2019 Women's XC Top 25 Teams: Update #4

Updated: Jan 13


Written by Maura Beattie, Garrett Zatlin, and Sean Collins

KEY

(Unranked):

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. Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders (Unranked)

Entering the rankings for the first time this season is Middle Tennessee State. The Blue Raiders have been lurking in the shadows of their male counterparts, producing quality performances for the last month. Those results began with a 1st place finish at the Louisville Classic where Eusila Chepkemei and Joice Jebor placed 2nd and 3rd to lead the team to a 42 point victory over Lipscomb.


Two weeks later, the Blue Raiders slipped just behind California Baptist at the Arturo Barrios Invitational. Again, Chepkemei and Jebor lead the way, finishing 2nd and 4th, respectively. The issue for this team throughout those two meets was a lack of a legitimate #5 runner, although Rachel Kigen made a huge improvement to close that gap at Arturo Barrios.


This week, Middle Tennessee State handily won the Conference USA crown, 42 to 74 over Southern Mississippi. Chepkemei and Jebor continued their impact at the front of the pack, placing 1st and 3rd, while Winny Koech of UTEP jumped in between them.


Pamela Kosgei and Mercy Chepkurui then finished 8th and 11th.


What sold us on moving this team into our XC Top 25 was the finishes of Faith Rono and Rachel Kigen who were 19th and 20th this past weekend. Although finishing a little closer to Chepkurui would have been ideal, having two solid efforts at the #5 and #6 spots eliminates some of the worry about that scoring gap.


24. Minnesota Golden Gophers (0 / 24)

Minnesota’s 7th place finish at the BIG 10 Championships may look a bit troubling at first glance, but based on the overall scores between Penn State, Ohio State, and Illinois, this result actually shows us that Minnesota deserves a spot in our XC Top 25.


Why?


Well, all four of these teams finished within seven points of each other.


The biggest takeaway of this race for the Gophers was the front-running of Anastasia Korzenowski. At Nuttycombe, the Minnesota ace struggled to finish as the Golden Gophers’ #3 scorer, but seeing her rebound to finish 7th at BIG 10's is huge for a Minnesota team that needs all of the scoring potency they can get with the Hasz twins being redshirted


The gaps that developed after Korzenowski aren't ideal, but having a total of three runners inside the top 30 of this deep field is something to be encouraged about.


23. Ohio State Buckeyes (-1 / 22)

Ohio State earned a one point victory over Minnesota and a tie-breaker win over Illinois at the BIG 10 Championships.


The Buckeyes had an absolutely wonderful performance from Abby Nichols as she placed 5th overall to lead the secondary pack. Behind Nichols was Julia Rizk (17th) and Lainey Studebaker (21st) to give Ohio State a very respectable top three.


Ohio State drops a spot in our rankings mainly due to the gap between Studebaker and Allie Guagenti, the Buckeye’s #4 runner. Even with the front-running capabilities of their top three, without the backend of their lineup stepping up, Ohio State is going to lose close battles in the coming weeks.


22. Oregon Ducks (-1 / 21)

Sliding inside this odd grouping of BIG 10 teams is the Oregon Ducks. The Ducks were the clear 5th place team at the PAC-12 Championships this past weekend, finding themselves a in no man's land of sorts


Susan Ejore is still a great leader for the Oregon women as she placed 9th overall in a front-heavy field. Amanda Gehrich and Taylor Chiotti also continued to get the job done as they have all season, placing 20th and 24th overall.


However, this team begins to have some difficulty when they reach the final two scoring members of their lineup. This week, those runners were Phillippa Bowden and Aneta Konieczek. Both women made improvements compared to their races at Nuttycombe, but they will need to extend their peak in order to help this team contend for a top 15 finish at Nationals.


Isabelle Brauer is another harrier to watch for as she was the Ducks’ #4 runner at Nuttycombe, but fell to 4th at the PAC-12 championships.


There is a ton of potential in this group given the track prowess they possess. Unfortunately, the Ducks have not been able to pull it all together yet for a stronger team finish.


21. Illinois Fighting Illini' (-4 / 17)

It’s back to the BIG 10 where Illinois slots in at #21 after losing a tie-breaker to Ohio State. The Fighting Illini had one of the stronger 1-2-3-4 packs of the meet. Rebecca Craddock finished 18th to lead the squad while Allison McGrath, Madison Marasco, and Emma Milburn crossed the line for finishes of 22-28-29. However, their final scorer tallied 47 points.


Moving forward, that top pack will need to continue sliding up the standings. Compared to other low-sticks, Craddock was the clear outsider, finishing well behind the top runners of other top-ranked BIG 10 teams.


Illinois will also be looking for Emma Wilson to have a rebound race. After acting as the #3 runner for her team at the Buckeye Preview, she has slowly faded in their lineup.


The rationale for maintaining a higher position than Ohio State in our rankings is due to Illinois’ season-long success. They’ve been extremely consistent with their finishes and should be able to secure a spot to NCAA's without too much trouble.


20. Penn State Nittany Lions (0 / 20)

The Nittany Lions showed both strength and potential at the BIG 10 Championships, beating three ranked teams and finishing 4th overall.


Kathryn Munks has been the unlikely front-runner for the Nittany Lions all year, placing 11th this weekend. Based on her other results, this was likely a slight underperformance, but still a strong race.


But let's talk about Danae Rivers. She stepped up in a huge way to finish 20th overall and act as the team's #2 scoring option. The NCAA 1000 meter collegiate record holder has consistently given Penn State valuable scoring when they need it the most as well as plenty of stability in the middle of their lineup. Teammate Alison Willingmyre provides a similar presence for Penn State.


Freshman Megan Ciasullo was the #4 scorer for the Nittany Lions today, finishing 40th overall in what was generally an encouraging performance.


However, the place for potential improvement moving forward is with Julia Paternain. Paternain was the top runner for Penn State last season, but has been incredibly inconsistent in 2019. After being the #2 scoring option for her team at the Penn State National Open, Paternain fell to 44th overall this weekend.


If she can at least return to a level where she is running with Alison Willingmyre or Danae Rivers, the Nittany Lions will take a big step up in our rankings.


19. Columbia Lions (Unranked)

The Lions return to the rankings after a brief hiatus thanks to their convincing victory at the Ivy League Championships. Katie Wasserman continued her place at the front of the Columbia pack by finishing 2nd overall. Six spots behind Wasserman was Alexandra Hays who secured an 8th place finish of her own to give the Lions two women inside the top 10.


One of the more encouraging developments for the Lions this season has been Emily Acker. Acker stepped into the #3 scoring spot this past weekend, crossing the line as the best #3 runner in the field (placing 12th overall). Teammate Bianca Alonzo finished closed behind in 16th place.


Another big appearance for Columbia was Sofia Camacho who had only raced twice prior to Heps (the Princeton XC Invite and the Metro Athletic Championship). Her ability to finish 19th in this race as the final Columbia scorer shows us that the Lions are the real deal and that they should not be dismissed as we enter the latter portion of the postseason


18. Notre Dame Fighting Irish (0 / 18)

Truthfully, we didn't learn anything new about the Notre Dame women. The Irish women finished 3rd at the ACC Championships, well behind NC State and Florida State, but far ahead of Virginia Tech and Syracuse. Maddy Denner will clearly be the face of this team for the foreseeable future when Rohrer graduates, but for now, the two make a great 1-2 punch.


However, the second half of their lineup continues to underwhelm with finishes of 36th and 52nd in the team scoring. Jacqueline Gaughan is looking a little better (she finished 18th), but this team will only go as far as their final two scorers go.


17. California Baptist Lancers (+2 / 19)

Congratulations to the California Baptist women for closing out a phenomenal season. The team will not be able to advance to the NCAA regional or national meets because they are still going through the transition process of moving from D2 to D1.


However, that didn't stop the Lancers from going 1-2-3-4-5 at the WAC Championships this past weekend. I'll be interested to see their development over the next few years.


16. Boise State Broncos (-6 / 10)

We can't necessarily say that this was a poor performance for the Boise State women, but dropping to 3rd place at the Mountain West Championships wasn't exactly what we expected from them.


Their pack-running continues to be the major focal point of their lineup, but it didn't benefit them in a race where New Mexico and Air Force had so much up-front firepower. Despite having all seven runners inside the top 20, the Broncos only placed one runner (Parle) inside the top 10 with a 7th place.


This is still a good team that will be competitive in the postseason, but we had no choice but to bump them back in our rankings.

15. Furman Paladins (+1 / 16)

As expected, the Furman women absolutely dominated the Southern Conference Championships yet again. The Paladins took spots 2-3-4-5-6-8-9 to easily clinch the title. Expect this team to challenge for a top two finish at the Southeast regional meet two weeks from now.


14. Air Force Falcons (+1 / 15)

The Air Force women took down Boise State at the Mountain West Championships this past Friday en route to a 2nd place finish. For the third straight race, a new runner led the Falcons and finished high.


At Bill Dellinger, they had Mikayla Gallagher.


At Nuttycombe, they had Mahala Norris.


Now, at their conference championship, they had Maria Mettler.


Mettler and Norris were 3rd and 4th, respectively. Lindsey Blanks added a third top 10 finish when she crossed the line in 9th place. 23 seconds separated Air Force’s top four women, but the spread between their top five inflated to 57 seconds.


13. Michigan Wolverines (-4 / 9)

Michigan fades to #13 in our rankings this week after a 3rd place finish at the BIG 10 Championships. Even though Michigan had six runners in before Wisconsin’s #5 runner, the Badgers still finished ahead of the Wolverines by 26 points.


Ericka VanderLende put up a strong fight throughout the race, but began to fall back in the last kilometer and ultimately ended her day in 6th place. For only being a freshman, 6th place in this deep field is still a great showing.


Kathryn House was the next Michigan runner to cross the line in 10th. Making her return to the top of Michigan’s lineup was Anna West who finished just inside the top 20 to give the Wolverines some key points. However, the 26th and 27th place finishes from their final two scorers proved to be too much for Michigan to overcome.


Michigan always has the benefit of having a deep roster, but that becomes difficult to gauge when trying to figure out who their top five scores will be. If this team can have their top runners all run well on the same day, then the Wolverines will be dangerous. That, however, has yet to be seen.


12. New Mexico Lobos (+1 / 13)

New Mexico rebounded from their earlier meets this season after winning the Mountain West title. The Lobos welcomed back Adva Cohen to their lineup and even though she didn’t score, her presence seemingly made all the difference (at least for her teammates).


New Mexico scored 23 less points than runner-up Air Force and were led by a 1-2 finish from Weini Kelati and Ednah Kurgat. The surprise performance of the meet had to be Hannah Nutall who finished 5th place overall to give her team an unexpected low-stick for the day.


Freshman Gracelyn Larkin and sophomore transfer Alex Harris (who previously ran for Villanova), were 10th and 13th, respectively and helped bring the conference title to New Mexico for the 12th year in a row.


Cohen was New Mexico’s #8 at the conference meet, but she is very capable of being the team’s #3 as the season progresses. New Mexico will need Cohen to race to her full potential if they want to at least be in the conversation for a podium spot. That can still happen, but not until Cohen proves to be the low-stick we know she can be.


11. Florida State Seminoles (+3 / 14)

They may not have won the ACC title, but I loved what we saw the Florida State women this pas weekend. Coming into the race, we were expecting Funderburk or Skyring to be the scoring leader for this team. Instead, it was Villanova transfer Lauren Ryan having a breakout performance and posting a huge 6th place finish.


With Funderburk finishing 8th and Skyring placing 10th, the Seminoles established a lethal scoring trio which should make a very dangerous squad into the regional and national meets. They had some weaknesses at their #4 and #5 scoring spots (placing 23rd and 29th), but those finishes weren't much worse than what we saw from NC State (who had their final two scorers place 21st and 26th).


Overall, this was a great race for FSU and it should give them plenty of confidence once they get to the National Championships.


10. Utah Utes (+2 / 12)

Another stellar performance moves Utah up in our rankings. The Utes put together a strong race at the PAC-12 Championships when they finished 3rd behind Stanford and Washington. Three women placed within the top 10 for Utah and their top five spread was 59 seconds. The trio of Poppy Tank, Bella Williams, and Sarah Feeny continued to provide key firepower for this developing team.


Utah will need to use every tool in their toolbox when they toe the line against BYU, New Mexico, Colorado, and Northern Arizona at the Mountain Regional Championships. However, there's a good chance that most of these teams will be focusing on qualifying for Nationals rather than trying to win their regional meet.


9. Northern Arizona Lumberjacks (+2 / 11)

The women of Northern Arizona have continued to climb in our rankings this season. At the BIG Sky Championships, the Lumberjacks scored a mere 36 points to beat Idaho by 54 points.


NAU placed four runners inside the top 10 and their entire top seven placed inside the top 20. Mikayla Malaspina was the overall runner-up finisher on a cold and snowy course in Colorado. Pipi Eitel and Taryn O’Neill crossed the line together in 5th and 6th, respectively. Miranda Myers was the #4 runner in 9th, keeping their top four spread at only 21 seconds. Bryn Morley slid into the #5 position and walked away with a solid 14th place finish.


The top seven spread for NAU was 54 seconds.


8. Colorado Buffaloes (-3 / 5)

The Buffaloes are finding themselves regressing in the rankings this weekend after their somewhat surprising, but not totally unexpected 4th place finish at PAC-12’s.


Sage Hurta continues to lead the team after placing 11th overall this past weekend while Holly Bent stepped up big time during the race and finished 14th overall. Bent led teammates Annie Hill (16th) and Rachel McArthur (18th) across the line, keeping their 1-2-3-4 spread at only 12 seconds.


However, typical #2 scorer Tabor Scholl unfortunately had an off day, dropping to 30th place overall in a race where she could have been in the top 15. If she runs to her full potential, the Buffs end up besting the women from Utah.


7. Wisconsin Badgers (+1 / 8)

Alicia Monson led the Wisconsin Badgers to a 2nd place finish at the BIG 10 Championships with her 1st place individual finish. Monson ran patiently for the first five kilometers, letting her competitors do all the work, before throwing in a surge with one kilometer left in the race to be crowned champion.


Behind Monson, Amy Davis settled for 4th while Alissa Niggemann finished 9th and Lucinda Crouch finished 13th, easily giving the the Badgers the best top four in the field.


The only concern for Wisconsin is their #5 runner. Freshman Alexa Westley was 35th overall, which is very respectable, but she was 26 seconds behind Crouch. Heading into the regional and national meets, it will be imperative for Westley and Wisconsin’s #6 and #7 to close the gap if Wisconsin wants to battle for a podium spot.


6. Michigan State Spartans (+1 / 7)

Michigan State came out swinging at the BIG 10 Championships. The Spartans outscored six TSR-ranked conference rivals, most notably taking down Wisconsin and Michigan. The Michigan State women have been putting in solid performance after solid performance this season and a conference victory was the right way for this program to start their postseason.


Annie Fuller was 3rd overall in the race and behind her were four other teammates inside the top 16. Throughout the entirety of this season, Jeralyn Poe has been quietly racking up valuable low points for the Spartans and has been a great #2 option behind Fuller. The final three Spartan scorers packed together extremely well, placing 14th, 15th, and 16th.


The Michigan State women are one of the most consistent and deepest teams in the NCAA and this weekend proved that.


5. NC State Wolfpack (+1 / 6)

NC State came out on top at the ACC Championships after Elly Henes took the individual win. Freshman Kelsey Chmiel continues to prove that, despite her youth, she is an experienced runner and can run with some of the nation’s best individuals. Chmiel has been a solid #2 for the Wolfpack this season and came out with a 4th place finish at ACC's.


Meanwhile, Julia Zachgo slid into the #3 spot, placing 12th overall, and has been steadily improving all season.


Nevada Mareno made her season debut for the Wolfpack and was the team’s #5 runner in 26th. If Mareno can use this race as momentum heading into the regional and national meets, then the Wolfpack just got a whole lot stronger.


A runner who should be in the scoring five for NC State is Dominique Clairmonte who finished 53rd this past weekend and was the team’s #9 runner. If she runs to her full potential, NC State only gets stronger and becomes a much more realistic candidate to finish on the podium.


4. Washington Huskies (0 / 4)

Washington finished runner-up to Stanford at PAC-12's over the weekend thanks to a handful of standout performances.


Katie Rainsberger is coming on strong at the right time after placing 4th in a deep field. Melany Smart, who was rested during Pre-Nationals, returned to the UW lineup and finished three seconds behind her teammate in 5th place.


However, the best performance for Washington had to come from Shona McCulloch after she finished 12th overall as the team’s #3 runner. McCulloch put together a strong race at Pre-Nationals a few weeks ago and has clearly used that momentum to improve her scoring value for the Huskies.


Only 30 seconds separated their top five runners, but Lilli Burdon faded to the #6 position in 21st place. Burdon, a past All-American on the grass, is very capable of placing in the top 15, but she needs to put the pieces together on the right day if Washington wants to fend off NC State, Michigan State, and Wisconsin at Nationals.


3. BYU Cougars (-1 / 2)

The Cougars of BYU scored only 18 points at the West Coast Conference Championships. Whittni Orton (1st), Erica Birk-Jarvis (2nd), and Courtney Wayment (3rd) continue to solidify themselves as top runners in the nation while Olivia Hoj (5th) and Anna Camp (7th) rounded out the scoring for BYU.


We should note that Aubrey Frentheway didn’t compete for the Cougars yet again, but her spot was easily filled as Hoj and Camp continue to improve. If Frentheway doesn’t return for the regional or national meets, BYU won’t need to worry about scrambling to find a woman to replace her with.


2. Stanford Cardinal (+1 / 3)

Stanford is on the rise this week after their dominating PAC-12 win. The Cardinal were paced by a 1-2-3 finish from Fiona O’Keeffe, Ella Donaghu, and Jessica Lawson. Jordan Oakes finished 9th while Julia Heymach rounded out the scoring in 13th place.


Stanford put up a total of 27 points, 28 less than runner-up Washington. The 30 second spread from O’Keeffe to Heymach is promising as it minimizes any excessive scoring on the backend of their lineup.


It should also be noted that Christina Aragon raced for Stanford and was the team’s #7 runner in 40th place. Aragon was an All-American on the grass during the 2016 cross country season and this was her first race back since early September of 2018.


If Aragon can return to top-tier form between now and NCAA's, she could provide some extra firepower to the Cardinal and possibly put them in contention to beat Arkansas.


1. Arkansas Razorbacks (0 / 1)

Another SEC Championship means another Razorback win. Arkansas has been on a roll all season and they don't appear to be stopping anytime soon.


All five scorers for the team were in the top nine this past weekend and were led by Katie Izzo. Taylor Werner was only four seconds back in 2nd while Carina Viljeon and Devin Clark finished in 4th and 5th, respectively. Lauren Gregory has improved since her performance at Nuttycombe and appears to be getting her racing legs underneath her once again.


There weren’t any other TSR-ranked teams in the field, but the Razorbacks still showed that they are ready to take home the national title a few weeks from now.

ADDED

Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders

Columbia Lions


KICKED OFF

Virginia Tech Hokies

Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets


JUST MISSED (in no particular order)

Virginia Tech Hokies

Indiana Hoosiers

Syracuse Orange

Oklahoma State Cowgirls

Texas Longhorns

Butler Bulldogs

Ole Miss Rebels


HONORABLE MENTIONS (in no particular order)

Boston College Golden Eagles

Villanova Wildcats

Tulsa Golden Hurricane

Syracuse Orange

West Virginia Mountaineers

Wake Forest Deacons


SURPRISE OF THE WEEK

New Mexico Lobos

After showing plenty of vulnerability at the backend of their lineup all season long, we weren't expecting the New Mexico women to place their top five runners inside the top 13 of the Mountain West. More so, we definitely didn't expect them to do that with Adva Cohen dropping all the way back to 33rd place.


TEAM OF THE WEEK

Stanford Cardinal

A 1-2-3 sweep by Fiona O’Keeffe, Ella Donaghu, and Jessica Lawson and a dominating win at PAC-12's lands Stanford as the “Team of the Week". Outside of Arkansas, they may the safest podium team in the NCAA this year. After a summer where the Cardinal women lost two coaches in Chris Miltenburg and Elizabth DeBole, it's Ricardo Santos who has somehow made them even better.


NOTES

- It was a tough decision to separate the BIG 10 teams within the #20 to #25 spots since Penn State, Illinois, Ohio State, and Minnesota all finished within seven points of each other. Even though Illinois lost to Ohio State, Illini’s consistency throughout the year kept them above the Buckeyes (for now).


- The first team out this week is Virginia Tech. The point gap between Notre Dame and Virginia Tech (as well as between Virginia Tech and Syracuse) makes it tough to keep them in our rankings. They may only drop a coupe of spots Virginia Tech, but it feels so much bigger since it moves them out of our rankings.


- There continues to be no BIG 12 representation in our rankings for the third update in a row, making this one of the longest droughts for a Power Five conference in our rankings history.