2019 Women's XC Top 25 Teams: Update #3

Updated: Jan 13


Written by Maura Beattie, Sean Collins, and Sam Ivanecky

KEY

(Unanked):

Was not ranked the week before.


(#/#):

First number indicates how much the team has moved in the rankings.

The second number indicates where they were ranked in the last update.

25. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (Unranked)

The Yellow Jackets are here to remind us that there was racing outside of Indiana and Wisconsin this weekend. The ladies of Georgia Tech took the trek up to State College, PA to take on the Penn State National Open and finished a strong 2nd, defeating very respectable squads in Tennessee, Princeton, and Penn rather convincingly.


Nicole Fegans lead this group in 4th place (3rd attached runner) and was joined by top 15 finishers in Mary Kathryn Knott and Liz Galarza. Mary Claire Solomon and Kim Hallowes closed out the top five in 21st and 23rd.


This was Georgia Tech’s first race since the Battle in Beantown and it’s clear that they are on an upward trajectory. Look out for this group, especially if Hana Herndon can return to the form she had as a freshman.


24. Minnesota Golden Gophers (-2 / 22)

Minnesota disappointed a bit, finishing in 16th place at the Wisconsin Nuttycombe Invitational. Still, they beat the likes of Columbia and Georgetown who have both been ranked consistently throughout this season. The Golden Gophers were lead by Abby Kohut-Jackson for the first time this season while previous front-runner Anastasia Korzenowski finished as their #3. Korzenowski has consistently been near the front pack in her races, so to see her fall back into the 70s was a bit surprising. Korzenowski will need to return to the #1 spot of their lineup to help push Minnesota up the results.


This race at Nuttycombe was not particularly special by any means, but this group did what they needed to do in order to cement their #2 spot in the Midwest region and prepare themselves for the championship season. We can’t forget about their 9th place finish at Notre Dame either. The combination of that finish and their 16th place finish here slots them in at #24.


23. Virginia Tech Hokies (Unranked)

The Hokies were just on the outside looking in of our last Top 25 after having not raced away from home. Their 7th place finish at the Pre-Nats Blue Race is enough to bring them into our rankings, especially with some disappointing finishes from others at both Pre-Nats and Nuttycombe.


Sara Freix has led this group alongside Sarah Edwards. Both have shown their prowess on the track and grass, but are often overlooked due to the presence of Laura Barton and Rachel Pocratsky on their previous teams. Now, it’s clearly Freix's and Edwards' time to shine.


Elizabeth Brush and Boise State transfer Kyra Lopez round out the very strong top four. Had NCAA XC teams scored to only four places, this group would have been challenging Florida State, who is firmly positioning themselves in our rankings.


The biggest worry here is the lack of a #5 runner for the team and frankly, there does not seem to be anyone waiting in the wings to close the gap. That leaves the pressure on freshman Lindsey Butler to clean up that position during the championship season.


22. Ohio State Buckeyes (Unranked)

Ohio State joins our Top 25 for a number of reasons this week. Their 13th place at the Nuttycombe Invitational beat a number of previously ranked teams (and some current) including Oregon and Minnesota. Abby Nichols is a strong leader for this group after finishing in the top 25 on Saturday. This team also includes NCAA indoor mile champion Julia Rizk who has strengthened the middle of their pack.


The Buckeyes also benefitted from the arrival of Penn State coming back to form, giving their win over the Nittany Lions from the BIG 10 Preview a little more value.


Like most teams in the #20 to #25 range, Ohio State is looking for a strong #5 runner to cement the backend of their scoring squad.


21. Oregon Ducks (-9 / 12)

The return of Isabelle Brauer and the arrival of Aneta Konieczek for the Ducks was supposed to push this team to become a top 10 contender. Unfortunately, neither debuted all that well at Nuttycombe with Brauer finishing 125th and Konieczek placing 138th.


The only good thing happening at the back of the Ducks’ pack is that their final four runners are all closely bunched together. That allows anyone from that group to have a bad day without jeopardizing the team score entirely.


Susan Ejore is leading this squad very well those and Taylor Chiotti is coming into great form for her sophomore season. They both deserve huge credit for helping to carry this team so far. A 14th place finish at Nuttycombe certainly won’t be good enough moving forward, but there are enough highlights for this team to keep them solidly in our rankings at this point.


20. Penn State Nittany Lions (Unranked)

As mentioned above, Penn State rejoins the rankings after a strong win at home this weekend. Penn State defeated a newly-ranked Georgia Tech team as well a handful of Just Missed/Honorable Mention teams in Tennessee, Penn, and Princeton. Kathryn Munks has been a great low-stick for this team this season, taking the individual victory this past weekend. The trio of Paternain, Willingmyre, and Rivers all finished in the top 10 as well to help Penn State to the convincing victory.


Penn State’s #5 has been Megan Ciasullo, a freshman who has struggled to stay consistent so far this season. Still, she finished before any other team’s #4 runner at the PSU National Open this weekend. If Penn State really wants to ensure their spot to Nationals out of the Mid-Atlantic region, or play spoiler at the BIG 10 Championships, then freshman Kileigh Kane could abandon her redshirt season after finishing 12th unattached.


Nonetheless, this is the Penn State team we were expecting to see earlier in the season, even if Paternain isn’t their leader.


19. California Baptist Lancers (+1 / 20)

CBU grabs another impressive victory this weekend by coming out on top at the Arturo Barrios Invitational. They were almost upset by Middle Tennessee State, but managed to edge them by six points.


At a stronger meet, this score widens significantly with their strong pack of the Lancers. They placed all seven varsity runners in the top 25, a feat that no other school could claim for their five scorers. This pack scrambled their order yet again, showcasing the true pack-running exhibited by the Lancers.


They will have just one race left in their season at the WAC Championships since they are ineligible for the NCAA postseason this year.


18. Notre Dame Fighting Irish (+3 / 21)

Although the Fighting Irish finished 12th at the Nuttycombe Invitational this weekend, they easily could have been closer to 7th. Anna Rohrer and Maddy Denner continue to lead the team after finishing 10th and 11th in a loaded field. These two will provide key points in large invitationals like the Great Lakes Regional Championships and NCAA's.


Unfortunately, Notre Dame is still figuring out the rest of the runners behind this pair. Jacqueline Gaughan continues to struggle compared to her 2018 season, but she did look substantially better than she did at Joe Piane earlier in the season. Similarly, Annasophia Keller and Kelly Hart had less than ideal days. Keller finished 149th and Hart DNF’d, both costing the Irish a substantial number of points.


If Notre Dame can figure out the second half of their lineup, they stand to finish in the top half at NCAA's. They have one of the best 1-2 pairings in the country, but will continue to underperform without any depth.


17. Illinois Fighting Illini' (+6 / 23)

Illinois continued to impress this season with a 6th place showing at Pre-Nationals in Terre Haute this past weekend. The Illini’ came into the meet unranked in the coaches poll, but finished just behind #14 Florida State and beat (previously ranked) #18 Ole Miss.


Rebecca Craddock continues to lead the group with her 33rd place finish, but the rest of her teammates appear to be closing the gap. Of the five teams in front of them at Pre-Nationals, only Washington (1st) and Michigan (4th) had smaller spreads for their scoring five.


The only downside for the Illini’ is that they run thin...their #6 runner was 38 places behind their #5 which would have dropped them to 8th in the team standings.


The real proving grounds for this group will be the BIG 10 Championships in two weeks when they race a handful of other top-ranked squads.


16. Furman Paladins (-1 / 15)

The Furman women finished essentially right where they were expected, placing 10th at the Nuttycombe Invitational. Gabrielle Jennings continues to have a great year, leading the team with an 8th place individual run. Her performance on Friday has solidified her as a true threat on the national level. She gives Furman a great 1-2 combo with Savannah Carnahan.


Carnahan ran a solid race, earning a 19th place finish. She is likely someone who could be a little higher up (or closer to Jennings) in future races, but this is still a good performance for her.


The big concern for the Paladins right now is that they have no reliable #5 runner with their final scorer placing 163rd overall. She was 98 places behind Furman’s #4 and was an average of 84 places behind the #5 runners on the nine teams ahead of Furman. In fact, she was even an average of 17 places behind the #5 runners of the 10 teams behind the Paladins on Friday.


So how much did this hurt Furman overall? Well, if teams were scored through four runners, the Paladins would have placed 6th. Furman has a great top four, but if they don't find a reliable #5, they could struggle in postseason competition.


15. Air Force Falcons (+4 / 19)

What the Falcons lack in front-running talent they make up for in depth. Air Force was able to upset a number of teams, including Furman and Utah, thanks to a substantially smaller spread at Nuttycombe this past weekend. Only 72 places separated the top five Air Force runners. The average spread of the seven teams behind them was 124 places.


Mahala Norris and Mikayla Gallagher continue to run well for Air Force and could be key factors towards the Falcons' postseason success. Both are running their best times to-date and Air Force could greatly benefit from a strong 1-2 punch. If these two continue to improve, Air Force could make a surprise run for a top 10 finish at NCAA's.


14. Florida State Seminoles (+2 / 16)

Elizabeth Funderburk was 54th at this meet a year ago. On Saturday, she finished 10th.


Her huge improvement, along with strong performances by other Seminoles, propelled Florida State to a 5th place finish at Pre-Nationals this past weekend.


Although the top four teams in Terre Haute were substantially better than the rest, Florida State essentially “won” the rest of the race, and by a healthy margin. The Seminoles finished closer to Michigan (4th, 40 points) than Illinois (6th, 64 points).


The one weak spot for Florida State was their #5 runner. Through four, the Seminoles were only 13 points behind Michigan, but lost ground in the final scoring spot. If they can tighten up that gap, Florida State could be looking for a top 10 finish at NCAA's.


13. New Mexico Lobos (-8 / 5)

Every year, the knock on New Mexico is their lack of depth and this year is no exception. While Weini Kelati and Ednah Kurgat are one of the best 1-2 duos in the nation, the Lobos lack reinforcements.


Kurgat slightly underperformed this weekend with her 18th place finish, but the real issue for New Mexico was their gap between their top two and bottom three. There were 59 places between Kurgat and Hannah Nuttall. Of the 36 teams in the field, only two had a worse gap than that (Oregon and Columbia at 66).


Theoretically, this gap should close substantially if/when Adva Cohen returns, but until we see her in action, the roster is what it is.


12. Utah Utes (-2 / 10)

It was hard to gauge expectations for Utah after their huge upset win at Joe Piane. The Utes vaulted from unranked into many top 10's, but came back down to Earth a bit this past weekend with an 11th place run at Nuttycombe.


The Utes continued to see strong front-running from Poppy Tank and Bella Williams, placing 23rd and 24th in a deep field. Compared to Joe Piane, Williams should have finished a bit higher, but 24th is still a strong showing and a good sign of consistency for Utah.


Where the Utes lacked consistency this weekend was with their 3-4-5. Sarah Feeny finished right with Tank at Joe Piane, but was back in 56th this past weekend. At Joe Piane, the #4 and #5 Utes finished only 15 seconds behind Feeny - a gap that grew to 37 seconds this past weekend.


Overall, they saw a spread shift from 26 to 62 seconds between the two meets. For Utah to find the same form as Joe Piane, they will need to cinch that gap up in future competition.


One notable name missing from the results this weekend was Scarlet Dale. At Joe Piane, Dale was Utah’s fifth runner. She was absent on Friday. If she returns to this team, then the Utah women are still a top 10 threat. That is why they don't drop too much this week.


11. Northern Arizona Lumberjacks (+6 / 17)

While the NAU men seem to grab all the media attention, the women have been on an absolute tear this season. The Lumberjacks finished 6th at Nuttycombe this past weekend, besting fellow Mountain region opponents New Mexico and Air Force in the process.


Sophomore transfer Taryn O’Neill has been a huge addition up-front, notching a 20th place finish in a very deep field this past weekend. O’Neill has the potential to be an All-American and provides a key low-stick for NAU at bigger meets.


The rest of the Lumberjacks have been just as impressive, giving NAU a spread of only 60 places. Only five other teams in the field had a smaller spread. The one concern for NAU is that they fall off hard after their #5 runner. Only one team (Arkansas) had a bigger gap between their #5 and #6 runners.


When their top five run well, NAU looks like a top 10 team. The only question moving forward will be if they can consistently perform at a high level to avoid relying on their #6 runner - a move that could be detrimental to their success.


10. Boise State Broncos (+3 / 13)

I think it’s safe to say that Boise State had the most confusing results of the weekend. They were the only team to enter the "A" race in both Nuttycombe and Pre-Nats.


Let’s start with the good news for the Broncos, which was Nuttycombe. The Broncos placed 7th behind the leading duo of Clare O’Brien and Maxine Paholek. Olivia Johnson and Yukino Parle were also within 10 seconds of that leading duo to form a strong pack of four. Kristie Schoffield was their #5 runner across the line in 91st place which is a solid result for an 800 meter specialist.


The Broncos also sent a full team to Terre Haute where Lara Hamilton led the group in 43rd place among collegians. She was followed by Emily Moyes and Grace Brock who formed a very solid top three, especially when you consider that a significant portion of the team was in Madison. Still, this team finished 12th overall, barely falling behind full respectable Ole Miss and Oklahoma State squads.


Boise State moves up the rankings because of the combination of their results. Hamilton probably slides into the team's #5 spot if she competes with the Nuttycombe squad. Would that have moved Boise State ahead of NAU and others? Maybe not; however, there’s a lot to like about this team’s depth. I would also expect O’Brien and Paholek to be further up the results than they were this week.


The only hesitation about this team would be decision making. I don't really understand the full rationale for the split this past weekend as a top five athlete could easily be left off of the regional seven.


9. Michigan Wolverines (-1 / 8)

Once again led by freshman stud Ericka VanderLende, the Michigan women placed 4th at Pre-Nationals. VanderLende, who finished 5th overall, appears to not be slowing down anytime soon.


The Wolverines placed six runners in the top 50. Kathryn House and Maddy Trevisan have become solid #2 and #3 runners for Michigan. One second after Trevisan, Jena Metwalli crossed the line. Two seconds later, Camille Davre finished. From VanderLende to Davre, there was a 42 second spread. Michigan’s deep roster offers a lot of insurance and stability if someone on their backend has a bad day.


Something promising that arises for Michigan was the return of Anna West. West was the team’s #6 runner at Pre-Nationals, but she placed 50th overall. West was less than a second behind Metwalli and could easily become a scoring member for the team as Michigan enters the championship portion of the season.


Still, the team drops one spot in our rankings due to the rise of strong results from other teams at Nuttycombe.


8. Wisconsin Badgers (+1 / 9)

Alicia Monson and the Wisconsin Badgers have transitioned well to the new coaching philosophy and training this season. Monson repeated her 2018 Nuttycombe individual title and led the Badgers to a 4th place team finish on their home course. Monson took down top-ranked Weini Kelati and Taylor Werner with a decisive move.


Amy Davis has shown tremendous growth so far this season, walking away with a 15th place finish. Lucinda Crouch and Alissa Niggemann were also solid scorers for Wisconsin at Nuttycombe, finishing in 43rd and 59th, respectively. What kind of hurts Wisconsin is their #5 runner, Alexa Westley, finishing in 99th. Still, that isn't a terrible result for a true freshman who finished in a similar spot at a less competitive Joe Piane meet two weeks ago.


The Badgers had a spread of 1:37 between their top five, but only 35 seconds from their bottom three scorers. If runners 3-4-5 can finish closer to each other, then Wisconsin could be a top two contender at the B1G 10 Championships.


7. Michigan State Spartans (+4 / 11)

Michigan State placed a surprising 5th at Nuttycombe. The only reason this was a surprising finish was because the Spartans had not yet raced in such a deep field until Wisconsin.


Annie Fuller earned herself an excellent 13th place finish, beating top-ranked individuals in the process. India Johnson and Jeralyn Poe have been competing well this season and proved that by finishing 33rd and 44th, respectively. Jenna Magness kept the team's supporting scorers close by placing 53rd. Sarah Kettle rounded out the scoring for the Spartans with her 76th place finish.


It should be noted that the Spartans also have outstanding depth this season. Aside from their 5th place finish in the Championship race, Michigan State easily won the “B” Race at Nuttycombe with 18 points. Lynsie Gram’s time would have placed her 63rd (the team’s #5) and she could’ve bumped her team ahead of Wisconsin.


Maggie Farrell, who at the beginning of the season was expected to be a key member of Michigan State’s top five, was the team’s #5 runner in the “B” Race.


6. NC State Wolfpack (0 / 6)

A 3rd place finish highlighted NC State’s weekend after Nuttycombe. There were things that went well for the Wolfpack, but also things that could use improvement.


Elly Henes, the team’s top runner, finished 14th. Henes has the potential to finish in the top 10 and her low points are key. Julia Zachgo was 32nd and Kelsey Chmiel was 34th. These two packing up where they did is what helped carry NC State this past weekend. Chmiel has adapted well to the collegiate running scene and should only go up from here.


Dominique Clairmonte finished 50th, but should be closer to Zachgo and Chmiel. Clairmonte has the talent to make a dominant trio (or group of four) for the Wolfpack. The team’s #5 runner was Samantha Bush in 73rd.


NC State had a 52 second spread between their top five. Even though they beat nationally ranked teams, the Wolfpack still had a total score 203 points. To make the podium, the gap will need to decrease among their bottom three scorers.


Nonetheless, this was a great performance that showed us that the Wolfpack could still be in contention for a podium spot later in the season. Their combination of progress, depth, and firepower could put them in the top four come November.


5. Colorado Buffaloes (-2 / 3)

Colorado needed to use Pre-Nationals as a rebound race after losing to Utah at the Joe Piane Invite, but the Buffaloes only managed to finish 3rd behind Washington and BYU.


Sage Hurta ran great up front and finished 3rd individual. Tabor Scholl was in the top 10 as well. Between Hurta and Scholl, these two are carrying the team up front and are providing key low points. However, after these two, things start to fall off for the Buffaloes.


Annie Hill has been racing well all season for Colorado, but she still finished 30th in this race. Rachel McArthur was close behind in 38th. For the Buffaloes to be more successful, Hill and McArthur need to be finishing higher and closer to Scholl. Karina Mann and Holly Bent have a grasp on the #5 and #6 positions for Colorado, but are too far back to make a significant impact on the scoring.


At this point in the season, it would be surprising to see Emily Venters and Emily Covert make their season debuts, so Colorado needs to figure out how to move up the backend of their lineup to form a more cohesive group.


The PAC-12 Championships will be another chance at redemption for Colorado. The Buffaloes will need to come out with their eyes on the prize.

4. Washington Huskies (+3 / 7)

The Huskies make a jump this week after taking down BYU and Colorado at Pre-Nationals. Washington put together a solid performance by those who raced. Freshman Melany Smart did not toe the line in Terre Haute this weekend, likely resting before the championship portion of the season.


Katie Rainsberger had her best race of the season thus far. She was 6th overall with her teammates close behind. Shona McCulloch improved upon her finishes from earlier in the season as well with a huge 12th place finish.


Lilli Burdon bounced back after her Joe Piane Invite finish by placing 21st. Allie Schadler was immediately behind Burdon. With these two packing up and finishing eight seconds behind McCulloch, adding Smart back into this lineup only adds more firepower for the Huskies.


Washington will have another chance to fine-tune their lineup when they take to PAC-12’s and race against the likes of Stanford, Colorado, and Utah.


3. Stanford Cardinal (+1 / 4)

If you were to look at Stanford’s schedule for the fall, you would see that Nuttycombe was only their second race of the season. In both of those races, the Cardinal have finished runner-up to Arkansas. The new coaching situation at Stanford seems to be working out well because these ladies are making a run for the podium.


Fiona O’Keeffe has put herself right up with the leaders and is a guaranteed low-stick for Stanford after her 4th place finish. Ella Donaghu had a great race in Wisconsin with a key 6th place finish of her own. For not racing cross country last fall, Donaghu has acclimated to running on the grass very well.


Jessica Lawson crossed the line seven seconds after Donaghu in 12th.


Stanford will need to get their #4 and #5 runners to shorten the gap. There were 49 seconds between their top five, but to make the podium, this will need to be less than 40 seconds and that is very possible for this team.


As the Cardinal prepare for PAC-12’s, they are the favorite to win it all, but will have a tough time when dealing with Washington and Colorado. Each team has solid front-runners, but the depth of each team is what will ultimately dictate who comes out on top.


2. BYU Cougars (0 / 2)

No Whittni Orton, no problem. BYU still placed 2nd at Pre-Nationals without Orton and Aubrey Frentheway in the line-up. Even though Washington won, the Cougars were only three points back and if the two names mentioned above had raced, BYU would have easily beaten the Huskies (yes, even with Washington running Melany Smart).

Erica Birk-Jarvis picked up the win and Courtney Wayment was close behind in 4th. Olivia Hoj and Anna Camp performed well and finished only four seconds apart. The #5 and #6 runners finished together in 52nd and 53rd.


The fact that different women are able to fill the missing spots on any given day reiterates the depth of the BYU roster. Birk-Jarvis, Orton, and Wayment are a great trio up front and the final few runners of this lineup are talented in their own right.


The West Coast Conference won’t provide much competition for the Cougars, but it will be a good final tune-up before a tough Mountain Regional Championship.


1. Arkansas Razorbacks (0 / 1)

After a dominating performance at Nuttycombe, the Razorbacks continue to hold down the #1 spot. It only took 62 points, 36 less than 2nd place Stanford, for the ladies of Arkansas to prove that they are the favorites heading into the championship portion of the season.


Taylor Werner continues to do her thing at the front of big races and came away with a 3rd place showing over the weekend. Katie Izzo’s continuously impresses, has been a great addition to this already strong team, and placed 5th at Nuttycombe. Devin Clark is in phenomenal shape and her 7th place finish proves just that. Middle-distance ace Carina Viljoen finished a solid 9th and kept the 1-4 spread at only 17 seconds. Lauren Gregory, in only her second race of the season, placed a respectable 38th, but she has plenty of room to improve. By SEC’s, Gregory should be racing alongside Viljoen and that will only make this team stronger.


The only concerning thing for Arkansas is how far back their #6 and #7 runners are. After Gregory’s 38th place finish, the team had to wait till Maddy Reed crossed the line in 142nd. If anyone in the top 5 were to drop off badly or drop out, the Razorbacks would be in trouble. But either way, Arkansas has a solid top 5 and should easily find themselves succeeding at SEC’s and the South Central Regional.

ADDED

Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets

Virginia Tech Hokies

Ohio State Buckeyes

Penn State Nittany Lions

KICKED OFF

Georgetown Hoyas

Columbia Lions

Ole Miss Rebels

Syracuse Orange


JUST MISSED (in no particular order)

Indiana Hoosiers

Columbia Lions

Syracuse Orange

Texas Longhorns

Ole Miss Rebels

Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders


HONORABLE MENTIONS (in no particular order)

Boston College Golden Eagles

Tennessee Volunteers

Georgetown Hoyas

Butler Bulldogs

Tulsa Golden Hurricane

Oklahoma State Cowgirls


SURPRISE OF THE WEEK

Air Force Falcons

This week’s performance probably should not have been as surprising as it was after Air Force’s strong 3rd place at the Bill Dellinger Invitational. However, that result was overshadowed by how well BYU and Boise State ran combined with the disappointing result from Oregon. This week, Air Force showed up strong again to finish 8th at Nuttycombe, closing the gap to Boise State and beating New Mexico, Furman, and Utah. This team is the real deal and should be seen as a contender for the 3rd best spot in the region and a top 10 spot at NCAAs.


TEAM OF THE WEEK

Northern Arizona University Lumberjacks

The eclipse on the NAU women by their men’s team is getting smaller. This team finished a very strong 6th place behind only top ten squads. The addition of Taryn O’Neill has been huge at the front of the pack and the rest of the team is clearly buying in. It’s tough to really overstate how impressive this result is for the Lumberjacks. It almost guarantees their trip to NCAAs, a trip that they’ve missed the last couple of years.