Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The Wood Report: Edition 04

This week in The Wood Report, I’ve included my own personal rankings instead of analyzing the weekends results based on the Coaches Poll. This is not easy, but I feel confident in my decisions for the Top 30 teams in the country. 

As usual, I've included the top 5 individuals who aren't on a Top 30 team at the bottom of this post.

1.   Oklahoma State 
10/27- Overview:  The Cowboys did what everyone knew they would do at the Big 12 Championships this weekend by dominating the field.  OSU went 2 (Girma Mecheso), 3 (Shadrack Kipchirchir), 4 (Tom Farrell), 7 (Kirubel Erassa), 8 (Shane Moskowitz), adding up to a 24 point finish. The next closest teams were Texas in 56 and Oklahoma in 62.

Outlook:  The Cowboys are rounding into shape at the right time and look almost untouchable. The Midwest regional is up next and the Cowboys can put everything on cruise control and prepare for the National meet.  The good news for OSU is that Tom Farrell is coming around at the right time, we all knew he would, and when you have an 8 second spread from 1-5 with athletes that talented, Oklahoma State is bar none the best team in the country. 

2.   Colorado 
10/27- Overview: The Buffaloes defended their Pac 12 title this weekend after beating the #3 team in the land, Stanford, 49-82. Colorado continues to get great performances from different athletes every race. Blake Theroux led the way in 7th, with Jake Hurysz in 8th and Hugh Dowdy in 9th.  Aric Van Halen looked better than he has all season finishing as the number 4 runner on the team and 12 overall. Van Halen seems to coming on at the right time and rounding into the form he had on the track last spring. Martin Medina rounded out the top 5 finishing in 13th. Colorado’s depth is ridiculous and had an 8 second spread from 1-5, matching Oklahoma State at their conference meet.

Outlook: Colorado is way too smart to go too hard at the Regional meet. Expect them to do just enough to get themselves to nationals like they do every year. With their depth being so solid (1-6 men = 9 sec. spread and 1-7 men = 25 sec. spread), anyone could have a bad race and they would most likely be fine because they have so many guys that can step up on any given day and be in their 1-5. 
3.   Wisconsin
10/28- Overview:  The addition of Mo Ahmed and Reed Connor made all the difference for Wisconsin at the Big 10 Championships this weekend, giving the Badgers possibly the best 1-3 in the country (Ahmed, Connor, Darling). Wisconsin went 2 (Maverick Darling), 3 (Mo Ahmed), 6 (Reed Connor), 7  (Rob Finnerty), 15 (Alex Brill). Rob Finnerty had his best race of the season at the right time adding to a strong 1-3, Connor gives the Badgers a nice #4 runner. This made Ahmed, Connor, and Darling 4-time Big 10 Champions.

Outlook:  The Great Lakes region will once again be dominated by the Badgers as it has been for so many years. Like many of the top teams, don’t expect Wisconsin to give a full effort at the regional meet, as the national meet is only 8 days after, but the Badgers should get the win either way. This will also be a good time for Wisconsin to get their 5th runner (Brill, maybe Hatz) to get a good race under their belt, help prepare the Badgers to defend their National Championship. 
4.   Stanford 
10/27 – Overview: Going up against a buzz saw in Colorado, the Cardinal still ran a solid race finishing 2nd at the Pac-12 championships.  Joe Rosa continues to run well and proved it by finishing 6th in a top-heavy Pac-12. Ben Johnson looked to be the best he has been in a long time finishing 2nd on the team and 10th overall.  Miles Unterreiner ran most of the race with his shoe off and still ran well finishing as the 4th runner and in 20th place. Tyler Stutzman split up Johnson and Unterreiner as the 3rd runner finishing 17th. The bad news for the Cardinal is their 1-5 spread was not nearly as impressive as their 16 second spread from the Wisconsin Invite (43 seconds). 
Outlook: Stanford currently holds the #1 ranking in the West regional and should be able to cruise through to get the regional championship (although Portland is looking good, coming off a nice win over BYU).  The Cardinal need to close the gap from 1-5 and they should if Erik Olsen or Jim Rosa can come around for national. Jim has looked good early on (19th at Wisco). 
5.   Iona 
10/27 – Overview: Iona dominated the MAAC for the 22nd straight year scoring 16 points. The good news is that the Gaels 1-4 looked great, without star Matt Bayley having a good day at all finishing 16th overall (he must have been hurt, sick, or had something unfortunate happen during the race). Iona continues to be somewhat mysterious as to what they will be capable of --  they’ve never had a strong 1-5, but with Bayley having an off day and Byrne and Clorley stepping up, this is a very dangerous Iona squad.

Outlook: Up next is the Northeast Regional at Van Cortlandt Park.  Syracuse and Iona are the only real quality teams (Columbia did not look great at HEPS). Iona will finally have an opportunity to try to put all 5 of their runners together and have a much needed, improved spread from 1-5. 
6.   Texas 
10/27 – Overview: Texas ran a great last 3k of the Big 12 Championships to sneak past a very sharp Oklahoma team for 2nd place this weekend.  Ryan Dohner had his best race of his season and for the first time led the Longhorns as the #1 runner. He finished 6th individually. Craig Lutz was 5 seconds back in 24:07 placing 9th individually. Patrick McGregor also looked much better improving from a 34th place finish last year and a 107th place finish at Wisconsin Invite earlier this year.

Outlook: All of this is good news for the Longhorns as they seem to be coming on at the right time. Hopefully this is not all happening too soon and they can peak right for Regionals and Nationals (only 8 days apart).  The South Central Regional is up for Texas and it should be a two-team show with Arkansas and Texas. Texas should be able to run a controlled race to prepare for a strong push for a podium spot at the National meet.

7.   Arkansas
10/27 – Overview: The Fearsome Threesome of Solomon Haile, Eric Fernandez, and Kemoy Campbell came through for the Razorbacks at the SEC Championships going 2-4 behind Henry Lelei of Texas A&M.  This was Arkansas’ 20th SEC Championship. Arkansas’ 4-5 looked much better only finishing 19 and 22 seconds behind their main three, which is a marked improvement from previous races.

Outlook: The South Central regional is up next for Arkansas where they will battle Texas for the Regional title. Arkansas' top 3 are so good and they can only hope that their 4-5 can run tough enough to give them a chance to beat Texas who is much deeper. Both teams should be on cruise control getting ready for the National Championships in Louisville the following Saturday. 
8.   Oklahoma 
10/27 – Overview: Patrick Casey continues to look sharp this season, finishing in a very solid 5th place at the Big 12 Championships, leading the Sooners to a 3rd place team finish.  Kevin Williams and Bill Kogel were their normal solid selves finishing right together in 11th and 12th place while Riley Masters was 4th for the team placing 15th and All-Big 12. Andrew Weaver (transfer from Delaware) rounded out the top 5 finishing in 19th place.  A :26 second spread from 1-5 is encouraging. 

Outlook: The Midwest Regional is up next for the Sooners where they will face off with Oklahoma State once again and with an up and coming Tulsa team. Patrick Casey has been great all year if Williams and Kogel can round into the form they had in Track last spring they will help the Sooner cause up front. 
9.   Syracuse 
10/27 – Overview: Chris Fox’s squad never seems to disappoint as the Orange for the 3rd time in the last 4 years took home the Big East Title. Redshirt freshman Martin Hehir was impressive taking home the individual Big East crown.  Syracuse had 4 harriers in the top 10 and had a solid :21 second 1-5 spread.  Joe Whelan was solid as he has been all year finishing 2nd on the team and 4th overall.

Outlook: Syracuse has nice depth and will look to give Iona a run at the North East Regional Champs at Van Cortlandt Park in New York. Martin Hehir has gotten better every race this season and should challenge the pack up front for an individual title. 
10. Portland  
   10/27 – Overview: The Pilots competed in maybe the most exciting and controversial race of the weekend in the muddy and wet West Coast Championships at their home course in Portland. Winning by 1 point, Portland had their best race of the season at the right time. Scott Fauble led the way with a 2nd place individual finish, with William Kincaid having the best race of maybe his career finishing 3rd and out kicking BYU’s Tylor Thatcher for the team win. David Perry was solid as usual and finished 5 overall.

Outlook: The Pilots are rounding into nice form going into the Regional and National Championships portion of the season. Portland is ranked 2nd in the West region behind Stanford and will look to run right with the Cardinal in the West Regional in a couple of weeks. Look for the Pilots to once again be led by Scott Fauble and David Perry up front. 
11. BYU  
   10/27 – Overview: The #5 Cougars were knocked off by Portland to finish 2nd as a team in the West Coast Conference Championships by 1 point. Jared Ward paced the Cougars up front taking home the individual crown by 6 seconds. Tylor Thatcher was the Cougars #2 runner finishing 4th and Jason Witt was 3rd on the team coming in 6th place overall. The good news for the Cougars is that they have been holding back had a recovering All-American Rex Shields all season and did not have him for the West Coast meet.

Outlook: A healthy and fit Rex Shields will be very welcome for BYU going into the Regional and National Championships portion of the season. When he is healthy BYU is dangerous and is a podium contender.  Look for Colorado and BYU to cruise at the Mountain Regional to prepare for the national championship. 
12. Oregon 
10/27 – Overview:  Trevor Dunbar and Parker Stinson continue to lead the Ducks up front running 1-2 for Oregon at the Pac 12 Championships where the team finished 3rd. Dunbar and Stinson placed 3rd and 4th, respectively. Matthew Melancon had the best race of his short career as a Duck placing 3rd on the team and 31st overall and teammate Ryan Pickering was 32nd right behind him. Regular #3 man Ben DeJarnette struggled placing 59th overall and running 25:12 for 8k.

Outlook: The good news for Oregon is that they still ran well without DeJarnette having a good day. Dunbar and Stinson continue to look great up front for the Ducks. With the emergence of Melancon and Pickering, and if DeJarnette can look as good as he did at Dellinger, Oregon has a shot to automatically qualify for NCAAs at the West Regional and score a podium finish at the NCAA meet. 
13. New Mexico 
10/27 – Overview: The Lobos continued their dominance in the Mountain West conference by winning their 4th straight MWC championship this weekend in Las Vegas. British transfer Luke Caldwell continues to run better and better each race and led the way for the Lobo’s up front taking home the individual crown.  Regular 1st runner Sean Stam was sick and New Mexico still looked dominant scoring 22 points. Swedish freshman Elmar Engholm has also made great strides this season was 3rd on the team and Freshman of the Year.

Outlook: A nasty :17 second spread 1-5 is making the Lobos look like a potential top-5 team at NCAAs and could give BYU a run for the automatic bid to NCAAs at the Mountain regional in Fort Collins Colorado in a couple of weeks.  With a healthy Sean Stam this a dangerous Lobo team.

14. Princeton 
10/27 – Overview: Chris Bendtsen had his best race of the season (maybe career) taking home the individual honors at HEPS this weekend and leading his team to a 1st place finish as well. This was Princeton’s 3rd straight and 6th of the last 7 years. Behind Bendtsen was Alejandro Arroyo Yamin who has been the Tigers’ #1 runner all season finishing 2nd and 7 seconds behind. Tyler Udland was also solid, finishing 4th overall and 3 seconds behind Yamin. Jason Vigilante did a great job getting his team ready for this meet. The Tigers were impressive placing 5 in the top 12 and having a :25 second spread 1-5.

Outlook: After an impressive race at HEPS, Princeton looks like the best team in the Mid-Atlantic region. Villanova and Georgetown are solid teams and will give them a run for the Regional Championship. Chris Bendtsen and Yamin are both looking good at the right time and will help the Tigers up front. 
15. Virginia Tech 
10/27 – Overview:  The Hokies might have been the biggest surprise of conference weekend taking home the ACC Championship individually and as a team.  This was Va. Tech’s first ACC Cross Country title ever. Will Mulherin led the way taking home the individual honors, winning by 5 seconds and breaking the course record at their home course in Blacksburg. Everything came into place for the Hokies having guys come out of obscurity to earn All-ACC Honors. Brayden Burleigh and Thomas Curtin had the best races of their careers finishing 6th and 7th respectively.

Outlook: Virginia Tech now has the Southeast Regional up next where they will battle in state rival Virginia and Eastern Kentucky for the Regional title. Will Mulherin is looking very good at the right time and will lead the Hokies to an automatic bid to NCAAs. 
16. NAU 
10/27 – Overview: Going 1-3 at the Big Sky Championships, NAU won their 6th straight Big Sky title. The race in Flagstaff was the best the Lumberjacks have looked all season placing their 4th runner Caleb Hoover finishing in 7th place and their 5th, Cody Reed in 11th place. NAU’s 1-3 looked impressive running the race together to the end with all of them running 24:55-56.

Outlook: NAU is looking good at the right time, and they're making the Mountain Regional even more stacked with Colorado, BYU, New Mexico and NAU all in the mix. NAU will give BYU and New Mexico a run for the automatic qualifier, finishing in the top 2. 
17. EasternKentucky 
10/27 - Overview: Eastern Kentucky continued their reign of dominance in the Ohio Valley Conference winning their 21st conference title and 7th straight. Soufiane Bouchikhi won his third straight individual conference title. The Colonels held out some of their best runners, including #1 runner all season Ben Toroitich and still won the meet scoring only 17 points.

Outlook: It seems like EKU is doing their best to prep their guys as much as possible to take home a Southeast Regional title, as they held out a few of their best athletes in preparations for the most important part of the season. With Toroitich in the mix and Wade Neddles this is a solid EKU team,  its best in years.
18. Tulsa 
10/29 – Overview: Chris O’Hare led his Tulsa team to their 3rd straight Conference USA championship. O’Hare finished 2nd behind one of the Nation’s best Anthony Rotich of UTEP. Tulsa only scored 25 points and placed all 5 scorers in the top 9. Andy Heyes and Paulo Pinheiro continue to be solid 2-3 runners for Tulsa finishing right after O’Hare in 3rd and 4th. A 33 second spread from 1-5 is something that can be improved on.

Outlook: The Midwest Regional Championships are up next for Tulsa in Springfield Missouri. Tulsa will get to compete against some of the nation’s best teams - #1 Oklahoma State and #8 Oklahoma.

19. Michigan 
10/28 – Overview: The news of Wisconsin going all in was too bad for a Michigan team that would have had a chance to take home a Big 10 title for the first time in a very long time. Instead, Wisconsin kept their reign of 14 straight Big 10 titles intact and Michigan finished 2nd. Dan Lowry looked good finishing 5th individually and Morsi Rayyan had his best race of the season finishing 13th and teammate Mark Beams right behind him finished 14th overall. The Wolverines held off Indiana for 2nd place as team by 14 points, 65-79.

Outlook:  The good news for the Wolverines is that Morsi Rayyan is looking good at the right time and Mark Beams is right there which helps them have a solid 1-3. Freshman Tony Smoragiewicz is coming around at the end of the season and was only a couple seconds back of Beams and will help them as the season progresses into the Regional and National Championship portion.  The Great Lakes regional will basically be a repeat of the Big 10 Championships with Notre Dame  in the mix as the only other team to contend up front. The Great Lakes regional is up next for the Wolverines on November 9. 

      10/28 – Overview: Florida State had a disappointing race at the ACC Championships finishing 3rd overall, 1 point behind second place Virginia, 61-62. Breandon O’Neill looked good in the lead pack for the majority of the race and closed well finishing in 2nd place. David Forrester had his best race of the season, and is for the first time healthy and finished 12th overall. Jakub Zivec struggled in comparison to what he has done earlier in the season and finished 13th behind Forrester.

      Outlook: A strange ACC Championship put the Seminoles behind Va Tech and Virginia, but looks can be deceiving. The Seminoles are the most talented out of those teams and should win the South region anyway in a couple of weeks. 

21. Arizona State 
10/27 – Overview:  The Sun Devils finally looked like the team we thought they would be at the beginning of the season by finishing 4th overall at the Pac-12 Championships on Saturday. Nick Happe looked good for the first time all season and looked like the 8:02, 13:54 guy he was on the track last spring. Kansas transfer Zach Zarda also ran well finishing 2nd on the team and 15th individually. Darius Terry was 3rd for ASU finishing 23rd with redshirt freshman Ryan Herson behind him as their 4th man in 26th.

Outlook: The good news for Arizona State is that they were only 4 points behind Oregon for third place. Nick Happe is looking good and rounding into nice form at the end of the season. Also, Darius Terry is much better than 23rd and has the potential to be a top 60-75 guy at Nationals.  The West Regionals are up next, which are loaded, but the Sun Devils have a shot at the National meet if they can click on all cylinders and depend on Happe for a low stick. 
22. Georgetown 
10/26 – Overview:  The Hoyas edged out Notre Dame for a 2nd place finish at the Big East Championships by 3 points. Andrew Springer and Ben Furcht looked good for the Hoyas running the race together and finishing together in 6th and 7th respectively.  Freshman Darren Fahy looked like the kid they recruited by placing 3rd on the team and 11th overall.

Outlook: The Mid Atlantic Regional is up next for Georgetown where they will once again do battle against Villanova and against HEPS champ Princeton. Having a solid 1-2 is nice for the Hoyas and look for Darren Fahy to continue to improve. 
23. Georgia 
10/26 – Overview:  The Bulldogs matched their best all time finish in the SEC by placing 2nd at the SEC Championships on Friday. Matt Cleaver led the way for Georgia by finishing 5th overall and running 24:01 for 8k, and improved from last year 8th place finish. A :28 second spread from 1-5 is solid for the Bulldogs and are continuing to look impressive with a bunch of solid athletes that not very many people have heard of. Matt Cleaver will be a known name by the end of the NCAA meet.

Outlook: The South region is up next for Georgia where they are ranked 2nd going into the meet and they should stay right there if not upset Florida State for  South Regional Championship. Look for Luke Baker to improve from his 4th place team finish and help Georgia up front.
24. Indiana 
10/28 – Overview: Zachary Mayhew ran the best race of his career at the right time and took home the individual crown at Big 10 Championships on Sunday. What is equally impressive as his individual crown is the fact Mayhew has been All Big 10 for all 4 years of his career. This victory is especially impressive beating two of the nation’s best, Maverick Darling and Mo Ahmed. Andy Bayer was also impressive breaking up the Wisconsin 1-3 by placing 4th overall and running a nice 23:38 8k.  Indiana finished in 3rd place as a team.

Outlook: Things are looking better for the Hoosiers as it looks like they have found a decent crew of harriers to back up Mayhew and Bayer. Yes there is almost a minute gap between 1-5, but with two real nice low sticks up front they can make up for that. The Great Lakes Regional is up next for the Hoosiers where they will do battle with Wisconsin, Michigan and Notre Dame to qualify for the NCAA meet. 
25. Virginia
10/27 – Overview:  Virginia put together their best race of the season placing 2nd as a team at the ACC Championships this past weekend. Zach Gates and Kyle King led the way for the Cavaliers up front finishing 4th and 5th respectively.  The Cavaliers were 1 point ahead of 3rd place Florida State.  A :46 second 1-5 spread is something to be worked on, but having Gates and King running so well up front is a good sign, as their 3-5 will get better as the season rolls along. This was Virginia’s only 3rd competitive race all season.

Outlook: A 2nd place finish 1 point ahead of Florida State is a nice way to go into the Southeast Regional on November 9th.  Virginia will have a chance to automatically qualify if they can pull up their 3-5 and rely on their low sticks Gates and King. 
 26. Columbia 
10/27 – Overview: The Lions were topped by HEPS rival Princeton at the Ivy League Heptagonal Championships this past weekend.  Columbia scored 58 to Princeton’s 26. Leighton Spencer had his best race of the season finishing 3rd overall and as the #1 runner for Columbia on the day. Mike Murphy also had a top 10 finish for the Lions placing 8th overall and 9 seconds behind Spencer. Regular solid top 5 guy Mark Feigen had a tough day, which hurt Columbia, by finishing 7th on the team and 24th overall. 

Outlook: The wonderful thing about running is there is always another race and this is definitely the case for Columbia where they could use a race to forget about what happened at HEPS. It’s difficult coming into a race as the favorites where the only other competitive team in the conference is running on their home course. This was the case for Columbia as Princeton blitzed the Lions.  The Northeast Regional will be a good opportunity for Columbia to prove themselves again as they need to run well with Syracuse and Iona to solidify their spot in the National Championships. 

27. Illinois 
10/28 – Overview: Illinois finished 4th at the Big-10 Championships this Sunday making that their programs highest finish at the Big 10’s in 16 years. The Illini went 9-10, which is solid in this conference, with Jannis Toepfer and Hunter Mickow leading the way going 9th and 10th respectively.
Outlook:  A :26 second 1-5 spread is encouraging for the Illini going into the Midwest Regional Championships where they will have to race some of the best in the country including: Oklahoma State, Oklahoma and Tulsa, along with solid Missouri (3rd in SEC). 
28. Villanova 
10/26 – Overview: After a surprisingly bad day at the Big East Championships, finishing 5th as a team, Villanova drops big in the rankings, but not off them. Villanova is much better than 5th in the Big East and it almost seemed like they were running comfortably to prepare to run well at the Mid Atlantic Regional. Sam McEntee was Villanova’s top finisher at Big East placing 17th individually. Matthew Mildenhall was right behind him in 19th place. Robert Denault and Jordy Williamsz both had off days placing 21st and 26th individually.

Outlook: If Villanova really did go all out at the Big East Championships, that’s a bad sign for the Wildcats as they do not look like a team that will qualify for the NCAA meet, but the Mid- Atlantic Regional will hopefully look better for Villanova. They have that talent that are capable of winning or placing 2nd to auto qualify for the NCAAs, we will soon know. 

   29. UCLA 
         10/27 – Overview:  Sophomore Lane Werley is looking like the real deal right now after finishing 5th at the Pac-12 Championships and only 9 seconds behind Lawi Lalang. This helped UCLA post a 5th place finish 4 points behind 4th place Arizona State and 8 points behind 3rd place Oregon. David MacDonald had a nice day for the Bruins placing 19th overall and #2 on the team. Regular #2 man, Dustin Fay, struggled on the day and ended up with a 4th place team finish and 28th overall.

Outlook: The good news for the Bruins is that Dustin Fay is much better than 28th at Pac-12’s. When he can put together a good race for UCLA with Werley and MacDonald running as well as they are,  the Bruins are looking in good shape to battle for a spot at the National meet at the West Regional Championships on Novemeber 9 in Seattle. 

30. Missouri 
10/26 – Overview: Led by Hayden Legg and Max Storms’ solid 8th and 9th finishes respectively, the Missouri Tigers finished 3rd in the SEC Championships on Friday. Bryant Blahnik also looked good for Missouri finishing in 11th place and only 4 seconds behind teammate Max Storms.  The Tigers 4-5 are suspect though, after finishing 25th and 27th and 23 seconds back from their 3rd runner.

Outlook: If Missouri can pull up their 4-5 and rely on some top finishes form Storms and Legg, the Tigers seem to be the makers of their own destiny. Missouri will race in the brutal Midwest Regional against Oklahoma State, Oklahoma, Tulsa, and Illinois. They can pray for a miracle or some criteria points to get them into the National meet. 

Top Five Individuals 
...who aren't on a team in the Top 30

 1. Lawi Lalang - Arizona: Once again Lalang was dominanat at the Pac-12 Championships taking home his second straight individual Pac-12 crown. As always his wingman Stephen Sambu was right besides him. Lalang ran 22: 49 for 8k. 
2. Kennedy Kithuka - Texas Tech: Just as in every race Kithuka has run all season he dominated the Big-12 Championships, taking home the individual crown. Kithuka ran 22:52 for 8k and was 5 seconds ahead of second place Girma Mecheso of Oklahoma State. Kithuka is also undefeated, but will be challenged at the Mountain regional by up and coming Anthony Rotich of UTEP. 
3.  Stephen Sambu - Arizona: Sambu ran right behind Lalang like he has done all season and was once again out kicked at the finish by Lalang for a 2nd place finish at the Pac-12 Championships. Sambu ran a smart race right with Lalang into the wind the entire race. Sambu finished one second behind Lawi in 22:50
4. Anthony Rotich - UTEP: Rotich continues to be dominant in each race he has run by winning the Conference USA crown by more than 30 seconds over Chris O'Hare of Tulsa. This is setting up for a duel at the Mountain Regional meet between Rotich and Kennedy Kithuka of Texas Tech. 
5. Paul Chelimo - UNC Greensboro: Chelimo is slipping on this top five list, but looked better at the So Con Championships. Chelimo took home the individual honors by more than 15 seconds. Chelimo will be challenged in the Southeast regional by Ben Toroitich of Eastern Kentucky. 

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