Updated: Jan 13
Written by John Cusick
Seattle Pacific returned to the National Championships in 2018 after missing the meet for the last five years. Back in 2013, they finished 21st. This time, their return ended with a 15th place finish and it’d be their best finish since they placed runner-up (2007), 4th (2008), and 4th (2009). With the return of their entire top seven, improving upon that 15th place should be the expectation.
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The top runner for the Falcons was Kaylee Mitchell. She was just a freshman last year and was a big reason for the team placing so well at the national meet. She finished 35th at the national meet, garnering All-American honors, but her regular season showed us that she had the ability to be a top performer.
She began the season with a win at the CWU XC Invitational in a time of 18:03. She later ran her fastest 5k time of the cross season at the Charles Bowles Willamete Invitational running 17:24 which was good enough for 7th place overall. She had another 7th place finish at the Inland Empire Challenge followed by a 6th place finish at the Western Washington XC Classic. She did all of that before finrdally taking 3 at the GNAC Championships with a time of 21:35. Two weeks later she took 16th place at the West Regional Championships.
In other words, Mitchell brings incredible consistency and reassurance to this team as a top low-stick. When you consider that she was only a freshman, the idea that she could finish in the Top 20 at NCAA's seem vey possible.
That said, there’s a slight drop off between Mitchell and the next six runners for SPU. Even so, all six are going to be coming back in 2019 as we mentioned before.
Katherine Walter was the 85th place finisher at the NCAA meet last year. She endured the best cross country season she has eve had in the three years at SPU. She finished 20th at the Inland Empire Challenge where she ran 18:11 over the 5k course. Three weeks later, she finished 13th at the GNAC Championships while running a time of 22:07. She’ll be entering her senior year this fall and if she can improve the way she did in 2018, she’ll be a strong #2 option behind Mitchell.
Kate Lilly was the third runner for Seattle Pacific in 2018. Lilly is more known for her ability to run the middle distances, but has been a staple of the cross country team for the last three years. Lilly also had the best cross country season of her life last year as she had a very impressive regular season before having an off day at the NCAA meet.
Lilly was 12th at the GNAC Championships with a time of 22:06. She followed that up with a 10th place performance at the West Regional Championships. It is a little odd that she performed so poorly at the NCAA meet after regionals. She just recently placed 5th in the 5k at the NCAA Outdoor Championships while running a personal best of 16:51 during the season. If Lilly has the race that was expected of her, SPU may have finished inside the top 10. Luckily, she'll have a chance to redeem herself this fall.
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Krystal Oien (formerly Kaufman) was another freshman who had a big role on this SPU team despite not maybe being entirely ready for it. Her best finish came from the first meet of the season where she finished 16th at the CWU Invitational. However, she was a regular placer in the 40's throughout last year. She was 43rd at the GNAC Championships before placing 105th at the West Regional Championships. She ended the season as the 136th athlete to cross the finish line at the 2018 national meet.
Dania Holmberg had an okay season leading up to the GNAC Championships where she placed 14th with a time of 22:10. She fell off after that, placing 67th at regionals and then 176th at NCAA's. What we saw during the track season for Holmberg was far from what she was in cross country. She ran 16:55 (5k) and 4:31 (1500) on the track, both personal bests. This makes her a legitimate #4 runner for the Falcons.
Sedona McNerney and Elizabeth Thompson are the final two athletes for the Falcons. Both finished lower than 205th in 2018. The benefit here is that they now have national experience and that goes a long way at the D2 level.
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The Falcons head into 2019 with a legitimate top four who should allow this team to run with some of the best programs in the country. As long as they can shore up their back end of their lineup, they should easily improve upon their placing from last year and be a strong team in 2019.
Written by Logan French
The Colorado Mines women bring back a very solid squad this season and can be considered one of the favorites to land on the podium. With the combination of returners from last year and an impressive recruiting class, the Orediggers are certainly no joke.
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Mines does lose three seniors from last year’s championship meet, but the depth and recruits on this team will relieve any doubts anyone may have. Their top finisher from last year’s championship meet, Madeline Geesen, will be the front-runner for the program and with her she brings Chloe Cook, Zoe Baker, Brooke Eberle, and Morgan Molesworth. Those five returners all finished within the top 100 at last year's national meet and they are likely to better their finish this year. With those five, and a strong core of freshmen joining the team, the Mines are a legit contender to land inside the top four.
Geesen’s debut on the national stage came last year when she finished 49th coming in at 23:42. As she enters her senior year with three years of experience under her belt, she will be a huge veteran scorer who is capable of leading this team in 2019. She doesn't need to be the most elite distance runner in the country, but the fact that she gives this team a low-stick to lean on is more valuable than some may realize.
Zoe Baker, Brooke Eberle, and Morgan Molesworth are the next three to return from last year. This trio will will be crucial in the Mines success this year. They finished 68th, 79th, and 81st respectively at last year's championship meet. Zoe Baker and Morgan Molesworth are now both sophomores and now have valuable experience on their resumes. Chloe Cook has been granted another year of eligibility giving the Orediggers another runner that has championship experience. She has finished as high as 71st (2017) and you can only think that this group will only improve from here on out. Dare we say that these four can all break inside the top 50? It'll be tough, but it's not impossible...
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One thing we need to talk about is the Mines recruiting class. They bring in six incoming freshmen and they will all be fighting for a spot/spots to run at the championship meet. The two notables recruits for Mines are Molly Maksin and Brin Strouse. Maksin has a 5k best of 18:25 while Strouse has a best of 19 flat. These aren’t necessarily eye-opening times compared to other recruits in the nation, but running in altitude is always an advantage for any athlete. Based on the success that they had with youngsters last year, both Maksin and Strouse could have a role inside this varsity seven.
Colorado Mines also adds one international recruit from Belgium in Holly Moser. She boasts a personal best of 19:18 over 5000 meters and will add even more depth to an already stacked group.
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Admittedly, experience will be the main concern with this team. Brooke Eberie is the only senior this year who ran at last year’s championship meet. Meanwhile, Zoe Baker and Morgan Molesworth are now sophomores, and only have one full season of experience under their belts. Obviously, they did gain some championship experience, which is critical. However, other than that, the team will rely on incoming recruits to complete their lineup come November.
In 2019, we should get a good look at how well the incoming freshmen transition to the collegiate scene about midway through the year. That young core will determine how far this team goes.
The Orediggers have been consistently been on the rise and 2019 looks like the year where they can really cement their name amongst the best in the nation. The key will be putting those loose nuts and bolts together at the right time. The combination of experience and newcomers always makes it hard to predict exactly how good a team can be.
Still, with a great coaching staff and a solid summer of training, Colorado Mines should be in the conversation for the podium throughout the rest of this year.