Let's avoid an introduction and just jump straight into this. We have a lot to talk about...
It seems like a no-brainer that we should begin our conversation with the Princeton Tigers as they are the overwhelming favorites to take home the conference title on Friday.
Coach Jason Vigilante has taken a somewhat similar, yet somehow different approach in how his Tigers have raced in 2019 compared to what we saw from them last year. Earlier in the season, we saw their top group toe the line at Paul Short, but they were all entered in the Open section where team scores weren't tallied.
Needless to say, the Princeton men dominated that race.
However, the conservative, under-the-radar approach that we saw from this group in 2018 was suddenly flipped a few weeks ago when they decided to go to Nuttycombe and put forth (what seemed to be) an all-out effort. The end result was a bit underwhelming as the Princeton men finished 17th overall with finishes of 31-40-124-139-144 (in the team scoring).
Regardless, it seems pretty safe to say that this team is still the overwhelming favorite to take home the conference title as no other Ivy League rival has positioned themselves to be a legitimate threat to Princeton.
The scoring potency of Lundy and Grossman, matched with an exciting mix of experienced veterans (Deokar) and high-upside freshmen (Nisbet and Fischer) solidly positions this team as the class of the field. However, the inexperience of their freshmen scorers could be something to watch in a championship setting.
It's the runner-up spot, however, that seems to be a bit of a toss-up between Penn and Harvard. Personally, I like Penn to have the edge despite an early-season result at Beantown suggesting otherwise.
Anthony Russo is one of the more underrated low-sticks in the eastern portion of the country this year after securing a 2nd place finish at the Penn State National Open two weeks ago. The rest of Penn's top five all finished inside the top 20 of that race and will bring a considerable amount of experience to their lineup tomorrow afternoon.
I'm not ready to say that there will be an upset, but if Penn is firing on all cylinders, they could give Princeton a scare. I see far more positives than negatives within their lineup.
Still, it's hard to discount Harvard who had a very respectable opener at Beantown back in September when they finished 4th overall, one spot ahead of Washington. They also beat conference rivals Dartmouth (7th), Penn (8th), and Brown (13th) in the process.
Despite beating Penn, the Crimson underwhelmed quite a bit at Nuttycombe, finishing 28th overall out of 33 teams. Kieran Tuntivate (TSR #44) has been an absolute stud this year and is the favorite to take home the individual title on Friday. Freshman teammate Colin Baker has been a pleasant surprise at the top of Harvard's top five, but at the Ivy League Championships, it seems like a handful of top teams have a legitimate front-runner that can negate some of their firepower.
In the end, I think Penn's depth and supporting cast will be the reason they edge out the Crimson men.
Yale, much like Harvard, is in the same boat. The Bulldogs have two great leaders in Nick Dahl and Robert Miranda, but their backend has some issues that need to be fixed.
Then we have Dartmouth who edged Yale by one spot at Pre-Nationals, showing a bit more consistency through their scoring five, but still not inspiring much confidence. They beat Penn at Beantown earlier in the season, but I'm not sure they have progressed the same way that the Quakers have.
All in all, this will be Princeton's race to lose. Penn looks strong, but results from the regular season suggest that they will not be the "at first glance" favorite like I'm making them out to be.
As for the individual race, many Ivy League fans may be focused on men like Tuntivate and Lundy, but it's important that we give Vasbinder the proper recognition. He won Roy Griak and was only one spot behind Lundy at Nuttycombe (and ahead of Tuntivate). I'm not saying he'll win, but if he does, no one should be surprised.
1. Kieran Tuntivate (Harvard)
2. Kenny Vasbinder (Columbia)
3. Conor Lundy (Princeton)
4. Matthew Grossman (Princeton)
5. Anthony Russo (Penn)
6. Nick Dahl (Yale)
7. Quinn Cooney (Dartmouth)
8. Cameron Daly (Brown)
9. Colin Baker (Harvard)
10. Robert Miranda (Yale)
The men's race is all about Princeton, but that's isn't necessarily the case for the women. The team title is up for grabs this Friday with no one team acting as the overwhelming favorite.
The Princeton women were a top ranked program in our Preseason XC Top 25, but they have failed to meet expectations so far this fall. Even so, this is a team that can still put themselves in a position to battle for a top three finish when the final team scores are tallied.
Unlike the men, the women actually put forth a legitimate effort at Paul Short, resulting in a total score of 211 points and a 6th place finish. Standout low-stick Meila Chittenden had a superb race, crossing the line in 7th place overall. However, the gap between her and the rest of her teammates was relatively large. Even so, their final four scorers finished 47-49-53-55 which, on paper, is truthfully not a bad performance.
The Princeton women went on to beat the Penn Quakers at the Penn State National Open without Chittenden, but it should be noted that Penn didn't have their top runner (Villalba) either. Instead, the group of Liebich (16th), Cantine (18th), Loveys (20th), and Wagner (29th) posted a string of impressive results which gave the Tigers a 4th place team finish, 15 points ahead of their conference rival.
Should Chittenden return to the lineup for the Ivy League Championships, it seems fair to say that the Princeton women will have the most complete lineup through five runners.
Columbia, however, will likely not be phased.
Despite losing a couple of key scorers from their 2018 roster, the Lions still boast a front-heavy lineup that has done quite well against some stiff competition this year. They were runner-up at Roy Griak thanks to Alexandra Hays and Katie Wasserman securing 2nd and 4th place finishes in the team scoring. Bianca Alonzo finishing 15th was also a well-received result. However, their bottom two scorers (who finished 29th and 30th in the team scoring) allowed the women of CBU to take home the win.
Nonetheless, that was still enough to upend a Minnesota team that is currently ranked #24 in our XC Top 25.
The Lions stuck close to Minnesota once again at Nuttycombe, this time falling only one place behind the Gophers. Once again, Hays and Wasserman gave their team a strong 1-2 punch while Emily Acker stepped up to be the team's #3 option. Of course, it was those bottom two scorers that would end up being the difference makers.
I like Columbia a lot, specifically in this field where it seems like some teams don't have the same firepower as them. Still, the backend of their lineup may not be strong enough to fend off deeper, more stable teams. If everyone runs to their full potential on the same day (which is easier said than done), then that shouldn't be a problem.
And how could we forget about the Penn Quakers? They placed a surprising 3rd at Paul Short earlier this year, easily holding off Princeton and putting three women inside the top 30 in that race. Madison Villalba has carried her momentum from the spring track season to the grass and the same can be said for half-mile specialist Nia Akins. However, it's the group of Melissa Tanaka, Ariana Gardizy, and freshman Elizabeth Bader that gives the Quakers a complete and thorough scoring five which truthfully doesn't show much weakness.
But which Penn team will we see at the Ivy League Championships? The squad that trounced a full Princeton lineup at Paul Short? Or the team that fell to the Chittenden-less Tigers at Penn State? Your guess is as good as mine.
You can also very easily make a favorable argument for Harvard. The Crimson women finished 4th at Beantown earlier this season, beating out numerous Ivy League rivals as well as 5th place Georgia Tech (TSR #25).
However, their recent performance at Nuttycombe was concerning for their conference title hopes. They finished 32nd out of 36 teams with freshman Isabell Sagar (75th) being the only one from her team to finish inside the top 120. As a result, I am left feeling uncertain about their postseason potential.
The last team we need to talk about is Yale. The Bulldogs have been on our radar since the beginning of the season and when you look at the results, it's easy to understand why.
The Yale women finished 2nd overall at the Panorama Farms Invitational behind a powerhouse Michigan State team. In that race, Kayley DeLay and Jocelyn Chau gave the Bulldogs are very potent 1-2 finish by placing 8th and 9th, respectively. With two others finishing in the top 25, and their final scorer sneaking inside the top 40, it was hard to dislike what we had seen from this group.
But just when you thought that we had seen everything from the Yale women, they continued to impress. The Bulldogs locked down a strong 13th place finish at Pre-Nationals with DeLay securing a wildly impressive 13th place finish of her own. Although the rest of the lineup wasn't exactly perfect (55-75-114-156) it was still a statement performance that validated just how talented they are.
Trying to decide who was going to come out on top on Friday feels like a struggle. However, I like what we've seen from the Columbia Lions just little bit more than Yale (but not by much). The Lions have an excellent top two and respectable supporting scorers between Alonzo and Acker who just need to run well on the same day. Although the bottom half of their lineup hasn't always been great, I don't think that is going to be too big of an issue in a smaller field like this.
1. Alexandra Hays (Columbia)
2. Katie Wasserman (Columbia)
3. Kayley DeLay (Yale)
4. Meila Chittenden (Princeton)
5. Madison Villalba (Penn)
6. Isabel Sagar (Harvard)
7. Jocelyn Chau (Yale)
8. Taylor Knibb (Cornell)
9. Melissa Tanaka (Penn)
10. Emily Acker (Columbia)