Updated: Sep 30, 2019
Oregon Debut's Newest Weapons, BYU Falters to 2nd Without Shumway
We knew that the Oregon men were going to be good this year. James West gained another year of eligibility and Cooper Teare has seemingly evolved into an elite low-stick. With the addition of Noah Affolder and Cole Hocker, as well as a deep group of talented individuals, it was hard to ignore just how good the Ducks could be in 2019.
Sure enough, the Oregon men showed out this weekend. The Ducks took home the overall team win, barely edging out a Shumway-less BYU team by six points. West and Teare gave the team some scoring potency up front with 3rd and 4th place finishes while true freshman Cole Hocker put on a show with a clutch 9th place finish. Noah Affolder, after dealing with injuries throughout last year, rallied to earn a very respectable 14th place finish.
The only weakness in Oregon's lineup came at the #5 position where Jackson Mestler finished 24th overall. The good news is that Mestler will likely be better than that in the future. He is more than capable of finishing near Affolder and if he does, then he would make this team much stronger than they already are.
In 2nd place we have the BYU men who still put together a phenomenal performance of their own without low-stick Clayson Shumway (TSR #20). They scored 60 points in total with Conner Mantz taking home the individual win (as expected). However, despite their incredible depth (where they placed 10 men inside the top 30), their reduced firepower is what ultimately had them finishing runner-up. Jacob Heslington held his own in 8th place while Ottensen and Garnica secured 15th and 16th place finishes, respectively. Zac Jacklin rounded out the scoring with a 20th place finish.
The Cougars actually had six men cross the line before Oregon's #5 man finished. That, however, wasn't enough to counteract the firepower that we saw from the Ducks.
For Oregon, this a huge win. It shows that they can compete with the top programs in the nation and that their depth has transitioned into high-octane scoring. And for BYU? Well, we shouldn't overreact to this performance. They are still very much a podium contender, especially when they add Shumway back into their lineup. Their depth will be far more valuable in a larger field (like NCAA's).
UCLA Men Impress With Strong Firepower
They may have finished 3rd overall, but they were only two points away from knocking out the BYU Cougars. The Bruins had the best top three in the field with Robert Brandt finishing 2nd overall while teammates Garrett Reynolds and Colin Burke finished 5th and 7th, respectively. Through three runners, they scored only 14 points which bested Oregon's 16 points.
Chris Morzenti held his own in 17th place, but the #5 spot is what ultimately cost the UCLA men a better finish with George Gleason finishing 34th overall. The good news is that, much like Jackson Mestler, Gleason can put up a finish better than what we saw this weekend. He should be able to keep excessive scoring to a minimum.
Depth was a bit of a concern for this team entering the 2019 season and that still seems to be a fair criticism (for now). Nonetheless, I think we undervalued the scoring potency of UCLA's top runners. This team is going to be dangerous, especially if they improve their time spread.
BYU Women Dominate, Boise State Surprises With Depth
Three women in the top four. My goodness.
The BYU women made an absolute statement this past weekend, easily handling some of the top programs in the country. Whittni Orton took home a five second win over teammate Birk-Jarvis while Courtney Wayment wasn't far behind in 4th place. Oregon's Susan Ejore (3rd overall) was the only one capable of breaking up the Cougars from having a 1-2-3 sweep. With Olivia Hoj and Aubrey Frentheway placing 12th and 18th respectively, it was clear that the women from BYU were not going to lose. They ended the day with a convincing 35 point win.
As exciting as BYU was, the results get more interesting the further down we go.
In 2nd place were the Boise State women. Claire O'Brien was the leader of the team with a key 8th place finish. The rest of their scoring five finished 16-19-20-22.
The Broncos were expected to struggle this year after losing a plethora of top-scoring low-sticks as well as some key supporting pieces. We have grown so used to seeing Boise State dominate with firepower that we didn't necessarily anticipate seeing them prosper with depth...and that is exactly what happened.
We were right that Boise State wasn't going to be the same team that we saw last year. Of course, as we just learned, that doesn't mean that they can't succeed in other ways.
Air Force Has Breakout Race
Maybe an even bigger surprise than the Boise State women were the Air Force women. While fans around the country focused on some of the top-ranked teams, the Air Force women quietly laid under the radar (but for good reason). They had graduated a top low-stick in Jaci Smith and didn't give us much of a reason to believe that they could contend with these powerhouse squads.
That, of course, was an oversight.
The Falcons put together a handful of strong results with Mikayla Gallagher having a breakout performance in 6th place overall. She gave her team some much-needed scoring potency while Brady, Norris, and Blanks filled in the middle spots of their lineup by finishing 15-17-23, respectively. The only issue was their #5 runner who finished 55th overall. That is a significant gap that will need to be cut down as the season progresses, but it clearly didn't do enough to take away from the fact that the Air Force women ran well.
Top Programs Underwhelm
The Oregon women placed 4th overall, falling 40 points behind Air Force. In 5th place, Oregon State finished with 172 points while the Furman women weren't far behind with 175 points in 6th.
For the Oregon Ducks, it's understandable why they dropped to 4th place. They didn't run Isabelle Brauer (TSR #38) or Western Colorado transfer Aneta Konieczek. Had those two women entered their lineup, then we're looking at a team that could have easily challenged Boise State for the runner-up spot.
As for Oregon State and Furman, it's tough to criticize them, mainly because this was still a loaded field and someone had to drop to the 5th and 6th place positions in the team standings. Still, I thought the firepower of Furman and the depth of Oregon State would be enough to propel them to higher finishes. That, unfortunately, was not the case.
Carnahan and Jennings were clutch low-sticks for the Paladins after earning 5th and 7th place finishes, respectively. However, the drop off after those two was significant. As for Oregon State, their depth was still very much on display, but their pack hovered around the 30's and 40's rather than the 20's and 30's. Not having a low-stick like Julia Mount was the difference maker in this race for the Beavers.
Still, it's important to emphasize that these weren't necessarily poor performances. There is a lot of promise for the Furman and Oregon State women. Each of these teams have unique strengths and should still be contenders come the postseason. Don't write them off just yet...
Portland Men & UCLA Women Leave Out Top Scorers
I don't want to go too deep into detail on this section mainly because I don't think there is a lot to talk about. The Portland men finished 5th overall (behind 4th place Boise State) without a handful of top runners, including TSR #19 Emmanuel Roudolff-Levisse. This was likely an effort from coach Rob Conner to see which runners would make up the rest of his lineup. Luckily, he may have found a promising piece in Justin Hazell who earned a 13th place finish this weekend.
As for the UCLA women, they finished 9th overall. However, they didn't run Duke transfer Monica Hebner or veteran ace Erika Adler. Had these two women toed the line for the Bruins, then this team would have finished much higher up in the team standings.
In other words, don't overthink what you saw from these two teams this past weekend. They can/will be much better in the future.