Updated: Sep 21, 2019
One of the first major cross country invitationals of the 2019 cross country season is now complete...and my goodness is there a lot to talk about. Here is an effort to process the results and pull out a few takeaways.
Washington Flounders in Season Debut
It was supposed to be the next chapter of Washington distance running. It was supposed to be an exciting reveal of Washington's new-look lineup. It was supposed to be an electric, dominating performance for the Huskies, centered around a plethora of low-sticks.
It was supposed to be a win.
Unfortunately for Washington, they were unable to match any of those expectations in Boston. Instead, they severely underwhelmed. Talon Hull and Jack Rowe were the two bright spots in an otherwise miserable day for Coach Powell's group. Hull secured a strong 3rd place finish while Rowe held his own by finishing 12th.
After that is when things began to fall apart. Andrew Jordan, the exciting new All-American transfer from Iowa State, struggled in his season debut, finishing 26th overall in a meet where he was expected to place in the top five. With veteran Julius Diehr finishing 48th and freshman Isaac Mohn acting as the team's #5 runner in 67th place, it became quite apparent that Washington was in trouble.
Despite traveling from Seattle to Boston, the Huskies will go home with a 5th place team finish.
When fans around the country first see these results, they will naturally be inclined to write the Washington men off the podium. That, however, would be an overreaction.
The team didn't enter one of their top runners in Tibebu Proctor and didn't run anyone from their top-tier recruiting class. They also didn't run Alex Slenning, an 8:43 steeplechaser who had a breakout track season this past spring. If you're willing to accept the idea that Andrew Jordan just had a bad day and that he can certainly be better, then I think it's fair to suggest that not all hope is lost for Washington. They can still be an extremely competitive team if everything goes their way later this fall.
With Andrew Jordan and Jack Rowe finishing their first race of the season, the idea of redshirting these athletes and preparing for an all-out assault in 2020 may no longer be an option. Washington must now be all-in, which could potentially compromise the possibility of redshirting other key roster members in an effort to rebuild the backend of their lineup.
I still love what this team has on paper, and they have all of the right pieces to do something special, but I'll be interested to see who they introduce into their lineup when they decide to run a full "A" squad.
Syracuse Men Flex Depth + Experience, Dominate Field
While Washington struggled to find an identity, it was Syracuse who controlled the field with relative ease throughout most of the race.
Joe Dragon and Aidan Tooker secured solid finishes of 4th and 5th, respectively while veteran Kevin James and redshirt freshman Noah Beveridge locked down 11th and 21st place finishes of their own. Redshirt freshman Nathan Lawler wrapped up the scoring in 23rd place while the rest of the varsity lineup finished no worse than 31st.
It wasn't necessarily an electric or exciting performance, but Syracuse locked in on their strengths (experience and depth) to manhandle a field which included talented Patriot League programs such as Army (great depth) and Navy (underrated front-runners).
They still have a long way to go, but this was a nice start to their season.
Tuntivate Backs Up the Hype
Entering the 2019 cross country season, we (painfully) opted to leave Kieran Tuntivate out of our Preseason XC Top 50. Instead, we made him an Honorable Mention.
That, of course, was a mistake.
The Harvard distance standout absolutely steamrolled a field scattered with strong individuals including Aidan Tooker (TSR #17), Andrew Jordan (TSR #27), and Talon Hull (TSR # 46). Taking down those athletes, while also running 23:58 on a challenging Franklin Park course, is no joke.
It's a long season, but after such an impressive performance, it seems fairly obvious that Tuntivate is someone with All-American potential this year. His performances on the track were strong, but his consistency and toughness that was on full display during the winter and spring has very clearly translated over to the grass.
Syracuse Women Silence Critics (Us)
Entering this season, I had my concerns about the Syracuse women. They had struggled throughout the 2018 cross country season and were losing veteran scorers in the Malone sisters. Sure, the addition of Amanda Vestri was huge, but it didn't necessarily calm any nerves about the inconsistencies that we saw from the Orange last fall.
Of course, those concerns were tossed aside after a statement race in Boston. New low-stick Amanda Vestri pushed Abbey Wheeler (Providence) to the line, ultimately settling for 2nd while teammate Laura Dickinson rallied for an excellent 3rd place finish of her own.
However, what really made this team standout were breakout performances from Jordan Jacob and Rachel Bonner. They finished 7th and 9th, respectively which gave the Orange four women inside the top 10. With Abigail Spiers finishing 14th, it became clear that Syracuse had easily clinched the win in dominating fashion.
Of course, it's important to put things in perspective. Georgia Tech had an off day (more on that in a moment) and top teams from last year opted to go elsewhere this weekend. Syracuse should be incredibly proud of their win, but bigger challenges lie ahead of them.
Boston College Surprises, Georgia Tech Struggles
The Georgia Tech women didn't make it into our XC Top 25 earlier this summer, but that was mainly because they lost their top runner in Mary Prouty from last year. Despite the loss of a key scorer, the Yellow Jackets were still expected to contend for the overall win at Beantown with Nicole Fegans acting as the new leader for the team.
Fegans did hold her own, finishing 5th overall and giving Georgia Tech a low-stick presence near the front of the race. However, the rest of the lineup faltered with finishes of 23-34-35-44. Hana Herndon struggled in her season debut, but even if she did run to her full potential, Georgia Tech likely would not have done better than 3rd place.
As for Boston College, they surprised plenty of people. The Golden Eagles rallied behind a 6th place performance from Emeline Delanis while Isabelle Kennedy and Lauren White gave their team 10th and 16th place finishes of their own. With Anna Oeser and standout miler Page Duca finishing 25th and 26th, there was a lot to like about Boston College.
They're far from perfect, and the ACC is incredibly crowded with so much top-tier talent (specifically on the women's side). Even so, it's important that we don't ignore the very solid group of five scorers that the Boston College women have.