Oregon’s Bill Dellinger Invite this weekend is loaded with nationally ranked teams. This meet will serve as a season opener for many athletes as well as a chance for many top teams to earn a few Kolas points.
*Admin Note: Following the publication of this article, official entries were released. Casey Comber, Emmanuel Roudolff-Levisse, Clayson Shumway, and will not be running. We have since edited the article to factor in this new information.
Team Attending: BYU, Oregon, Boise State, Furman, UCLA, Air Force, Oregon State, Texas, Idaho, Portland, UC Davis, Washington State, Wichita State
The Team Race
There are five nationally ranked teams and three other powerhouse programs taking to the grass this Saturday in Springfield, Oregon. Each of these teams have different strengths and key individuals who will assist them in a deep and unique talented field.
The women of BYU - currently ranked #3 in our XC Top 25 - will be bringing their top seven to Oregon to make a statement. Erica Birk-Jarvis, Whittni Orton, and Courtney Wayment will lead a deep roster of women who have experience on the national stage. The Cougars have won their first two meets of the season and will be looking to see which women will step up and fill the final four varsity spots of their lineup. BYU is the team favorite, as they have been on an upward swing for the past few seasons, progressing exponentially.
Then we have the Oregon women who will use this Dellinger Invite as their first true test of the season after easily winning the Ash Creek Festival. Susan Ejore won the Ash Creek Festival and is the defending Bill Dellinger champion from last year. Penn State transfer Moira O’Shea was Oregon’s #3 earlier this season and could easily maintain a scoring role in their top five. Of course, their star power is what really captures our attention as the Ducks are expected to debut low-sticks Isabelle Brauer and Amanda Gehrich.
We will also see Aneta Konieczek make her first appearance for Oregon. The 7th place finisher at the 2017 NCAA DII XC Championships could have an immediate impact for the Ducks throughout this fall as a key supporting scorer. She will be the x-factor in whether or not this team thrives this fall.
The Boise State women may be one of the most interesting teams in the country this year after losing so much distance talent over the past five months. They have only raced once this season at the Sagebrush Cross Country Invitational where they finished 2nd to Utah State. However, the Broncos did not race Clare O’Brien, Maxine Paholek, or Claire Graves. O’Brien and Paholek are the expected leaders of this young Boise State team. Freshmen Grace Brock and Lara Hamilton are two experienced runners who could score for the Broncos if they race.
Of course, we can't forget about the Paladins this weekend. Furman has scored a perfect 15 points in their first two meets of the season. Gabrielle Jennings has led the team both times and could be ready to test her abilities against some of the NCAA’s best athletes. Savannah Carnahan is another runner who can make a difference in the scoring as well as Emma Grace Hurley. On paper, this is one of the best teams in the country. Facing a handful of powerhouse programs and coming out on top could end up being a massive confidence booster for the rest of the season.
As for UCLA, the Lady Bruins has been pretty quiet thus far, having only raced at the UCR vs. UCLA Dual. The Bruins easily defeated UC Riverside with a perfect score of 15 points. UCLA has the potential to compete with some of the best teams in the country this season, but they need to tighten their time spread from last year and rally around their two low-sticks (Monica Hebner and Erika Adler).
The last team we have to mention is Oregon State who dropped out of our rankings last weekend, but only due to the performances that we saw from other teams. The Beavers could very easily produce a top four finish at Bill Dellinger this weekend if they play their cards right. This team returns all of their runners but one from their 2018 season and have added some strong new additions to their roster since then.
If you need a sleeper pick for any meet this weekend, don't overlook Oregon State.
The Individual Race
Individually, Birk-Jarvis is the favorite. The BYU runner finished two seconds behind teammate Whittni Orton at the Big Wave Invite a few weeks ago. BYU could sweep the first two places with Birk-Jarvis and Orton, but that will take teamwork and a well-executed plan. This will also be a great opportunity for teammate Courtney Wayment to show that her breakout 2018 cross country season wasn't a fluke (and we certainly don't think it was).
Oregon’s Ejore started her season strong with a win and will be competing on a familiar course. Ejore is more known for her foot-speed in the 800 meters, but she still turns out solid cross country performances for the Ducks. Brauer will also join Ejore in an attempt to knock off the BYU women from dominating the front of this race.
Clare O’Brien of Boise State will use the Bill Dellinger Invite as her season opener and she has the potential to shock the top runners. O’Brien is the Broncos leading-lady after a handful of teammates graduated and transferred. Last fall, O’Brien had a strong season when she finished 10th at Nuttycombe and 6th at the West Regional Championships. She should easily find herself in the top five this weekend if she properly positions herself among the other elite talents in this race.
Wichita State is traveling from Kansas to Oregon this weekend and will bring with them Winny Koskei and Rebekah Topham. Koskei placed 35th last fall at NCAA's and Topham placed 8th in the steeplechase at NCAA's this past spring. Koskei and Topham have proven that they can compete with the best and at Bill Dellinger, these Shockers could shock the competition with stellar performances.
It's also hard to ignore the potential standout performances that we could see from the Furman women. They seem to run better as a collective team, but Gabrielle Jennings, Emma Grace Hurley, and Savannah Carnahan are sneaky good athletes who could easily challenge these west coast distance running titans.
Teams Attending: BYU, Oregon, Boise State, Furman, UCLA, Air Force, Texas, Idaho, Portland, UC Davis, Washington State, Wichita State, Villanova, Santa Clara
The Team Race
It is hard to bet against the BYU men when they take to the cross country course. Yes, they lost athletes to graduation last year (Rory Linkletter, Connor McMillan, and Clayton Young), but Coach Ed Eyestone always has someone on the sidelines looking to fill a missing spot.
Conner Mantz dominated the BYU Autumn Classic and is one year stronger. A deep roster of talented men will join Mantz as they look to prove that the Cougars are still a contending podium team.
However, the one thing to keep in mind is that Clayson Shumway is not entered. He was the clear-cut #2 man on this team, so without him, the BYU men become vulnerable to an upset.
Speaking of BYU, conference rival Portland will also travel to Eugene for the Bill Dellinger Invite this weekend...but their top scorers will not race. Coach Rob Conner is known to not always race his full top seven in early-season meets because he wants to focus on training hard and preparing for the postseason. Their lineup this weekend is likely an effort to find the second half of their lineup for later this fall.
The men of Oregon used the 2018 season as a growing year after Coach Andy Powell departed for Washington and Coach Ben Thomas arrived in Eugene. The 2019 season should see the Ducks making noticeable improvements. At the Ash Creek Festival, graduate student transfer Lucky Schreiner, transfer Noah Affolder, and junior Jackson Mestler all crossed the line together. Cooper Teare, an expected front-runner for Oregon, did not race, but he should be lining up this weekend.
After a respectable, but slightly unexciting 2018 season, this could be a huge opportunity for an extremely deep squad to prove themselves in a loaded meet. A strong performance could show that the Ducks have bounced back from the dramatic coaching change that took place two summers ago.
UCLA, led by Robert Brandt, Garrett Reynolds, and Colin Burke, will look to prove why the Bruins are worth mentioning when talking about the nation’s best cross country teams. Brandt redshirted the 2018 season, but he enjoyed two great track seasons where he earned himself All-American honors in the process. Brandt, Reynolds, and Burke will need to be near the front of the race in order for UCLA to have a chance at a top three team finish, but that is very much a reasonable goal. It will be interesting to see how well the backend of their lineup performs relative to these other top-tier teams.
Also of note, keep an eye on Boise State. They have a handful of solid pieces who could make things interesting. Admittedly, their depth - relative to some of these other teams - will be a bit of a question mark. Still, I don't dislike their chances of being competitive in this race.
The Individual Race
Hands-down, BYU’s Conner Mantz is the pre-race favorite. His experience on the national stage, along with his talent, should easily carry him to the win. The only question to consider here is what will be the time difference between 1st and 2nd? Does Mantz run away with the win or does he sit-and-kick over the last kilometer?
The Ducks have two men who should be near the front of the race: Affolder and Teare. Affolder, a recent Syracuse transfer, was a top runner for the Orange and will look to improve on his past performances with a new coach, team, and environment.
Teare struggled a bit last fall at NCAA's, but came back with a great indoor track season, finishing 4th in the 3k at NCAA's. He rode that high through the spring season where he ran PR's in the 1500 and 5k. Teare will most likely use this fall as a season of redemption to finally earn an All-American finish in cross country. A big performance here could validate himself
Brandt of UCLA is a big name to keep an eye on this weekend as well. Brandt earned himself four All-American honors last year between finishes in indoor and outdoor track. If he is smart, he will use those performances as momentum this fall to place himself high in the results.