The Mid-Atlantic region is not traditionally one of the stronger regions in the NCAA, but it is shaping up to be a very exciting race. On the team side the battle should be tight, and with the way things are looking, there will be no at-large bids awarded in this race. It’s going to be all about those top two spots, and depending how the race plays out, we could see a variety of different outcomes.
Penn State is hosting the race at their golf course, which is not known for producing extraordinarily fast times. This race will likely be a grind until the end, and I don’t think there is anybody in this field who is particularly capable of running away with the race too early on, so we should see an exciting finish up front.
Princeton comes in as my favorite for the team title. They are fresh off an Ivy League title where they scored 30 points to earn a win over Harvard. Before that, they won the Princeton Invitational, taking down some top regional talent in the process. Conor Lundy has been a very viable low-stick, and the trio of Gannon Willcutts, Matt Grossman, and Jeremy Spiezio have not been far behind. The Tigers have shown a formidable ability to run as a pack in these kinds of races, and that strength will be crucial for this squad with a national championship berth on the line.
Princeton had a very quiet start to their season, running the Penn State Spiked Shoe Invitational as a tempo and later winning the “B” race at Nuttycombe in what seemed to be another controlled effort. That left many people questioning how good they were going to be later in the season. However, the Tigers have left no doubt as to what they’re capable of. Expect to see a pack of orange singlets at the front of this race as Princeton tries to run their score down as low as possible.
With Princeton looking like a solid candidate to win the region, the second qualifying spot is up for grabs. Georgetown, Villanova, Penn, Temple, and Penn State will all be in the mix. Navy may be able to get in there as well, but after being upset by Boston and Bucknell at the Patriot League Championships, it is looking like this might not be the same caliber team we saw here last year.
Georgetown enters this meet as the only team in the region that we have projected to pick up any Kolas points. Their two projected points will probably not be enough to secure them an at-large bid should they fail to qualify automatically, so the Hoyas will need to be gunning for the top two just like everyone else.
The Hoyas have raced somewhat sparingly this fall, but they have done considerably well when they have made appearances. Georgetown took the BIG East title over Villanova by placing four guys in the top eight, which should be enough to challenge’s Princeton’s top men.
Georgetown had a very respectable showing at the Penn State Nationals Open as well, taking 5th in an underrated field. Nicholas Wareham has been the Hoyas’ top scorer this year and he could possibly contend for an individual title at regionals. Jack Van Scoter, Christian Liddell, and Matthew Bouthillette could do some damage as well.
Georgetown has run the Penn State course twice so far this season (granted, the course is different for 10K and they ran a “B” team at Spiked Shoe) and I think that helps their chances of qualifying automatically. This is a tough course and running as a pack will pay off for teams that want to be successful. If Georgetown can hold it together through the late portions of this race, I think they can punch a ticket to Madison, Wisconsin.mGeorgetown may have won the Big East for the fourth year in a row, but Villanova didn’t make it easy for them. Casey Comber and Andrew Marston have been lights-out for the Wildcats this fall, and while they have traded the number one spot back and forth, they never seem to finish far apart.
The Wildcats have suffered some close losses to Mid-Atlantic rivals all season, coming in 13 points behind Georgetown at the BIG East Championship and 10 points behind Princeton at the Princeton Invitational. These close margins validate Villanova as a contender within the region, as these other top teams are clearly within their reach. In this large championship setting, it will come down to what the back half of their lineup is able to do.
Princeton and Georgetown are two very deep teams, but Villanova has only a slight drop off after their top two. The Wildcats’ contingency of younger guys who make up their 3-7 spots could be the difference makers. Comber and Marston will be up with the lead pack, and the rest of this team will need to get as close to them as possible.
If the Wildcats are able to get their top five across the line before Princeton and Georgetown do, then the low-stick scoring from Comber and Marston will be the edge that gives them an automatic qualifier. This is a somewhat tall order for a team who has been narrowly defeated so many times already, but they aren’t that far off.
The trio of Penn, Temple, and Penn State will be coming in close behind these top three teams. La Salle and Navy also have the ability to be in this mix. These are all teams that have performed well this season, but are yet to show any real breakout potential. The way I see it, Temple has the best shot at breaking up the top three of Princeton, Georgetown, and Villanova.
Temple is a relatively unheard of team at this level. They finished 7th in the region last year, but they are looking like a much stronger team in 2018. Temple took 3rd at the Princeton Invitational, but finished well behind Villanova (as well as Princeton). At Princeton, Kristian Holm Jensen took 4th individually. If he is able to replicate that performance at regionals, he could serve as a solid low-stick for the Owls. Louis Cogliano and Zach Seiger have also been key scorers with low-stick potential. If these three athletes can all put together strong finishes, that may be enough to put Temple in the top four or five. If not, they might end up farther back behind Penn and Penn State.
Penn has had a bit of an up and down season. At the Penn State National Open, the Quakers were only six points behind Georgetown. That kind of performance could easily put them in the mix for a top two spot. On the other hand, Penn was only 4th in the Ivy League this year. Although the Ivy League has become increasingly deep with talented teams, Penn wasn’t all that close to 3rd place Dartmouth. Penn had a pretty unimpressive showing at Nuttycombe as well. Simply put, it all depends on what kind of day the Quakers have.
Penn State is a big question mark on my list. I think this team is capable of taking a stab at teams like Georgetown, but this isn’t a program that is typically known for its cross country achievements. Colin Albert has looked great all season and a case could be made for him taking the individual title. After all, Penn State will be racing at home which has to give him some advantage. The Nittany Lions don’t have a whole lot in terms of depth, but they’ve got a tight spread from 2-7 (30 seconds at BIG 10’s). If this group can just move up to a higher position in the race, that spread could be dangerous.
After being upset by Boston and Bucknell at Patriot Leagues, Navy doesn’t look like much of a contender in the region, but they’ve always got a deep team and seem to pull things together when they need to. Kevin Murray and Jake Brophy are a strong duo who could be in good position to potentially qualify for NCAA’s individually. Cordon Luoco of Duquesne, Ibrahim Kedir of La Salle, Kyle Mueller of Monmouth, and Matthew Rainey of American have all been racing well and could be up with that lead pack looking for individual spots.
1. Princeton Tigers
2. Georgetown Hoyas
3. Villanova Wildcats
4. Temple Owls
5. Penn State Nittany Lions
1. Casey Comber (Villanova)
2. Nicholas Wareham (Georgetown)
3. Andrew Marston (Villanova)
4. Colin Albert (Penn State)
5. Conor Lundy (Princeton)
6. Gannon Willcutts (Princeton)
7. Jack Van Scoter (Georgetown)
8. Christian Liddell (Georgetown)
9. Matt Grossman (Princeton)
10. Kristian Holm Jensen (Temple)
11. Louis Corgliano (Temple)
12. Kevin Murray (Navy)
13. Jeremy Spiezio (Princeton)
14. Kyle Mueller (Monmouth)
15. Anthony Russo (Penn)
16. Ibrahim Kedir (La Salle)
17. Matthew Rainey (American)
18. Cordon Luoco (Duquesne)
19. Josh Phillips (Villanova)
20. Zachary Michon (St. Joseph’s)