Wednesday, November 14, 2012

NCAA National Championships Preview

The biggest weekend of NCAA Cross Country is upon us as the National Championships will be run this Saturday in Louisville, Kentucky. For this edition of The Wood Report I will be predicting the finishing order of the teams and giving an analysis of what I believe will happen in the race and a quick season in review. (Next week there will be a full season review). At the bottom of the page is a top 50 individuals prediction. 

As a side note to the individual predictions, I realized during my research and selection of the top 50, how unbelievably brutal it is to select only 50 runners out of a pool of about 125 that are all capable on any given day to be top 50. I do feel confident in my selections, but in no means do I believe them to be perfect. 

*****(11-15)I've added a Women's preview and predictions at the bottom of this post*****

  1. Oklahoma State 
    The Cowboys have been dominant all season long and should continue to be so this weekend in Louisville. Oklahoma State has 7 guys that could be on any teams top 5 in the country. At the regional meet Shadrack Kipchirchir and Kirubel Erassa were held out so that they would have fresh legs for NCAAs and they still tied for first place. In all reality, it would take a colossal meltdown for the Cowboys to not take home the 1st Place trophy. Girma Mecheso will lead the way for Okey State alongside an incredible cast of runners including: Tom Farrell, Shadrack Kipchirchir, Kirubel Erassa, Shane Moskowitz, and Joseph Manilafasha.
  2. Iona
    Although their ranking doesn't show it, the Gaels have somewhat flown under the radar all season long. They have been dominating their competition in every meet so far with a strong 2nd place finish at Wisconsin as well. Iona has improved their depth as the season has gone on and have found a strong 5th man and look to be in position to overtake Oklahoma State if the Cowboys have a bad day and Iona has a great day. Mitch Goose has been great all season long and has won his last two races (Conference and Regionals). Matt Gillespie has also been solid up front and Daniel Clorley as well. The question mark for Iona is Matt Bayley who had been running well for the Gaels early in the season, but has struggled a bit over the past few races. If he and Jake Byrne can both step up this Iona team should snag 2nd place.
  3. Colorado
    The Buffaloes are coming off a disappointing Mountain Regional race and are looking to prove themselves once again at the National level for a podium finish. Regionals was a slight struggle for Colorado as their regular 3-4 man Hugh Dowdy was their 7th man way back and Blake Theroux did not look great. The good news is that they held out Conner Winter and his fresh legs will be gladly welcome. 
    Jake Hurysz will figure to be a top 25 man and if Martin Medina can run as well as he did at Regionals with Blake Theroux looking better, those three will help up front. Colorado needs Hugh Dowdy to find his way to the lead pack after a disappointing race at Regionals.  If things come together for Colorado they are looking at a podium finish. With Mark Wetmore leading these Buffaloes you can never count them out of the top four, and they should be good enough to grab the 3rd place team trophy.    
  4. BYU
    This will be the first time all season long that I will be breaking down my own team, but I will do this as objectively as possible. According to the polls and the last few races it appears that the Cougars were a bit overrated going into the season and do not seem to be a podium team. The good news for BYU is that the pieces seem to be coming together at the right time and the once greatly heralded depth of the Cougars is looking sharp going into the National meet. Rex Shields is back and healthy and after a solid race under his belt at Regionals, he will be ready to take his place in the 2-3 spot alongside Mr. Consistent Tylor Thatcher. Jared Ward will factor as one of the top American finishers and should grab some nice low points as the low stick for the Cougs. With all this considered, BYU looks to be ready for another podium finish at this years Nationals.
  5. Stanford
    The Cardinal have been good all season long and have done it with a different mix of guys each race. At Wisconsin, where Stanford finished 1st as a team, the Rosa twins went 1-2 with Unterreiner in the 3rd spot. Conversely at Pac-12s, Jim Rosa struggled, but Ben Johnson and Tyler Stutzman stepped up in the 2-3 spots. If Stanford has a great day where the Rosa's run great, and Unterreiner, Johnson, and Stutzman all do what they are capable of, Stanford could place as high as 2nd. Stanford has some nice depth that will help them if they have someone with an off day with Erik Olsen as a solid 5-6 man. Look for the team scoring from places 2-7 to be incredibly close.
  6. Wisconsin
    The 1-2-3 punch of Mo Ahmed, Maverick Darling, and Reed Connor is scary. Those three on a great day could all place in the top 20 and possibly top 15. With Byrne pulling the redshirts of Ahmed and Connor he was hoping that the Badgers could make another run at a National Title. This
    is possible, but it would have to mean an incredible finish for their 1-2-3 and Finnerty being able to run 10k better than he did at the regional and Alex Brill being able to hang off of Finnerty for a possible top 50-60 place finish. With how many individuals there are that will place in the top 10, Ahmed is looking at scoring at the least 3 points for his team, but he will most likely be the first person to score for their team in the meet. If this is the case and Darling and Connor do their thing, the Badgers could beat some people up front (i.e. BYU, Stanford, Colorado) and snag a podium spot.
  7. Oklahoma
    The Midwest Regional made way for the Sooners best race of the season where Kevin Williams and Bill Kogel were able to find their way back in the top 10 alongside Patrick Casey who has been their steady no. 1 all season long. A first place tie was probably better than anyone expected (although OSU held out Erassa and Kipchirchir) and things seem to also be coming together nicely for the Sooners going into Nats. If Williams and Kogel peak right and Casey is his normal solid self they could possibly land 3 guys in the top 40. Riley Masters, Ryan Poland, Kyle King and Andy Weaver are all capable of being their no. 5 and the Sooners are looking at a possible top 5 team finish, but according to the rankings here, 7th place is probably the most feasible spot for them.
  8. Texas 
    The Longhorns looked good at the South Central regional taking home the first place honors and looking about as good as they have looked all season. Ryan Dohner seems to be running like the 6th place 10,000 guy on the track last season and Lutz is where he normally is alongside a much improved Rory Tunningley. The questions marks are MacGregor, Merber, and Van Ackeren. Can these guys do another 10k a week after the regional?  Considering that they are much better 1500 meter runners than 10k runners, it might be difficult to go back to back like they will have to at the National meet this weekend. If Merber and MacGregor can be a solid 4-5 at nationals, the Longhorns are not far off a possible podium finish, considering Dohner and Lutz need to be top 40 individually for this to happen.

  9. Arkansas 
    The Fearsome Threesome of Solomon Haile, Kemoy Campbell and Eric Fernandez have been stellar every race this season for the Hogs and will continue to be the reason why Arkansas is in the national picture. Campbell is a Jamaican, who was a two time JUCO National Champion at South Plains College in the 800 and Cross Country. That is some impressive range. Those three have switched up the order of 1-2-3 each meet, but they should all be found somewhere in the top 50 this weekend. The good news for Arkansas is that Layne Nixon looked much improved in the South Central regional helping bring up the 4 spot, but what has been the question mark for Arkansas all season is who and where their no. 5 runner will land. If Flynn (their #5) has a great day Arkansas could be higher than 9, but at this point look for Arkansas to be in the #8 or #9 range for their team finish.
  10. Tulsa 
    Tulsa may be the dark horse of all the teams in the top 10 of this list. They started the season at Notre Dame surprising most of the country by getting the win and Chris O'Hare taking home the individual honors (granted Lelei ran off course and quit after O'Hare passed him). Pre-Nats without O'Hare was not a great day for the Hurricane, but it did prove that they could have possibly found a no. 5 runner in Marc Scott. Conference USA is a weak conference and Tulsa rolled, but what is most interesting is that Tulsa was only a few points behind the first place tie between OSU and Oklahoma. With O'Hare looking at a possible top 10 finish (more likely 15 or 20) and Heyes and Pinheiro looking good at the right time, Tulsa could sneak in and beat some quality teams like Texas or Oklahoma. In all reality though, 10th place would be a great finish for this up and coming program.
  11. Northern Arizona 
    The Lumberjacks flew under everyone's radar by taking home the team title at the Mountain Regional this past weekend. Beating BYU and Colorado are some great scalps for NAU, but did they do too much too soon? NAU has a 1-2-3 punch that is equal to Arkansas' and by next year could be comparable to Wisconsin's. Futsum, Shrader, and McElroy are all solid and all capable of being All-Americans which will really help the team score for NAU. What also is good news is Hoover and Weitz both have improved steadily throughout the season to round out a nice top 5. Are they capable of top 10? Yes. Will they? Probably not. All the teams in front of them are too deep and will most likely have fresher legs, but don't be surprised to see them in the top 10.
  12. Portland 
    After a big win at the West Coast Conference meet and placing a solid 2nd at the West Regional the Pilots seem to be in great shape coming in to the National meet. Scott Fauble has been getting better all season and David Perry is a solid no. 2 runner. Lars Erik Malde has stepped up to be a solid #3 man for the Pilots, but the question mark lies in the no.4 and no. 5. If Kincaid can run as well as he did at conference and Jared Bassett can find the legs he had on the track in the steeple (he ran 8:47 last year), Portland could also find its way into the top 10. Especially after beating BYU, Portland now has the confidence that they can run with the top teams in the country and look for that to carry them into a nice finish at NCAAs this weekend.
  13. Florida State
    As is the case with many of the teams in this preview, Florida State has seemingly had a different no. 1 runner all season long. Between Jakub Zivec, David Forrester, and Breandon O'Neill the Seminoles have many options that can fill the #1 spot. In all honesty, Florida State is really deep and could surprise many teams this weekend. Wes Rickman, Seth Proctor, and Zak Seddon are all capable of placing in the top 80 and if that is the case and Forrester (#6 returner from NCAAs last year) rounds into nice form at the end of the season FSU is looking at a possible top 10 finish as well.
  14. Syracuse 
    Chris Fox always seems to have his team ready to roll at the right time (i.e. stomping 'Nova and G-Town at Big East) and look for this to be the case this weekend. Martin Hehir came off his conference win with a sub-par Regional race, but Griff Graves (father Tom was a teammate of Fox's at Auburn) looked better and Joe Whalen was also looking nice. The Orange were possibly holding back for a strong National finish. If this is the case, Fox's boys are also another viable option as a possible top-10 team. What is unfortunate is that there are so many good teams up front that it would take an amazing race from all of their guys and a poor race from others for that to happen

  15. Oregon
    Trevor Dunbar and Parker Stinson have been a very solid 1-2 punch for the Ducks throughout the course of the season and will continue to lead Oregon to a top 15 team place this weekend. Ben DeJarnette, who should be their no.3, has struggled since a nice 3rd place finish Dellinger, and needs to put together a nice 10k in order for the Ducks to move up from this ranking. Jeremy Elkaim (an 8:48 3200 meter guy in high school) and Matthew Melancon have improved nicely throughout the season and should round out their top 5 at NCAAs. Look for Dunbar and Stinson to be among the first handful of Americans to finish this weekend.
  16. Princeton 
    Jason Vigilante has done a great job this year getting his boys up for every meet that matters, especially after losing somone like Donn Cabral to graduation. Luckily, Vig had a nice pool of talent to get ready this year with the likes of Chris Bendtsen, Alejandro Arroyo Yamin, and Tyler Udland. After a Heps Championship, the Tigers somewhat struggled in the Mid-Atlantic regional, but they did enough during the season to get them through to the national meet just fine. Princeton has some solid runners up front including Bendtsen and Yamin who will help carry the load and lower their overall team score. Around the 15 range is a good spot for a solid Princeton program.
  17. Virginia
    Another team that has gone under the radar for most of the season are the Virginia Cavaliers. Virginia did not run very many big races early on in the year and looked mediocre at Wisconsin. The ACC Championships were not awesome for the Cavaliers, but the Southeast Regional was. Virginia is now full of momentum and confidence after getting the win in a pretty good region over some quality teams. Kyle King and Zach Gates, who was 4th at the Regional meet, are a real solid 1-2 and Thomas Porter and Mark Amirault (a Princeton transfer) are talented runners who could have big days to help push the Cavaliers into the 10-12 team finish range.
  18. Eastern Kentucky
    The Colonels of EKU are the big unknown this year. The only runner they have that the majority of reasonably informed cross country fans have heard of is Soufiane Bouchikhi. Beyond that EKU is full of a few pretty solid athletes who are capable of having big days and leading Eastern Kentucky past a few of the teams ranked higher than them. Ben Toroitich was their no. 1 runner at Wisconsin and Wade Neddles (an Azusa Pacific transfer and the lone American in their top 5) and Thijs Nijhuis have been solid for the Colonels in the 3-4 spot all season. Those athletes will be good safety nets as Bouchikhi does seem to take it out really hard every race. The one big problem is their no. 5 runner who placed 35th overall at the regional meet. If that stays true at the national meet, this seems like a fair spot to place Eastern Kentucky.
  19. Columbia
    Jake Sienko led his Lions to a solid 2nd place finish in the Northeast Regional by beating a very solid Syracuse team by 1 point. Granted Syracuse was probably holding back a little for Nationals, who is to say that Columbia was not doing the same? Leighton Spencer, Mike Murphy and Mark Feigen form a nice pack with Sienko and will help keep the team score low for Columbia. If Columbia's no. 5 can have a big day this is a team that could challenge for a top 15 finish. The problem is that every team could say the same thing, therefore Columbia comes in at  #19.
  20. Georgetown
    With the addition of Ayalew Taye in the mix with Mark Dennin, Andrew Springer, Ben Furcht and Darren Fahy, the Hoyas have a real solid 1-5. These are the 5 that led the Hoyas to a first place finish in the Mid-Atlantic region. If they can run just as well as they did in the Regional at the National meet, Georgetown could surprise a lot of people. The only real problem is that Georgetown has been very inconsistent all season long and we have yet to see Taye run well at the national meet. If Taye has a good day and Fahy does not run like a true freshman, the Hoyas could sneak up on a lot of teams and place near the top 10.
  21. New Mexico
    Coming off of a Mountain West Conference win, the Lobos ran a good enough race at the Mountain Regional to place 4th and get an at-large bid to the national meet. Luke Caldwell has been a nice addition to this team, coming in from England, and is now the teams leader alongside Sean Stam. Pat Zacharias, a transfer from Arizona, has also improved impressively during the season and Adam Bitchell, another transfer from England, has been good as well. Freshman Elmar Engholm, from Sweden, is the Lobo's no. 5 and is very talented (1:48 and 3:44 as a 17 year-old), but it looks like 10k is a pretty tough distance for him. If he can overcome that, he should be able to help New Mexico beat a few teams ranked higher than they are here.
  22. Georgia
    A 2nd place finish at the South Regional has given the Bulldogs some nice momentum going into Nationals weekend. This is the best Georgia team in years, Wayne Norton has done a great job, and their program is on the rise. Brandon Lord (14:03 5,000 PR) and Matt Cleaver (8:41 Steepler) along with Lucas Baker and Brian Detweiler have really stepped up their game this year and will help Georgia to a possible top 20 finish at the national meet.
  23. Villanova
    Villanova proved many people wrong this past weekend and placed 2nd in the Mid-Atlantic region and are looking much better after a sub-par showing at the Big East Championships. Sam McEntee, Jordy Williamsz (1:47 and 3:36 Australian) and Mathew Mildenhall have been the front runners for the Wildcats all season. Robert Denault is also a nice no. 4 runner. Villanova is a really talented team and have amazing upside this weekend. Led by Coach Marcus O'Sullivan, this Villanova squad could get Georgetown back after losing to them at the Big East and Mid-Atlantic Regional.
  24. Virginia Tech
    After a surprising ACC Championship, the Hokies followed that up with a 4th place finish in the Southeast Regional, but did enough to get themselves into the National meet this weekend. Va Tech has had a handful of runners step up in each race they have run all season to help them to strong team finishes. Leoule Degfae was their no. 2 at Pre-Nats and Brayden Burleigh and Thomas Curtin were 2-3 at the ACC meet. At the Southeast Regional, Michael Hammond was the no. 2 runner for the Hokies. Degfae has not run well recently and could be hurt, but if all four of those runners have great days and if their star Will Mulherin has a top 20 finish, the Hokies have a shot of beating many of the teams ranked ahead of them. It seems more likely that Va Tech peaked at the ACC meet and that the 20's is a nice spot to place the Hokies.
  25. Michigan 
    The Dan Lowry (5th year transfer from Brown) led Wolverines are coming off back to back losses to Wisconsin in the Big 10 Champs and the Great Lakes regional. Lowry was able to place high for Michigan in both those instances and got a little help from Mark Beams, Brandon Blacklaws, and Morsi Rayyan. Michigan has a solid program, but Lowry is really the only chance they have of placing anyone in the top 50 and the rest of their runners will probably place in the 80's-120s and the mid 20's is a nice spot for the Wolverines. Zach Ornelas is a quality athlete as well and might factor in if he runs up to par with how he did on the track last spring (29:46 10,000). If Mark Beams and Blacklaws have nice races, they could sneak past a few teams ahead of them.
  26. North Carolina StateThe return of Andrew Colley (he had an early injury) was much needed for a NC State program that was really struggling early on in the season. Along with the comeback of Colley, Matt Sonnenfeldt has also stepped up to be a solid no. 2 runner who was 9th in the Southeast Regional. Redshirt freshman Edward Crawford (9:09 3200 High School PR) also has come out of the woodwork to help this Wolfpack team qualify for the National Championships. The good news for NC State is that Colley's low stick will really help their overall team score.
  27. Indiana 
    The loss of Poors, Hubers, Dannenmiller and Turner were a big blow to this two-horse Hoosier program, but the amazing running of Zach Mayhew and Andy Bayer over the past few races (Mayhew winning the Big 10 meet and placing 2nd at the Great Lakes Region and Bayer getting 4th at the regional) has really kept their hopes alive for qualifying for the national meet. The Hoosiers have also found some decent depth through Adam Behnke and Robbie Nierman. Word on the street is Bayer is hurt, if this is the case this is definitely the right spot to place Indiana, but if he's fine and it's just a rumor, the low sticks of Mayhew and Bayer will really help keep this Indiana team out of the cellar.
  28. UCLA 
    The emergence of sophomore Lane Werley  as this teams leader and no. 1 runner has really had a positive impact on this team's confidence and along with Forrest Braden's solid coaching, the Bruins have qualified for the national meet as a team for the first time since 2008. Beating Oregon and placing 3rd at the West Regional was a huge accomplishment for UCLA and will look to improve upon their solid showing there. Lane Werley (8:53 3200m HS PR) has been unreal this season placing 5th at the Regional meet and Pac-12 Championships Dustin Fay, Nohe Lema, and Dustin MacDonald will provide a nice 2-3-4, the question is where the 5 will finish up. If he can stay out of the 150's they will look to move up from #28.
  29. Notre Dame
    Notre Dame has had quite an up and down season with a solid showing at their home invite; to a not so solid finish at Wisconsin. They also had a 5th place finish in a not-so-great Great Lakes region, which lead them into an at-large bid for the National meet this weekend. Without leader Jeremy Rae, the Irish struggled a little, but Martin Grady stepped up in his absence. After a few kilometers into the Regional meet, Rae stepped of the course with an injury. If he's healthy this Irish squad is much better than 29th, if not, this is where they should end up.
  30. Duke
    A quality showing at the Pre-Nats meet along with a good enough performance at Conference and Regionals, gets the Blue Devils an at-large bid for the 3rd time in 4 years. Led by Mike Moverman, Duke does have a solid core of athletes behind him who have helped keep Duke a top 30 program all season long. If the likes of Dominick Robinson and James Kostelnik have great races they could surprise with a better than 30th place finish.
  31. Michigan State
    Last and could be least the Michigan State Spartans somehow squeaked their way in to the national meet by getting an at-large bid after being pushed in by Notre Dame. McAlary, Wilson, Madrigal and Rhynard are all solid runners that will be the leading force for this Spartan squad. The #5 on this team is a huge question mark and will be a big factor in their scoring if he joins the 200 club. 

Predicted Top 50 Individuals at Nationals

  1. Lawi Lalang                     Arizona
  2. Kennedy Kithuka             Texas Tech
  3. Stephen Sambu                Arizona
  4. Henry Lelei                      Texas A&M
  5. Anthony Rotich                UTEP
  6. Mo Ahmed                      Wisconsin
  7. Paul Chelimo                    UNC-Greensboro
  8. Jared Ward                      BYU
  9. Girma Mecheso               Oklahoma State
  10. Chris O'Hare                   Tulsa
  11. Mitch Goose                    Iona
  12. Zach Mayhew                  Indiana
  13. Shadrack Kipchirchir       Oklahoma State
  14. Andrew Colley                 NC State
  15. David Rooney                  McNeese State
  16. Trevor Dunbar                 Oregon
  17. Maverick Darling             Wisconsin
  18. Tom Farrell                      Oklahoma State
  19. Soufiane Bouchikhi           Eastern Kentucky
  20. Patrick Casey                  Oklahoma
  21. Andy Bayer                     Indiana
  22. Travis Mahoney               Temple
  23. Jake Hurysz                     Colorado
  24. Matt Gillespie                   Iona
  25. Jakub Zivec                      Florida State
  26. Dan Lowry                       Michigan
  27. Eric Fernandez                 Arkansas
  28. Parker Stinson                  Oregon
  29. Ryan Dohner                    Texas
  30. Breandan O'Neill              Florida State
  31. Lane Werley                     UCLA
  32. Craig Lutz                         Texas
  33. Solomon Haile                  Arkansas
  34. Will Mulherin                    Virginia Tech
  35. Joe Rosa                          Stanford
  36. Reed Connor                    Wisconsin
  37. Futsum Zienasellassie         NAU
  38. Kirubel Erassa                  Oklahoma State
  39. Scott Fauble                      Portland
  40. Brian Shrader                    NAU
  41. Martin Hehir                     Syracuse
  42. Tylor Thatcher                   BYU
  43. Shane Moskowitz             Oklahoma State
  44. Kemoy Campbell              Arkansas
  45. Kyle King                         Virginia
  46. Blake Theroux                  Colorado
  47. Andy Heyes                      Tulsa
  48. Nate Jewkes                     Southern Utah
  49. Mark Dennin                    Georgetown
  50. Mark Parrish                     Florida
  51. Sam McEntee                   Villanova

Women's NCAA National Championship Preview and Predictions
-Shout out to my brother Sam who helped me put this together for those of you who have asked me to do a women's preview for a while - Isaac Wood

1. Florida State –
This squad has often been looked at as the favorite when Nationals come around, but they have never been able to seal the deal. This year they have looked exceptionally tough with their pack running. Violah Lagat(yes, sister of Bernard) has been very good finishing first in the Region meet. Colleen Quigley and Amanda Winslow have had very solid seasons as well. Although they are not an overwhelming favorite, it would be a mild surprise if they weren’t at the top of the podium on Saturday.

2. Oregon – 
Oregon has looked good all year long, but have to be considered on the rise with the West Regional Championship and an individual crown for Jordan Hasay. Considering the fact that Hasay beat previously unbeatable Laura Hollander, they have to be licking their chops in Eugene. Allie Woodward has been coming on all year, and Dartmouth transfer Alexi Pappas will attempt to regain the mojo she had early on in the year. If they can do this, they will make a real hard run at the podium.

3. Iowa State –
Iowa State has been led all year by standout Betsy Saina. Saina has always been very tough on the track, but a little more suspect as a harrier. This year however it looks like Saina might be coming into form just at the right time. Although she got beat at Wisconsin by Laura Hollander, Saina has cruised through conference and regionals with easy victories. The Cyclones will also look for a big run from Meaghan Nelson. The depth of Iowa State has looked strong all year until this last weekend. If the remaining Cyclones can return to their mid-season form, they could also make a run at the top spot.

4. Stanford -
Stanford’s team is a who’s who of former high school standouts. This year Kathy Kroeger has stepped up in her own right at the top of the collegiate running scene. Having won the Pac-12 championship has to give her a shot at a top-5 finish for the senior. She was followed by Cayla Hatton and Aisling Cuffe in the regional. Jessica Tonn has been a very strong #4 runner for them, but had a bit of a rough race at the regional. If she can step up with a strong race and a #5 emerges, we like them fora shot at the podium.

5. Washington – 
Last spring Katie Flood and Megan Goethals were premiere racers around the track. This fall has been more up and down than some may have previously suspected. Washington is very deep and talented, and if Greg Metcalf has been priming them for the nationals, they could come up and surprise people. We are banking on strong races from the likes of Flood, Goethals and Flanagan as a reason they can overachieve and bank a top 5 finish.

6. Arizona –
The Wildcats are a squad that has been led all season by Elvin Kibet and Jennifer Bergman. Elvin Kibet ran great through the mid-season and had a strong conference meet. However, Kibet struggled into 12th place at the Western Regional. Perhaps she was saving herself and can get back to form and contend for a top 10 position. Bergman perhaps had a breakthrough at the regionals with a nice 4th place finish. If the two of them can run stride for stride up front, Arizona’s depth could help them get to the podium.

7. Providence –
Providence has two of the most talented runners in the race in Emily Sisson and freshman Sarah Collins. Sisson has been slowly coming along this season and has very strong track credentials. Collins has taken the #1 role this year for the Friars and has had strong races at Wisconsin and the Big East conference meet. Laura Nagel and Shelby Greaney are very quality runners that also add to the intrigue that Providence brings to the dance on Saturday. If Sisson can run with the leaders and a #5 emerges for their team, they could be in the mix when the results are announced.

8. Michigan – 
The Wolverines broke on to the scene with a dominating performance in a suspect Great Lakes Regional. Led by former high school standout Jillian Smith, Michigan placed 5 runners in the top 13 places. With a tight group, the Wolverines will hope that their grouping can help them gain ground in the national championship race with other teams that have very suspect fifth runners.

9. Georgetown –
The Hoyas have lost their coach and many of the athletes that led them to a surprise victory at last year’s NCAA Championship in Terre Haute. However, many of the athletes competing on Saturday know what it is like to bring home the big prize. If they can summon the 2011 Georgetown team, they could be more in the mix than we are currently giving them credit for. Look for Madeline Chambers to lead the pack and Katrina Coogan to contribute. Coogan was key to their victory last year, so she seems to have the big-race mentality that the Hoyas will need on Saturday.

10. Penn State – 
The Nittany Lions are coming off a nice victory over Georgetown and Villanova at the Regional. Having never been a powerhouse in women’s cross country, Penn State has done a nice job of being a national player this year. A top 10 finish for them would be a great accomplishment. If Rebekkah Simko can run like she did at the Big 10 meet, then she could pair with Tori Perri and Brooklyne Ridder to climb closer to the top 5.

  1. Jordan Hasay – Oregon
  2. Betsy Saina – Iowa State
  3. Aliphine Tuliamuk – Bolton – Wichita State
  4. Laura Hollander – Cal Poly
  5. Abbey D’Agostino – Dartmouth
  6. Risper Kimaiyo – UTEP
  7. Kathy Kroeger- Stanford
  8. Violah Lagat – Florida State
  9. Alexi Pappas – Oregon
  10. Shalaya Kipp – Colorado
  11. Amber Henry – Weber State
  12. Elvin Kibet – Arizona
  13. Meaghan Nelson – Iowa State
  14. Cally Macumber – Kentucky
  15. Emily Lipari – Villanova
  16. Colleen Quigley - Florida State
  17. Megan Goethals – Washington
  18. Nicki Adande – Villanova
  19. Juliet Bottorff – Duke
  20. Sara Sutherland – Texas
  21. Sarah Collins – Providence
  22. Catherine White – Virginia
  23. Emily Sisson – Providence
  24. Julie Accurso – Ohio U
  25. Marielle Hall – Texas
  26. Jillian Smith- Michigan
  27. Amanda Mergaert – Utah
  28. Cayla Hatton- Stanford
  29. Allie Woodward- Oregon
  30. Amanda Winslow- Florida State

We see the race playing out much like the Western Regional did. Hollander taking the race out strong
and hoping that she can build an insurmountable lead. The veterans Hasay, Saina and Tuliamuk will
need to keep a close eye on the freshman in order to allow themselves a shot at the title. Abbey
D’Agostino is the real wild card here, as she has missed many meets this season due to injury. Her
5k personal best is the best in the group, and she should not be discounted as a potential champion.
Watch for potential wildcards in Alexi Pappas, Allie Woodward, Violah Lagat, Colleen Quigley and
Meaghan Nelson, as they will be running for more than just individual glory, but for a chance at a team
championship as well. We are going to take the veteran Hasay for the win to break the Foot Locker
curse. With Hasay’s 1500 meter speed, we are going to predict that she can outkick either Saina and
Tuliamuk if they are close.

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*