Wednesday, November 7, 2012

NCAA Regional Championship Preview

For this edition of The Wood Report I will be previewing each Regional meet for this weekend. I will also be predicting the top 10 individuals and the top 5 teams for each region.

Asterisks are placed by the teams and individuals that will be going to the NCAA meet, automatic and at-large bids.

Great Lakes
This region made up of 34 teams will have the opportunity to run on one of the best cross country courses in the country, Zimmer Championship Course this Friday in Madison Wisconsin. This region has been dominated by Wisconsin, which has won the regional 10 straight times and is looking for number 11.

Wisconsin should get their 11th straight championship, but will once again be challenged by Michigan (just like Big 10's), Indiana (another Big 10 foe), and a solid Notre Dame squad. The Wisconsin trio of Mo Ahmed, Maverick Darling, and Reed Connor will once again be challenged up front by Zachary Mayhew and Andy Bayer of Indiana, (Mayhew won the individual Big 10 crown). Dan Lowry of Michigan and Jeremy Rae of Notre Dame will also be in the mix up front, along with Terefe Ejigu of Eastern Michigan who will challenge for the individual crown and will look to be an at-large individual bid to the NCAA meet in Louisville.

In all reality, Wisconsin will most likely do as little as possible to ensure their automatic selection to the NCAA meet and don't look to see them roll, but run a steady effort to assure a first place finish. This might open the door for individuals to run well up front like Terefe Ejigu, Jeremy Rae, Zachary Mayhew, and one of these harriers should get the win individually unless Maverick decides to go for the individual win in his final season as a Badger.

Individual Predictions
  1. Terefe Ejigu- Eastern Michigan*
  2. Zachary Mayhew- Indiana
  3. Maverick Darling- Wisconsin
  4. Mo Ahmed- Wisconsin
  5. Andy Bayer- Indiana
  6. Jeremy Rae- Notre Dame
  7. Reed Connor- Wisconsin
  8. Matt McClintock- Purdue*
  9. Rob Finnerty- Wisconsin
  10. Mark Beams- Michigan

Team Predictions
  1. Wisconsin*
  2. Michigan*
  3. Notre Dame*
  4. Indiana*
  5. Eastern Michigan
John Mascari- Indiana State*
Ross Clarke- Butler*

This region really is a 3 team race (out of 39 teams) between Georgetown, Princeton, and Villanova. If you were to just go off of what happened in the conference meets, this regional would be a no brainer because Princeton looked dominant at the HEPS Championships.

I still have a hard time counting Villanova out of it and Georgetown seems to be coming around at the right time having had their best race of the season at the Big East Championships. Despite all that, Princeton should win, Vig wiil get his boys ready to roll, but never count out Marcus O'Sullivan and his Wildcats. I feel that they are much more talented and are better than what they showed at the Big East meet and will run much better and challenge Princeton for the Regional championship. Some individuals who will play a factor up front in the race are Chris Bendtsen and Alejandro Arroyo Yamin of Princeton, Mark Dennin of Georgetown, Mathew Mildenhall of Villanova, Robby Creese of Penn State, Jim Spisak of Duquesne, and Travis Mahoney of Temple.

Individual Predictions
  1. Mark Dennin- Georgetown
  2. Jim Spisak- Duquesne*
  3. Chris Bendtsen- Princeton
  4. Mathew Mildenhall- Villanova
  5. Travis Mahoney- Temple*
  6. Alejandro Arroyo Yamin- Princeton
  7. Robby Creese- Penn State*
  8. Sam McEntee- Villanova
  9. Tyler Udland- Princeton
  10. Andrew Springer- Georgetown

Team Predictions
  1. Princeton*
  2. Villanova*
  3. Georgetown*
  4. Penn State
  5. Temple
Alfredo Santana- La Salle*

The Midwest regional of 38 teams will compete for two automatic bids in the Midwest Regional Championships in Springfield Missouri this weekend. This is an absolutely loaded field with the #1 team in the country Oklahoma State, #8 Oklahoma, #19 Tulsa, along with solid programs of Illinois (4th Big 10), Missouri (3rd in SEC), Kansas (4th Big 12), Iowa State (5th Big 12) and a usual national qualifier Minnesota.

It is hard to see Oklahoma State running this race too hard as they need to prepare for a national championships bid, and the same could be said for Oklahoma and Tulsa, but look for those two schools to battle up front and also Illinois and Missouri to try pick up as many criteria points as possible in the mean time. Oklahoma State's nasty 8 second spread 1-5 at Big 12's will probably be even smaller at this meet, as they can feasibly all run together (1 second spread) and go 4-8 and still dominate.

Oklahoma will have a few names up in front as well, Patrick Casey has been solid for the Sooners all season, Chris O'Hare will put himself in position along with his teammates (he always runs with his team until the last 2k it seems), and Max Storms and Hayden Legg of Missouri, and Hunter Mickow and Jannis Topfer of Illinois will also be up front. Look for a fun battle between Tulsa and Oklahoma for the automatic bid, but no worries both of these teams will be headed for the National Meet. Don't be surprised to see the 4th place team out of this region get enough points to go as well. This region is just that good.

Individual Predictions
  1.  Chris O'Hare- Tulsa
  2.  Patrick Casey- Oklahoma
  3.  Bill Kogel- Oklahoma
  4.  Girma Mecheso- Oklahoma State
  5.  Shadrack Kipchirchir- Oklahoma State
  6.  Tom Farrell- Oklahoma State
  7.  Kirubel Erassa- Oklahoma State
  8.  Shane Moskowitz- Oklahoma State
  9.  Andy Heyes- Tulsa
  10.  Kevin Williams- Oklahoma

Team Predictions
  1. Oklahoma State*
  2. Oklahoma*
  3. Tulsa*
  4. Illinois
  5. Kansas
Max Storms- Missouri*
Hayden Legg- Missouri*
Jannis Topfer- Illinois*
Hunter Mickow- Illinois*

(Once again this region was done by an outside source to avoid bias) Fort Collins Colorado will be the host site of this years Mountain Regional Championship. This region should feature 4 teams that will qualify for the NCAA Meet in Louisville. The favorites are #2 Colorado, #7 BYU, #16 New Mexico and #18 NAU. The team that is the favorite is #2 Colorado after coming off of a dominant Pac-12 Championships. Led by North Carolina transfer Jake Hurysz and Blake Theroux (who beat him at Pac 12's) and a cast of 5 other equally as solid runners, Colorado looks too good and deep to be beat at this point.

As usual there is some question on how hard Colorado will run as they seem to always hold back at the regional meet to prepare for the national meet, but their performances this season so far justify placing 3 in the top 10 and capture the regional championship. BYU is coming off a tough 1 point  loss at the West Coast Conference championships. Jared Ward has led the Cougars all season long and did so at the West Coast meet getting the individual crown. Their success will likely hinge on their solid depth and how well their 3-5 step up to help out Ward and ever consistent Tylor Thatcher. Northern Arizona is another solid team that will be in the mix who will look to beat out New Mexico for the third place finish. Shrader and Futsum have been running well all season long, and McElroy stepped up at Big Sky meet and added a killer 1-2-3 punch. #16 New Mexico is coming off a nice victory at the Mountain West Conference meet. The question behind the Lobos is how much improvement they have shown since Wisconsin, since the Mountain West is a difficult barometer to how good they are. Kennedy Kithuka and Anthony Rotich will feature maybe the best individual race in the country at any regional meet.

Individual Predictions
  1. Kennedy Kithuka- Texas Tech*
  2. Anthony Rotich- UTEP*
  3. Jared Ward- BYU
  4. Brian Shrader- NAU
  5. Jake Hurysz- Colorado
  6. Blake Theroux- Colorado
  7. Futsum Zeinasallessie- NAU
  8. Nate Jewkes- Southern Utah*
  9. Luke Caldwell- New Meixco
  10. Hugh Dowdy- Colorado

Team Predictions
  1. Colorado*
  2. BYU*
  3. NAU*
  4. New Mexico*
  5. Air Force
John Coyle- Weber State*

The Northeast Regional Championships will be held in Madison Connecticut, the home site of Fairfield University this Friday, November 9. In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, there are many unknowns to exactly where the race will be run, but we do know it will be run and that's all that's important here, although we do wish the best for all those who are still suffering in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. 43 teams will toe the line.

This will be a very interesting race to see Iona challenged up front with an up and coming Syracuse team that ran an amazing Big East Championship race, taking home the title. Another interesting story will be how Columbia responds to the shellacking they took at the hands of Princeton in the HEPS Championships. Iona was dominant in their conference meet and will be challenged here for the first time since Wisconsin. Matt Bayley had an off race at Iona's conference meet, but look for him to bounce back with his teammates Matt Gillespie and Mitch Goose, along with Daniel Clorley and maybe Jake Byrne in the mix, that being said is their top 5. I don't see them all running that hard, because they have already picked up so many points by placing second at Wisconsin, but look for their pack to be at the front for the majority of the race.

Martin Hehir of Syracuse, who won the Big East meet will also be up front with teammate Joe Whelan and Max Straneva. Columbia's Leighton Spencer will look to lead his Lions to a top two and automatic NCAA bid along with Mark Feigen and Mike Murphy. Providence had a solid Big East meet and will be led by Shane Quinn who placed second overall at that meet. Look to see Quinn in the lead pack and with a strong finish and place (he should go individually to the NCAA meet). Syracuse is the 3-time defending champion, look for Iona to break that streak this weekend.

Individual Predictions
  1. Matt Gillespie- Iona
  2. Martin Hehir- Syracuse
  3. Shane Quinn- Providence*
  4. Mitch Goose- Iona
  5. Matt Bayley- Iona
  6. Joe Whelan- Syracuse
  7. Daniel Clorley- Iona
  8. Max Straneva- Syracuse
  9. Leighton Spencer- Columbia
  10. Will Geohegan- Dartmouth*

Team Predictions
  1. Iona*
  2. Syracuse*
  3. Columbia*
  4. Providence
  5. Dartmouth
Maksim Karolev- Harvard*
Phil Royer- Dartmouth*

46 different schools will be represented in the South Regional Championships this Friday in Tallahassee Florida, home of Florida State. As if the Seminoles needed any more help to win their second consecutive South Regional championship, they get to run it on their home course in front of their home fans. This region, generally known for being one of the weaker regions in the country, is much improved in part by the improved Georgia program and Florida having one of the best teams they have had in years. Florida State has looked good all year long and seems to have had a different #1 runner all season. This might again be the case this weekend as David Forrester is getting healthier every day and will challenge teammate Breandon O'Neill for the individual title. Also to be in the mix are a pair of Georgia Bulldogs Brandon Lord and Matt Cleaver, Peter Okwera from Tennessee (6th SEC) and Mark Parrish of Florida (7th SEC). The two automatic bids are almost a wrap for Florida State and Georgia, barring a complete meltdown.

Individual Predictions
  1. David Forrester- Florida State
  2. Breandon O'Neill- Florida State
  3. Matt Cleaver- Georgia
  4. Peter Okwera- Tennessee*
  5. Jakub Zivec- Florida State
  6. Brandon Lord- Georgia
  7. Mark Parrish- Florida*
  8. Seth Proctor- Florida State
  9. Robinson Simatei- Middle Tennessee State*
  10. Nabil Hamid- Kennesaw State*

Team Predictions
  1. Florida State*
  2. Georgia*
  3. Florida
  4. Eastern Tennessee State
  5. Tennessee
South Central
The South Central region is one of the more intriguing races of the weekend as 36 schools will be represented in Fayatteville Arkansas. Arkansas and Texas are the top schools in this region that will be facing off on Arkansas' home turf. Arkansas is led by the Fearsome Threesome of Solomon Haile, Eric Fernandez, and Kemoy Campbell. Texas is led by Ryan Dohner, Craig Lutz, and Rory Tunningley.

Texas A&M will also be somewhat in the mix of things as long as Henry Lelei continues his dominance and gets the individual win (which he should). McNeese State's David Rooney has been solid all season long and should also put himself in the front (Southland Conference Champ). This race is definitely one where both Texas and Arkansas could cruise and still go 1-2 and qualify easily. Not sure if that will happen as Arkansas may want to take back their perennial reign over the region that was taken away last year at the hands of Texas. Texas won't go down without a fight either as they are the defending champions. This will be an exciting race.

Individual Predictions
  1. Henry Lelei- Texas A&M
  2. Solomon Haile- Arkansas
  3. Eric Fernandez- Arkansas
  4. David Rooney- McNeese State*
  5. Ryan Dohner- Texas
  6. Kemoy Campbell- Arkansas
  7. Craig Lutz- Texas
  8. Rory Tunningley- Texas
  9. Patrick MacGregor- Texas
  10. Layne Nixon- Arkansas

Team Predictions
  1. Texas*
  2. Arkansas*
  3. Texas A&M*
  4. McNeese State
  5. Univ. Texas at Arlington
Alex Bruce-Littlewood- McNeese State*
Vargilio Martinez- UT-Arlington*
Jarrett LeBlanc- McNeese State*

This massive region of 51 schools will be competing in the Southeast Regional Championships this weekend in Charlotte, North Carolina. This year there will most likely be a new champion as the defending champion NC State has had a down year, and William and Mary who have won 3 of the last 4 is not up to par with the best in the region. This year this region seems to be down to Eastern Kentucky, Virginia and Virginia Tech. NC State has looked better throughout the season. They go as Andrew Colley goes, who looked good in his debut at the ACC Championships (3rd overall). Duke who was impressive at the Pre-National meet wasn't as impressive in the ACC Championships and probably won't play much of a factor in this race. Up front the race will be a fun battle for the individual title between Ben Toroitich of Eastern Kentucky, Andrew Colley of NC State and Will Mulherin of Virginia Tech. Eastern Kentucky has been good all season, and they should do as their ranking says, and win, but don't be surprised to see a constant improving Virginia team to maybe surprise and pull out an automatic bid to the NCAA meet. Two athletes that were failed to be mentioned earlier that are obviously going to be in the mix are Paul Chelimo and Paul Katam. These two have looked solid all season and will be in the lead pack for the majority of the race. Look for Paul Chelimo to contend for the individual title with Mulherin, Toroitich and Colley. 

Individual Predictions
  1. Paul Chelimo- UNC Greensboro*
  2. Will Mulherin- Virginia Tech
  3. Ben Toroitch- EKU
  4. Andrew Colley- NC State
  5. Zach Gates- Virginia
  6. Soufiane Bouchikhi- EKU
  7. Kyle King- Virginia
  8. Ernest Kibet- Louisville*
  9. Matt Sonnenfeldt- NC State
  10. Luis Orta- Kentucky*
Team Predictions
  1. Eastern Kentucky*
  2. Virginia*
  3. Virginia Tech*
  4. NC State*
  5. William and Mary
Japhet Kipkoech- Louisville*

The West regional might be one of the best/toughest Regionals in the country and 39 teams will attempt to finish in the top 2 teams to automatically qualify for the NCAA Championships. Headlined by Stanford, Portland and Oregon, this regional is full of quality competition and possibly the two best individual runners in the country from Arizona: Lawi Lalang and Stephen Sambu.

Portland looked great at the West Coast Conference upsetting #5 BYU and Stanford has looked great all season winning the stacked Wisconsin Invite, and Oregon is Oregon, which makes this a very intriguing race. Lalang and Sambu are in a different league and will go 1-2, but the real question is who comes after them? There are so many talented athletes in this field. Here are a few: Trevor Dunbar and Parker Stinson of Oregon, Scott Fauble and David Perry of Portland, Joe and Jim Rosa and Miles Unterreiner of Stanford, Lane Werley of UCLA, just to name a few. Look for Stanford to pull off a tough win with Oregon and Portland on their heels.

This race will be very fun and there definitely seems to be no clear-cut favorite (many would say Stanford, but Portland has looked great). Other teams that have looked goof at the end of this season are Arizona State and UCLA who were within single digits of Oregon at the Pac-12 Championships.

Individual Predictions
  1. Lawi Lalang- Arizona*
  2. Stephen Sambu- Arizona*
  3. Trevor Dunbar- Oregon
  4. Parker Stinson- Oregon
  5. Lane Werley- UCLA*
  6. Scott Fauble- Portland
  7. Joe Rosa- Stanford
  8. David Perry- Portland
  9. Miles Unterreiner- Stanford
  10. David Cardona- Cal Poly

Team Predictions
  1. Stanford*
  2. Portland*
  3. Oregon*
  4. Arizona State*
  5. Cal Poly*
Joey Bywater- Washington*

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