10. Virginia Cavaliers
Coach: Pete Watson
Notable Departures: Henry Wynne, Zach Herriott, Mike Marsella
Notable Additions: Spencer Dodds, Rohann Asfaw,
Harry Monroe, Saurav Velleleth
Projected Scoring Five:
Brent Demarest (Rs. JR) [TSR#30], Lachlan Cook (SO),
Chase Weaverling (SR), Thomas Madden (Rs. SR), Matthew Novak (Rs. SO)
As a Virginia Tech student, it pains me to put the Cavaliers in the top 10. That said, I have to give credit where credit is due. UVA is primed for grand success in 2017 as their squad matures and becomes much more experienced. Their combination of established front-runners and impeccable depth makes this team a podium threat.
UVA's 2016 season began at the Adidas XC Invite in North Carolina where they would face the likes of Florida State and NC State. Surprisingly, the Cavaliers faltered to 3rd overall (losing on a 6th man tie-break for 2nd) as their pack simply struggled to close the gaps. It was certainly not the start that many people expected.
One week later, Virginia hosted the Panorama Farms Invite in own their backyard where they attracted elite programs like BYU and Syracuse. The Cavaliers finished third overall, but their pack was starting to come together with finishes of 11, 14, 15, 20, and 22. Of the 8 individuals that UVA ran, their bottom four were all freshmen.
We would have to wait another three weeks until we saw Virginia race again, this time at the Penn State Open. Despite the small(ish) sized field, UVA would still have to face programs like Oklahoma State, Mississippi, and arch rivals Virginia Tech. However, this time they were led by Brent Demarest and Lachlan Cook with finishes of 6th and 7th overall. The Cavaliers placed 3rd the team standings behind Oklahoma State and Mississippi with the biggest weakness coming at the 5th spot with a finish of 41st overall.
The regular season had ended and there was still no sign of Henry Wynne. What had happened to the 2016 NCAA indoor mile champion? It turns out that Wynne suffered an early season injury that caused him to shut down his racing for the entirety of cross country.
UVA put their regular season behind them and shifted their focus to ACC's which was arguably their best race of the season. For a majority of the race, they gave Syracuse a tough time by packing their top five into the top group. Although they weren't able to hold off the Orangemen, UVA still finished a respectable second place overall while also getting revenge on Florida State and NC State from the Adidas XC Invite.
The next stop would be the Southeast Regional Championships which proved to be a bit more challenging than expected. NC State once again got the best of Virginia and Furman was only one point away from taking UVA's auto-lock spot to Nationals. Then again, the Cavs could take solace in the fact that their #1 man (Brent Demarest) didn't race to his full potential after finishing 38th overall.
In the final race of the season, Virginia would finish 18th overall in the team scoring as Demarest and Herriott led the way with finishes of 33 and 40 (in the team scoring). The rest of the squad finished 81, 149, and 173 to close out the scoring. While I am sure that the Cavaliers were looking for a better finish, they couldn't be too upset with the result. Five of their top seven were either sophomores or freshmen...
Admittedly, UVA struggled during a few points throughout the season. Still, you have to give the Cavaliers a lot respect for battling through the difficulties they had last fall. A majority of their squad were underclassmen, they had some inconsistencies with their bottom two scorers, and they relied on a redshirt sophomore to lead their team after their superstar low-stick was ruled out for the season with an injury.
In 2017, Virginia is looking like one of the more complete teams in the NCAA. With Demarest and Cook at the front, UVA may have the best 1-2 punch in the Southeast region. They'll need to work on their consistency, but that is something that comes with age.
At the 3rd and 4th spots, we will most likely see veterans Chase Weaverling and Thomas Madden. Last year, Weaverling had a string of great performances in the last few meets of the season where he finished 15th at Penn State, 13th at ACC's, and 14th at regionals. He will be flanked by Thomas Madden who is returning to the lineup after redshirting the 2016 season. UVA should feel very comfortable about having two seniors giving them support and consistency at the 3rd and 4th spots. It's also important to note that Madden's reappearance on the roster will help make up for the graduation of Zach Herriott.
As for the 5th man, it seems like anyone on this squad could find themselves at that spot at some point during the season. Matthew Novak, Ari Klau, Johnny Pace, Alex Corbett, and AJ Ernst all had at least one opportunity to race in UVA's lineup last fall. And the best part? All five of these individuals will have the eligibility of sophomores in 2017. We could very well see a significant improvement from all of these guys in the next few months.
Adding to that depth will be Texas transfer Spencer Dodds who had a very respectable freshman year with the Longhorns.
In case you couldn't tell, UVA is locked and loaded this fall. This program is incredibly deep and they have already shown that they can at least stay competitive without Henry Wynne.
It's tough to only put them at #10 in the rankings, but until the season action begins, there are just too many other teams with too much firepower. However, I fully expect UVA to put themselves in a position to take the Southeast regional title while also pulling off some upsets. If they can do that, don't be surprised if the Cavaliers are one of the four teams on the podium in November.