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.
15. Taylor Hestekin, Rs. Sophomore, U-Mary
Hestekin had a stellar 2018 in both track and cross country. The rising junior has extensive range, starting at the 800 and moving all the way up to 6000 meters in cross country.
Leading up the regional meet, Hestekin put together a string of impressive top 10 results. She was 8th at Roy Griak before earning back-to-back 4th place finishes at the NSIC Preview and the NSIC Championships. Her 23rd place finish at the Central Region Championships was slightly underwhelming, but it still yielded a team title and didn't stop her from finishing 29th at the national meet. With her help, the U-Mary team captured with the runner-up trophy, their highest finish in school history.
Overall, Hestekin is a consistent top scorer on a U-Mary team that is already considered a powerhouse program in D2. Her unique mix of stamina and speed makes a legitimate threat in tactical races with fast finishes. She'll likely for a force to be reckoned with later this fall.
14. Hope Pietrocarlo, Junior, Edinboro
Pietrocarlo made major improvements in the 2018 cross country season compared to that of 2017. Two years ago, Pietrocarlo finished 151st at the National Championships in her freshman season. But as a sophomore? Well, that story is entirely different.
The Edinboro low-stick had a relatively quiet regular season in 2018, finishing runner-up at the Doug Watts Invite and then 46th at the Loyola Lakefront Invitational (which was stacked with a handful of Power Five teams). However, her postseason was were she truly blossomed. Pietrocarlo would go on to finish 7th at an underrated PSAC Championship meet and then 3rd overall at the Atlantic Regional Championships. Her 27th place finish at Nationals would cap off her hot streak and leave her as an All-American.
With both of the top two finishers ahead of her in the region now graduating, Pietrocarlo is a very strong favorite to win the Atlantic region this year, along with cracking the top 15 at Nationals.
13. Madison Goen, Junior, Grand Valley State
One of the more reliable, but undervalued, distance stars in Division Two is Madison Goen. The All-American standout played an integral role in GVSU's title run last year, acting a key scorer who closed out the latter half of their lineup when they needed her the most.
Last fall, Goen finished 29th in a very competitive Loyola Lakefront Invite before posting a similar kind of result at the Bradley Pink Classic where she finished 33rd against some of the top D1 programs in the Midwest region.
Goen followed up those performances with two top finishes at her conference and regional meet before placing 26th at the national meet where she became an XC All-American.
During both the indoor and outdoor track campaigns last year, she qualified for Nationals in the 5000 meters. Additionally, Geon barely missed an All-American spot in the 3000 steeplechase by finishing 9th overall.
Clearly, Goen is no stranger to big races and helping out in a team aspect. Her consistent ability to compete with the best in the nation and add scoring value regardless of the race she is in was enough to give her the #13 spot in our rankings.
12. Emmanuelah Chelimo, Rs. Senior, Alaska Anchorage
With the departure of national champion and NCAA 5k and 10k national record holder Caroline Kurgat, it appears that Chelimo has some very big shoes to fill at Alaska Anchorage. Her XC National Championship result on TFRRS lists her as a senior, but she is listed on UAA's 2019 roster and does not appear to have used all four seasons of cross country eligibility.
Chelimo is expected to return to the dirt and grass this fall after winning five straight races during the 2018 cross country season. This includes wins the GNAC XC Championships as well as the West Regional Championships - both in dominating fashion. Chelimo finished off her season by placing 23rd at Nationals, giving her a notable improvement from her 44th place finish from the year prior.
Chelimo has not raced since the NCAA XC Championships, but her proven ability to earn multiple wins and perform well in the postseason makes Chelimo an easy candidate for our Top 25 rankings.
11. Emily Byrd, Senior, Michigan Tech
After not qualifying for the NCAA XC Championships in 2017, Byrd made huge improvements the following year. During her 2018 campaign, she lowered her PR in the 6k, allowing her to finish 8th at her conference meet and improve from 26th place to 10th place at the Midwest Regional Championships. Her 20th place finish at Nationals was impressive, but her 6th place finish at the Lewis Crossover meet is a performance that should not go unnoticed.
Byrd continued to improve on the track as she qualified for her first-ever NCAA Outdoor Championship where she finished 14th in the 10,000 meters. With her steady improvements on the course and on the track, the then-junior now senior will look to better her 20th place finish at this year's XC National Championships.