First Thoughts: Conference Weekend



With so many meets happening this weekend, it was hard for us to focus on just one conference. Now that nearly all of the championship meets are finished (with the exception of the BIG 10 Championships which are taking place on Sunday), we thought it would be a good time to review and analyze some of the major storylines that came across our computer screens...


PAC-12


Men

  • The Colorado men took home the PAC-12 title this weekend, trouncing a Stanford team that had a rough day and dropped to 3rd. I think we can count this win as an "upset", but it's also the least surprising upset of the weekend.

  • While I'm not necessarily surprised that Colorado won, I am astounded by how well the second half of their lineup performed. Kashon Harrison was the #2 man this weekend finishing 7th overall while Dressel was 8th (Klecker won the individual title). With Alec Hornecker having a breakout race (placing 12th) and Eduardo Herrera one spot behind (13th), it's fair to say that this Colorado top five was scarier than anything I saw on Halloween.

  • What was more surprising? Oregon placing 2nd without Affolder or Stanford dropping to 3rd place in the team standings? For me, it has to be Stanford. The Cardinal were expected to be so good this season and for good reason! But something isn't quite right with Alek Parsons or Steven Fahy. Neither of these men have given the Cardinal the necessary firepower that they were expected to have this season.

  • Let's put Stanford aside real quick. How about them Ducks? Finishing runner-up overall was outstanding despite not having Affolder. Teare is now a true cross country superstar, West is a legitimate low-stick, Hocker is one of the better true freshmen in the country, and their depth has filled any and all scoring gaps. It's hard to dislike this team after finishing 2-9-14-15-17.

  • UCLA finished 4th, but was only three points ahead of Washington. The Bruins had a strong top three as expected, but their bottom two continue to be a cause for concern. Meanwhile, the Huskies continue to underwhelm after taking spots 3-18-19-23-24. It's not terrible, but it doesn't inspire much confidence.

Women

  • Despite what my fellow TSR colleagues thought, I was never under the impression that Washington was going to beat Stanford. There were too many "if then" scenarios that needed to happen for the Huskies to take home the title. Seeing the Cardinal go 1-2-3 does surprise me, but the fact that they dominated their competition was not at all a shock in my eyes.

  • Washington still ran well, but their 3-4-5 just didn't offer the same scoring potency that Stanford's did. I like Melany Smart and Katie Rainsberger a lot, but if this team wants to be on the podium at NCAA's, then they need Lilli Burdon to be the All-American version of herself that we know she can be. Granted, we saw this from her last year before she finished 33rd at Nationals, but I'll be interested to see if she can do that again this fall.

  • Utah gets the better of Colorado (again!) for the 3rd place spot. However, before we overreact, we need to understand that usual low-stick Tabor Scholl struggled, finishing 30th in a race where she could have been in the top 10. If that happens, then the Buffs easily pull away from the Utes and begin flirting with the Huskies. I still don't totally dislike the Colorado women in the postseason.

  • Even so, how about the women in red and white? Utah continues to impress with an excellent group of scorers. They have legitimate, consistent low-sticks in Poppy Tank, Bella Williams, and Sarah Feeny who finished 6th, 7th, and 10th this past weekend. Their bottom two scorers (27th and 36th) will need to close the gap between them and their top three, but gosh, the ladies from Salt Lake City look very strong.


ACC


Men

  • Wow. Unbelievable. Syracuse bounces back from a horrific performance at Nuttycombe to take home the ACC team title in a super deep field without Aidan Tooker. I can't put into words how incredible of a rebound race this was, but they succeeded with their patented depth and pack-running. Taking spots 9-10-15-16-18 is the prototypical Syracuse racing strategy and it clearly paid off. Kudos to them.

  • Not a bad race by the Irish men. They had a better top three than Syracuse by a relatively hefty margin, but relinquished their lead in their final two scoring spots. 2018 All-American Danny Kilrea continues to struggle this season after placing 29th. If he runs to his full potential, Notre Dame pulls ahead of the Orange without too much trouble.

  • Virginia Tech and UVA actually tied for 3rd, each scoring 100 points, but the Hokies won the tie-breaker thanks to having the better top three. Seufer continues to be a star, Zarate has been a pleasant surprise, and Fitsum Seyoum continues to improve with each passing week. Their bottom two scorers need to close the gap, but VT's firepower was what gave them the edge on Friday.

  • As for the Virginia men, they ran exactly like we thought they would. Just like Michael Weidenbruch explained in his meet preview, this team has tremendous depth with no clear flaws within their top five (or six). They do, however, lack firepower and that is ultimately what held them back on Friday. Finishing 12-20-21-22-25 is still super impressive and I like to think that it will benefit them later in the postseason.

  • Florida State underwhelmed and Wake Forest had the best race of their season. With NC State also falling to 8th (more on that in a moment), the Deacons may have just thrown themselves into the national qualifying conversation...maybe.

  • NC State...what happened? Shanklin (3rd) and Gaynor (6th) were both super impressive, but when your final three runners finish 40th, 60th, and 61st, there isn't a lot to be excited about. The Wolfpack finished 8th overall, but it should be noted that we didn't see some of their top scorers toe the line such as JP Flavin (reportedly injured) and Joe Bistritz. This performance seemingly sheds a little more light on their non-result from Nuttycombe.

Women

  • Just so everyone knows, TSR contributor Michael Weidenbruch correctly predicted the top five teams (and 7th place team) in his preview of this race. We're not saying that he can see the future, but we're also not NOT saying that he can see the future.

  • Elly Henes is an absolute star. She crushed a very talented ACC field en route to the individual and team victory. The Wolfpack secured their fourth straight conference win and did so by beating out a very talented Florida State team by 12 points. Kelsey Chmiel has further established herself as a legitimate low-stick while Julia Zachgo continues her breakout season. There were some gaps in the second half of their lineup, but none large enough to cause concern.

  • Let's make sure that we don't undersell the return of Nevada Mareno who was NC State's #5 runner. Mareno making her season debut is huge as it gives the Wolfpack even more scoring options and scoring security as we enter the postseason.

  • We need to give a lot of props to the Florida State women. Skyring and Funderburk were the low-sticks to watch in this race, but it was actually Villanova transfer Lauren Ryan who had a breakout performance (placing 6th), giving the Seminoles a total of three women inside the top 10. It is becoming increasingly more difficult to dislike this FSU team. They are loaded with talent and Ryan's breakout result only makes them better.

  • Notre Dame (3rd) and Virginia Tech (4th) ran about as well as we expected them to. Both teams need to clean up the latter half of their top five, but I'm not sure we learned anything new about these teams. However, Freix finishing runner-up for the Hokies was a pleasant surprise.

  • Syracuse finishes 5th overall. They're probably still a top candidate to finish in the two of the Northeast region, but I'm not loving the fact that they are underwhelming in the postseason yet again.

  • Real quick, let's talk about the UNC women. They finished 8th overall which, at first glance, doesn't seem all that exciting. However, top low-stick Morgan Ilse was a DNF. Had she finished 10th overall (which is very realistic), the Tar Heels cut off 57 points and leap ahead of Virginia Tech for 4th place. The final results may tell you one thing, but this was a VERY impressive performance for the North Carolina women.


Mountain West


Men

  • This was a big statement win for the Utah State men. Dallin Farnsworth won the individual title and established himself as a true low-stick that the Aggies needed. Yet, arguably even more important is that the pack behind him didn't fall apart like it typically does in these circumstances. Utah State went on to finish 1-5-6-14-16 to score 42 points, beating the runner-up team by over 30 points. It looks like the Utah State men are the real deal after all.

  • Maybe the most surprising result of the weekend was seeing the Colorado State men emerge for a 2nd place finish. They have been so unimpressive throughout the regular season, but this was a nice result. Forest Barton had a huge breakout performance to finish 2nd overall while their depth supported the rest of their scoring with finishes of 15-18-19-20. I'm not sure this will be enough to save their national qualifying hopes, but it does open the door for them just a little bit.

  • Boise State severely underwhelmed. By a lot. They've had a decent season so far, but this was just not a great race for them as they finished 4th in a field that they were expected to win. Their top three runners did their job, but their bottom two is where they gave up a heavy amount of their points. I'm not ready to write them off just yet, but it's hard to find too many positives.

Women

  • New Mexico dominated the field with a score of 31 points. Kelati and Kurgat went 1-2, but what was unexpected was seeing Adva Cohen finish 33rd overall in her season debut. In fact, she wasn't even in New Mexico's top seven! Instead, it was Hannah Nutall stepping up big time to finish 5th overall. The breakout performances didn't stop there as freshman Gracelyn Larkin came up huge with a 10th place finish of her own. Alex Harris closed down the scoring with a 13th place finish to cap off a rare, complete performance from all five of the Lobo's scorers.

  • Nice run by the Air Force women. Four in the top 12 is great, but having your #5 runner drop to 26th isn't ideal. Even so, this team has simply been better than we expected them to be this season. They may not have won, but they have a lot to be proud of.

  • Boise State settles for 3rd place overall. They actually had a good race with their entire top seven all finishing inside the top 20. However, having only one runner finish inside the top 10 (Parle in 7th) was not going to give them an edge over Air Force.


Ivy League


Men

  • Princeton, the heavy favorite, drops to 3rd place overall (68 points) with Penn winning the conference crown (62 points) and Harvard placing 2nd (65 points). The Tigers did everything right through their top three runners, but their #4 and #5 scorers is where they left themselves vulnerable. This is a concerning result for the Princeton men given how tight the Mid-Atlantic region is. I think they'll do better in a larger race two weeks from now, but they needed their depth to come through and that unfortunately didn't happen.

  • Props to the Quakers. Russo is a true low-stick and one that doesn't get enough attention. The rest of their lineup stuck together and crowded the 10th through 19th spots in the race. Coach Dolan's group was primed for a potential upset, but to actually execute when it matters the most is impressive.

  • Truthfully, Harvard should have won this race. Kieran Tuntivate, the individual favorite, struggled quite a bit, dropping to 11th place overall. If he finishes a couple spots higher, then the Crimson men are the Ivy League champions. Don't forget about that fact when the Northeast Regional Championships come around.

Women

  • As we predicted, the Columbia women took home the win (rather comfortably) thanks to their top-tier front-runners and a "good enough" backend. I feel rather confident that we'll be seeing them at Nationals.

  • Harvard and Penn tie for runner-up at 89 points each with the Crimson winning the tie-breaker. The real story was seeing Anna Juul placing 3rd overall after not finishing a race since September 13th. Her unexpected return vaulted Harvard up the team standings.

  • The Yale women dropped all the way to 5th in this race which is one of the more surprising developments of the weekend. We thought they could be a possible title contender, but we may have over valued their top two runners. Their 3-4-5 severely underwhelmed.


SEC


Men

  • Can someone please let us know if the SEC Championship course was short? There is no way on Earth that 33 different men actually ran under 24 minutes (the top four were under 23 minutes). I'm going to go out on a limb and assume that this race was short and if it was, it will be the second year in a row where the SEC Championships wasn't a full 8000 meters. How does that happen two years in a row?

  • Ole Miss men easily take home the win (as expected) with four in the top 10 and five in the top 13. Not many surprises here, but Waleed Suliman was extremely close to beating out Gilbert Kigen for 2nd place (placing 3rd by only a tenth of a second).

  • The Alabama men took home a runner-up performance. Kiprop and Kigen finished 1-2 as expected, but the addition of Noel Rotich (who finished 10th overall) makes this team relevant in the South region when it comes to the national qualifying conversation. I'm still not sure this will be enough to save their season, but it could happen.

Women

  • I don't really have much to say here. Arkansas dominated and Ole Miss finished runner-up just like we thought they would. However, it's important to note that Katrina Robinson still didn't toe the line for the Razorbacks. At this point in the season, we can probably assume that we wont see her race in 2019.


BIG 12


Men

  • Iowa State wins rather handily just like we thought they would. They placed all five men inside the top 10 and had their entire top seven inside the top 15. They were the class of the field and they showed it.

  • Oklahoma State finishes runner-up in a performance that was somehow encouraging and concerning at all at the same time. It was encouraging to see the Pokes place all five men inside the top 20 with Ryan Smeeton earning a 3rd place finish. However, Hatte recorded yet another DNF for the second time in a row this season. That is super concerning given that the Cowboys can't afford to lose anyone from their "Big Three" (Rodriguez, Smeeton, Hatte) if they want to advance past the regional meet.

Women

  • Oklahoma State took home the win, but only barely. They edged out a Texas team (2nd) by a mere two points and a West Virginia team (3rd) by only four points. This win is huge for the Cowgirls as they will earn a key Kolas point by beating Texas and potentially another point if the West Virginia women somehow sneak into the national meet.

  • The Iowa State women finished 4th overall, effectively ending their national qualifying hopes due to a lack of Kolas points.


BIG East


Men

  • The firepower of Villanova vs the depth of Georgetown. In the end, it was the Wildcats who emerged victorious, scoring 36 points to the Hoyas 42 points. The 'Nova men put four men inside the top 10, but their final scorer finished 17th. As for the Hoyas, they only had two men inside the top 10, but had all seven of their runners cross the line before Villanova's final scorer.

  • This season could have gone downhill rather quickly for Villanova with Comber clearly not at 100%, but the rest of the team rallied and stepped up in a big way.

Women

  • Butler was the better team today and it showed. By finishing 5-6-10-14-17, they simply had the more complete top five. There's a reason why we had projected them to qualify for Nationals.

  • How about Villanova? After losing so many top-tier runners to transfer and graduation, they still came up with a clutch 2nd place finish. Lydia Olivere took home the individual title while Ann Campbell finished 3rd and Maggie Smith finished 8th. There was a pretty heavy drop-off after those three, but I'm not sure we expected to see this kind of scoring potency from the Wildcats this weekend