Wednesday, July 31, 2013

NCAA XC Top 31 Countdown: Men's #23- Villanova

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

Head Coach: Marcus O'Sullivan (14th Season)
2012 National Finish- 27th

Key Returners from 2012
  • Sam McEntee (Jr., 3:36.81 1500m, 3:57 Mile, 7:54 Open 3k, 14:19 5k)
  • Jordy Williamsz (So., 3:36 1500m, 4:00 Mile, 8:04 Open 3k)
  • Robert Denault (So., 3:41 1500m, 3:59 Mile, 8:15 Open 3k)
Impact Recruits/Transfers
  • Ben Malone (Fr., 3:46 1500m, 4:11 1600m, 9:12 2 Mile, NXN Nats Finalist)
  • Patrick Tiernan (Fr., 8:11 Open 3k, 3 X Australian Junior XC Champ, 14:40 5k)
Season Preview

After a very good Mid-Atlantic Region race in 2012 where the Wildcats were one point away from tying for first place with Georgetown, the wheels fell off at NCAAs and they saw themselves finish 27th as a team. Villanova will have an opportunity in 2013 to redeem themselves from that with five of their top seven returning and most of them coming off of career track seasons. 

Villanova returns one of the deepest and strongest 1500m programs in the country. The question that always comes along with metric milers is if they have the range to run 8k and 10k (10k is the real kicker). Maybe a reason why the Wildcats struggled in Louisville was because their team is stock full of 1500m runners and the jump to 10k is too difficult. If that were the case though, then there is no way they would have run as well as they did for 10k at the Mid-Atlantic Regional. 

With a fresh season ahead of us all of these questions will be answered, the good news for Wildcat fans is that they have a legendary coach in Marcus O'Sullivan to guide this group of milers. He knows a thing or two about middle distance runners.

Sam McEntee is the returning no. 1 man and leader of this team and is coming off of a very good track season. Although he was not able to improve upon his 3:36 1500m PR of '12 (brutally tough to ever duplicate that performance), McEntee did reach the NCAA 1500m final for the second year and placed seventh overall. He should be able to ride that momentum into a solid summer of training. If he can keep his miles up and stay healthy that jump to 10k will suit him just fine (as he proved at the regional). 

Jordy Williamsz was the star recruit of last seasons class for the Wildcats and was a solid contributor as a no. 2-4 runner. He, like McEntee, had a great regional where he placed fourth overall and ran a solid 30:35 on grass. This proves he has the range to go up to 10k, he just needs to do it on back to back races. If Williamsz can figure that out, he has the ability and talent to roll right with McEntee and should prove a very good no.2. 

The wildcard for this team lies in Robert Denault of Canada. Like McEntee, Denault was able to reach the NCAA Championship in the 1500m where he finished 18th in the country. It is always good to start summer training, looking ahead toward xc, after a very good end to a track season. Denault will be critical to the success of this team if he can prove his range in the latter portions of the season. 

Villanova has two very good recruits in Ben Malone and Patrick Tiernan. Malone ended up being one of the nation's best 1500m runners (go figure) in the country last track season as a prep where he ran 3:46. Malone has had some quality cross country experience in high school. Ben qualified for NXN Nationals and had to struggle through the mud and rain where he did not have the race he expected. This kind of experience will be very helpful to the Villanova 1-5 as he has a chance to break into that group and be an impact player. 

Patrick Tiernan, from the moment he steps on campus, could be the best true cross country guy on the team. His three junior xc championships in Australia proves he is capable over the long distances on grass and his track PRs are very good for his age group. Tiernan is an instant-offense kind of recruit that could put himself in the no. 3 spot the very first real race of the season. In fact, by the end of the season, we could see Tiernan challenging McEntee as the no. 1 runner for the Wildcats. 

Other athletes such as Brian Basili (if he can come back from his crazy broken arm over the steeple barrier in time) and Alex Tully were solid contributors in cross country for Villanova in 2012 and should be in the mix of their top seven where they will be critical to keeping the 1-5 spread as grouped as possible. 

The Mid-Atlantic Regional is always tough and Villanova will once again need to figure out how hard to go at Regionals to make sure they save themselves for a good run at the Big Dance. With Coach O'Sullivan leading this team, that should be no problem and these metric milers could show the long-distance guys that they have some range too in Terre Haute. 

NCAA XC Top 31 Countdown: Women's #23 Cornell

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

Head Coach: Artie Smith (15th Season)
2012 National Finish- 13th

Key Returners from 2012
  • Rachel Sorna (Sr., 9:12 Open 3k, 15:53 5k, 9:50 3k Steeple, 33:34 10k)
  • Emily Shearer (Sr., 9:17 Open 3k)
  • Devin McMahon (Sr., 16:37 5k, 34:04 10k)
  • Caroline Kellner (So., 9:37 Open 3k, 16:23 5k)
  • Dina Iacone (So., 16:56 5k, 35:35 10k)
  • Claire DeVoe (So., 10:20 3k Steeple)

Season Preview

Of all of the rankings and previews that have been done so far the Cornell Women's Cross Country team could be the most underrated. Cornell ran out of their minds in Louisville last season where they qualified for the championships for the first time since 2001 and made their best of the situation. Their 13th overall team finish was the best this team has finished since 1993. 

Coach Artie Smith is a very good developer of his athletes and has proved himself with the women he has coming back for 2013. With six of the nine girls that competed on the Ivy League HEPS Conference Championship winning team in 2012, Cornell is back and could be better than ever. 

Rachel Sorna and Emily Shearer are the two front-runners returning for the Big Red that will assume their role once again in 2013. Sorna had a very good indoor and outdoor track season where she finished 11th at the NCAA Indoor Championships in the 5000m (she ran 15:59 and was the first time she did not finish in the top ten all season) and fourth at the NCAA Championships in the 3k Steeple. Sorna is almost a lock (no one is ever a lock in xc though) to be an All-American. 

Emily Shearer was so unbelievably consistent in 2012 and that is what makes her so valuable to this team. Shearer was 2nd at the HEPS Conference meet and was 15th overall at the Northeast Regional. A mediocre NCAA meet will bring her back motivated and ready to finish the season off strong. 

Caroline Kellner and Devin McMahon are both extremely solid no. 3-4 runners and would be a lot of teams in the NCAAs 1-2. Both have mid-16 minute 5k PRs and have pretty good range. If these two can stay healthy that will keep the Big Red spread very tight. 

A no. 5 runner will be essential to find for Cornell in 2012. If they can find a good fifth, Cornell should be looking at repeat HEPS titles and a shot at the top 10 at NCAAs. The concern, and this is where the ranking comes in, is if they can find one. 

Some good options are Dina Iacone and and Claire Devoe. Devoe had a good outdoor track season where she qualified for the East Regional in the 3k Steeple. Iacone will need to improve upon her outdoor track season in order for her to take the no. 5 spot. 

If one of these two athletes or anyone else that comes out of the very good Big Red depth can fill the hole in the place of the fifth runner, Cornell will be one to watch for in 2013. Granted the Northeast Regional is a beast with Providence, Uconn, Harvard, Boston College, and Syracuse all vying for a spot at the Big Dance. But with the amazing depth and the quality returners that Cornell has, they are going to put a lot fear into the coaches of the perennial powers in the Northeast Region.  

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

NCAA XC Top 31 Countdown: Men's #24- Virginia Tech

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

Virginia Tech
Head Coach: Ben Thomas (13th Season)
2012 National Finish- 22nd

Key Returners from 2012
  • Thomas Curtin (Jr., 8:07 Open 3k, 13:58, 30:07)
  • Leoule Degfae (Sr., 3:46, 14:08, 29:45)
Impact Recruits/Transfers
  • Patrick Joseph (Fr., 4:06, 9:19)
  • Neil Gourley (Fr., Scottish National Champion, 3:50 1500m)
Season Preview

Similarly to the women's #24 Florida, Virginia Tech brings back only a few of their top seven from 2012 and lose their critical no. 1 runner and low stick. The loss of Will Mulherin is huge. Mulherin spent the majority of the 2012 season in the top five of the races he ran and had a good nationals race which helped propel their team finish from high 20s to 22nd. 

Without Mulherin, the Hokies also need to find a leader among the small group of returnees. Among this group are several very experienced cross country runners who have the track times to back up what they are capable of doing out on the course.

Leoule Degfae is the man with the best 10k PR returning who also was a solid asset for Va Tech throughout the 2012 season. Degfae has good leg speed, but also has good range which will help him as the season wears on. When others legs are tired during a long season, Degfae should be able to step up and lead the Hokies. 

Thomas Curtin is also another consistent harrier and should be looked at as a challenger to Degfae for the no. 1 spot. With a better 5k PR, but a lacking 10k PR, it will be interesting to see who is able to go longer between the two. 

A solid recruiting class was drawn in by coach Thomas and will be utilized right away. UK transfer Neil Gourley will be counted on from the get go to help fill the void left by Mulherin and Brayden  Burleigh, and Michael Hammond. Gourley has some good xc credentials along with a solid 1500m PR. He seems to be a similar type runner as Degfae is, which will benefit him as Ben Thomas is good at turning 1500m types into good xc runners. Patrick Joseph is a 4:06 1600m kid and if Thomas can do the same for him, the Hokies will be ready to roll on the big stage. 

In order to make the Big Dance, Va Tech must stay healthy. If any of the above names get hurt, it could get ugly real fast for the Hokies. Losing Brayden Burleigh (transferred to Shippensburg) will hurt the Hokies,  but differently than Mulherin does. Burleigh was up and down throughout the season, but had a lot of upside. 

If that situation arises, Brian Welch, Ryan Kuhns, or Jared Berman are some other guys who will be called upon to step up. 

Virginia Tech has the talent to get to Terre Haute and if their core guys can take care of themselves, they will be looking at another flight to Indianapolis. 

NCAA XC Top 31 Countdown: Women's #24- Florida

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

Head Coach: Mike Holloway (7th Season)
2012 National Finish- 23rd

Key Returners from 2012
  • Agata Strausa (Sr., 4:11, 16:09, 10:21 3k Steeple)
  • Cory McGee (Sr., 4:06.67, 9:15, 16:21)
  • Shelby Hayes (Sr., 4:19, 9:43)
  • Stephanie Strasser (Sr., 4:23, 16:59, 10:19 3k Steeple)
Season Preview

The reigning SEC champion and national-qualifying Gators return four of the their top seven for the 2013 season. The fact that Florida finished 23rd as a team in 2012 and lose their number one does not immediately scream a solid returning team for this next season, but here is how they will still be a very good team.  

The Gators do lose solid and steady no. 1 Florence Ngetich to graduation. Without her leadership, they desperately need someone to step up and fill her role as a leader and as a low-stick. 

All of the options that Florida has to become their new no. 1 runner are 1500m runners. In fact, there might not be a better 1500m crew in the country than what the Gators currently have in Gainesville. 

Here is the skinny. Agata Strausa has been one of the more consistent metric milers in all of the land for the past few years and has very good xc experience and range (see PRs above) and is the most logical person to lead the Gators. 

Shelby Hayes has good PRs and looks to have some decent range that will come in handy for the longer-than-1500m-6k that these women run. Stephanie Strasser is more suited for cross country and will need to be a solid no. 3-4 in order to keep the spread tight. Julie Macedo, a redshirt freshman and multiple time Delaware State champ, is a cross country runner who happens to run track (unlike the majority of the team) and could make a splash into the Gators top five as the season goes on. 

The real question mark lies in 1500m World Championship qualifier Cory McGee. Now, McGee did not run cross country in 2012, and has struggled a bit on the cross country course in her career. But,one thing that has been prominent recently, is that more and more metric milers have been able to step up in distance and be quality cross country runners. Amanda Mergaert of Utah finished 14th (4:13 PR) and Shelby Houlihan of Arizona State finished 31st (4:13 PR), in 2012, proving that the going from 1.5k to 6k is not all that hard.

McGee will need to be smart making her way back from the World Champs in order to be even a factor in the Gator top seven. If that is the case and she is able to return in time for the important races in cross, there is no doubt that she is capable of All-American at Nationals (similar to how Shalaya Kipp did it in 2012). 

With a very deep and tough South Regional, Florida will need to be on their game early in order to earn the credential points to be sure to qualify for the National Championships. If McGee can get back in time to help, with Strausa, Strasser, and Hayes, this team has a solid four and when a five makes it's way through their depth, the Gators are going to surprise many in Terre Haute.  

Monday, July 29, 2013

NCAA XC Top 31 Countdown: Men's #25- Columbia

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

Head Coach: Willy Wood (20th Season)
2012 National Finish- 17th

Key Returners from 2012
  • Jake Sienko (Sr., 14:20, 29:55)
  • Daniel Everett (Jr., 3:42, 13:57)
  • Nico Composto (Sr., 14:13, 29:42)
  • Byron Jones (Sr., 3:45, 14:41)
  • John Gregorek (Sr., 3:42 1500m, 8:52 3k Steeple)
  • Joe Kotran (Sr., 8:11 Open 3k, 8:55 3k Steeple)
Impact Recruits/Transfers
  • Jack Boyle (Fr., 2 X NXN Nat'l Finalist, 8:55 3200m)
  • Max Norris (Fr., Foot Locker Finalist '12 (17th), 4:12 1600m, 8:25 Open 3k)
Season Preview

At first glance the reigning Northeast Regional runners up do not look like they should be that good in 2013. Only three of their top seven return from their 17th place team at nationals (program's all-time best) and two of the three were their no. 6 and 7. But after reading the load of guys coming back in the "key returners" section above, one can see how they could be just as good if not better than the 2012 team.

Somehow, especially recently, Willy Wood has done an incredible job putting together quality cross country programs, and now with experienced xc runners Nicole Blood and Delilah Dicrescenzo (that names sounds familiar) as volunteer coaches, they will bring even more insight and experience to add to an already solid coaching staff. 

Jake Sienko is the returning top dog for the Lions and is going to be a good no. 1 runner in his senior year. Sienko was a proven 1-3 man for Columbia last season and always ran well when it mattered. 

Daniel Everett did not have the most amazing xc season in '12, but turned it around in track where he ran very good PRs of 3:42 1500m and 13:57 5000m. If these times can translate to solid cross country performances, Columbia all of a sudden has a good 1-2 punch. 

Tack on a slew of other veteran runners with good track credentials and this team could be one of the most underrated teams in the country going into the 2013 season, especially as depth is concerned. It will be interesting to see how John Gregorek and Joe Kotran do in xc coming off of the best track seasons of their careers. Nico Composto is a veteran xc runner and will be needed to solidify their 1-5 pack. 

To add to this already deep program are a ton of good prep runners coming to the Big Apple to compete for Columbia. The best of these is Jack Boyle who is a sub-9 minute 3200m kid (8:55) and was the no. 1 runner on one of the country's perennial powers Christian Brothers Academy. This kind of of quality post-season high school cross country experience will aid his ability to be a scorer for the Lions.

Considering all of this it seems likely that Columbia could prove this #25 ranking as way too low and make big jumps in the rankings as the season wears on. The only thing holding them back is the likelihood of a tough, tough Northeast Regional with Syracuse and Iona returning many of their big guns. Columbia barely beat out Syracuse for the auto-qualifier in 2012 and will need to have a very good regional to make the Big Dance automatically. 

But do not doubt these Lions, they are re-loaded and very dangerous. 

NCAA XC Top 31 Countdown Women's #25- North Carolina State

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

North Carolina State
Head Coach: Laurie Henes (8th Season)
2012 National Finish- N/A

Key Returners from 2012
  • Laura Hoer (Sr., 9:33 Open 3k,16:29)
  • Joanna Thompson (Jr., 16:13, 33:49)
  • Samantha George (So., 4:25, 9:38)
  • Samantha Norman (Sr., 4:27, 10:15 3k Steeple)

Season Preview

After being one of the first teams not to qualify for the 2012 National Championships in Louisville, NC State returns in 2013 with stronger, more experienced runners, and one harrier ready to finish off her career the right way. 

A third place finish in any regional championship does not necessarily always mean you will advance to the big dance, but generally if you have planned the season correctly and earned enough credential points, your team moves on. In the case of NC State in 2012, they just did not have enough points to get their squad there. Now motivated more than ever before this Wolfpack is loaded with veterans that should be able to do just that. 

Joanna Thompson is the teams returning leader after a quite successful and break-out year as a sophomore. Thompson was able to place high in the ACC and Southeast Regional championships for the Pack. Thompson also had a very good track season turning in nice times in the 5k and 10k which generally proves to be a good sign the following cross country season. 

The two Samantha's, George and Norman, are also very experienced cross country runners with solid track credentials, that will be essential to this teams success. There is nothing more important than having a front-runner and a pack to follow that can keep the spread tight. George and Norman will be counted on to do just that. The two runners come from different sides of the distance running spectrum George more of a mid-distance type, and Norman more of a 5k runner, but both will need to step up in order for this team to make a splash at NCAAs. 

The darkhorse of this team is Laura Hoer. Now some of you may not have heard of Hoer because she has been off of the radar for a few years battling injuries. Hoer is back for her senior year and is capable of some outstanding things. She has been All-American (2010), the Southeast Regional Champion (2010), All-Southeast Region (2010, 2011) and boasts some very quality track PRs. 

For the Wolfpack to make a legitimate push to qualify out of the Southeast Regional in 2013, Hoer will need to be healthy and use her strong xc racing experience to help push the pace up front with Joanna Thompson. With Duke being loaded and William and Mary also very good, NC State will need to earn the points necessary to move on. 

Hopefully 2013 is not a repeat of 2012 and the Wolfpack can run well early on and do what is necessary to get this quality program back to Terre Haute in November. 

Sunday, July 28, 2013

NCAA XC Top 31 Countdown: Women's #26- Iowa State

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

Iowa State
Head Coach: Andrea Grove-McDonough (1st Season)
2012 National Finish- 11th

Key Returners from 2012
  • Samantha Bluske (Sr., 16:22, 34:16)
  • Katy Moen (Jr., 16:34, 35:17)
  • Crystal Nelson (So., 16:31, 35:47)
  • Colleen Riley (So., 4:35 1500, 10:42 3k Steeple)
Impact Recruits/Transfers
  • Erin Hooker (Fr., 4 X NXN Nats qualifer, 11th NXN '11, 25th, '12, 10:25 3200m (alt.time))

Season Preview

The Women Cyclones are in a similar situation as the men heading into the 2013 season with Coach Ihmels out and Martin Smith in. The bad news is that Betsy Saina and Meghan Nelson are gone, the good news is the Coach Smith is a proven winner and will coach this team back to the National Championships without the two of them. 

Iowa State looks to have four solid athletes returning from their top seven at Nats and Regionals, and although they are not their 1-2, they make up the core pack runners that every team so desperately needs. 

The no. 1 returner for the Cyclones is Crystal Nelson, who was their solid no. 3 for the majority of the season behind Saina and the other Nelson. This Nelson, who did not have quite as good of a track season as Bluske, is now a sophomore and has a year of NCAA XC experience under her belt which will prove useful as she is now turned to as a leader to help the Cyclones get to Terre Haute. 

Samantha Bluske, who finished right behind Nelson in seemingly every race in '12, is also back and will provide veteran leadership that this team loses with Saina and Nelson gone. Bluske had a good track season where she brought down her 5k and 10k PRs and qualified to the West Regional in both events. 

Katy Moen and Colleen Riley are both experienced cross country runners and will play important roles in the 1-5 of Iowa State. Moen has good 5k and 10k PRs and if she can translate her track times into solid xc running, she will be a good no. 3 runner.

The prize recruit for the Cyclones is Erin Hooker of perennial powerhouse Fort Collins, Colorado. Hooker has been one of the better xc runners in the country for the past few seasons and ran well at NXN in 2011 and 2012. Having thus been the no. 1 runner on one of the best teams in the country two years in a row, Hooker will prove to be another good asset to their 1-5 and could find herself in the 2-3 role as the season progresses. In fact, you never know with her upside, she could end up leading Iowa State into the national championships. 

The returning Midwest  Regional champs have some work to do to defend their title as Minnesota is reloaded and Oklahoma State has some very strong front-runners. Although this is a difficult region, Iowa State should acquire enough credential points early in the season to make the National Championships in Terre Haute in November. 

NCAA XC Top 31 Countdown: Men's #26- Washington

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

Head Coach: Greg Metcalf (12th Season)
2012 National Finish- N/A

Key Returners from 2012
  • Tyler King (So., 8:07 Open 3k, 14:00)
  • Aaron Beattie (Jr., 14:16, 30:20)
  • Aaron Nelson (Jr., 8:52 3k Steeple)
  • Meron Simon (Jr., 4:04 Mile, 8:16 Open 3k)
Impact Recruits/Transfers
  • Jacob Smith (So., Univ. of Portland no. 5 in 2012, 4:10 1600m, 9:01 3200m)
  • Andrew Gardner (Fr., 4:09, 8:54, 3X Foot Locker Finals Qualifer: 11th in '12, 6th in '11, 4th in '10)
  • Sumner Goodwin (Fr., 8:58, 2X NXN Nats Qualifer: 7th in '12)
Season Preview

It must be hard to be on the Men's Cross Country team at Washington and watch your women's team roll, year after year. For the first time since 2009, this team looks prepared and full of veteran athletes ready to make the push for Terre Haute, like their women's team does every year.

Washington returns several experienced cross country runners who must step up for this team to find success in 2013. Tyler King was their best 5k runner on the track in the spring having run 14:00. Aaron Nelson was a nice surprise in the steeple getting a nice PR of 8:52 as well. Aaron Beattie and Meron Simon are both good track guys who need to translate their track ability to the xc course in order to solidfy the Husky pack. 

The great news for Washington is that Greg Metcalf has signed one of the best recruiting classes they have had in years along with some key transfers. Without these recruits and transfers the Huskies would have a rough time qualifying for Terre Haute. 

Two of the best cross country runners in the state of Washington over the past few seasons both decided to sign at UW (although Gardner initially signed with Air Force). Sumner Goodwin is a proven xc runner and has qualified to NXN Nationals two straight years. He placed seventh overall in 2012 (brutally tough course too). 

Andrew Gardner of Mead High School is a college-ready impact recruit. Gardner has qualified for Foot Locker Finals every year since he was a sophomore in high school. Gardner has outstanding track PRs (see above) and is one of the few incoming freshman that one could consider instant-offense. 

The great news just gets better for Washington as two University of Portland runners: Jacob Smith and Izaic Yorks decided to transfer to UW. Jacob Smith was the no. 5 runner on the Portland team that finished 12th at Nationals. Smith is capable of being the guy that pushes this team into the national meet with his experience last season and renewed motivation at a new school and program.

If the Goodwin, Gardner and Smith make the impacts that on this UW team that they are capable of making, this team will surprise a lot of teams in the West regional, where they should be able to cruise on to Terre Haute. 

Saturday, July 27, 2013

NCAA XC Top 31 Countdown: Women's #27- New Mexico

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

New Mexico
Head Coach: Joe Franklin (7th Season)
2012 National Finish- 10th

Key Returners from 2012
  • Charlotte Arter (Sr., 4:16,16:20)
  • Kirsten Follett (Jr., 16:45)
  • Chloe Anderson (Sr., 4:19)
  • Janna Mitsos (Sr., 16:28)
Impact Recruits/Transfers
  • Joanne Harvey (Sr., 4:17, 9;13 Open 3k)
Season Preview

Only three of the top seven girls from 2012s 10th place team return for 2013 and the bad news for all the teams in the Mountain West and the Mountain regional is that these Lobos could be just as good this year as last. Granted they are ranked #27 going into the season, purely due to the fact that only one of the returners from 2012 actually scored for New Mexico at the big time meets. 

Never fear Lobo fans, with Joe Franklin at the helm, your teams will always reload. Franklin is the master of finding recruits to come to Albuquerque at the blink of an eye from the U.K. (or anywhere else) and instantly make an impact in their top five. 

With Charlotte Arter returning for her senior year to lead the Lobos she must take on the leadership role that Imogen Ainsworth performed so well in during the 2012 season. Arter is coming off of a good track season where she finished 14th overall in the 1500m. With her ability in cross and her range on the track she can be dangerous and will be counted on to lead this somewhat inexperienced crew. 

Chloe Anderson also returns for the Lobos with momentum after having a very good year on the track in comparison to her cross country season. Anderson struggled to find a rhythm in cross during the 2012 season, but hit her stride (literally) during the spring outdoor track season where she found herself at the Outdoor National Championships in the 1500m and placed 15th individually. If she can be the athlete she was in track out on the xc course, she will be a significant force at the front of the pack.

Follett and Mitsos both had outstanding track seasons with the two of the breaking huge PRs in the 5000m and will be looked up on to anchor the Lobos 1-5 and keep the spread as close as possible. 

The one harrier who could make the biggest impact in 2013 is Joanne Harvey who did not compete in 2012. A transfer from Devon, England, Harvey finished third overall at the World Junior Cross Country Championships in 2010 and was fourth at the British Universities Cross Country meet in 2010 as well. If she can jump right into the mix and perform like she did during the her 2010 xc season, she will make a huge contribution up front. 

With this team looking as good as they do, it is actually hard to see them finishing this far behind, but the key to this group is consistency. New Mexico must find a solid 1-5 that can be counted on to perform at a high level in all the big races. If that does happen, these Lobos could better their 2012 national finish of 10th place and blow this #27 ranking out of the water. 

NCAA XC Top 31 Countdown: Men's #27- Michigan

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

Head Coach: Alex Gibby (4th Season)
2012 National Finish- 23rd

Key Returners from 2012
  • Mark Beams (Sr., 14:06, 29:36)
  • Brendon Blacklaws (Sr., 3:46, 8:08 Open 3k)
  • Morsi Rayyan (Sr., 13:57, 29:43)
  • Mason Ferlic (So., 8:41 3k Steeple, 14:15)
Impact Recruits/Transfers
  • Connor Mora (Fr., 4:09 Mile, Foot Locker Finalist)
Season Preview

After a disappointing Nationals showing in 2012, the Big Blue are re-loaded and ready for redemption in 2013. Although the loss of key seniors Dan Lowry and Bobby Aprill (not as much in xc) will hurt, the Wolverines are looking to come back stronger than they were in Louisville. 

Mark Beams returns as the no. 1 finisher in Louisville last November and will be looked upon for leadership. Beams followed up a good xc season with a productive track season hitting PRs in both the 5000m and 10000m. If this momentum can carry through the summer, he will be a strong no. 1. 

Along with Beams, Brendon Blacklaws was possibly the most consistent runner on Michigan's team last season. Blacklaws finished between 2-5 in every race in 2012 and will be counted on to be just as consistent this year. This will be his last season as a collegian and that should be motivation enough to use go from being a miler to a 10k guy over a summer.

Mason Ferlic is coming into his second real cross country season (last year only competed in the first meet of the year, Panorama Farms, VA) and was the no. 7 in 2011, at Michigan. Ferlic surprised many in the spring with his outstanding steeple ability and had an amazing finish to the 2013 season. A fourth place East Regional finish and a fourteenth finish nationally should provide him the momentum and motivation to be a key contributor in the top five. 

Morsi Rayyan and Tony Smoragiewicz were also solid pack runners for the Wolverines in 2012 and if their progression goes in the right direction can also be impact players in the Michigan pack. 

After going over the nice returning crew that Michigan has, they are also bringing in a very good prep runner, Connor Mora. A good miler (4:09), Mora also has xc capability, having proven that by making the Foot Locker Finals. Their five is good enough that he might end up being a 6-7 runner, but if he can crack their top five it will only prove how deep this team really is. 

The Great Lakes Regional is wide open this year, similar to the Mountain Region on the women's side, with the depleted teams in Wisconsin and Indiana. This being the case, Michigan is definitely the favorite to win that title. Don't let this ranking deceive you, (#27 is only preemptive because only a few of their athletes are proven xc runners, Beams, Blacklaws, Smoragiewicz) this team can be very dangerous as the season progresses and could see them jump in the rankings after some of the big early meets (Wisco, Pre-Nats, Griak, Notre Dame, etc). 

Friday, July 26, 2013

NCAA XC Top 31 Countdown: Men's #28- Georgia

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

Head Coach: Patrick Cunniff (2nd Season)
2012 National Finish- 19th

Key Returners from 2012
  • Brandon Lord (Sr., 14:03, 29:12)
  • Lucas Baker (Sr., 14:31, 30:00)

Impact Recruits/Transfers
  • Brad Hort (Fr., 9:18 3200m, Foot Locker Finalist)
  • Henry Dwyer (Fr., 4:10 1600m)

Season Preview

One of the most up and coming programs in the country  is the #28 University of Georgia Men's Cross Country team. After surprising many in 2012 with their national championship bid and a 19th overall finish, the Bulldogs are ready to prove they are not a one hit wonder in 2013. 

The leader of the Bulldog pack is returning no. 1 runner Brandon Lord. Lord had a great South Regional run finishing third individually and was the no. 2 man at Nats where he finished 107th overall. Without having a track season in 2013, Lord should be fit and ready to be this team's go to guy. 

Speaking of no track seasons, all of the key top returners from cross country in 2012 had little to no participation in outdoor in '13 and should be looked upon to return healthy and fit for the upcoming season. Luke Baker and Charlie Sparks are both capable cross country runners that proved to be solid racers when it mattered at both the regional and national level. 

The good news is that while Georgia's top XC 'Dawgs were redshirting/were hurt during the track season, other athletes stepped up and ran well in their place. Freshman Zack Sims and Sid Vaughn both will be counted on to continually progress and improve to strengthen the 1-5 for the Bulldogs. Both ran mid 14s for 5000m in the Spring. 

It will be interesting to see how their recruiting class will be able to impact the Bulldog pack up front. Brad Hort was a Footlocker Finalist in 2012 and ran respectable times on the track. Henry Dwyer was not nearly as good in XC as he is on the track where he brought his PR down to 4:10 for 1600m in 2013. If either of these young guns can provide a spark to the top five, Georgia will be all the better for it. 

In a region that is steadily improving, the South should be looking at getting three to the Big Dance this year with Florida, Florida State, and these Georgia Bulldogs. 

NCAA XC Top 31 Countdown: Women's #28- Weber State

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

Weber State
Head Coach: Paul Pilkington (7th Season)
2012 National Finish- 17th

Key Returners from 2012
  • Amber Henry (Sr., 4:16.07, 9:43 3k Steeple)
  • Jamie Stokes (So., 4:28)
  • Kayla Blackford  (Sr., 35:13)
Impact Recruits/Transfers
  • Ellie Child (Fr., 4:58, 10:54 (alt. times))
  • Kelsey Braithwaite (Fr., 8th FL Finals '11)
  • Hailey Ricks (Fr., Wyoming State XC Champion)
  • Summer Harper (Fr., 10:45 3200m (alt. time), Foot Locker Finalist)

Season Preview

After the highest national finish in school history in 2012, Weber State returns looking to defend their Mountain Region Title and to get back to the big dance. Four of the top seven runners are returning to help get the Wildcats to Terre Haute. 

If Weber is to get back to the national championships a lot will ride on the shoulders of star returnee Amber Henry. Henry is coming off of a fantastic track season where she had very good PRs of 9:43 for the steeple and 4:16 for 1500m. Amber was an All-American in cross country in 2012 and in 2013 could find herself in the top 20. If Weber State is to better their nationals performance from 2012, the Wildcats must rely on Henry to do so. 

Although, Weber's 2-4 are not returning for this season, there are plenty of options to turn to for help solidifying their pack up front. Jamie Stokes is coming off of a solid freshman year where she ran well in cross and on the track and will be looked upon for assistance up front with Henry keeping their 1-5 spread as small as possible. Kayla Blackford has been up and down and will need to find some consistency for her to be a solid contributor for the Wildcats.

Some help can be found through a good recruiting class that Pilkington pulled in for 2013. Ellie Child, from perennial Utah powerhouse Davis High School, will be counted on to fill a spot in the teams top five. Having experience running with some of the best in the country, Child is one that can step right in and play an important role in Weber's success. 

Other members of this great recruiting class are: Summer Harper,a Foot Locker Finalist, who comes from a long line of great distance runners (brother and sister, Golden and Amber, were standouts), and Hailey Ricks (whose brother is on the team 3:45, 8:47 Steeple) who was the Wyoming State XC Champ. 

The biggest wildcard of the group is Kelsey Braithwaite, a former Foot Locker Finalist from 2011 who was hurt and redshirted 2012. If she can return to her high school form, she is capable of of a top 75 Nationals finish and to be Weber State's no. 2. 

With all of this in mind, the Mountain Region in 2013 is wide open, which give Weber State a good chance of returning to the National Championships three straight years.