Wednesday, October 24, 2012

2012 NCAA XC Conference Championships Preview

The Wood Report’s Conference Preview
compiled by Isaac Wood (@isaacegbertwood)

Here’s my outlook of the conference meets coming this weekend. I’m adding some predictions to the conferences that are sufficiently deep enough to make it interesting. I’ve added links to each conference’s Cross Country page for further information. Props to Spencer Gardner for some editing help.
-Isaac Wood

Atlantic 10
Adding a consistent Butler team to the A-10 is a nice get for this conference. Jim Spisak from Duquesne has looked good all year and will win this meet, but Butler’s men are solid and have a good enough pack to clean up the rest of the field for the win.

This will be an exciting race featuring two up and coming teams Duke and Virginia Tech, tried and true Florida State, and a team whose stock went sky high to rock bottom in a week’s rankings, Virginia. Returning champs NC State have looked mediocre all year and can only hope that a possible return of Andrew Colley will make things a little bit better. A healthy and fit Mark Amirault will help Virginia running with Zach Gates, they could potentially make a push for a conference championship. If David Forrester and Zak Seddon are a go and fit, the Seminoles are way too deep for any of the other competitive schools in this conference. Jakub Zivec and Breandon O’Neill have been consistent 1-2 all year and it should be the same unless we see something different out of Forrester and Seddon. Will Mulherin should win the meet (he looked good at Pre-Nats, only to get better, plus the race is in Blacksburg).

Predicted Top 10        
Team Predictions

  1. Will Mulherin - Va Tech
  2. Jakub Zivec - Fla St.
  3. Breandon O’Neill - Fla St.
  4. Andrew Colley (?) NC St.
  5. Zach Gates - Virginia
  6. Leoule Degfae - Va. Tech                           
  7. Mark Amirault - Virginia
  8. Mike Moverman- Duke
  9. Seth Proctor - Fla St.
  10. Matt Sonnenfeldt- NC St.

  1. Florida State
  2. Virginia Tech
  3. Virginia
  4. Duke
  5. North Carolina
  6. NC State

Big East
The Big East may be the most intriguing of conference meets because there are 4 teams that all have legitimate chances to win. Notre Dame looked great at home, struggled at Wisconsin. Villanova and Georgetown both looked pretty good at Paul Short, and without their top runners a piece, ran mediocre races at Pre-Nats. Syracuse has been okay all year, running well at Toledo and then a solid 11th place finish at Wisconsin. Villanova is the defending champion, but will their depth hurt them we will see. Having three strong runners up front might be too much for Syracuse’s depth.  Louisville will improve upon last year’s race with two solid Kenyan freshman Ernest Kibet and Japhet Kipkoech.

Predicted Top 10        
Team Predictions

  1. Mark Dennin - Georgetown      
  2. Matthew Mildenhall - Villanova                  
  3. Jeremy Rae - Notre Dame                               
  4. Sam McEntee - Villanova                                 
  5. Jordy Williamsz - Villanova                              
  6. Ernest Kibet - Louisville
  7. Andrew Palmer - Syracuse
  8. Andrew Springer - Georgetown
  9. Japhet Kipkoech - Louisville
  10. Martin Grady - Notre Dame

  1. Villanova
  2. Syracuse
  3. Notre Dame
  4. Georgetown
  5. Louisville

Big Sky
This race is basically a race for 2nd and 3rd as NAU has this race all but won. Brian Shrader, Futsum, and McElroy will lead the charge for the Lumberjacks. John Coyle will be solid for Weber State . Nate Jewkes and much improved Ryan Barrus will be at the front for Southern Utah. Montana State has a solid front runner as well in Christian Soratos. NAU will look to continue their streak of five consecutive Big Sky Conference Championships.

Predicted Top 10        
Team Predictions

  1. Brian Shrader - NAU
  2. Nate Jewkes - Southern Utah                  
  3. Futsum Zienasallassie - NAU
  4. John Coyle - Weber State
  5. Christian Soratos - Montana State
  6. Matt McElroy - NAU
  7. Ryan Barrus - Southern Utah
  8. Nathan Weitz - NAU
  9. Mike Hardy - Weber State
  10. Caleb Hoover - NAU

  1. NAU
  2. Weber State
  3. Southern Utah
  4. Montana State

Big 10
Just a few days ago it looked like the team to beat for the Big 10 Cross Country Championship was Michigan or maybe Indiana. This week Mick Byrne announced that Mo Ahmed and Reed Connor were not going to redshirt and that they would be competing this weekend. That drastically changes the outlook for the conference meet this weekend. Wisconsin now has the best three runners in the conference and possibly the best top 3 in the country. Dan Lowry will assert himself in the mix and look for Robby Creese to bounce back from a poor showing at Wisconsin. Zach Mayhew and Andy Bayer are solid contenders for a top 5 finish as well, especially Mayhew, who has looked solid and consistent all season long. Minnesota has had an up and down season and hopefully can pull their depth together for a strong finish.

Predicted Top 10        
Team Predictions

  1. Maverick Darling - Wisconsin          
  2. Mo Ahmed - Wisconsin                        
  3. Dan Lowry - Michigan                         
  4. Zach Mayhew - Indiana                       
  5. Reed Connor - Wisconsin               
  6. Andy Bayer - Indiana
  7. Hunter Mickow - Illinois
  8. Alex Hatz - Wisconsin
  9. Mark Beams - Michigan
  10. Pieter Gagnon - Minnesota

  1. Wisconsin
  2. Michigan
  3. Indiana
  4. Minnesota
  5. Michigan State

Big 12
A very top heavy Big 12 Championships might prove to be the best conference meet of the weekend. With #1 Oklahoma State, #6 Oklahoma and #7 Texas, and arguably the hottest runner in the country, Kennedy Kithuka from Texas Tech, this is going to be a very fun and exciting race to watch. Texas has been somewhat of a letdown this season, but look for them to turn things on for this meet especially with Dohner and Merber getting their first meet of the season out of the way. Oklahoma looked pretty good at Wisco even with Kevin Williams and Bill Kogel their normal 1-2 running subpar (Kogel had a side ache). Patrick Casey stepped up in their poor race and if he does the same, the Sooners might give Okey State a run.  Oklahoma State cruised to an easy victory at Chili Pepper and as much as these other teams are solid, there is no team in the nation as deep as the Cowboys and they should win the Big 12 easily, their 5th in a row. The Big 12 has two other teams in the top 30, Iowa State #25 and Kansas #30, but this conference is so deep, that they won’t place anyone in the top 10, maybe top 15.

Predicted Top 10        
Team Predictions

  1. Kennedy Kithuka - Texas Tech
  2. Girma Mecheso - Oklahoma State
  3. Tom Farrell - Oklahoma State
  4. Kevin Williams - Oklahoma
  5. Craig Lutz - Texas
  6. Shadrack Kipchirchir - Oklahoma State
  7. Ryan Dohner - Texas
  8. Bill Kogel - Oklahoma
  9. Kirubel Erassa - Oklahoma State
  10. Patrick Casey - Oklahoma

1. Oklahoma State
2. Texas
3. Oklahoma
4. Iowa State
5. Kansas

Big West
Cal Poly’s men should repeat as champions. Look for David Cardona to win individually again.

Conference USA
This isn’t really much of a contest because Tulsa’s men are good enough to destroy the field. Anthony Rotich of UTEP, on the other hand, will win the race by at least 30 seconds, but Chris O’Hare will lead his crew to a very strong finish and team score.

William and Mary looked real good at Paul Short early on in the season, but that race proved much weaker than many people had anticipated. William and Mary did not look good at Pre-Nats where they were beat by multiple teams behind them in the rankings. It doesn’t matter here though because no one in this conference will even match up with William and Mary and they will get the win here. This will be William and Mary’s 19th conference championships in 22 years and 12th in a row.

This year’s Heptagonal Championships will feature an exciting dual meet between Columbia and Princeton. To be fair, Harvard has one of its best teams in years and proved that after finishing 28th at a loaded Wisco Invite. In all reality though, Columbia and Princeton will keep the pace up at front the majority of the race and it will be a battle between a bunch of no names from Columbia and Jason Vigilante and his Princeton Tigers. Columbia’s awesome depth should prevail, especially in a smaller meet.

Predicted Top 10        
Team Predictions

  1. Mike Murphy - Columbia
  2. Maksim Korolev - Harvard
  3. Alejandro Arroyo Yamin - Princeton
  4. Chris Bendtsen - Princeton
  5. Tyler Udland - Princeton
  6. Jake Seinko - Columbia
  7. Leighton Spencer - Columbia
  8. Mark Feigen - Columbia
  9. James Leakos - Harvard
  10. Will Geoghegan - Dartmouth

  1. Columbia
  2. Princeton
  3. Harvard
  4. Yale
  5. Dartmouth

The only reason why this conference is on this preview is because of Iona. They will dominate, like they have for the past 22 years. They are so good in fact, they should go 1-5 and score 15.

Missouri Valley
Indiana State has looked good all season led by freshman John Mascari. Look for him to get the win, but don’t be surprised when the team scores are closer than what you think when Southern Illinois makes a run at Indiana State. This will be Indiana State’s 4th straight MVC Championship.

Mountain West
New Mexico is going into this year’s MWC Championship ranked 12th in the country and will look to continue their four year winning streak in the conference. New Mexico is led by former walk-on Sean Stam, but also has nice new additions to the team this year Caldwell and Bitchell. Air Force has a solid program year in and out because of the great coaching of Juli Benson. They will put themselves in the mix with Isaiah Bragg leading the way. Boise State has their best team they’ve had in years and will look to assert themselves in front of Air Force early and should sneak by them for second. Barak Watson and Drew O’Donoghue-McDonald have been a solid 1-2 for the Broncos all season.

Predicted Top 10        
Team Predictions

  1. Sean Stam - New Mexico
  2. Luke Caldwell - New Mexico
  3. Adam Bitchell - New Mexico
  4. Drew O’Donoghue-McDonald - Boise State
  5. Isaiah Bragg - Air Force
  6. Barak Watson - Boise State
  7. Pat Zacharias - New Mexico
  8. Drenckhahn Jeremy - Air Force
  9. Garrett Zans - Wyoming
  10. Elmar Engholm - New Mexico

  1. New Mexico
  2. Boise State
  3. Air Force
  4. Wyoming
  5. Colorado State

Pac 12
The top three teams in the Pac-12 are very close in comparison to the top teams in the Big 12, and in my opinion this is the better meet and here is why. The competition in this meet is much closer than the Big 12. Oklahoma State is so good that there isn’t any team in the country right now that can roll with them, besides maybe Colorado. That’s what makes this meet more competitive. Colorado, Stanford, and Oregon are all very good, along with the two best runners in the country from Arizona. Colorado won Pre-Nats and Stanford won Wisconsin and Oregon has looked better and better every race they run. Add a solid 15th ranked UCLA to the mix and this meet is absolutely loaded. Rather than explaining what will happen, just look at the predictions below (granted this race is so loaded, predicting a top 10 is very difficult to do). To explain my predictions, I feel like Oregon has looked better and better every meet and in a smaller race that is just as top heavy as Wisco, Oregon having three top tier runners compared to Stanford’s solid 5. Stanford has great depth and a really nice spread and they have just as much of a shot at 2nd as Oregon does.

Predicted Top 10        
Team Predictions

  1. Lawi Lalang - Arizona
  2. Stephen Sambu - Arizona
  3. Trevor Dunbar - Oregon
  4. Jake Hurysz - Colorado
  5. Parker Stinson - Oregon
  6. Joe Rosa - Stanford
  7. Blake Theroux - Colorado
  8. Miles Unterreiner - Stanford
  9. Jim Rosa - Stanford
  10. Ben DeJarnette - Oregon

  1. Colorado
  2. Stanford
  3. Oregon
  4. UCLA
  5. Arizona State

Arkansas’s Fearsome Threesome in Fernandez, Haile, and Campbell lead the way for the best Razorback squad in a few years. Along side Arkansas is a really improved and still improving Georgia Bulldog program and Texas A&M and Henry Lelei. Henry Lelei gets better as the season goes along and will lead the race for the majority along with Arkansas top 3.  Look for Arkansas to roll, but don’t be surprised to see Georgia pushing Arkansas for a nice 2nd place finish.
Missouri has also had the best season their team has had in a while. Max Storms leads Missouri. Florida has an improved team this year with Mark Parrish at the front.

Predicted Top 10        
Team Predictions

  1. Henry Lelei - Texas A&M                                
  2. Kemoy Campbell - Arkansas
  3. Eric Fernandez - Arkansas
  4. Solomon Haile - Arkansas
  5. Matt Cleaver - Georgia
  6. Mark Parrish - Florida
  7. Lucas Baker - Georgia
  8. Luis Orta - Kentucky
  9. Max Storms - Missouri
  10. James Hodges - Texas A&M

  1. Arkansas
  2. Georgia
  3. Texas A&M
  4. Missouri
  5. Florida

Paul Chelimo, Paul Katam and Abraham Kemboi own this conference and should go 1-2-3 and UNC- Greensboro will win back-to-back Conference Championships. 

Summit League
UMKC Cosmas Ayabei will win the win the individual crown. North Dakota State is the top returning team in the conference. South Dakota State is the favorite, and Krsnak should win the individual crown.

Sun Belt
Returning champ Justus David of Middle Tennessee State is back to defend his crown, but he will have two up and coming runners on his heels the whole way. Daniel Mutai of Louisiana-Monroe has a had a strong season and Joseph Chebet of Western Kentucky is coming off of a Pre-Nats open race victory. Look for a very close finish between these three and Western Kentucky defending their team title.

West Coast
(This was done from an outside source as to avoid bias) Portland has much to prove at WCC Championships after dropping 12 spots in the polls and a 12th place finish at Wisco. They will look to rebound on their home course against BYU. Portland had a streak of 32 straight WCC Championships broken up by BYU last year and will look to avenge that this weekend. BYU has been solid all year with one of the deepest teams in the country. Jared Ward has proven himself as one of the top runners in the country over the past year. Rex Shields will look to regain his last year’s form, where he finished 22nd at NCAAs. Ward and Shields have a strong group behind them led by Tylor Thatcher and Jason Witt who finished 20th and 21st at Pre-Nats. Portland will look to break up BYU’s depth with top runner Scott Fauble and David Perry. If some of the Pilots younger runners can step up, they will give BYU a good run for the WCC Championship.

Predicted Top 10        
Team Predictions

  1. Jared Ward - BYU
  2. Rex Shields - BYU
  3. David Perry - Portland
  4. Scott Fauble - Portland
  5. Tylor Thatcher - BYU
  6. Jason Witt - BYU
  7. Conner Peloquin - BYU
  8. Lars Erik Malde - Portland
  9. Curtis Carr - BYU
  10. Jacob Smith - Portland

  1. BYU
  2. Portland
  3. San Francisco
  4. Gonzaga
  5. Santa Clara


  1. No Sun Belt Confernce?

  2. South Dakota State should win the Summit League tomorrow. Picked first in pre-season and currently ranked 12th in Midwest. Led by Krsnak and Luisignan, who've run well all season.