Updated: Jan 13
Oregon State was one of the biggest surprises of the 2018 cross country. Despite losing their number one runner from last fall (Julia Mount), the Beavers look like an even better team this season thanks to a strong recruiting class and the return of all of their other scorers.
Oregon State is going to be a team to watch beyond this fall. Their projected scorers for 2019 feature no seniors. With a talented group of freshmen joining the program, this team is set up to rise in the ranks for the coming years.
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Haley Wolf looks to be the new leader for the Beavers going into the fall. As a freshman, Wolf finished as the second Beaver in five of her six races, showing similar consistency of a veteran runner. She finished 32nd at the West Regional Championships, improving one spot from her 33rd place finish at PAC-12's two weeks prior. On paper, Wolf does not have the personal bests of many top runners on NCAA qualifying teams, but her consistency on the cross country course has gone a long way for Oregon State. Wolf will definitely need to move up in the ranks if Oregon State wishes to compete at a high level this fall, but now that she has a full year of experience under her belt, that should be more than manageable.
Behind Wolf, junior Lexi Reed looks to be a lock at the #2 spot. She finished as the third Beaver for a majority of her races last fall and is coming off of the best track seasons of her collegiate career which should give her great momentum coming into this fall. In 2018, Reed finished 37th overall at PAC-12's and 45th at the West Regional Championships. Compared to 2017, she improved 32 and 66 places at each of those meet, respectively.
Oregon State will need Reed to make another jump in 2019 and right now, Reed seems on pace to do such. This past winter and spring, she ran personal bests in the 1500, Mile, 3000, and 5000. As a result, she also qualified for the NCAA West regional meet in the 5000 meters where she finished 22nd overall.
Although Reed has not reached the “elite” level in the NCAA scene yet, she has continued to rise and could be looking for a breakthrough in cross country this fall.
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The Beavers appear to have a handful of women who could fill the 3-4-5 roles in 2019. Audrey Lookner is the next returner and she was right behind Reed last fall. Lookner had her best race of 2018 at PAC-12's, finishing right behind Wolf and ahead of Reed for a 34th place showing. She was typically Oregon State’s #4 runner last fall, but could be looking to challenge Reed for the second spot this season. However, she won’t be the only one.
Freshman Meagen Lowe of Clovis, California was a high school standout and will look to make a major impact for the Beavers in her first NCAA season. Lowe is coming off of a 3rd place finish in the 3200 meters at the California State Meet, an event where her personal best is a stellar 10:12.
As a junior, Lowe finished runner-up at the state cross country meet, earning a chance to compete at NXN where she finished 16th overall. As a senior, she was once again state runner-up and finished 34th at NXN. Lowe also owns personal bests of 15:59 for three miles (XC) and 4:46 for the 1600. Based on her high school performances, Lowe appears to be ready to make an immediate impact for Oregon State. Given that she is only a freshman, it’s hard to tell just how good she can be, but it would not be surprising to see her in the Beaver’s top three this fall.
Fellow freshman Gabrielle Peterson was also a high school star and will be looking to join Lowe in bolstering the Beavers lineup. Peterson was the California Division V cross country champion, finishing 35 seconds ahead of the next runner. She qualified for the Foot Locker National Championships where she finished 23rd overall.
On the track, Peterson owns personal bests of 4:47 and 10:23 for 1600 meters and 3200 meters, respectively. Her marks are very similar to Lowe’s and her ability to compete in national caliber meets such as Foot Locker should make her an extremely valuable scoring asset once she's in the NCAA. Although she will only be a freshman, Peterson has a strong chance to compete as a scoring runner for Oregon State this fall. Both her and Lowe should be interesting to watch early on to see how they progress on the collegiate scene.
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If it's not already clear, Oregon State has A TON of depth and plenty of options. They are one of the few teams in the NCAA that can put together a complete top seven with minimal issues. The PAC-12 and West Regional Championship results may not jump off the paper when you look at their top returners, and that does raise concerns as to who will be the next true low-stick for this team. If Oregon State really wants to be competitive with the top teams in the country, they need to find another woman to fill the shoes of Julia Mount.
At the same time, the numerous lineup options and questionable pack-running makes Oregon State a stable and reliable program from a scoring perspective. The top returners from last year will still be competitive. Finishing in the top 35 at either the PAC-12 Championships or the West Regional Championships isn't bad at all if you can keep the time spread to a minimum.
Plus, the potential for one of these incoming freshmen to have a role in the Beavers' top five seems high. There is a lot of scary good talent on this roster that could keep Oregon State just as strong as what we saw from them in 2018.
Oregon State may be far better than this fall than some people realize. Their firepower is a major question mark, but their depth and potential room for growth makes the Beavers a comfortable pick at the #20 spot in our rankings. Given how well they've done with young talent in the past, this year's incoming recruits could be far more valuable than most.
Coach Quintana's squad wasn't just a one-season wonder and they will likely prove that in the coming months...