First Thoughts: Top-Tier Matchups

Need something to read during halftime of today's NFL games? We've got you covered.

Here are a few key headlines that we pulled from another exciting weekend of races...

Denner-less Notre Dame Holds Off Ole Miss

Despite seeing Maddy Denner (TSR #32) make her season debut at the Irish Classic a couple of weeks ago, we didn't get to see her race this past weekend at the Live in Lou XC Classic. As a result, this left us with a close matchup between the Irish and the Ole Miss women.

The Notre Dame women pulled away from the Rebels, 47 points to 54 points in a result that was about as close as we expected it to be. Both teams boasted similar lineup structures, although the Notre Dame women had a better backend, finishing 6-7-9-12-13 compared to Mississippi's top-five finishers of 5-8-10-15-16.

Had Denner run in this race and earned a top finish like we expected her to, then the final results may not have been as close as they were. Even so, both teams ran well as the Rebels relied on their veterans to deliver in the scoring while Notre Dame had a nice mix of youth and experience in their lineup, led by redshirt freshman Jessica Schneider who finished 6th place overall.

The good news for Ole Miss is that Clio Ozanne-Jaques is finally back! However, she dropped a bit in the results, finishing 15th overall. Even so, she hasn't run a cross country race since the fall of 2018, so it's understandable if she's a little rusty racing on the grass. The potential scoring she brings to this team could help the Rebels remain as one of the more competitive teams in the country.

Ole Miss Wins Easily, Charlotte & Kentucky Impress

When The Stride Report learned that the Notre Dame men would not be attending the Live in Lou XC Classic, it became clear that the Ole Miss men were the heavy favorites to pull out the team victory. Sure enough, they did just that, scoring 28 points to take home the win over a Charlotte team that finished 2nd overall with 69 points.

Overall, the Rebels delivered on their expectations with Suliman, Garcia Romo and sophomore Cole Bullock placing 2nd, 3rd and 4th overall. Michael Coccia and Dalton Hengst finished 9th and 10th to round out the team scoring.

The Rebels walked away with a nice win over a couple of respectable teams. Suliman continues to be a low-stick ace, Garcia Romo proved that his early-season win wasn't a fluke and Cole Bullock looks like he'll live up to the potential that we saw from him as a freshman last year.

Mississippi also brought back Cade Bethmann to their lineup this weekend, but he finished only 23rd overall. Even so, this was his first race back since last fall, so he's still shaking off the summer rust. If he's at his best, then the Ole Miss men may have an outside shot of taking down Arkansas at the SEC Championships later this month.

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As for the Charlotte and Kentucky men, they both ran very well this past weekend.

Charlotte delivered on the preseason hype that we gave them by finishing 2nd overall as a team while Paul Arredondo took home a massive individual victory over some top-ranked individuals.

The rest of their squad was a bit further back (finishing 14-16-17-21), but that was truthfully the lineup structure that we expected from this group. They ran very well with a handful of youngsters and I would argue that they still have a lot of potential.

We then come to the Kentucky Wildcats, a team that was only three points out from the Charlotte men in 3rd place overall. They may not have finished near Ole Miss or taken down Charlotte, but this was still another strong result which validates their win from the Commodore Classic a few weeks ago. If they had kept the backend of their lineup a little tighter, they likely would have taken down the 49ers.

Matt Duvall looks like one of the most promising freshman talents in the country this season after placing 5th overall. He's been running with some strong distance runners so far this year and despite his inexperience, he has given Kentucky a front-runner that they can lean on.

Oklahoma State Men, Iowa State Women Pull Off Upsets

Coming into this weekend, we harped on the idea that the Oklahoma State men could potentially pull off an upset win over the Iowa State Cyclones this weekend. We mentioned it on the Blue Oval Podcast and in our weekend preview article, citing the impact of firepower over depth in a field like this.

Sure enough, that was exactly what happened at the Cowboy Jamboree as the men from Stillwater, Oklahoma took down an Iowa State lineup that was missing only one runner from their projected lineup.

Wesley Kiptoo (Banguria) took home the individual win which was somewhat expected. However, behind him was a slew of Oklahoma State runners who took advantage of running on their home course. Isai Rodriguez (2nd), Victor Shitsama (3rd), Ryan Smeeton (5th), freshman Ryan Schoppe (6th) and Alex Maier (7th) took care of business, overwhelming an Iowa State squad that was missing Mitchell Day.

Behind Kiptoo, the Cyclones saw Festus Lagat (4th), Chad Johnson (8th), Milo Greder (9th) and Thomas Pollard (10th) close out their team scoring. Even if Mitchell Day had run for Iowa State and finished 3rd overall, Oklahoma State still would have won when you factor in displacement.

There are a ton of takeaways that we can pull from this race, but the biggest one is that Victor Shitsama is the newest low-stick stud to don an Oklahoma State singlet. The Cowboys seemingly produce and/or recruit top-tier scorers each and every year and it just so happens that Shitsama is that newest name.

Not only that, but freshman Ryan Schoppe was awfully impressive in his first collegiate race. He is a huge reason why the Cowboys scored 23 points to Iowa State's 32 points. His addition to this lineup -- plus the newfound scoring potency of Shitsama -- makes the Oklahoma State men a very scary team moving forward.

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A potential upset on the men's side is something that we saw coming. However, what we did not expect to see (at all) was the Iowa State women dominating the Oklahoma State women on their home course.

The 2019 cross country season was not a great one for either the Cyclones or the Cowgirls, but it was clear that the women from Stillwater were (expected to be) the better team coming into this season.

However, the Iowa State women scored 29 points this past weekend to take down an Oklahoma State squad that finished 2nd overall with 48 points.

The individual win from ISU's Cailie Logue (TSR #7) wasn't super surprising. However, seeing the Cyclones put together finishes of 5th (Dana Feyen), 6th (Larkin Chapman), 8th (Janette Schraft) and 9th (Madelynn Hill) was a total shock. In fact, their sixth runner (Grace Dickel) finished ahead of Oklahoma State's third runner!

We expected this team to be better than they were last year, but the improvements made by these women (based on one race) is far better than I expected. Then again, this was a top-heavy field which really came down to just Iowa State and Oklahoma State.

As for Oklahoma State, they actually made some improvements as well compared to last year. Taylor Roe finishing 2nd overall was a pleasant surprise, as was Gabby Hentemann who finished 3rd overall. That sophomore duo looks awfully promising and could offer some additional scoring potency moving forward, something that the Cowgirls needed last year.

However, the rest of this lineup was unable to fill the gaps behind their top two runners as their final three scorers finished 12th, 13th and 19th (18th in the team scoring) overall.

There is, however, a catch.

Molly Born (TSR #8) did not run and could have drastically changed the results in favor of Oklahoma State if she had toed the line. Then we have Taylor Somers (TSR #9) who simply had a bad day, finishing 56th overall. That was obviously not a great race for her, but we know that she is capable of producing so much more.

Although the results show a dominating win by Iowa State, just know that the Oklahoma State women have two top-10 talents that weren't even in their varsity seven this past weekend.

The Cowgirls are still expected to be the better team moving forward, but the Iowa State women should be proud of the progress that they have made since last year.

FSU Women Cruise to Win, Alabama Shows Promise

The Seminoles of Florida State added a few more pieces of their projected top seven back into their lineup this weekend which ultimately resulted in the overall victory with a team score of 38 points.

The five-person lineup combination of Coggins-Churchill-Clark-Funderburk-Swigler finished 4-5-6-11-12 to take home the win over an Alabama team that finished 2nd overall with 51 points.

Overall, there isn't too much to take away from this if you're Florida State.

Maudie Skyring (TSR #50) did run this past weekend, but she was racing unattached and finished 19th overall. Jodie Judd, a varsity runner from last fall, fell back a bit and finished 20th overall. Lauren Ryan, the 6th place finisher from last year's ACC Championships, was absent from the results.

This Florida State lineup isn't coming together like we thought it would, but it's clear that they aren't going all-in (at least not yet). Plus, it's been encouraging to see women like Churchill and Swigler step up and contribute.

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As for the Alabama women, you have to be very encouraged by what we saw. Mercy Chelangat (TSR #28) took home the win while Jami Reed, the surprise winner from the Commodore Classic, proved that her rust-buster victory wasn't a fluke with a 2nd place finish.

Esther Gitahi (TSR #36) was a bit further back than we expected her to be (10th), but she was still a key supporting member of this lineup while teammate Lauren Brackin finished 18th overall.

On paper, this was a respectable top four, but their fifth scorer dropped back to 24th place. As we have been saying for a while now, the backend of this lineup will need to be condensed if the Crimson Tide want to be nationally competitive.

However, it's important to note that they didn't have Allie Wilson this past weekend. If she runs, then this team likely lowers their team score to a point where they are threatening the FSU women.

Georgia Men Surprise, Take Down Regional Rivals

Kudos to the Georgia men who surprised many by taking down the Georgia Tech men and the Florida State men this past weekend. Sam Bowers took home the individual win while teammate Chase Condra was 5th.

There was a bit of a gap between that top two and the rest of their scorers (who finished 13th, 16th and 21st), but the rest of the field was spread out enough to the point that it didn't really matter.

The Bulldogs took down a respectable Georgia Tech squad and a typically-strong Florida State team by 17 points and 18 points, respectively. The SEC still goes through Arkansas and Ole Miss, but Kentucky seems to be gaining some momentum and you can now add UGA to that list as well.

Additional Notes...

  • At the Gans Creek Classic hosted by Missouri, the Arkansas women cruised to an easy win, taking spots 2nd through 9th. What was surprising, however, was seeing Krissy Gear compete after it was initially expected that she would be sidelined this season due to SEC transfer rules. If she is able to race, what does that mean for recent transfer and teammate Amon Kemboi on the men's side?

  • Georgia Tech's Nicole Fegans was a DNF this past weekend at the FSU XC Invitational while teammate Ellen Flood recorded a DNS. Had both of these women run as expected, Fegans could have taken home the individual victory and the Yellow Jackets may have been able to edge the Alabama women.