Your TSR Admin has returned after a two week hiatus and I can already see the tears of joy in your eyes (or agony, but I'll go with the former). A lot has happened over the past 18ish days and there is a ton (for me) to talk about. Let me try to get things back in order by answering questions that I am sure you were going to ask...
So you published rankings, put Stanford at #1 over NAU, and then you just left the country for two weeks while the rest of your team dealt with the backlash?
Yep, pretty much.
Did you just do it for shock value?
Honestly no, we actually believe that Stanford should be at #1, but the shock value was super convenient, huh?
But Stanford over NAU??? WHAT WERE YOU THINKING???
Mom, please stop yelling at me.
Ok, but what about everyone else? How did you leave off the Boise State women and the Syracuse women?
The Boise State women lost so much firepower. They lose elite veterans scorers and although they had a great recruiting class, I just don't know how they'll be able to compensate for those losses. Clare O'Brien is great and Maxine Paholek is an encouraging young scorer, but even if they find a capable #3 runner, the team is still left with significant gaps in the second half of their lineup and almost no room for error.
As for Syracuse, the addition of Amanda Vestri is huge, but they really didn't do a whole lot last year and underwhelmed A TON at their regional meet. On paper, I really like this group, I would just like to see them put it together on the cross country course first.
It sounds like you're trying to rationalize your mistake.
And you would be right.
What about the men's rankings?
Middle Tennessee State just pulled off a stunning upset over Indiana, so it's easy for me to say that we should've included them. I just didn't know if they would find a complete scoring five. Plus there was some uncertainty surrounding Jacob Choge's health and consistency. There were too many questions for this team, so we were forced to leave them out.
So then how much are you regretting placing Indiana at #7 after they just lost to MTSU at the Commodore Classic?
Honestly, not that much. If Horter runs to his full potential, then Indiana emerges as the better team with better depth through a seven-man lineup. Could their backend scorers be stronger? Sure, but I think this team will thrive in larger fields. Not only that, but we don't actually know how good Middle Tennessee State is. If they turn out to be a top 15 team in the country, then Indiana's loss doesn't seem all that bad. Maybe we'll have to reevaluate their ranking, but let's not suddenly revolt after a race in the second week of September.
Finally, some actual race analysis. Alright, tell us about the Ole Miss women at the Commodore Classic.
They didn't field their top three runners at the Commodore Classic and still emerged with the team win (relatively comfortably) over a very underrated Ohio State team and a historically talented Indiana squad. The Ole Miss women may end up being far better than we initially expected, especially if Clio Ozanne-Jaques is the true low-stick we think she can be.
How big of a deal was the Vin Lananna hire for UVA?
This was a monumental, program-defining hire that provides nothing but great upside for the Charlottesville-based university.
It also has the potential to do nothing for the program.
Vin Lananna is a legendary coach who produced extremely impressive results during his time at Stanford and Oregon. His resume speaks for itself and he's one of the best to ever do it. UVA clearly wanted to make a statement and they did just that.
At the same time, it's unclear what kind of control he'll have over the distance teams. As far as I can tell, Coach Jason Dunn will continue to oversee the men's distance program while Megan Lavoie will continue to work with the women. Assuming that's the case (and it seemingly is), then the overall training and development of their athletes isn't really going to change all that much...right?
But he could still be extremely useful when it comes to recruiting and other operational aspects!
I mean, yeah, he definitely could, but the UVA men consistently bring in really some of the best young talents in the country during most years. Recruiting, at least on the men's side, isn't really an issue. Frankly, it's not really an issue for the women either. Could it be better? Sure, but I don't really know if that's a specific area of emphasis that needs to be addressed.
So...then what will he actually do?
Every school is different and I'm not going to act like I know how certain teams operate or will operate. But with Lananna also acting as UVA's associate athletic director, I don't really see him as someone who will be getting into the every day details that come with training an entire cross country team. Scheduling, promoting nationally recognized meets, and building a roster that can win team titles on the track are likely on high on his list of priorities. For the record, I don't think Lananna could hurt this team in any way. I'm just not 100% certain what his overall impact will be when it comes to cross country.
Speaking of Stanford-related coaches, what about Ricardo Santos? That was hardly even talked about.
Alright, fine. I'll say it.
Stanford is better off without Coach Miltenberg.
There I said it.
Don't get me wrong, I think Miltenberg is a phenomenal coach who is clearly one of the best in the country. He is a proven winner with a consistent level of success on the national stage who knows how to recruit elite talent. What he accomplished at Stanford and Georgetown is better than 99% of what we saw from other coaches around the country.
At the same time, there was likely growing pressure for Miltenberg to win a national title - a criticism that has sometimes overshadowed his incredible success at Stanford. It may sound harsh, but it's also fair. The Cardinal have been able to consistently bring in top-tier recruits and superstar talents to Palo Alto for years now. In theory, they should have won a national title by now (especially when you look at the past talent they've had on their roster). That, however, hasn't happened.
In a year where the Stanford men have the potential be "all in" and aim for Northern Arizona in the national title race, it may be best to have a coach who won't limit early-season racing or attempt to redshirt certain athletes to preserve future eligibility. Those aren't necessarily bad strategies, but the time to win is now.
Ok, that's cool and all, but you didn't actually talk about Coach Santos...
All he has to do is just not mess up a really good team. That's easier said than done, but he inherits a lot of talent and enough depth to make this the best squad in the country.
Can we go back to the actual race discussions?
How about the Georgetown women upsetting Penn State?
Good choice, hypothetical reader.
The Hoya women upset the Nittany Lions at the Harry Grove Spiked Shoe Invite this past weekend by simply overwhelming them with great depth and strong pack-running. Georgetown took home the win by 16 points, which is admittedly a huge margin in a small field of only five teams.
However, it's important to keep in mind that this race says more about Georgetown's strengths than it does Penn State's weaknesses. The Hoya women displayed really impressive depth with a handful of youngsters while PSU tried to get by with a strong 1-2 punch of Kathryn Munks (1st) and Allison Willingmyre (3rd). However, the Nittany Lions didn't race Julia Paternain. Had she toed the line (and assumedly won) then the score would have been much closer than the 16 point gap that we saw (but Georgetown still would have won).
Penn State will be fine. They'll still be competitive and one of the better teams in the nation this year, but maybe we are undervaluing the Georgetown women...
Any takeaways from the Cavalier Classic at UVA?
Yes, a couple.
The Virginia men will still be competitive this year, even without Brent Demarest. They have great depth and a few guys who could potentially improve as the season goes on. However, firepower is a legitimate concern and I'll be interested to see who steps up for the Cavaliers as the season progresses.
Also, the Duke men are better than last year and they actually had a halfway decent team in 2018. I'm not saying they'll qualify for NCAA's, but they'll be a fun team to watch this year. They weren't that far off from Virginia this past weekend.
How about the Tennessee women? They took home the win with 36 points behind an individual win from Katie Thronson. The UNC women may not have won, but I really liked what we saw from Ilse and Hofstad who finished 2nd and 3rd, respectively. They'll need the backend to improve if they want to actually be competitive in the ACC this year, but this is still a young team with a lot of room for growth. It was a nice start to their season.
What about the other races?
This article is already getting a little long, so let's just hold off for now.
Alright, so what can expect from the site over the next couple of weeks?
Race previews, updated rankings, and more high-quality content.
Oh c'mon, there has to be more than that.
There is...but more on that soon.