• Hannah Thorn

D3 Women's Individual Preview

Updated: Sep 13, 2019

Lake Breeze in Oshkosh, Wisconsin hosted the best cross country runners in D3 last year and the women put on a show. Kaitlyn Mooney from Coast Guard went out fast and hard. She put a gap on the field before they even hit the 3k mark. Things got interesting as Paige Lawler from Washington University (St.Louis), Claire Lamb from Otterbein, and Annie Rodenfels from Centre tracked Mooney down in the final mile. Lawler outran everyone in the last 600 meters to take home the win. Meanwhile, Caelyn Reilly led the Johns Hopkins women to a runner-up finish as she finished 6th overall.

Unlike last year where the race was senior heavy, this year seems to be wide open for other runners to make a charge and grab some All American honors.

The Favorites

Paige Lawler and Kaitlyn Mooney are both back to duel it out. Mooney comes off an incredible indoor season where she broke the D3 record for the 5k (16:23) while capturing the national title. In the same meet, she anchored her DMR team to a 3rd place finish. Her outdoor season didn’t quite live up to her indoor performances as she finished 3rd at Nationals in the 5k in a time of 17:14.

Even though Mooney may not be happy with how her outdoor season finished, she should be looking forward to cross country as she has been strong on the grass in the past. In 2018, she won the New England Conference meet with a 18:38 (5000) over a handful of strong MIT runners. She then continued her dominance at the New England regional meet running 20:43 to beat not only MIT runners, but also runners from powerhouses Middlebury and Williams. For Mooney to capture the national title this year, she is going to have to regain the fitness that she had during indoors and learn from last years race and not go out too hot.

Lawler had almost the opposite track season compared to Mooney. She raced only three times during the outdoor season, all 5000 meter races, and broke 18 minutes only once. This was coming from a runner who has a listed PR of 16:41 in the 5k. We don’t know if this is because of injury of illness, but she is not to be overlooked this cross season.

Lawler is the reigning national champion and is absolute money on the grass. She made the jump to a national title last year after placing 15th at the national meet in 2017. She is also a four-time All American on the track. But her consistency on the grass is what really makes her a threat. The last two years in championship races (conference, regionals, and nationals), she has ran under 21:30 for 6k five times. In a division where low 21's can win you a title, Lawler seems to have found the recipe for success. If she can return healthy from whatever was holding her back this past track season, we will see her have another great battle with Mooney.

Another person who I expect to contend with Lawler and Mooney is Aly Wayne from Washington University. She has a fifth year of eligibility while working on her Masters degree.

That experience might pay off for her as she looks to work together with her teammate Lawler to bring a championship home to St. Louis once again. Wayne has consistently excelled in cross country. In 2016, she won the UAA conference meet, finished 2nd in the tough Midwest region, and went on to finish 8th at the national meet. She did not race in 2017, but came back strong in 2018 where she finished 3rd at UAA, 7th at regionals, and 7th at the national meet.

Like Lawler, she is a very consistent athlete, never running slower than 22:05 at each championship race. Her consistency has translated over to the track where she has placed top five in the indoor/outdoor 5k and 10k four times in her career. When healthy, Wayne is always contention to be one of the best runners in D3 and this year should be no different.

One last runner who could challenge for the individual title is Caelyn Reilly, a senior from Johns Hopkins, who is looking to bring home another title to Baltimore. She started out 2018 strong, running her first 6k of the season in 21:57 at the Rowan Interregional Border battle. She followed that up with a 21:31 at the Centennial Conference Championships where she finished 2nd to teammate Ellie Clawson. In a peculiar move, she did not run at the Mideast Regional Championships. That rest played into Reilly’s favor as two weeks later she led her team to a national title by finishing 6th with a time of 21:11 (a new PR).

Since Nationals, Reilly has been on a PR tear. On the track last year, she PR’d in the mile, 3k, and 5k during indoors which culminated in finishing 4th place at the indoor national meet in the 5k in a time of 16:42. But the streak doesn’t stop there. During outdoors, she bumped up to run both the 5k and 10k throughout the season, running PRs in both events (16:57 and 34:56). Reilly would go on to finish 2nd in the 10k and 4th in the 5k at the outdoor national meet.

The sneaky thing about Reilly is that she is a former 800 and 1500 runner with PRs of 2:19 and 4:37. If she can hang on to the top pack - which her fitness indicates she can - she is a threat on the straightaway at any meet.

Dark Horses

Carina Collet, the junior from Wartburg, has been improving consistently over the last two years and this year seems to be no different. As a freshman, Collet finished 98th (22:12) at the 2017 national meet. This doesn't tell the full story as she dropped almost two full minutes from her 6k time from the start of the season to the end. She took that momentum into 2018 and it was more of the same from her on the grass. Her first 6k of the season was at Dan Huston Invite where she ran almost 30 seconds faster than her PR (21:45). She then went on to face tough competition at the KollegeTown Pre-Nats race in Oshkosh, finishing 7th with a time of 21:55. Collet would later win the American Rivers conference meet (22:25) and the Central Regional meet (21:45). However, she saved her best performance for Nationals where she dropped her PR by 13 seconds to run a 21:32, finishes 15th overall and earning another All-American honor.

Since then, she has raced consistently, finishing 8th in the indoor 5k at the national meet, 9th in outdoor 10k, and 14th in the outdoor 5k. If Collet can continue her upward progression, then she has a shot at being one of the best runners in D3 this year.

Now we can’t talk about title contenders without including a former national champion. That would be Kassie Rosenbum, the junior from Loras, who popped off this past track season when she won the 10k (35:39) and finished 6th in the 5k (17:03) at the outdoor national meet. This wasn’t to be expected because she finished a distant 18th in the indoor 5k (17:46) and 31st at the Cross Country National Championships. When you look at cross country and indoors, it may be a little unclear how she won a national title.

Well, Rosenbum PR’d in every single distance from 800 to 10k in the last calendar year, including at the 5k and 6k marks in cross country. Even though she finished 3rd at the American Rivers Conference meet and 4th at the Central regional meet in 2018, she should not be counted out this fall.

Rosenbum is on the up-and-up. If she can maintain her fitness from outdoors and build on that this summer, she is sure to move up the rankings.

Honorable Mention

Sophia Gorman, a junior from Colby, is in the honorable mentions category after a season of wild improvements last year. In 2017, she didn’t even make it to Nationals. In fact, as a freshman, she was 30th at the NESCAC Championships.

But in 2018? She came back and won the entire thing.

She took that momentum and finished 3rd at the New England Regional Championships to earn her first trip to a national meet where she finished 11th. The reason she made honorable mention and not higher is that she has not been super consistent. Last year on the grass she had an incredible season, but we haven’t seen much since. She didn’t race indoors and only raced three times during outdoors in 2019. For Gorman to be considered a title contender, she is going to have to show the same type of improvements that she did in 2018.

Another runner looking to make a big jump is Genny Corcoran, a senior from SUNY Geneseo.

Corcoran is a two-time qualifier for the cross country national meet and that experience could pay off in 2019. She jumped from 127th in 2017 to 20th place in 2019. Since then, she has gone on to PR in the 1500, 3000, 5000, and 10,000 meters. She looks to be on an upward trend this year.

She finished 11th at the indoor national meet in the 5k (17:14) and followed that up with a 4th place finish in the 10k (36:13) at the outdoor national meet. She is another runner who has been setting personal bests left and right. This last track season she set PRs in the 1500, 3k, 5k, and 10k. This was after setting PRs in the 6k and 5k in cross country in 2018. Her improving fitness, paired with the experience she has gained by being a multi-time All-American, could pay off for Corcoran in 2019.

No one in DIII has a lock on the individual title in cross country this year. Each runner has their strengths and weaknesses that I am sure they are eager to shore up over the next couple of months. This should make for an exciting finish in Louisville in November.