Midwest Region Preview (Women)


The Midwest region has a history of producing top-tier talent on the women’s side. Sharon Lokedi finished runner-up last fall and is the reigning NCAA 10k champion. Two years ago, Karissa Schweizer burst onto the scene by winning this meet and then proceeding to win her first of many national titles. Steeplechase Olympians Courtney Frerichs and Erin Teschuk also won Midwest regional titles in 2014 and 2015.


Whoever wins this year has some big shoes to fill.


Of the women above, one has a chance to take the crown this fall. Lokedi is in her final year at Kansas and comes into the race looking for her first win of the season. Her race at BIG 12's was less than ideal, finishing 5th, but Lokedi has a history of inconsistency on the cross country course so that wasn't too unexpected. She has yet to have a big performance this fall, but she did finish 6th at Pre-Nats against a quality field. For how good Lokedi has been on the track, it may be wise to bet against her on Friday. She’s only ever won three cross country races, none of which have featured particularly strong competition. She should finish near the front and qualify for NCAA's, but the win will continue to elude her.


Fellow BIG 12 competitor Callie Logue of Iowa State should be another woman at the front. Logue is coming off her first BIG 12 XC title and is the second-best returner from 2017 behind Lokedi. The Iowa State star looked strong in her win over Lokedi two weeks ago and she runs like a veteran despite being only a sophomore. Her run at the conference meet was her fastest ever 6k and she should be looking to improve upon that time on a fast course in Peoria. Logue also owns a PR of 4:21 over 1500 meters, giving her an edge in closing speed if it's tight near the finish.


While Logue is quick over 1500 meeters, Sinclaire Johnson of Oklahoma State is even faster. Johnson is 1500 meters runner during track, owning a PR of 4:11, but has been one of the biggest surprises this fall. She finished runner-up to Logue at BIG 12's, but beat her earlier this fall at Nuttycombe with her 15th place finish (Logue was 21st).


Arguably one of the most overlooked women this season, Johnson has been great every time she toes the line. Outside of the two performances above, she also won the Arturo Barrios Invitational over eventual SEC champion Jessica Pascoe. At this race last year, Johnson finished all the way back in 61st. With the way she’s performing this season, anything outside the top five would be a surprise.


Bethany Hasz of Minnesota is another woman who has been very consistent this season. In her four competitions this fall, she has placed in the top five at each and was the overall winner at Roy Griak back in September. While Hasz has the slowest 6k PR of any runner in the top group, she’s been a top finisher in every race she's toed the line for this season. Hasz will likely be running with extra incentive when you consider that the Gophers need a strong performance from her to compete for an auto-qualifier.


While the race has no clear favorite now that Schweizer is pro, Aubrey Roberts of Northwestern may just take this one. She’s coming off her highest finish ever at BIG 10's, placing 2nd behind Wisconsin star Alicia Monson. During that race, Roberts showed she wasn’t afraid to compete when she made a big move with just under 2000 meters to go.


Even though Monson eventually won, the gutsy racing by Roberts could break up the front-pack at a fast regional course. She’s been a consistent performer this fall, finishing runner-up (again) to Monson at the Badger Classic and 3rd in the Cardinal race at Pre-Nats. Although Roberts entered this season under-the-radar, she has established her place among the elite and looks to have a strong chance at taking the win on Friday.


Besides the individual title, the four NCAA individual qualifying spots are also on the line. Given Kansas and Northwestern likely will not go as teams, both Lokedi and Roberts should snag two of these spots. Assuming Iowa State, Minnesota and Oklahoma State qualify as teams, the last two spots will be anyone else’s game.

Andrea Shine of Iowa should be one of the women contending after a solid performance at BIG 10's where she finished 15th. She won the Woody Greeno Invitational back in September, finishing ahead of all the Michigan women and the top women of the Summit League. Last fall, Shine finished 20th here and should better that performance this season.


Lindsay Brewis is another top returner from 2017 who will be eyeing a qualifying spot. She recently won the Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) meet and was 5th at the Bradley Pink Classic. She finished 14th at the Midwest regional last fall and has the benefit of knowing the course for this year. She’s raced on the Newman golf course twice this season and should have an added level of comfort thanks to that experience.


Kelby Anderson of North Dakota State is a dark horse for a qualifying spot after finishing 2nd in the Summit League. She finished in 3rd at Roy Griak and 8th at the Woody Greeno Invite, giving her a good sense of where she stands relative to competitors such as Hasz and Shine. The biggest concern for Anderson is that she hasn’t seen many deep, competitive fields this fall. Most of NDSU’s races have been smaller meets and the regional meet will be anything but that. Even so, expect her to be in the mix early on.


Rachel King of South Dakota State was 10th last fall, just narrowly missing qualifying. This season she’ll be back for her final cross country season and will be looking to grab a spot this go around. King is coming off a great track season where she qualified for NCAA's in the steeplechase and has carried that momentum into cross country. She ran a great race to finish 30th at Pre-Nats and was one place behind Anderson at the Summit League Championships to finish 3rd. Like Anderson, expect to see King in the mix up-front.


The team race should be a bit more predictable than the individuals as there’s not much depth outside the top three.


The Iowa State Cyclones will be looking to defend their title with the same team from last fall. The team returns all seven members of their regional roster including three women who placed in the top 11 last year.


Logue will be leading the squad once again and will be in contention for the individual win. Behind her, the pairing of Anne Frisbie and Amanda Vestri will be looking to break into the top 10 after finishing 9th and 11th in 2017. All three runners have shown consistency for Iowa State this fall and that shouldn’t change at regionals. Kelly Naumann has been the fourth runner all fall, but the fifth position could be a possible concern.


At Nuttycombe and the Bradley Pink Classic, Karly Ackley finished as the fifth runner, but fell off at BIG 12's, where she finished 23rd as Iowa State’s sixth, but was 12 places behind their fifth. That race saw Larkin Chapman have a huge race for the Cyclones, finishing as their fifth after not making the varsity team all season. Even with Chapman as a wildcard, either her or Ackley should provide enough at the fifth scoring position for Iowa State to take the team win.


If any of the Cyclones slip up, Oklahoma State will be right behind them waiting to pounce. The Cowgirls were runner-up at BIG 12's and having been steadily improving this season. Sinclaire Johnson has been a huge surprise as the top Cowgirl and will likely be a low-stick on Friday.


The spread from the Cowgirls second to fifth runner has dropped at each meet, starting at 44 seconds at Nuttycombe, to 23 seconds at Arturo Barrios, to only 11 seconds at their conference meet. If Iowa State’s fifth runner does slip up, it will be crucial for Oklahoma State to minimize their spread and capitalize. The Cowgirls don’t have the same talent up-front as the Cyclones, but they do have more consistency on the backend. It’s likely Iowa State will take the team title, but Oklahoma State will be lurking close behind.


The Minnesota Gophers are the only other ranked team in the region and will be looking to grab an at-large bid for NCAA's unless they can upset ISU or OSU. The team is lead by the phenomenal twin duo of Bethany and Megan Hasz, both of whom look like All-Americans this fall. Bethany finished 5th at BIG 10's with Megan close behind in 12th. The duo should provide necessary low-sticks for a Gophers team that is thin on scorers.


Minnesota’s struggle to place well at meets this fall is a result of their lack of depth. At BIG 10's and Pre-Nats, the Gophers averaged 46 places between their second and third runners. While their 3-4-5 usually finish fairly close together, a gap this big leaves the team vulnerable to deeper squads. While it’s unlikely that Northwestern or Kansas can close the gap on Minnesota, there isn’t much room for error if the Gophers want to finish 3rd. Given how talented the Hasz twins are up-front, their low placing should be enough for Minnesota to finish to grab bronze.


While it’s hard to see anyone beating either Iowa State or Oklahoma State, the 3rd position is a little more open. Minnesota is the favorite for that position, but a few teams could realistically challenge them if everything goes in their favor.


Northwestern was 33 points behind Minnesota at BIG 10's and their 3-4-5 were only a combined 13 points behind those Gophers. The primary reason Minnesota edged the Wildcats is the difference in the second runner. Megan Hasz was the second Gopher in 12th compared to the second Wildcat in 35th. If Northwestern wants to challenge the Gophers, they will need close this gap and win the battles between the 3-4-5 runners.


Kansas is coming off of a 3rd place showing at BIG 12's, but would need a big improvement to jump Minnesota. Lokedi provides a critical low-stick, but besides her, there isn't anyone that truly stands out. When the Jayhawks raced at Pre-Nats, there were 114 places between Lokedi and the fifth Jayhawk. A gap like that is insurmountable when trying to place top three in this meet. Both ISU and OSU had five runners ahead of the third Jayhawk and although Minnesota is not as deep, they should still have a stronger 3-4-5 than Kansas. The team should be in the mix for 4th or 5th, but unless everything goes right, 3rd place will elude them.


Note: Rachel King does not appear in my predictions as we are teammates and I would prefer to avoid guessing performances for fellow Jackrabbits. This is not to say I would or wouldn’t have her in the top 10, I am rather withholding my prediction.


Predictions

Team

1. Iowa State Cyclones

2. Oklahoma State Cowgirls

3. Minnesota Gophers

4. Northwestern Wildcats

5. Iowa Hawkeyes


Individual

1. Aubrey Roberts (Northwestern)

2. Callie Logue (Iowa State)

3. Sharon Lokedi (Kansas)

4. Sinclaire Johnson (Oklahoma State)

5. Bethany Hasz (Minnesota)

6. Anne Frisbie (Iowa State)

7. Andrea Shine (Iowa)

8. Megan Hasz (Minnesota)

9. Lindsay Brewis (Loyola (Ill.))

10. Taylor Somers (Oklahoma State)