Gauging Impact (Part 1)

Updated: Jul 17, 2019

The outdoor season was full of exciting headlines and jaw-dropping performances. The stunning upsets and clear displays of dominance kept fans on the edge of their seats and gave us at TSR plenty to talk about.

However, the most interesting storylines had nothing to do with actual performances. Instead, it was the slew of big name transfers who captured most of the attention from hard-core distance running fans around the country. Although we were able to cover the transfers, we never really spoke about their overall impact. What will their new teams gain? How much will their old teams lose? We decided to compare the potential aftermath of each recent transfer below and discuss how they will impact the upcoming cross country season...

Noah Affolder: Bigger Gain for Oregon vs Bigger Loss for Syracuse?

The Noah Affolder transfer is a uniquely interesting story. The young talent was a high school superstar who committed to Syracuse a year after leaving the state of New York to run for Carlisle High School in Pennsylvania. A change in scenery (and teammates) is nothing new for this young man.

During his two years at Syracuse, Affolder developed into one of the better steeplechasers in the country. As a freshman, he secured a strong personal best of 8:40 in the event and narrowly missed All-American honors by one spot at the 2018 Outdoor National Championships.

Yet, the real value with Affolder is his cross country scoring ability. Last fall, Affolder posted respectable finishes such as 5th at Beantown and then 13th at ACC's. Of course, the one critique was that he lacked consistency after placing 35th in the Pre-Nats White race and then 190th at the XC National Championships.

When you look at the roster structure of the Oregon Ducks, the first thing that pops out at you is their depth. Last year's squad (as well as their 2017 team) didn't have a true standout low-stick capable of providing the team with an elite scoring presence up front. Yes, Cooper Teare often led the way for the team, but he underwhelmed a bit in big meets last year (Pre-Nats and Nationals). As of right now, there is no one on the current Oregon roster who is a cross country All-American.

Instead, the men from Eugene have found success with a lineup that often has a low time-spread. Yes, the Ducks do lose James West and Blake Haney, but between Teare, Brown, Mestler, Thomet, Yearian, Hunter, and incoming recruit Cole Hocker, it's hard seeing this team struggling in 2019 (especially with so many other top teams losing key scorers).

When you add Affolder to the mix, the Oregon Ducks become arguably the most stable program in the country. But how much will he actually help? On a team that is already filled with men who can contribute to their top seven, Affolder would have to be a standout low-stick to really make a heavy impact in the scoring. Of course, this isn't to say that he can't be an elite low-stick or that his transfer to Oregon isn't valuable (because it is). But Affolder's departure from Syracuse will likely have a far greater impact on the Orangemen's scoring than it will with the Ducks.

It's not that Syracuse isn't deep like Oregon (they are). However, the Orangemen don't seem to have the same stability or consistency that Oregon does despite being led by a superstar like Aidan Tooker. Last year's lineup was often comprised of rising youngsters who lacked experience and established veterans who didn't always have the scoring potency that was needed from them.

Although 2019 will likely be better after going through last year's growing pains, losing points from someone who often contributed major points every single weekend will be difficult to overcome. Syracuse will have to hope that their deep group of underclassmen who have been in development for the past year or two will be good enough to replace someone who had the potential to be the next Aidan Tooker come 2020.

Final Verdict: Bigger Loss for Syracuse

Emily Venters: Bigger Gain for Colorado vs Bigger Loss for Boise State?

This past year was a big one for Venters who posted some impressive performances that put her among some of the nation's best. However, the grand success of Allie Ostrander often overshadowed her accomplishments, leaving many fans to under appreciate just how valuable she can be on a cross country roster.

Last year's 6th place finish by the Boise State women was a major accomplishment that truthfully could have ended on the podium if everything had gone their way. Even so, a major highlight was seeing Venters finish 39th overall, the second to last All-American spot available. She would later follow that up a 15:45 PR during the indoor season - a time that nearly qualified her for one of the deepest 5k fields in NCAA history.

It didn't matter where Venters transferred. Any program was going to happily accept the firepower she brought with her. It just so happens that the new program she chose had six All-Americans at last year's cross country national meet.

As we slowly approach the 2019 cross country season, the Colorado Buffaloes will be left with only a handful of their top runners from last year. All-Americans Dani Jones, Makena Morley, Tayler Tuttle, and Val Constien no longer have cross country eligibility and will be leaving some massive holes in the Colorado lineup. While it will be nearly impossible to replace so many low-sticks, Venters being injected into their top seven does slow the bleeding (especially when she is paired with future teammate Rachel McArthur).

Venters will most definitely help Colorado reload and get back on the podium, but how much better can she make the Buffs relative to the other top teams such as New Mexico, Stanford, and BYU? Can her scoring potency outweigh the depth from teams like BYU who returns all seven of their women from last year's championship meet? Truthfully, I don't know the answer to that, but at least Venters is keeping Colorado in that conversation.

As for Boise State, losing one of their biggest scoring threats is a major blow to a team that also graduated two women from last year's team. Luckily for the Broncos, they still have women like Clare O'Brien and rising sophomore Maxine Paholek who have shown that they can be high-level scorers on a very deep roster.

Still, even with so many exciting pieces and a handful of options for their top seven, not having Venters likely leaves Boise State off of the podium this year unless someone on that squad has a huge breakout season. Her presence at the front of Boise State's lineup was a key reason why the Broncos were able to compete with New Mexico for the entirety of last fall. Depth can make up for losing two women from the backend of your top seven. But losing an All-American? Well, that takes time to recover from.

Final Verdict: Bigger Loss for Boise State

Rachel McArthur: Bigger Gain for Colorado vs Bigger Loss for Villanova?

McArthur made waves in the NCAA a few weeks ago when it was reported that she would be transferring from Villanova to Colorado. The rising junior had two successful years at Villanova as she further developed her middle distance speed. McArthur would go on to run times of 2:04 and 4:14 while also securing an All-American finish in the DMR this past winter. Yet, despite her success, McArthur has opted to take her talents to Boulder to train with the Buffaloes...and her decision is a big one.

What many people fail to realize about McArthur is that she is arguably just as good in cross country as she is in the middle distances. Last fall, she was 29th at the Nuttcombe Invite, 2nd at the BIG East Championships, and the winner of the Mid-Atlantic region. She may be one of the most valuable three-season runners that the NCAA has to offer.

While it may seem ridiculous, the impact of McArthur's transfer for both Colorado and Villanova depends on the other women who are expected to transfer and graduate.

We already mentioned this when discussing Emily Venters, but Colorado loses a handful of key scorers from last year's team. Although they are not totally depleted, it is likely fair to suggest that they are not going to be at the overwhelmingly dominant level that we saw last year. Still, adding Venters and McArthur to the Buff's roster puts Colorado back into the national title conversation. The front-end of their lineup has suddenly become crowded with low-sticks and overwhelming firepower - something that very few teams in the country will be able to match.

But would Colorado be in that conversation if they had only Venters or only McArthur? Honestly, I don't think they would be. That's why these two transfers are such a big deal. The Buffaloes can still compete for a title with a top-heavy lineup, and both Venters and McArthur can help them reach that point - even with the uncertainty surrounding Colorado's depth.

As for Villanova, that story is quite different. The Wildcats will now graduate key veterans Nicole Hutchinson and Caroline Alcorta, leaving the team with a lack of a experience for the 2019 season. Additionally, the Villanova women are expected to lose more than just McArthur when it comes to transfers. TSR has been able to confirm that other Villanova distance runners are currently listed on the transfer portal.

In other words, the damage to the Wildcats' roster goes far beyond McArthur. While she may have been a major focal point of the team, her staying at Villanova was not going to change the fact that the Wildcats will be working with an emaciated lineup during the 2019 cross country season.

Final Verdict: Bigger Gain for Colorado