The Ducks take flight
In a shocking upset, Oregon took down the TSR#1 Colorado Buffaloes by a score of 32 to 48. The Ducks were able to put five runners in the top 12, led by Jessica Hull with a 2nd place finish. The Buffaloes were missing the presence of Sage Hurta, normally their third runner, who finished back in 28th. At past meets, she finished just behind Makena Morley, but even if Hurta was with her at the front, Colorado still would have lost to Oregon.
The Ducks put four runners ahead of the third Buff and their fifth was ahead of Colorado’s fourth. The difference was Oregon’s star power up-front, with Hull, Pyzik, Ejore, and Baez all in the top 10 and Brauer finishing in 12th. Maybe even more impressive was that Oregon had their #6 and #7 duo behind Colorado’s fifth. After narrowly missing the win at Pre-Nats, this victory puts Oregon in contention for an NCAA title.
1500 runners reign supreme
In the preview for this meet, I wrote about the presence of the three 1500 meter stars in the individual race and that same trio went 1-2-3. Dani Jones of Colorado took the individual win for the second year in a row, finishing only 0.6 seconds ahead of Oregon’s Jessica Hull. Elise Cranny of Stanford was 3rd, finishing four seconds behind Hull.
Although there wasn’t much doubt around the abilities of Jones or Cranny, Hull’s performance validates her as a legitimate NCAA contender. She had a huge breakout race at Pre-Nats, but was relatively unproven in cross country prior to that. With her showing today, she clearly belongs in the conversation for the individual title.
Another week of no-shows
This meet had a lot of hype going with many runners potentially making their season debuts. Unfortunately, no one actually did.
Stanford once again held out Christina Aragon and Ella Donaghu, leaving questions around Aragon’s health. While Donaghu is listed on their roster, she has yet to compete this fall and could be redshirting. On the other hand, Aragon already raced at the San Francisco Invitational (attached), but has since avoided competition. It seems odd Stanford would hold her out if she’s healthy given the only guaranteed race left is the West regional.
California finished all the way back in 11th due to the absences of Bethan Knights and Brie Oakley. The All-American duo have sat out all fall and, at this point, it seems unlikely that they will make an appearance at the regional meet.
Burdon is back (sort of)
The long awaited Washington debut of Lilli Burdon finally arrived. After transferring from Oregon, Burdon had yet to compete this fall until this weekend where she finished in 31st place. She clearly isn’t as fit as last spring when she was 3rd in the 5000 meters at NCAA's, but given another two weeks until the regional meet, she has plenty of time to improve. If she makes a jump by regionals, Washington could be much closer to Stanford (assuming they don’t run Aragon or Donaghu) and should be looking to return to NCAA's in November.
While it’s unlikely Burdon will replicate her performance from last fall, she still has an outside chance to be an All-American if she’s able to make improvements in the next few weeks.
Don’t count out Colorado
The Buffaloes had a disappointing day, coming in ranked #1 in the NCAA, but ending the meet as the runner-up to Oregon. Even with the loss, Colorado shouldn’t be eliminated from the NCAA team contenders.
First, Sage Hurta had a rough day. At Nuttycombe she finished 13th, only seven spots behind Morley. Today she was back in 28th, not even making Colorado’s top seven. Given her performances this fall and her status as a returning All-American, it’s likely that she just had a rough day. I would expect her to be back nearly Morley come the regional meet where she can finish as the third Buff.
Second, there were plenty of bright spots. Jones coming away with the win validates her as an NCAA favorite and Morley continues to be close behind. Both Tuttle an Constien continue to finish close together (15th & 16th) and if they can close the gap a bit on the top three, Colorado will be right with New Mexico and Oregon.
Susan Ejore has been somewhat unpredictable this fall, but continues to impress and clearly has the talent to run with the top group. While I wouldn't have pegged her in the Ducks top five at the start of the season, she looks to bolster and already strong group up front.
Fiona O’Keefe continues to quietly finish right behind teammate Elise Cranny. While Cranny is having a big resurgence in cross country, O’Keefe is right there every race and could be a top 10 finisher at NCAA's when all is said and done.
Oregon might be the new NCAA favorites. They essentially match New Mexico through four and have a much better fifth.
Katie Rainsberger can't seem to replicate her previous form. She continues to have decent finishes, but is just outside that top group and needs to make the jump if Washington wants to be successful as a team.