First Thoughts: Beantown

Tooker deserves the hype

With Knight, Germano, and Bennie leaving the program, fans of the sport naturally turned to Aidan Tooker as the new leader of this program. However, with more attention came greater praise. He was even compared to Justyn Knight at one point. That's a lot of pressure for anyone, no matter how good they are.

Of course, that didn't appear to phase Tooker. He finished 2nd at Beantown and pressured Amon Kemboi for the win. In a race where he could have collapsed under the pressure, he maintained his composure like a veteran. I'm a believer.

Campbell failed their heat check

What on Earth happened to the Campbell men? In terms of firepower, they had the best scoring five in the field. The roster additions they made this summer had me thinking that they would be the favorites to win the team title in Boston. Kemboi and Kipkoech got the job done (finishing 1st and 3rd), but the rest of the lineup crumbled after those two (placing 47th, 61st, and 77th). The Camels finished 6th overall.

This was a HUGE opportunity to secure Kolas points for Campbell. They're in one of the deepest regions in the nation and can't afford to have races like these. It may be one bad race, but this was not the start they were looking for.

We've been too focused on Anderson

It's easy to be excited about Tanner Anderson this fall. He captured headlines this offseason when news came out that was he was transferring to Washington. From a team scoring perspective, his move is a big deal. Yet, individually, I'm not sure anything is too different. Some fans had Anderson contending for the win in Boston, but may have been a bit underwhelmed by his 6th place finish. However, I'm not too surprised. Keep in mind that Anderson has never won a single race in his collegiate career. In fact, his 6th place finish at Beantown is tied for the second best cross country finish he's ever had (he was runner-up at the Dellinger Invite in 2016). There's no doubt that he's talented, but we may need to step back and look at the bigger picture.

Is Syracuse better than last year?

This was one of the best fields we have seen at Beantown in a long time. We expected Syracuse to contend for the win, but we didn't expect them to dominate like they did. Tooker and Affolder finished 2nd and 5th while the rest of the team placed 8th, 9th, and 13th. They won by over 30 points and cruised past four other Top 25 teams. It's only one race, but man did they look good...

UNC's Grove-McDonough just made a huge statement

Syracuse may have been impressive, but UNC had the best race of the day. A team that has struggled to compete in the ACC and Southeast region finished 5th at Beantown ahead of Campbell. Coach Grove-McDonough left Iowa State to take the head coaching job at UNC and so far she's been the best hire of the year. The Tar Heels will need to address the second half of their lineup, but this was a great way to build early season momentum.

Farah Karimabdul was Mississippi's best roster addition we never talked about

Earlier in the summer, we talked about the trio of underclassmen from around the globe who were recruited to replace the now graduated Ole Miss seniors. Those recruits did well, but we didn't expect Karimabdul (a transfer from Morehead State) to be the lead Ole Miss runner, much less place 4th overall. A performance like that is a huge confidence booster and it shows that the Rebels may have more than just one potential low-stick on their squad this fall. Don't sleep on the Mississippi men come October and November.

Washington and Ole Miss made statements

The Huskies traveled across the country with a new coach, a new leading scorer, and were without two of their varsity runners (Huxham and Snyder). The odds were not in their favor, but they still walked away with a runner-up finish. Anderson looked like the ace Washington needed him to be while the sophomore duo of Proctor and Hull stepped up to the plate with 11th and 12th place finishes. With victories over Ole Miss, Virginia, and Campbell, Coach Powell's squad was able to (potentially) score crucial Kolas points.

As for Ole Miss, things now become very interesting. The Rebels were only seven points behind Washington and have established a legitimate 1-2 punch between Karimabdul and Suliman. Their mix of youth and veterans give them a lineup with incredible depth and a lot of stability. Between Alabama, Middle Tennessee State, and Ole Miss, qualifying out of the South region will be one of the more interesting storylines of the 2018 season.