Now that you’ve read everything about our preseason rankings, let’s delve into the part that actually matters. THE REGULAR SEASON. We missed the first week, but fear not, we’ve taken five things that caught our attention so far and written about them. We may have missed some things and if we have, don’t hesitate to reach out and let us know. We love hearing from you guys. Also, quick disclaimer. The season is still young, so some of the below analysis includes speculation...
1. How good can Cal State San Marcos be in 2019?
After not qualifying for the 2019 National Championships, the San Marcos men hosted their annual cross country meet this past weekend. The end result was them taking home the team title.
What’s important to mention here is that they took down TSR #10 Queens (N.C.) while placing three inside the top five. Josh Litwiller was the number one man for the Cougars on the day with his 3rd place finish which was just a second back of the 1st and 2nd place finishers. Right behind him was Kibrom Elias (24:20) and Shea Vavra (24:22). Robert Marin was the last Cougar inside the top 10 as he finished 9th in a time of 24:42. Capping the scoring on the day was Phillip Dorado who was six seconds back with a time of 24:48.
Now, let’s get a couple of things straight. It’s very early in the season. In fact, both teams had a great meet for this early in the season and Queens actually had all seven of their runners in before San Marcos did (albeit, it was just by one spot), but this is a huge result for the Cougars. If they continue to run like this over the course of the season, we could be talking about them being a legitimate top 10 team.
And who knows? Maybe Chico State's 17 year reign of the CCAA might be tested...
2. The Lee (Tenn.) teams impressed this weekend
The men's and women’s teams from Lee went under the radar during the summer. Understandably, finishing 25th and 29th at the 2018 NCAA Championships doesn’t bring a lot of preseason attention your way. However, this past weekend at the UTC Twilight Cross Country Meet, the TSR D2 contributors were impressed with both efforts from the Flames.
Starting with the women, they have a legitimate 1-2 punch in Chloe Flora and Celine Ritter. Flora finished 2nd and Ritter was 3rd as they covered the 4k course in 13:36 and 13:42. Neither of these women were apart of that team that finished 29th last fall.
In fact, Charlee Boxall was the only woman who finished inside the top five who was apart of that team in 2018. Add in freshmen Hannah Spooneybarger and Olivia McClain, along with the returning experience of Becca Umbarger and Kendra Irvine, and the women from Lee seem to have a strong team moving forward.
Moving to the men’s side, they went 1-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10. Freshman Will Stone stole the show as he took home the individual victory conversing the 7k course in a time of 21:29. The rest of the team looked to be doing some sort of workout as they all crossed within eight seconds of each other as they took the 3rd through 10th spots.
Dawson Reed, Caleb Eagleson, Thomas Kelton, and Casey Guthery were the scoring five, but there could be tons of change throughout the season between these athletes. The addition of Kelton (9:06 steeple) will benefit this team greatly. They have experience in Reed, Eagleson, and Guthery who all ran at last year’s NCAA meet.
The missing pieces here are Christian Noble (TSR #6), Jared Herzog, and Ben Gilman. They were the top three at the NCAA meet for the Flames last year. It’s unclear what the plan is for these three in 2019 but regardless, Lee should still have major success in 2019.
3. Michigan Tech will be stronger than expected
We had the women’s Michigan Tech team ranked as our #8 team in our preseason rankings, but it’s the men that we want to talk about right now after a very strong performance at the MSU Spartan Invitational.
I think a lot of people were looking at this MSU meet to see how the likes of Grand Valley State and Saginaw Valley would fare in their first meet of the season. Turns out, Michigan Tech wanted to throw their name into the hat as well.
Led by Braden Reichl (TSR #12) who finished in 6th place, the Huskies finished 3rd as a team and just four points behind Grand Valley State and 55 points ahead of Saginaw Valley. The second scorer was Matthew Pahl who finished 9th while Clayton Sayen finished 14th and was the number three guy for Michigan Tech.
Both Pahl and Reichl were expected to have strong seasons, but Sayen has seemingly come out of nowhere. Sure, there was optimism after his 31st place finish at the regional meet last year, but he was a middle-distance athlete during the outdoor season last year. His success will be pivotal for the men’s team this season.
Additional experience from Brendan Klynstra and Nate Carey can help this team make waves inside the GLIAC. They’ll need to shore up their six and seven runners for purposes of depth, but they have the rest of the season to work with. As of right now, the Huskies look to be a sleeper team that could make some waves in November.
4. Does U-Mary have the firepower to return to the podium?
Sure, losing Jaiden Schuette and Emily Roberts looked to be a blow that would send U-Mary back in 2019. And sure, it’s only one meet, but it seems that U-Mary might have the firepower to get back to the podium this fall.
Ida Narbuvoll (TSR #7) will be leading the Marauders this year after and she’ll be looking to finish as low as possible at NCAA's in 2019 (obviously). She finished 1st at the MSU Moorhead Dragon Twilight this past weekend with a time of 13:22 (4K). She was almost a full minute ahead of her teammates Taylor Hestekin (14:18) and Starlynn Costa (14:19).
Freshman Kayla Ogle was 5th in 14:23 with Bree Erickson capping the scoring five with a 7th place finish. Kate Fox was the team's #6 runner in 8th place while Lacey Feist-Young was their #7 option back in 19th.
Feist-Young was the #6 runner for U-Mary at the NCAA meet last year as she came on strong towards the end of the season. It can be presumed that the same thing will happen again this year and if it does, it gives the Marauders a very strong scoring spread through the #2 and #6 scoring spots. Narbuvoll will likely be the number one runner come November and the higher she places, the easier the job is for the rest of the team.
Last year, U-Mary had three athletes inside the top 15. While that might not be the case in 2019, if Narbuvoll can be within the top 10 with the rest of this team packing within the top 40, it wouldn’t come as a surprise if we saw them on the top of the podium.
5. More of a story: Sioux Falls or Augustana (S.D.)?
These two teams faced off this weekend at the Augustana Twilight XC Meet. So it begs the question...which one of these teams is worth more chatter? Augustana (S.D.) placed 2nd overall, but ended up finishing ahead of Sioux Falls (4th place overall) and did so in Augustana-fashion: extreme depth.
Let’s dig in a bit. Sioux Falls was led by Mason Phillips (TSR #3) who finished 2nd in a time of 18:55 (4 mile). In 6th place was Steven Brown at 19:19. The next runner for the Cougars was Billy Beseman down in 27th at 19:57.
For Augustana, Aaron Runge paced the Vikings, finishing 7th in a time of 19:19 just behind Brown. He was the only athlete inside the top 10 for Augustana. Matt Steiger was 22nd (19:52), Austin Miller was 24th (19:54), Nathan Schroeder was 29th (19:59), and Jesus Urtusuastegui was 32nd (20:02). And just for kicks, Skylar DeJong was 37th (20:06), meaning that Augustana had six athletes in before Sioux Falls had four.
That’s big time. Especially against a team that TSR has ranked #3 in the preseason team rankings. The catch? Zach Lundberg. He did not race for Sioux Falls this past weekend and he was/is expected to be a vital scorer for Sioux Falls this season.
The next finishers for Sioux Falls were Aaron Voigt (50th, 20:17), David Ecker (57th, 20:23), Wyatt Schlager (61st, 20:27) and Shodo Mahamed (82nd, 20:38). They weren't terrible, but that will not get the job done when it comes to the championship season. Wyatt McLeod was the #7 scorer for Augustana (there were two unattached athletes ahead of him) coming in at 68th.
These two teams are going to see each other quite a bit this season. It’ll be interesting to see how the team battle plays out each time. The continued depth of Augustana might be able to trump the two-headed attack from the Cougars.