors in the 1500m is pretty impressive. Weitz was solid in cross in 2012 where he finished 80th. Look to see a marked improvement in him as well going forward. 

Matt McElroy is a wildcard for NAU. His inability to stay healthy on the track and throughout his career has really hindered his progression. A high school stud, (finished runner-up to Verzbicas at Foot Locker in 2009) McElroy's talent did not just fly away, he just needs to actually be healthy and he is a potential All-American. 

With those four athletes alone, NAU is scary good and talented. Add in guys like Caleb Hoover, who had a breakout year on the track (8:44 Steepler) and Tim Freriks (experienced xc guy) and the Lumberjacks have some very good options for no. 5-7 runners. 

The quality runners do not stop there in Flagstaff, key transfers like Josh Hardin (from William and Mary) and Korey Krotzer (from Oklahoma State--decided to go to Flagstaff instead of Provo instead) will be ready to make in impact from the minute they wear a NAU uniform. Andy Trouard was a very good prep and any kind of help Coach Heins can get from them is just icing on the cake. 

What will be difficult for Northern Arizona is making sure they can get out of the Mountain Regional alive with a controlled effort to prepare themselves for NCAAs. But who am I kidding, they looked great at Regionals in 2012 and still ran out of their minds in Louisville. NAU is loaded with talent and more in the wings waiting to step up into the top seven to boot. Along with Colorado, Northern Arizona has a legitimate shot to win an NCAA title if any of the other top programs have a down day and things work out just like they did in 2012 where they surprised the country with their fourth place finish.