Friday, August 30, 2013

NCAA XC Top 31 Countdown: Men's #4- Oregon

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.

#4 Oregon
Head Coach: Andy Powell (9th Season)
2012 National Finish- 20th

Key Returners from 2012
  • Parker Stinson (Sr., 7:55 Open 3k, 13:31 5k, 28:34 10k) 
  • Jeremy Elkaim (Jr., 3:59 Mile, 13:39 5k)
  • Matthew Melancon (So., 14:09 5k, 29:31 10k)
  • Ryan Pickering (Jr., 14:19 5k, 29:48 10k)
  • Mac Fleet (Sr., 3:38 1500m, 49th West Regional '09)
Impact Recruits/Transfers
  • Ed Cheserek (Fr., 4:02 Mile, 8:39 2 Mile, 13:57 5k, 2 x FL Champion)
  • Jake Leingang (Fr., 4:05 1600m, 8:51 3200m, 14:11 5k, 3rd FL '12, 4th FL '11)
  • Brett Johnson (Sr., from Virginia- 3:58 Mile, FL Finalist)
Season Preview

Of all of the predictions and previews I have done thus far, there has been no team that I have mulled over where to put them more, than Oregon's men. Putting them at no. 4 came through a process of several factors. A lot of it has to do with their recent success on the track the past indoor and outdoor seasons. Another factor that played in was the better than typical recruiting class for the Ducks. Also, I do believe that Andy Powell is a good coach and is due for another run at the podium spot, and this is a team that is capable of it. 

Much of the success of Oregon this year will be centered around how high Parker Stinson can finish at the NCAA meet. Stinson is the leader of the Ducks and needs to be a huge low-stick for them to make the podium. There may be no other athlete in the country as motivated as Stinson to race well at NCAAs because of his unfortunate performance in Louisville in 2012. 

Parker is coming off of a very good track season where he ran big PRs in both the 5k and 10k, 8 seconds and 26 seconds, respectively. Stinson should be able to carry his track momentum into an outstanding final cross country season and is a shoo-in for All-American and could be top-15. 

Another important piece of the puzzle for the Ducks will be the improvement of Jeremy Elkaim on the cross country course. Elkaim proved his ability indoors where he ran 13:39 for 5k and had a pretty good follow up season outdoors. If he can become a cross country runner and step up into the no. 2-3 runner slot, Elkaim is very talented and is good enough to be All-American, but will have to actually prove it in a race. 

Mac Fleet has battled injuries his entire career, but when he has been healthy he has done quite well in xc. Placing 49th his freshman year at the West regional  XC proves he is capable of performing at a high level in cross country, it is just a matter of staying healthy. After the best outdoor track season of his career, he could be dangerous in 2013. 

Matt Melancon is another guy who came around on the track this past year and is a good glue guy. His 29:31 10k PR is solid and could be a good anchor no. 5 runner and is seemingly one of the more consistent runners on the squad. 

Oregon is full of a bunch of talented runners who just haven't really proved themselves on the cross country course. Guys like Ben DeJarnette, Daniel Winn, Colby Alexander, Chris Brewer, Ryan Pickering and Cole Watson are all capable runners. If Oregon can find just one or two of these athletes having good seasons, the Ducks will be in good shape come Terre Haute. 

The biggest reason behind the high ranking of Oregon lies in its awesome recruiting class. Getting Ed Cheserek and Jake Leingang was huge for the future success of Oregon and both of these athletes are immediate impact guys. 

Ed Ches is one of the best high school runners in U.S. history and has PRs that are better than a large chunk of NCAA runners. 13:57 for 5k in high school is amazing and 8:39 for 2 Miles is also top-notch. Cheserek has won Foot Locker back-to-back years and has been dominant in cross country as a prep. He should be looking at an All-American finish as long as he as a pretty good day at NCAAs. 

Jake Leingang was a very talented prep runner. His 14:11 5k performance at NBON was a good sign of what he is going to be able to do immediately at the NCAA level. If Leingang can hold on to Ches as long as he can, he will be a very good no. 4-5 runner for the Ducks. 

Things are looking good for the Men of Oregon in 2013. There are so many pieces to the NCAA podium puzzle in place for the Ducks. If they can get just get one or two of their super-talented, who have not proven themselves yet, runners to step-up, Oregon is going to give some of the best schools in the country a run and find themselves relevant on the national level in cross country once again. 

NCAA XC Top 31 Countdown: Women's #4- 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.

#4 Washington
Head Coach: Greg Metcalf (12th Season)
2012 National Finish- 9th

Key Returners from 2012
  • Megan Goethals (Sr., 9:08 Open 3k, 15:33 5k, 32:52 10k, 48th NCAA XC '12)
  • Justine Johnson (Sr., 4:22 1500m, 9:31 Open 3k)
  • Liberty Miller (Sr., 9:34 Open 3k, 16:33 5k, 35:07 10k, 10:08 3k Steeple)
  • Katie Flood (Sr., 4:11 1500m, 8:55 Open 3k)
  • Eleanor Fulton (Jr., 2:08 800m, 4:20 1500m)
  • Baylee Mires (So., 2:05 800m, 4:23 1500m)
  • Chelsea Orr (Jr, 4:19 1500m, 9:23 Open 3k, 16:37 5k) 

Impact Recruits/Transfers
  • Kaylee Flanagan (Fr., 4:57 1600m, 10:25 3200m, 2 X FL Finalist, 18th NXN '11)
  • Katie Knight (Fr., 4:45 1600m, 10:11 3200m, 16:25 5k, 3rd NXN '11, 3rd NXN '12)
  • Kelly Lawson (Fr., 4:48 1600m, 10:40 3200m, 2 X NXN Qualifier)
  • Amy Eloise-Neale (Fr., 4:43 1600m, 10:21 3200m, 3 X NXN Qualifer)

Season Preview

Coach Greg Metcalf might just have the best recruiting class he's ever had in his time in Seattle-- and that's saying something. With the talented recruits that Metcalf has brought in alone, Washington would have a chance to make the NCAA Championships in Terre Haute. What is so scary about UW this season is the quality of girls that are returning as well. Legitimately, the Huskies are once again one of the best programs in the NCAA. 

When it comes to Washington, it all starts with Megan Goethals and Katie Flood. After a brutal Olympic Trials experience for Flood last summer, Goethals took over as the no. 1 runner and leader of the squad. Although her NCAAs finish in Louisville last season was less than desirable, Goethals is still one of the best distance runners in the NCAA and she proved so this most recent outdoor track season. Goethals finished 4th in the 10k and 5th in the 5k in Eugene this past spring, solidifying her place in the NCAA top-tier. As long as she has just better than average day in Terre Haute, she will be All-American if not top-5 or 10. 

Katie Flood struggled a bit last year as she was coming off of the Olympic Trials and a very long season on the track. Now that she has had some time to recover and find the fire again, so-to-speak, she should be back to lead the Huskies up front with Goethals. Flood is among one of the most talented 1500m runners in the NCAA. In 2011. Flood was 7th individually and the no. 1 runner for the Huskies. If she is back to that form, Washington has quite possibly the best 1-2 punch in the NCAA. 

Eleanor Fulton is coming off of a redshirt year, but was a quality top seven runner for Washington in 2011. As a freshman (2011), Fulton placed 130th at NCAAs. With her back in the mix, she really adds to the Husky pack and depth. 

Justine Johnson and Liberty Miller have been amazingly consistent performers for Washington the past three years and will be fighting to be in the top seven with the world-beating recruiting class. Nevertheless, these two are proven xc runners over the past three seasons and have experience that will help guide the young, but talented athletes on this squad. 

The two biggest recruits for Washington are local talent Katie Knight and Amy Eloise-Neale. Both of these girls have been some of the best runners in the country as preps and will immediately make impacts as freshman in the Huskies' top seven. Eloise-Neale had a very productive summer, running the 3k Steeplechase in the European Junior Championships and has some quality experience that most of the girls on the Washington team do not have. She also has the best overall PRs for 1600m and 3200m in the class and could be the no. 3 runner on the team from the very onset. 

Katie Knight is just as quality in almost every way as Eloise-Neale is. Knight has been 3rd at Nike Cross Nationals back-to-back years. That kind of consistency is a good sign of what she should be able to do at the next level and that she still has some upside. 

Kaylee Flanagan and Kelly Lawson are also no slouches on the cross country course. Flanagan is a two-time Foot Locker finalist and placed 18th at NXN in 2011. Kelly Lawson is a two-time NXN qualifier and has a very good 1600m PR of 4:48. 

If Flood is back to her old form and Goethals continues her consistency in big races (exception of NCAAs 2012) and Washington can find success in their veterans and freshman class, the Huskies will be back on the podium in 2013. If they can stay healthy throughout the brutal Pac-12 and West Regional races and keep their athletes fresh, Washington could see another repeat of 2011 if not a National Championship.  

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

NCAA XC Top 31 Countdown: Men's #5- Arkansas

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: Chris Bucknam (6th Season)
2012 National Finish- 10th

Key Returners from 2012
  • Solomon Haile (Sr., 8:01 Open 3k, 13:58 5k, 28:43 10k)
  • Kemoy Campbell (Sr., 3:41 1500m, 7:46 Open 3k, 13:32 5k)
  • Stanley Kebenei (Jr., 3:47 1500m, 7:58 Open 3k, 13:42 5k, 8:24 3k Steeple)
  • David Flynn (Sr., 8:13 Open 3k, 14:17 5k, 8:49 3k Steeple)
  • Patrick Rono (Sr., 1:46 800m, 3:46 1500m, 4:01 Mile)
  • Cale Wallace (So., 4:06 Mile, 8:21 Open 3k)
Impact Recruits/Transfers
  • Gabe Gonzales (Jr., 35th Big 12 XC '12, 24th MW Regional XC '12)

Season Preview

Arkansas last season was led by the three headed monster of Kemoy Campbell, Solomon Haile, and Eric Fernandez. With those boys up front, the Hogs were a dominant force through the SECs and did well enough at Regionals to make a good showing at NCAAs. Although Fernandez is graduated and gone, Arkansas will be fine and can substitute all-NCAA 3k Steepler Stanley Kebenei for Fernandez. No knock on Fernandez, he was a stud, but Kebenei could be considered an upgrade with his credentials. 

Chris Bucknam  has assembled one of the best teams, if not his best, since he has been at the helm in Fayetteville. With some solid pack runners and three beasts leading the way, Arkansas is going to be very good this year, and here is how. 

Kemoy Campbell burst onto the scene last year coming off a JUCO XC National Championship the year before. The man from Jamaica is an absolute beast and has range that most cross country guys could only dream of. His 17th place finish at NCAAs in 2012 was proven that it was no fluke as he followed that up with a 2nd place finish indoors in the 3k and 5th place finish this past spring outdoors in Eugene for 5k. Campbell, with one year of Division 1 running under his belt, is going to be a dominant force in the NCAA, and would not surprise anyone if he finished in the top-10 individually. 

What is scary for the rest of the country is that Campbell is so good, and he might not even be their no. 1 runner at times during the season. Solomon Haile is another very good asset in the Razorback stable of studs. Haile was very good early in his career at Arkansas, kind of plateaued a bit and was hurt, and came back to life this past season. In cross he was 47th at NCAAs, and ran 28:56 outdoors in the 10k at Stanford this past spring. 

Haile has ability to be great, and if he can carry the momentum he has gained from a great xc season last year and solid track, he should improve upon his 47th finish last year to an All-American performance in Terre Haute in November. 

If these two were not enough to prove this team's quality, throwing Stanley Kebenei in the mix will definitely do it. Now when we mentioned that Campbell might not be the no. 1 runner for the parts of the season, it did seem like we alluded to Haile being the guy to push Campbell out of that spot, but in reality, Kebenei is just as capable as Campbell. Granted Campbell's PRs are better on the track, and Kebenei is not nearly as proven a cross guy as Campbell, but with the credentials Kebenei has you cannot believe he won't be able to roll up front with Kemoy all season long. 

Kebenei is a monster talent that has had all summer to train and put in a very good base with two All-American athletes. His 8:24 Steeple PR is World-Class and has the range needed to move up to 8k and 10k. Kebenei is good enough to feel secure saying he will be All-American, barring injury or the worst day of his life (which do happen). 

With those three pieces in place, Arkansas is set for three of the best low-sticks in the country. Now all the Hogs need are a no. 4 and no. 5 runner. Some good options can come from Cale Wallace who was the SEC Freshman of the year in cross country for 2012; Patrick Rono, one of the more versatile 800m/1500m runners in the NCAA who should at least be a no. 5 for Arkansas off of talent alone; and David Flynn, a good steepler. 

If neither of the above mentioned harriers cannot get it done, Arkansas did get a quality transfer from Kansas in Gabe Gonzales. An above average cross guy for Kansas, Gonzales has quite a bit of upside and having the training partners he now has in Fayetteville, he could get a lot better real fast. Gonzales had good showings at Big 12s and their Regional and has the ability to be a good no. 5 if needed. 

Arkansas could be looking at a kind of 7-8-9 finish similarly to Oklahoma State in 2010. The jury is still out if the Hogs have a good enough 4-5 to be podium, but if they can find them out of Flynn, Wallace, Rono, or maybe Gonzales (or someone else that no one knows about yet), Arkansas is one of the best teams in the NCAA in 2013. 

NCAA XC Top 31 Countdown: Women's #5- Florida 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.

Florida State
Head Coach: Karen Harvey (7th Season)
2012 National Finish- 4th

Key Returners from 2012
  • Colleen Quigley (Jr., 4:15 1500m, 9:13 Open 3k, 15:58 5k, 9:38 3k Steeple)
  • Linden Hall (Jr., 2:09 800m, 4:15 1500m, 9:39 3k)
  • Georgia Peel (So., 2:08 800m, 4:14 1500m, 9:41 Open 3k, 16:26 5k)

Impact Recruits/Transfers
  • Hannah Walker (Jr., From U.K.- 9:21 Open 3k, 15:48 5k, 33:09 10k)
  • Pippa Woolven (Jr., From U.K.-9:53 Open 3k, 10:11 3k Steeple)
  • Anna Holdiman (Fr., 9:48 Open 3k, 4:35 1500m, 7th FL Finals '12)
  • Bridget Blake (Fr., 4:54 1600m, 10:40 3200m, 15th FL Finals '12

Season Preview

(written by Sam Wood, my genius brother, to maintain objectivity)

Florida State's women's cross country team is most definitely one of the elite programs in the country.  Year in and year out Karen Harvey's squads are consistently good during the season and have tons of talent.  Last year's team placed three athletes in the top 20 at the NCAA Championships, but didn't have the consistency from their other four runners in order to help them win a championships, and the team faded to fourth.
Looking on paper, this team has some definite chops on the track.  Colleen Quigley is a top-notch steeplechaser (2nd NCAA Steeple behind Emma Coburn) and returns from a 12th place finish at the NCAA XC Meet last year.  She will be a top-notch front runner for the Seminoles with a group of middle distance returnees as well as elite newcomers following her lead.  

Linden Hall and Georgia Peel have had some great success at the 800 and 1500 distances, but will look to have that carry over in Terre Haute.  If they can make the conversion from 1500 to 6k, this team could be looking at more than just a podium position this November.
There aren't many teams out there who have a newcomer quite like Hannah Walker.  Her times on the track over in the U.K. would have given her a chance at being an All-American on the track last year.  If her ability can translate quickly from across the pond, FSU could have an outstanding 1-2 punch with her and Quigley.  

Pippa Woolven, Anna Holdiman and Bridget Blake will be contending for scoring position as well for the Seminoles.  Woolven is also a great steepler and Holdiman and Blake come off of top 15 finishes at the Foot Locker National Meet.
If history is any indicator, the Seminoles will be ready to roll by the time Notre Dame and Pre-Nationals come around.  There may be no more intriguing team to watch this fall on the women's side than the Lady Seminoles.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

NCAA XC Top 31 Countdown: Men's #6- BYU

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: Ed Eyestone (14th Season)
2012 National Finish- 6th

Key Returners from 2012
  • Tylor Thatcher (Sr., 13:45 5k, 28:59 10k)
  • Tommy Gruenewald (Sr., 4:04 Mile, 8:07 Open 3k, 13:54 5k)
  • Curtis Carr (Sr., 14:20 5k, 8:40 3k Steeple)
  • Jason Witt (Sr., 4:05 Mile, 8:16 Open 3k, 13:58 5k)
  • Steve Flint (Jr., 8:12 Open 3k, 13:57 5k, 8:46 3k Steeple)
  • Taylor Farnsworth (Sr., 8:09 Open 3k, 14:21 5k, 29:33 10k)
Impact Recruits/Transfers
  • Jon Nelson (So., Off Mission- 14:20 5k)
  • Korey Krotzer (Fr., From Oklahoma State-4:09 1600m, 9:01 3200m)

Season Preview

After a podium finish in 2011, BYU followed up with a solid 6th place finish at NCAAs and was a little bit disappointed by it. Many things went wrong that day for BYU and a injuries and health issues played key factors in their bid for back to back podium spots. 2013, things are looking a little bit different for the Cougars. Jared Ward lost a season of cross country and just training through cross, preparing for the 2014 track seasons. So that means the mantle of leadership goes to Tylor Thatcher, Tommmy Gruenewald and Jason Witt. 

Losing Jared Ward really hurts BYU. He is the heart and soul of that team. The good news is that BYU was so deep last year, that that depth is still helping push through many quality runners up to the front of the BYU pack. 

Tylor Thatcher is the top guy returning from 2012. Thatcher finished the xc season in Louisville with a 34th place finish and All-American honors. Thatcher is a workhorse and a metronome at practice, and he does a great job of doing the little things that make you better. Coming from a 4:20 and 9:20 high school kid to 13:45 and 28:59, he still has upside and has a legitimate shot to be top-20 individually at NCAAs this year. 

Tommy Gruenewald is starting to figure things out again after coming off a church mission in early 2012. Many of you will remember him from many years ago where he qualified for NXN and Foot Locker every year since a sophomore in high school. His talent is still there and his 13:53 5k PR this outdoor season is proof of that. He has all of the tools to be All-American and if he stays healthy and motivated he should get that done. 

BYU boasts two very good 3k Steeple guys that should factor in the pack in 2013. Curtis Carr surprised much of the country this past spring with his 4th place finish at NCAA Outdoors in the 3k Steeplechase. His 8:40 PR is no joke and he is as solid as they come in cross country. Carr is very consistent and provides stability to the Cougar top five. 

Steve Flint is the other quality steepler for the Cougs. Flint boasts a much better 5k PR than Carr, having run 13:57 and has one of the best kicks in the NCAA. Flint was the no. 5 man for BYU at NCAA XC last year and should be a very good no. 3-4 runner for them this year. 

Jason Witt was the no. 5 man for BYU during their podium finish in 2011 and if he has the summer he was hoping for, he is another guy capable of All-American. Witt has a solid 5k PR of 13:58, and is looking to make up for his second to last finish at NCAA XC in 2012. 

Taylor Farnsworth is a former prep standout who was 13th at FL Finals in 2006. He finally came around toward the end of the track season this past spring where he won his heat of the 10k at Mt. Sac and ran 29:33. If he can stay healthy, he is a solid pack guy that will be pushing the top five the whole year. 

The wildcard for the Cougars is Jon Nelson. With a year under his belt post-church mission service, Nelson is fit and very talented. He redshirted track, but ran all of the workouts right with Gruenewald and Witt and is capable of at least a top-60 finish at NCAAs, if he can stay healthy. Also, Korey Krotzer, who spent a year at Oklahoma State, has recently transferred to BYU and will be fighting for a top seven spot amongst all the guys mentioned above. 

Coach Eyestone is one of the most consistent coaches in the NCAA at getting his team to the NCAA championships. BYU has a shot once again at a podium finish and if things come together for Coach Eyestone and the Cougars, even without Jared Ward, this will be a very good team come Terre Haute in November. 

NCAA XC Top 31 Countdown: Women's #6- Oregon

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: Andy Powell (9th Season)
2012 National Finish- 1st

Key Returners from 2012
  • Allie Woodward (So, 16:17 5k, 32:56 10k)
  • Annie Leblanc (So., 2:06 800m, 4:17 1500m)
  • Megan Patrignelli (Jr., 4:21 1500m, 10:09 3k Steeple)
  • Molly Grabill (So., 16:38 5k, 4:49 1600m (HS), 10:19 3200m (HS) )
  • Sarah Penney (Sr., 4:21 1500m, 9:51 Open 3k, 16:41 5k)
  • Abbey Leonardi (So., no. 7 runner in 2012, 9:47 Open 3k)
Impact Recruits/Transfers
  • Lindsay Crevoiserat (From UCONN, 9:09 Open 3k, 15:58 5k, 42nd NCAA XC '12)
  • Alli Cash (Fr., 4:45 1600m, 10:32 3200m, 40th NXN '11)
  • Therese Haiss (Fr., 4:50 1600m, 10:37 3200m) 
  • Nikki Hiltz (Fr., 4:42 1600m, 10:48 3200m, 17th FL Finals '11)
  • Kelly O'Neill (Fr., 4:37 1500m, 10:14 Open 3k)
  • Maggie Schmaedick (Fr., 4:35 1500m, 9:43 Open 3k)
  • Mel Newberry (From Princeton, 9:34 Open 3k, 16:35 5k, 10:18 3k Steeple)

Season Preview

Four of the seven athletes that made up the national championship winning team of 2012 have graduated. At most schools that would mean the next year would be a major rebuilding year. Let's get real, this is Oregon, there is no rebuilding year, it's more of an extreme makeover, cross country edition. Coaches Andy and Maurica Powell have brought in a very good recruiting class and have some key transfers along with quality girls who are ready to fill the shoes of their predecessors in 2013. 

In 2012, Oregon was basically unbeatable (except for a loss to Florida State at Pre-Nats). Jordan Hasay and Alexi Pappas led the Ducks in every race and their loss will definitely hurt Oregon. 

Allie Woodward is coming off of an amazing freshman campaign in 2012. Along side her 44th finish at NCAAs XC, she also proved her chops on the track running 16:17 and 32:56. Those are some outstanding feats for a freshman. Not to mention finishing 5th in the NCAA Outdoor 10000m. Now with a year of consistent top-level NCAA running under her belt, she is going to be one to watch for in 2013. 

Annie Leblanc is the other returner, besides Woodward, from 2012s National Championship winning team. Leblanc was also big time as a freshman last season where she finished 68th individually and helped secure the title for the Ducks. She too had a solid track season running 4:17 for 1500m. Leblanc is a good example of a middle-distance type girl that can step up and run 6k. 

The third returning freshman from 2012 whose name also starts with the letter "A," is Abbey Leonardi. Although she was not nearly as successful as her freshman teammates in 2012, Leonardi was still a crucial part to the national championship winning team. Leonardi was an outstanding high school athlete (4th FL Finals '11) and the experience she gained last season as a freshman will be huge for her confidence going into her sophomore season. 

Molly Grabill was awesome her freshman year for Oregon in 2011 where she was the no. 5 scorer for the majority of the season. Now coming off of a redshirt year, Grabill should be fit and ready to roll with her fellow sophomores and lead the Ducks in 2013. 

Sarah Penney and Megan Patrignelli are both capable cross country runners that had good track seasons this past spring. These two will be able to provide some veteran leadership to a very, very young Oregon team. 

What makes Oregon so scary is that the preview has not even reached the incoming recruits and transfers for the season that approaches. With an underrated recruiting class and some key transfers, many of these girls are instant offense for Oregon. 

The biggest transfer for the Ducks is Lindsay Crevoiserat, from Connecticut. Crevoiserat has the best track PRs of the bunch and has the highest national finish individually than any girl on the team. Crevoiserat is a tough runner that is perfectly suited for 6k. her 9:09 3k PR and 15:58 5k PR are top notch and after a redshirt outdoor season this spring, she should be fit and ready for an All-American bid in 2013. 

The incoming freshman for Oregon that will play key roles are Nikki Hiltz and Alli Cash. These girls both had injury-plagued high school careers taking away much of their senior year, so their PRs listed above come from their junior years. That being the case, their upside is very high. Hiltz and Cash both have very quality track PRs and proven abilities in cross country. These girls should figure into the Oregon top seven at some point during the season. 

Even with the blow of some of the biggest names in Oregon history gone, the Ducks have reloaded for 2013. The youth of this team, combined with the unreal talent, is what is so scary about Oregon this year. Crevoiserat, Woodward, Leblanc, Leonardi, and Grabill are all very young, but very good. Those five alone are capable of All-American on any given. day. Oregon is back, and they are a serious contender for a podium spot at NCAAs in Terre Haute this year, if not a repeat title. 

Monday, August 26, 2013

NCAA XC Top 31 Countdown: Men's #7- 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- 21th

Key Returners from 2012
  • Luke Caldwell (Sr., 3:44 1500m, 13:29 5k)
  • Ross Millington (Sr., 3:41 1500m, 7:49 Open 3k, 13:36 5k)
  • Adam Bitchell (Sr., 3:43 1500m, 4:05 Mile, 8:08 Open 3k, 13:57 5k)
  • Sean Stam (Sr., 14:03 5k, 29:46 10k)
  • Elmar Engholm (So., 3:45 1500m, 8:49 3k Steeple)
  • Pat Zacharias (Jr., 14:01 5k, 30:39 10k)
  • Sam Evans (Sr., 3:43 1500m, 4:02 Mile)
  • Alex Herring (Jr., 1:49 800m, 3:45 1500m)

Impact Recruits/Transfers
  • Alex Cornwell (Jr., From U.K.- 3:43 1500m, 8:09 Open 3k)
  • Ross Matheson (Jr., From U.K.- 3:46 1500m, 21st UK XC- All Ages- Nat'l Champs '13)
  • Jake Shelley (Jr., From U.K.- 3:46 1500m, 8:09 Open 3k)

Season Preview

Coach Joe Franklin says this is the best team that he has ever coached. This coming from a guy who has coached some solid teams in his career (coached Butler to a podium finish in 2004). If you look at their roster above, you can see why. The Lobos are absolutely loaded. Franklin has found a good balance between finding outstanding foreign recruits and mixing them in with the local talent and producing very good teams, year in and year out. 

The Lobos are led by two athletes with very good track credentials to go along with nice cross country experience. Luke Caldwell came to Albuquerque in 2012 and was instantly the no. 1 runner for the Lobos, while Millington was injured. Caldwell claimed the Mountain West Conference individual honors and had a very good showing at NCAAs finishing 27th. Caldwell kept his momentum from cross country going into the indoor and outdoor seasons where he finished 8th at the Indoor 5k and 7th at the Outdoor 5k. With his sub-13:30 ability, Caldwell is a shoo-in for a top-40 finish and is a potential top-15 finisher individually. 

Ross Millington has had plenty of time the past few years to think about the last time her ran a cross country race. The last time he spiked up for a race on the grass was in 2011, where he dropped out of the National Championships and his team finished 31st. There might not be a guy in country as motivated as Millington is for redemption. He has all of the tools to be a top-40 guys and to roll right with Luke Caldwell to a top-20 individual finish. His 7:49 3k and 13:36 5k PRs are superb, and those times should equate, as long as he's healthy, to another key low-stick for the Lobos. 

The rest of the returning guys for New Mexico have quality experience in cross country and on the track. Adam Bitchell was injured outdoors and if he can get healthy and get the necessary base, he will be a very good no. 3 for the Lobos (on paper). He has the ability to rise up and be another big time cross country guy for Franklin if he's healthy. Sean Stam has had a very consistent career in Albuquerque where he has gone from a walk-on to an All-Conference athlete. He provides stability to their top-7.  

Elmar Engholm is a young, but very talented runner. Engholm had a good track season, but was actually more impressive at Nationals in Louisville, where he stepped up big and was the no. 2 runner on the team finishing 85th. That kind of quality experience will help him push to make the top-five again this year (they are that loaded). 

Pat Zacharias is a local kid who spent a little while at Arizona before transferring back to his home state in New Mexico. Franklin has done an excellent job developing him and he has similar attribute to Stam as a solid and consistent performer, race in and race out. 

Sam Evans and Alex Herring are track studs that have yet to prove themselves on the cross country course. If that changes for either one of these guys and they can make the jump from their track abilities to cross country and 10k, they just add to the unreal depth of this team. 

What is even scarier about these Lobos is the awesome recruiting class that Joe Franklin pulled in, mostly coming by way of transfers from the U.K. Ross Matheson is the most ready to jump in and help out New Mexico right away in cross country. Matheson was 21st in the all U.K. cross country championships and will be pushing Caldwell and Millington up front. Alex Cornwell has the best 1500m PR of the bunch (3:43) and has the same 3k PR that the other recruit has, Jake Shelley (8:09). 

Honestly, if these guys all stay healthy and are fit, this is a podium team. Since Franklin has gotten to Albuquerque, New Mexico has yet to have a fantastic finish at Nationals. With the Mountain Region being brutal every year, New Mexico will need to be picking up points earlier in the year (they'll be fine) to make sure they can cruise through the Regional in Ogden, Utah. 

Joe Franklin is looking to finally have a podium team in New Mexico, and if there ever was a year for that to happen, this is it. With the possibility of three All-Americans and some awesome transfers, (we did not even mention Peter Callahan of Princeton transferring--granted he's never had much success in xc, which could change) these Lobos are the most dangerous team in the NCAA in 2013. 

NCAA XC Top 31 Countdown: Women's #7- 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: Gina Procaccio (14th Season)
2012 National Finish- 20th

Key Returners from 2012
  • Emily Lipari (Sr., 4:15 1500m, 9:08 Open 3k)
  • Nicky Akande (Sr., 4:17 1500m, 9:39 Open 3k)
  • Megan Venables (Jr., 17:03 5k, 35:26 10k)
  • Stephanie Schappert (Jr., 2:07 800m, 4:18 1500m)
  • Courtney Chapman (Jr., 4:26 1500m, 9:31 Open 3k)
  • Kelsey Margey (So., 2:06 800m, 4:17 1500m)
  • Ariann Neutts (Sr., 2:07 800m, 4:22 1500m)

Impact Recruits/Transfers
  • Julie Williams (Fr., 4:51 Mile, 10:50 2 Mile, NXN Qualifier '11)
  • Katie Brislin (Fr., 4:29 1500m, 10:18 3k, 29th NXN '12)
  • Angel Piccirillo (Redshirt Frosh, 2:05 800m, 4:21 1500m)

Season Preview

Although it feels like they have been around forever, Emily Lipari and Nicky Akande have finally reached their senior years at Villanova. Coach Gina Procaccio has done a great job keeping this Villanova team consistently good throughout the years, and this year will be no different. With two very solid front-runners returning, some nice depth and a good freshman class, the Wildcats are ready to return to NCAA prominence after their 20th finish in 2012. 

Emily Lipari has had quite the storied career at Villanova. She is the only returning member from the 2010 NCAA National Championship winning team. Lipari has the tools and experience to be a top-15 runner. She has good range from 800m to 3k. If she steps up and becomes a huge low-stick for this team, they will see the success they are capable of this season. 

Nicky Akande is one of the more under-rated athletes in the NCAA. Akande was awesome for the majority of the cross country season in 2012. She finished 3rd at the Big East Champs and took home the individual title at the Mid-Atlantic Regional. An unfortunate Nationals race in Louisville last year will have her hungry to improve upon her 95th place finish, this upcoming season. 

Villanova's Men's and Women's programs, though coached by different people, share a similar attribute--they are loaded with middle distance talent. Lipari and Akande are both gems in the middle distance events (with some range) and have two other athletes that are sub 4:20 for 1500m. Coach Procaccio has proven that she can coach up the middle-distance runners and this played a huge reason in their ranking so high this season. 

The rest of the squad that will help the Wildcats break into the top-10 this season is comprised of a few girls with pretty good experience in xc and a few that have limited opportunities, but have some very good upside. 

Stephanie Schappert, Kelsey Margey, Ariann Neutts and Angel Piccirillo all are excellent middle-distance runners. Neither of these athletes have necessarily excelled in cross country (Piccirillo redshirted her freshman xc season) but all have the capability of stepping up in distance and being solid pack runners for Villanova behind Lipari and Akande. 

Megan Venables and Courtney Chapman have a little bit better chops for the longer distances than the previously mentioned girls, but do not quite have the leg speed to compare with them. If these two can get some good miles in this summer, they should rise up and push the middle-distance girls for the no. 3-5 spots. 

The recruiting class for Villanova this year is solid, though not sizable. Julie Williams is an immediate impact distance runner that has experience running well for the mile and two-mile races. Katie Brislin has outstanding track PRs and will also be able to contribute "from the gun." Brislin and Williams both come from high-profile high school teams-Fayatteville-Manlius and Tatnall and will bring their top-notch prep experience to an already very good returning Villanova squad. 

The good news for the Wildcats is that every single athlete that competed in Louisville in 2012 returns for them in 2013. This not counting the loss of Summer Cook who decided to focus on the triathlon and moved to Colorado Springs to train with the OTC group there.

With all of these girls returning, Villanova will have the hunger to improve from 2012 and to make a statement in 2013. The pieces are there for a top-10 teams. Two awesome low-sticks up front (Lipari and Akande) and a bunch of very good middle-distance girls and high school stand-outs.

 If things come together like they should, Villanova will have a fun battle through their conference and regional with Georgetown. Their front-runners will help keep their score low enough at Nationals and they will be looking at a big improvement this season at Nationals from 20th to 7th in Terre Haute. 

Friday, August 23, 2013

NCAA XC Top 31 Countdown: Men's #8- Syracuse

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: Chris Fox (9th Season)
2012 National Finish- 15th

Key Returners from 2012
  • Martin Hehir (So., 8:00 Open 3k, 13:53 5k, 29:35 10k)
  • Joe Whelan (Sr., 8:53 3k Steeple, 55th NCAAs '12)
  • Ryan Urie (Jr., 3:49 1500m, 14:29 5k)
  • Reed Kamyszek (Jr., 8:09 Open 3k, 14:25 5k, 29:45 10k)
  • Griff Graves (Sr., 14:18 5k, 71st NCAAs '12)
  • Robert Molke (Sr., 8:13 Open 3k, 14:13 5k, 29:35 10k)
  • Max Straneva (Jr., 8:22 Open 3k, 14:20 5k)
  • Andrew Palmer (Jr., 14:15 5k, 30:07 10k)
  • Dan Lennon (So., 2nd USATF Jr. 10k '13, 14:24 5k)
Impact Recruits/Transfers
  • Kevyn Hoyos (Redshirt Frosh, 4:12 1600m, 9:01 2 Mile, 6th US Jr. 5k '13)
  • Nick Ryan (Fr., 4:05 1600m, 8:55 3200m, 3 X NXN Qualifier- 15th '13, 5th '12, 28th '11)
  • Shawn Wilson (Fr., 4:11 1600m, 9:04 3200m, FL Finalist '12- 23rd)
Season Preview

For Syracuse and Coach Chris Fox, this could be the year. With the horde of talented athletes that are returning from 2012s Big East Championships winning team and a good recruiting class, the Orange might finally break the curse of finishing somewhere around 15th at NCAAs every single year. 

After pulling a few string with the NCAA and some very good returners, Syracuse has 10 guys that could find themselves in their top seven at any point during the season. 

The Orange's no. 1 returner, although just a freshman last year, is Martin Hehir. Coming out of no where and winning the Big East individual title as a freshman, Hehir is now an experienced and accomplished athlete that is ready to tack on All-American to his list of accolades. Running 13:53 for 5k on the track this past spring is a good indication of his progression. Hehir is a top-40, if not better, caliber talent and will be a critical low-stick for Syracuse. 

Joe Whelan is actually the no. 1 returner from NCAAs (Hehir was for the majority of the year though) in Louisville last year. After a sub-par track season, Whelan will be looking to get back to his fitness from 2012 and find himself pushing Hehir up front. 

Griff Graves was able to get a medical redshirt year back and makes Syracuse that much better with him in the top five. Graves was a vital scorer for the Orange throughout his career and if fit, he is also a guy that is capable of pushing Hehir and Whelan in the front of the pack. 

There are a slew of quality athletes that return for Coach Fox and that will be battling it out for a spot in the top seven throughout the season. Andrew Palmer is generally very good early on in the season, but needs to find a way to keep the wheels from coming off. His 59th place finish at Wisco Invite in 2012 is solid, but 210th at NCAAs is pretty mediocre. He is a talented athlete that if he can keep it together during the championship portion of the season, Palmer will be an important piece to the puzzle. 

Robert Molke, MJ Erb, Reed Kamyszek and Ryan Urie all have some pretty good track PRs from various times of the career at Syracuse. Most of these guys seem to be pure distance/xc guys that will be icing on the cake for Coach Fox if they are able to find a place for themselves in the top seven at some point during the season. Dan Lennon is currently getting ready to represent the United States at the Pan-Am 10k. If he can get fit in time (maybe redshirt though) that kind of big-level experience really broadens the horizons of many athletes. Lennon is another possible scorer for the Orange in 2013. 

Beyond the returners from 2012, Chris Fox and Brian Bell have done a great job recruiting the past few years and have some good young talent coming into Syracuse. Nick Ryan, Kevyn Hoyos and Shawn Wilson all are very talented athletes from the prep ranks. Nick Ryan is a three time NXN finalist and finished top-30 all three of those years. Ryan has the best track PRs of the bunch and is capable of placing top 75 at NCAAs if he can stay healthy, fit and enthused about running. 

Kevyn Hoyos has had quality experience running at the national junior level in cross country and on the track. Shawn Wilson is a Foot Locker finalist and might redshirt, but if not he is another harrier to throw in the mix of runners looking to crack the top seven or even the travel squad (Syracuse is so deep). 

The Northeast Regional looks to be all but theirs in 2013. Columbia and Iona are talented, but on paper, Syracuse is the class of the region. If Fox can time things right and cruise through the regional, Syracuse could be looking at a top-10 finish for the first time, in a long time. 

NCAA XC Top 31 Countdown: Women's #8- William and Mary

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.

William and Mary
Head Coach: Jill Miller (2nd Season)
2012 National Finish- 21st

Key Returners from 2012
  • Elaina Balouris (Sr., 9:34 Open 3k, 16:03 5k, 33:43 10k)
  • Emily Stites (So., 9:34 Open 3k, 15:45 5k, 34:15 10k) 
  • Dylan Hassett (Jr., 9:42 Open 3k, 16:41 5k, 34:54 10k)
  • Carolyn Hennessey (So., 16:51 5k)
  • Meghan McGovern (So., 9:44 Open 3k, 16:34 5k)
Season Preview

Contrary to many of the teams that have been previewed recently, William and Mary is a team with five very talented girls, but not nearly as good of depth. Coach Jill Miller, along side Coach Stephen Walsh, have done a great job finding and recruiting talented athletes, but also being able to catch the diamonds in the rough.

As this team moves forward from its solid and much improved 2012 season where they finished 21st at NCAAs, they have one of the best 1-5s in the country and are prepared to greatly improve upon last season's succcesses.

William and Mary has one of the best 1-2 punches in the country with Elaina Balouris and Emily Stites coming back off of two All-American seasons in 2012. Frankly, had they not been as good as they were last season William and Mary would have been looking at a 25th place finish or worse. The Tribe depends greatly on their abilities and sink or swim with their performances. 

Elaina Balouris is about as pure of a cross country runner as there is in the NCAA. Balouris has the track chops for 10k and the proven ability on the course to put her in the mix of a top-10 finisher at NCAAs. Knowing that her low-stick is vital to this team's success, Balouris is definitely a sleeper from an individual finisher perspective. She could creep up on some athletes at the finish at NCAAs and put herself in contention for the top-10 if not better. 

Emily Stites is one of the most talented sophomores in the NCAA. Along with Laura Hollander (Cal Poly), Sarah Collins (Providence) and Kelsey Lakowske (Duke), Stites is as solid as they come, coming off of her freshman campaign. Some quality world-class racing experience this past winter will help open her eyes to what she is capable of this upcoming fall. Stites is definitely as good as Balouris in cross, with a little bit better speed, she will be dangerous come November. 

William and Mary has three other girls that are very solid 3-5 runners. All have stepped up since their cross country season in 2012, this spring on the track, and their improvement there should produce quality times in cross country. 

Dylan Hassett ran a solid 10k on the track and is a good pack runner. Meghan McGovern also had a good year on the track and will be battling Hassett for the no. 3 slot for the Tribe. McGovern has some upside and if her progression continues she is a top-60 quality girl at NCAAs. 

William and Mary does not have the luxury of having a deep team as some of the schools from the power conferences. On the other hand, they have some very talented athletes that are capable of bringing them into the top-10. As mentioned before, William and Mary goes as Stites and Balouris go. If they have a great year, which they should, and McGovern and Hassett find themselves having break-out years, the Tribe will have one of the best teams in their program history in 2013. 

Thursday, August 22, 2013

NCAA XC Top 31 Countdown: Men's #9- Portland

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: Rob Conner (24th Season)
2012 National Finish- 12th

Key Returners from 2012
  • Scott Fauble (Jr., 3:45 1500m, 14:00 5k, 29:11 10k)
  • David Perry (Jr., 3:45 1500m, 13:58 5k, 29:09 10k)
  • William Kincaid (Jr., 3:45 1500m, 13:58 5k, 29:49 10k)
Impact Recruits/Transfers
  • William Krebs (Jr., From Germany- 8:02 Open 3k, 14:13 5k, 29:21 10k)
  • Josh Gorecki (Sr., 14:10 5k)
  • Danny Martinez (Redshirt Frosh, 8:57 3200m (HS), 9th USA Jr XC Champs '13)
  • Ryan Poland (Jr., 8:01 Open 3k, 14:03 5k, 29:30 10k)
    Season Preview

    Editor's note: Ryan Poland of Oklahoma has now transferred to Portland. This addition makes Portland even better. 

    There is not a team in the country, besides BYU, that I know more about than Portland. After studying their athletes and their performances very closely over the last three years, Portland is as consistent a team in the country of producing when it matters and Rob Conner is a master recruiter. Even if there seemingly should be a down year in Portland, like last season (Dunbar, Osoro and Kipchumba gone) Conner still somehow won the West Coast Championship, was 2nd in the West Regional and finished 12th in Louisville. 

    With a very solid core group of returning studs and some very good incoming guys, the Pilots are looking like a much improved team from 2012. Everything starts with the three guys from Colorado. Scott Fauble, David Perry and William (Woody) Kincaid lead this sqaud and are the heart and soul of the program.

    Scott Fauble has been the no. 1 runner for the Pilots for the majority of the last year. Fauble is a tough competitor and has solid NCAA experience. His 11th place finish at NCAA at 10k in 2012 and 26th (All-American) finish at NCAAs last season is proof of that. He has very good range from 1500m to 10000 and needs to stay healthy and consistent for this triumvirate to do any damage. 

    David Perry is a very talented athlete that lacks the consistency that Fauble has. He definitely has the ability to roll with Fauble in every move they make on the course or track, it is just a matter of him doing it when it matters most. In fact, Perry has the best PRs on the team on the track and is capable of being All-American in 2013, if he can stick to Fauble and stay consistently healthy and fit throughout the season. 

    Woody Kincaid is a wildcard on this team. His huge run at the West Coast Cross Country meet in 2012 was a big reason why they upset BYU on their home course. Kincaid is a very untapped, talented athlete that if he can get the miles in this summer he could end up being the no. 1 runner on the team in 2013. Like Perry, Kincaid is a sub-14 5k guys and is capable of stepping up to 10k no problem. This three-headed monster is one of the best group of three in the NCAA and are all capable of All-American. 

    Beyond these three are a lot of question marks and new guys. Jacob Smith, Izaic Yorks and Aiden Irish, all significant contributors in 2012, are now running for different schools, but the Pilots have filled their space with fresh new faces already. 

    Danny Martinez is someone who can make an immediate impact for the Pilots. He is a proven cross country runner, having run well at the USA Junior meet this past year and was very good in high school. He can step right in to the top five and score for Portland. 

    Robert Krebs and Josh Gorecki are even more of a question mark than Martinez. Krebs might be the most talented of the two for 10k, but they are seemingly even at 5k and under. Gorecki is an experienced veteran runner that has one year to produce for the Pilots. Krebs is also an older athlete (24) and with his track ability he should be looking at the no. 4 spot for Rob Conner for the majority of the season.

    The West Coast Conference Championships will once again be a battle between BYU and Portland. Portland is coming down to Provo to race BYU early at the beginning of September at the BYU Autumn Classic and that race will be a good indication where everyone's fitness is at and how things will shape out at the end of the season. Portland has some studs, but are not nearly as deep as they have been in years past. If the transfers can step up and support the Colorado triumvirate, Portland is back in the top 10 at NCAAs in 2013.