This weekend marks the beginning of postseason competition where we will see some exciting races for conference titles. For some teams, this serves as the final opportunity to earn Kolas points before regionals. For others, it is an opportunity to get the big guns firing on a large stage with championships at stake. The ACC is somewhat top-heavy this season, but it will provide for an ultra-competitive field.
Boston College is hosting the meet at Franklin Park, the site of the Coast to Coast Battle in Beantown which featured some top ACC talent back in September.
Syracuse goes in as the heavy favorite to win the team title, with Aidan Tooker in the conversation for the individual crown as well. Behind Tooker are Noah Affolder, Kevin James, Joe Dragon, and Iliass Aouani to round out their scoring five. Simon Smith has broken into that mix recently, and could have an impact on the field. Syracuse recently finished 3rd in the White race at Pre-Nats and 1st at the Battle in Beantown.
Syracuse fell from 8th to 11th in our rankings after their finish at Pre-Nats, but this is definitely still a team with top 10 potential at NCAA's. Two weeks later, they don’t look any less prepared to take on the ACC.
If there’s a team that is equipped to take a shot at upsetting Syracuse, it’s the Virginia Cavaliers. Virginia took 4th at the Battle in Beantown behind Syracuse, Washington, and Ole Miss, three of the top teams in the country. They later went on to win the Penn State Nationals Open, handily defeating ACC competitors North Carolina, Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech, and Pittsburgh. Led by Brent Demarest who finished 2nd behind Justyn Knight at ACC's last year (and later 19th at NCAA's), this is a much-improved squad from 2017.
At Penn State, Ari Klau and AJ Ernst finished within six seconds of Demarest, showing that they can form a valuable trio capable of controlling a championship race from the front. Alex Corbett and Randy Neish have been close behind as well. This is a deep team that works well together, and on the right day, has the ability to win over Syracuse. If the Cavaliers can get enough guys across the line between Noah Affolder and Syracuse’s third runner, they could pull it off.
Notre Dame heads into ACC weekend sitting at 16th in our national ranking, ahead of Virginia's 19th spot. This team has broken onto the scene rather late in the season, but they’re looking sharp when things are beginning to matter. Notre Dame was 5th in the White race at Pre-Nats, beating some highly ranked teams such as Air Force, Purdue, and Portland ("B" squad).
Yared Nuguse, the athlete who out-kicked Grant Fisher in the DMR at last year’s indoor national meet, was 13th at Pre-Nats two weeks ago. This shows All-American potential, and a clear ability to serve as a low-stick at ACCs. Andrew Alexander and Danny Kilrea both finished in the top 50 behind Nuguse at Pre-Nats. After that, Notre Dame has a bit of a drop off, but these top three can work together to offset any weaknesses at ACCs.
The Fighting Irish were also 3rd at their Joe Piane invitational, behind BYU and Wyoming. This race wasn’t as deep on the team side, but they did take down Furman in the process. Notre Dame has a great shot at the team podium this weekend, they just need to close some gaps. If that happens, they can do some real damage.
The University of North Carolina hasn’t made its way into our national rankings this fall, but they’ve been close. The Tar Heels are making a push towards the top of the ACC, and while they likely won’t be in contention to win, they could still make their presence felt. Most recently, UNC finished 6th place at Penn State behind some top teams. While this is a good performance for them, it is important to note that Virginia got six guys across the line before UNC’s first. The lack of a real low-stick will hurt the Tar Heels in a championship setting, as teams with no shot at the podium will have guys up in the mix.
Some other teams to watch include North Carolina State and Virginia Tech. Both of these teams have done well in less competitive invitationals, but they aren’t quite there in terms of ability to contest for the podium. Nonetheless, these are teams to watch.
Duke can be added to this group as well. They won the Roy Griak Invitational, but haven’t done a whole lot else in big races this season. At a meet like ACC's, they could be a factor outside of the top three teams. Wake Forest could make some noise too as they’re climbing the ACC ranks as well. Their lineup doesn't seem very rigid, which could help them or hurt them come Friday. The Deacons ran well at Paul Short, but didn’t do much at Pre-Nats.
On the individual side, this should be a pretty deep race. Aidan Tooker looks like a solid bet to win, but it won’t be easy for him. Virginia’s top guys will likely be looking to control this race, and Brent Demarest has the experience to take the title if he can hold off Tooker. Peter Seufer of Virginia Tech has looked great all year as well. Yared Nuguse or Emmanuel Cheboson of Louisville could make a run for too.
1. Aidan Tooker (Syracuse)
2. Brent Demarest (Virginia)
3. Emmanuel Cheboson (Louisville)
4. Peter Seufer (Virginia Tech)
5. Noah Affolder (Syracuse)
6. Nicholas Golebiowski (UNC)
7. Yared Nuguse (Notre Dame)
8. Ari Klau (Virginia)
9. AJ Ernst (Virginia)
10. Kevin James (Syracuse)
11. Joe Dragon (Syracuse)
12. Ian Shanklin (NC State)
13. Daniel Viegra (Wake Forest)
14. Alex Corbett (Virginia)
15. Nick Wolk (Pittsburgh)
16. Albert Kosgei (Louisville)
17. Sean Burke (Boston College)
18. Iliass Aouani (Syracuse)
19. Mitch Resor (UNC)
20. Randy Neish (Virginia)
1. Syracuse Orange
2. Virginia Cavaliers
3. Notre Dame Fighting Irish
4. NC State Wolfpack
5. UNC Tarheels