Updated: Jan 13
Note: Keep in mind that what our writers value for the women's rankings varies from the criteria that we use to rank the men.
50. Maxine Paholek, Sophomore, Boise State
The true freshman from Australia had big expectations coming into the 2018 cross country season. The Boise State women looked to be one of the best teams the school had ever had and there was talk that former All-American Brenna Peloquin would be returning to help the podium push.
The reality was that Peloquin never did return, but in the end that hardly mattered because the young Broncos core stepped up in a big way. Paholek was a key member of that young core, consistently finishing as the fifth Boise State runner at four different meets. Among those four finishes was a 10th place showing at the Mountain West Conference meet which earned her the honor of Mountain West Freshman of the Year. The one time where Paholek fell short of expectations was at the NCAA National Championships when she placed 89th as the third Bronco. Realistically, Paholek had potential to make a push for an All-American spot and finishing in the top 50 would have been on-par with the rest of her performances in 2018.
Paholek had a solid track season despite staying under-the-radar. During outdoors, she ran 16:23 for 5000 meters at Bryan Clay and finished 19th overall at the NCAA West prelims in the steeplechase. Her personal best of 10:07 in the event made her the fourth-fastest woman in school history for the event.
Although expectations were high in 2018, this fall she will have even more weight on her shoulders. Allie Ostrander opted to go pro and Emily Venters transferred to Colorado, meaning that if Boise State is looking to make it to NCAA's, Paholek will have to step up again.
If she can improve on her 2018 performances, there is a very good chance that Paholek will be earning All-American honors in November. While her track season was nothing incredible, she showed strong consistency as a freshman and should be looking to carry that momentum into 2019.
49. Emma Grace Hurley, Senior, Furman
The Furman women will be looking to return to NCAA's in 2019 and the team brings back all five scoring members of their 2018 roster, including Emma Grace Hurley. The senior is coming off of two track seasons which saw her set personal bests in both the 5000 (15:57) and 10,000 (36:48). She was 51st at NCAA XC in 2018 and should be aiming to knock off another 11 spots in 2019 to earn her first All-American honors.
Hurley is an interesting case coming into the fall. While she set personal bests on the track, she also failed to make the NCAA regional meet which seems like a standard for someone hoping to be an All-American in cross country. Breaking 16:00 indoors was a big step in the right direction, but her only outdoor 5000 was a 17:37 at the Southern Conference Championships.
On the flip side, Hurley steadily improved during the 2018 cross country season and is one of the top returners for 2019. Her performance at NCAA's puts her in the top 40 of those returning and there will be an extra incentive to perform well as Furman look to improve their position at the national meet.
It’s hard to guess where she will land in 2019 given her track season and the unpredictability of cross country, but a safe bet would be 35th to 45th at NCAA's.
48. Julia Paternain, Sophomore, Penn State
The Penn State sophomore will be heading into the 2019 cross country with high expectations after a strong freshman season. Paternain started her freshman year by being the top Nittany Lion at the first four cross country meets, earning the win in two of them. Whether it was inexperience or just the fatigue of a longer season, Paternain struggled in her final two competitions, placing 35th at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Championships and 125th at NCAA's.
Heading into the national meet, there was talk of her being an All-American, making her NCAA showing relatively disappointing. Despite the fall-off in those last two meets, Paternain showed a lot of potential for the upcoming years at Penn State.
After redshirting during the indoor season, Paternain came back for outdoors where she earned herself a second trip to a national meet, this time in the 5000 meters. The true freshman finished 22nd overall at NCAA's and posted a season-best mark of 16:00 in the event. She then continued her season for one more race, placing 6th at the European U23 National Championships in the 10,000 meters while competing for Great Britain.
The big question going into this cross country season is which version of Paternain will show up? Will it be the one who led Penn State for the first few months of the season, or will she fade similar to the latter meets? If Paternain can maintain the composure and fitness we saw in the first few months of the season, she realistically could be a top 30 runner at NCAA's in November. While it’s too far out to say for certain, keep an eye on her as the season progresses.
47. Whittni Orton, Senior, BYU
Orton’s 2018 cross country season was one big question...where did she go? The BYU junior started the season on a great note, finishing runner-up to teammate Erica Birk at the Joe Piane Invitational. After that, Orton disappeared. She was absent for the remainder of cross country and did not return to competition until the UW Invitational on January 25th.
Orton had solid showings during the track seasons, qualifying for NCAA's in the mile and 1500, with her best finish being 8th overall in the 1500. Given that she was 7th during indoors in 2018, the performances were not stellar but appeared to indicate that Orton is back on track after her absence during the fall.
Trying to guess where Orton will land this fall is tricky. She has almost zero cross country experience to reflect on, having only raced twice in 2018 and once in 2017. The only time she competed in 2017 was at the NCAA Championships where she finished 115th, but that gives little insight into her overall ability on the grass.
Based on her brief showings during 2018 and her ability on the track, Orton could realistically finish anywhere between 30th and 80th at NCAA's this fall. With BYU bringing back the majority of their roster, the team will surely be looking to make it on the podium and Orton’s performances will be key in whether or not that happens.
Orton will enter this season with an increased level of intrigue - will this be the first season she competes in entirety? Or will the streak of absences continue?
46. Haley Herberg, Sophomore, Oklahoma
Herberg was one of the bigger surprises from the 2018 cross country season. The freshman made steady improvements, starting with a 18th place at Joe Piane and moving up to 5th at the NCAA Midwest Regional Championships which earned her a spot to Nationals. While her 78th place showing at NCAA's was a bit underwhelming, her season as a whole was very impressive for a true freshman in a program that is not historically strong on the women’s side.
Herberg carried her success in cross country over into her track seasons where she broke 16:00 in the 5000 meters (indoors), running 15:58 at the Iowa State Classic. She narrowly missed qualifying for NCAA's in the 5000 during outdoors, running 16:06 at the West regional meet which was only six spots out of the qualifying range.
This fall will be a chance for Herberg to prove that her freshman season was no fluke and that she can continue to find success as a Sooner. With Sharon Lokedi graduated, the BIG 12 Championships will become a showdown between reigning champion Cailie Logue, Sinclaire Johnson of Oklahoma State, and Herberg. There is a strong chance that if Herberg can replicate (or improve upon) her 2018 season, then she will once again be headed to NCAA's. With more experience and another year of fitness under her belt, Herberg will be gunning for an All-American spot this November.
45. Emily Covert, Freshman, Colorado
The first true freshman to make our Top 50 rankings is the NXN 4th finisher out of Washburn High School in Minneapolis, MN. Covert was the first high school girl in Minnesota to break the 17:00 barrier in a 5000 meter cross country race and is coming off of a state championship title during the fall. Along with her 4th place finish at NXN, Covert also finished 5th at the Foot Locker National Championships this season. She owns personal bests of 4:47 for 1600 and 10:05 for two miles.
Coming into Colorado as a true freshman, there are a number of questions that surround Covert. She is coming off an injury during this winter/spring which kept her out for much of the track season, although she managed to finish 2nd in the 3200 meters at the Minnesota state meet behind Furman commit Lauren Peterson. While she has shown tremendous ability in cross country, there is some concern that her jump to the collegiate system could be more challenging as she comes back from her injury.
Another point of intrigue is how she will handle the Colorado system. The Buffaloes are known for high volumes and intensity of training, a system that has broken some athletes, but has seen many flourish. Covert will also have to adapt to training full-time at 5000 feet, a stark difference from the 900 feet of Minneapolis.
All concerns aside, Covert will be joining a Colorado system that has developed some of the best runners in the country. Just recently, Dani Jones was able to come back from injury and win a national title and Covert will be looking to find similar success in the program. If she can follow a similar trend to fellow Minnesotan Joe Klecker, Covert could become one of the best in the NCAA in the coming years. Don’t count her out of the All-American conversation this fall.
44. Dominique Clairmonte, Junior, NC State
Clairmonte is helping to lead the charge of a rising NC State program with NCAA podium aspirations. She will be looking to serve as the co-star to NCAA All-American Elly Henes as the Wolfpack compete this fall. In her first two seasons, Clairmonte has finished 58th and 62nd at NCAA's and will be aspiring for her first NCAA All-American honors this November. She has been 5th at the Southeast Regional Championships two years in a row, as well as two top 10 showings at the ACC meet.
Clairmonte is coming off a pair of strong track seasons where she ran personal bests in the 1500, mile, and 3000. She fell just short of making NCAA's in the 5000 meters, placing 19th at the East regional meet where she finished in 16:37. She owns a personal best of 15:55 in the 5000 from her freshman season and came close to that mark in 2019 when she ran 16:04 at the Virginia Challenge.
Clairmonte has been very consistent throughout her time at NC State, but has seemingly fell short at NCAA's both years. Based on her performances throughout her cross country seasons it’s a bit of a surprise that she has yet to finish in the top 40. If she can carry her fitness through to November, Clairmonte should be challenging for All-American status while boosting NC State’s podium hopes.
43. Egle Morenaite, Junior, Iona
Morenaite is a returning All-American in cross country and will be looking to replicate that performance again this season. Morenaite was a big surprise at the NCAA meet. She had made NCAA's as a freshman, but finished 158th place despite being 7th at the Northeast regional meet. In 2018, she was runner-up at the Northeast meet after starting the season with a 66th place finish at Nuttycombe. She managed to improve even further at NCAA's, finishing 28th overall for her first All-American honors.
Based on her cross country performance, it seems Morenaite should be ranked higher than 43rd, but her lackluster track season hurts her overall ranking. Her best performance came at the Raleigh Relays where she ran 16:07 for 5000 meters. She fell well short of making NCAA's in the same event, finishing 26th overall at the East region meet where she ran 16:43.
Historically, Morenaite has always been a better runner on the grass than on the track and that trend points to her repeating as an All-American this fall. While she only garnered the #43 spot in our preseason rankings, it would be shocking if she doesn’t move up throughout the season.
42. Amy Davis, Senior, Wisconsin
After an up-and-down cross country season, Davis put it all together and had two great track seasons in 2019. She ran personal bests in the 1500, mile and 10,000 and finished 8th at NCAA outdoors in the 10,000 meters to earn her first All-American honors on any surface. After just missing out on All-American status in cross country two years in a row, she will have extra motivation to earn that status in her senior season.
Davis will be looking to solidify her spot as the number two Badger behind NCAA champion Alicia Monson. Wisconsin brings in a strong recruiting class and the majority of their 2018 roster with hopes of dethroning Michigan as the BIG 10 champions. One major hit to the program, and potentially Davis, is that head coach Jill Miller recently announced her departure from the university to lead the program at Northwestern. While this shouldn’t derail Davis (or the other Badgers), it could play a role in how the team does this fall.
On any given day, Davis has the potential to be among the NCAA's most elite women. In 2018, she was 25th in a stacked Nuttycombe field and finished 11th at the Great Lakes Regional Championships. Admittedly, there have been other meets where she faltered, such as a 34th place finish in a weaker Pre-Nats field and a 67th place finish at NCAA's.
If Davis can continue her trend of improvement and add in a bit more consistency, she could be a major boost to the Badgers postseason hopes this fall.
41. Jessica Lawson, Junior, Stanford
It’s easy to forget Lawson in the midst of other Stanford stars such as Elise Cranny and Fiona O’Keefe. While both of those women had great years, Lawson quietly set herself up to be one of Stanford’s finest in 2019. As a sophomore, Lawson missed All-American honors in cross country by only four spots and is well on track towards earning that status this fall. She is coming off of her first NCAA Championship on the track, placing 10th in the 1500 meter final where she ran 4:16. In order to get to that meet, Lawson ran a huge personal best in the regional finals when she ran 4:11 to improve on her previous mark by almost six seconds.
This fall will be Lawson’s chance to step up as a leader for a Stanford program that will be looking to make the podium at NCAA's. Elise Cranny has graduated and the weight of the team will fall to Fiona O’Keefe and Lawson as the upperclassmen looking to make their mark on the program.
Lawson saw a big jump between 2017 and 2018 on the cross country course and another big jump would put her among the best in the NCAA in 2019. Having O’Keefe as a training partner will certainly be a huge asset for her continued development, but one concern heading into the fall will be the departure of coaches Chris Miltenberg and Elizabeth DeBole. What will happen with the coaching situation now up in the air? Your guess is as good as mine.
While Lawson historically has not gained the attention of other fellow Stanford stars, 2019 could be her year to make her name known.