Panorama Farms Invitational
Teams: Duke vs Virginia vs Virginia Tech
Written by: Eric Baranoski
Will the UVA men defend their home turf?
It's hard to imagine coach Vin Lannana not having his Cavaliers try to steamroll their ACC opponents this weekend, especially on their home course. Given the two-week turnaround until the ACC Championships, there is still enough time for this squad to make another statement.
The men's team has had a couple of freshmen make a noticeable impact so far this season and we don't see that changing on Friday. Wes Porter has to be in the running for "Freshman of the Year" (along with Kentucky's Matt Duvall) as he has earned two top-five finishes so far this season. Finishing right behind him at the Wolfpack Invitational was redshirt freshman and California native Bryson Crites.
If front-runner Rohann Asfaw can continue his incredible 2020 cross country season, and if veteran Randy Neish can continue to stabilize the middle portion of this lineup, it's hard to see this team losing on Friday, especially with all of the depth that they have.
That said, Duke is a deep team in their own right and Virginia Tech has a few underrated scorers as well. The UVA men will get the nod as the favorite, but they'll need to put in a solid effort to take down two respectable teams.
Breaking down the women's team race
Each team in this field has a few key runners to watch and it doesn't feel like there is a clear-cut favorite. On a challenging Panorama Farms course, anything can happen.
Starting with Duke, their last time competing (at the Virginia Tech Invitational) proved to be a pleasant surprise as they put their entire top five in front of Virginia Tech’s second scorer. Leading the way for Duke was front-runner Michaela Reinhart and Amanda Beach, both seniors. Reinhart crossed the line in 21:03 (6k) while Beach came across in 21:20 (6k). Based on their season opener, they'll be supported by sophomore Samantha Schadler who was their third runner at their last meet.
As for Virginia Tech, they will likely rely on some combination of Butler, Boone, Hassebrock, Bustamante and Smith come Friday. The Hokies' first outing wasn't ideal and they'll likely want to rebound after a tough start where they lost to a Duke team by over 30 points. If their middle-lineup scorers can close the gap on lead runner Lindsey Butler, then they will be able to shrink the scoring gap between themselves and Duke.
It's also important to note that Elizabeth Brush (Virginia Tech) didn't have a great race in her season opener (finishing 32nd overall). However, this is someone who finished 22nd at the Southeast Regional Championships last fall. If she's at her best, she'll be near the top of this race.
Lastly, we turn our attention to the home team, the Virginia Cavaliers. Veteran Hannah Moran has provided a consistent presence at the top of this lineup in both of her races so far this season. She was the 3rd place finisher at the Virginia Invitational in September and the 6th place finisher at the Wolfpack Invitational earlier this month. We would expect her to be in the top-five (or even top-three) in Friday's race.
Senior Kiera Bothwell and junior Gabby Karas have (at times) also been mixing it up at the top of this lineup. When those two are at their best and paired with Moran, it's fair to say that Virginia has an underrated top three.
Only a freshman, Canadian Anna Workman has seemingly meshed very well with Lannana’s training. She finished 7th at the Virginia Invitational, but was a bit further back at the Wolfpack Invitational.
If Workman and everyone else is at their best, then this Virginia team could come out on top thanks to their rotating cast of scorers.
Who will challenge an undefeated Rohann Asfaw?
We already mentioned him in the team discussion, but Virginia's Rohann Asfaw is red hot and will look to continue his undefeated streak as he will run on his home course for the second time in this shortened season. With this Cavaliers program humming, it seems plenty realistic to suggest that he'll sweep both races at Panorama this year.
Those trying to throw a wrench in Asfaw's game plan will be Virginia Tech's Fitsum Seyoum and Duke’s CJ Ambrosio. At the Virginia Tech Invitational, Seyoum finished 4th overall while Ambrosio placed 6th. In a smaller field without NC State, the front-runners from each of these teams will go head-to-head-to-head in what will be an underrated matchup to keep an eye on.
With hopefully better weather in Charlottesville this time around, expect more of the same from Asfaw. As for the field, expect a quicker race than the one in September thanks to the rust being busted and the fact that everyone is now more familiar with COVID-19 meet protocols.
The Virginia Tech men will likely benefit from the return of Bashir Mosavel-Lo who is listed in the entries. He should factor into the Hokies' top three alongside Fitsum Seyoum and Antonio Lopez Segura. The Hokies were only seven points away from Duke in their season opener. Could Mosavel-Lo's return give them the edge this time around?
Still no Abby Green for the UVA women. She was an individual cross country national qualifier in 2018 and likely would have given this team enough of an edge for the Cavaliers to be considered the clear favorite on Friday.
Teams: Wake Forest vs NC State vs UNC
Written by: Maura Beattie and Garrett Zatlin
NC State Men & Women Fielding Limited Lineups
The NC State women have competed in two meets this fall and have easily won both. The Wolfpack started the season with a perfect 15-point score at the Virginia Tech Invitational over Duke and VT and followed up that performance with a 24-point score (and victory) over UNC and Virginia at the Wolfpack Invitational.
On paper, they would easily be the favorites to win on Friday thanks to the talent of Dominique Clairmonte, Hannah Steelman, Kelsey Chmiel and many others.
However, NC State has seemingly opted to hold out a handful of their top women (and men) this weekend. Instead, they'll be placing the scoring duties on their recent group of recruits as well as a few select veterans.
The group of Jenna Schulz, Claire Walters, Alyssa Hendrix and Gionna Quarzo will run in their third meet of the season, but won't have star low-sticks to lead them this time around. They'll have to fend off a strong UNC team (which is also led by a top-tier recruiting class) and a Wake Forest program that is adding top scorer Elise Wright back into their lineup.
As for the men, they'll be without Ian Shanklin, JP Flavin, Joe Bistritz, Nate Kawalec, freshman Brett Gardner, Gavin Gaynor and a handful of others. Just like the women, they'll let their youngsters handle some of the scoring duties along with a few other veterans.
Both of these teams will still have a few respectable names toeing the line on Friday, but we shouldn't necessarily expect either Wolfpack team to earn dominating wins.
Individuals Looking to Shine
UNC freshman Sasha Neglia has been on a roll this fall. She was the easy winner at the Virginia Invitational earlier in the season and later placed 3rd at the Wolfpack Invitational.
Since arriving at Chapel Hill, Neglia has become the consistent front-runner for the Tar Heels and seems to be the perfect low-stick replacement for Hofstad when she finishes her eligibility. Although she was 33 seconds behind NC State’s Dominique Clairmonte at the Wolfpack Invitational, Neglia has shown that she can compete against some of the NCAA’s best.
Speaking of Hofstad, she didn't race in UNC's last meet, but her return to this lineup should give the Tar Heels a wicked 1-2 punch and help this team earn the overall win.
Moving to the men, Wake Forest senior Jack Tiernan has put up respectable finishes throughout his collegiate career as a Demon Deacon, but the 2019 cross country season was when he really broke out after placing 8th at the ACC Championships.
The abbreviated 2020 cross country season has started out well for Tiernan, granted he has only competed once. At the Virginia Invitational, Tiernan placed 2nd overall, finishing only eight seconds behind Virginia’s Rohann Asfaw (who has turned out to be a lot stronger than we expected).
Given the absence of a few key names from each team in this field, Tiernan should considered the individual favorite to take home the win on Friday.
Joining Tiernan at the front of this Wake Forest lineup should be sophomore Carter Coughlin. Coughlin was 3rd at the Virginia Invitational at the beginning of the season, only two seconds behind his teammate. Given what we saw from him during his season debut, it's plenty realistic to think that he could join Tiernan at the front of this race and give the Demon Deacons the top two overall finishers.
The UNC freshmen duo of Will Coogan and Max DiMuccio, along with their veteran teammate Alex Milligan, are the last few names that we want to mention.
Admittedly, not many expected Coogan to be UNC’s top scorer this season after having fellow freshman and high school stud Patrick Anderson join the team and Thomas Ratcliffe transfer from Stanford. However, Coogan has emerged as the man to rely upon up front. With Ratcliffe on the sidelines and Anderson recording two straight DNF results so far this season, Coogan has been the lead scorer and has been flanked by another freshman in Max DiMuccio.
Both of those youngsters could be key names to watch and could end up with top five finishes on Friday (as well as Patrick Anderson if he doesn't record another DNF). Alex Milligan, a long time UNC veteran, is also listed in the entries for Friday's race. However, he was a DNS at the Wolfpack Invitational. If he does run, we'll be eager to see how he performs.
We already talked about the NC State men and women, but we should also make a note that neither Marlee Starliper nor Katelyn Tuohy are listed in the entries. They could theoretically be in NC State's lineup for the ACC Championships at the end of the month, but at this point, it seems more likely that they wont be racing at all this fall.
The Stride Report can confirm that Wake Forest’s Zach Facioni will not be competing this week or for the rest of this season. The Demon Deacons' top scorer is currently at home in Australia for the semester.
Admittedly, we don't have a ton of clarity on UNC’s Thomas Ratcliffe as we near the ACC Championships. Ratcliffe was 8th at the Virginia Invitational, but didn’t compete at the Wolfpack Invitational. He is also absent in the entries for Friday's race. 4:03 miler Jesse Hunt is also not listed in the entries for UNC.