Overreaction: Part 2

By: Sam Ivanecky and Garrett Zatlin

It's been a week since Wisconsin, and there’s been lots of chatter around the NCAA. Week 4 saw both the number one team and runner dethroned, some breakout performances, and a few big names still missing from the action. Due to all of the chaos, there have been some big statements made… but how true are they? This article format will address some of these statements and how much hype each one is justified.

New Mexico are no longer the title favorites

Sam Ivanecky: Overreaction

After a 3rd place finish at Nuttycombe, peopled have questioned whether or not the Lobos are the powerhouse everyone thought they were heading into the season. Last fall they lost twice (Joe Piane and Mountain Regional) to Colorado, only to walk away with the title at NCAA's. Their top three ran as expected at Nuttycombe, all finishing in the top 10. The trio of Kurgat, Kelati, and Prouse will have an even bigger impact when racing at NCAA's as they’re all top 15 runners in a much deeper field.

Adva Cohen was 35th in her debut as a Lobo, but after her phenomenal track season there’s a good chance she’ll move up as the season goes on. I think she’s still an All-American by November despite her slower start this season.

Like last year, the fifth runner was well back for the Lobos. It’s a problem they’ll need to address if they want to beat deeper teams like Colorado, but keep in mind that they had this issue last fall and still won the national title...

Garrett Zatlin: Overreaction

The Lobos still have some of the best low-sticks in the NCAA, and their experience doesn't hurt either. Colorado beat them twice last season, and they still ended up hoisting the trophy. They'll need to improve a few areas, specifically in their depth, but there should be plenty of time to address those vulnerabilities. There is no guarantee that the Buffaloes and Broncos will be able to replicate that kind of stunning performance again.

Alicia Monson is the new title favorite

Sam Ivanecky: Overreaction

While she had an incredible race at Nuttycombe, I wouldn’t be ready to crown her queen of the NCAA. She beat an absolutely stellar field that included four of the top ten runners from last fall, including the reigning national champion. That said, it’s still the first week in October. There’s over a month of racing left and for many athletes this was their first real race of the season. Monson has an advantage of knowing the course, given it’s the Badgers home course and she already won the Badger Classic there earlier this fall.

Regardless, her victory was probably the biggest surprise of the weekend. She was 139th at NCAAs last fall, but rebounded to finish 18th in the 5k at NCAA's in the spring. Realistically, she should contend for a top 10 finish at Nationals. For now, Kurgat should still be the favorite until we get a better look at everyone come Pre-Nats weekend.

Garrett Zatlin: Overreaction

Monson had a phenomenal race, but I'm staying cautious after her 139th place finish from NCAA's last year. It's clear that she's learning from her mistakes, but there are too many top-tier names behind her who have a better understanding of what to expect from her. Ladies like Kurgat, Ostrander, and Jones have plenty of experience racing at the top level. When all is said and done, I like that elite-level experience to be the difference maker in November.

Boise State doesn’t need Brenna Peloquin

Sam Ivanecky: Reasonable

Nuttycomeb was when everyone thought we’d see the return of Brenna Peloquin, the former top five NCAA runner who hasn’t raced since indoors of 2017. A little while before the Nuttycombe, the official entries were released and Peloquin was once again absent from the Boise State squad, leaving many (myself included) to immediately disregard the Broncos chances of being a serious contender. Despite the absence, Boise State showed everyone exactly how wrong they were by putting three in the top 10 and finishing only 11 points behind Colorado for 2nd place.

Going into this meet, it seemed like Boise State had a lot of uncertainty behind Allie Ostrander. Although Ostrander secured a low-stick position, everyone else was an unknown. Emily Venters and Clare O’Brien stepped up huge to finish (9th and 10th) while their four-five combo placed 26th and 41st. What's even more impressive was their sixth runner finished 65th, which still would have been good enough to beat New Mexico had their fifth DNF’d.

With six runners who all look much better than last year’s squad, Boise State should be a legitimate contender for the podium regardless of Peloquin returning. If she does come back she adds even more to a deep team, but given the length of her hiatus it would be surprising to see her return in the same form she left. The Broncos have only made NCAA's twice as a team, finishing 11th both times. This year, anything outside the top five would be a let down.

Garrett Zatlin: Overreaction

I think it depends on what kind of goals Boise State has for the 2018 season. After their performance at Nuttycombe, I think it's fair to say that this team wants to win a national title. They have the talent to secure a win, but there are a few things out of their control that would need to go their way (and it's never comforting when you leave things to chance). With New Mexico hungry to prove themselves after the upset and Colorado looking overwhelmingly strong, an ace like Brenna Peloquin would give Boise State a much needed edge. Boise State's final scorer was 41st at Nuttycombe and on a bigger stage, that number becomes notably larger. If the Broncos want to match the firepower of New Mexico and the depth of Colorado, Brenna Peloquin will need to be in the lineup.

Katrina Robinson will finish top 10 at NCAA's

Sam Ivanecky: Overreaction

While this is an incredibly hot-take and probably a big overstatement, there’s definitely a case to be made for Robinson. The freshman from Australia (although she was born in Texas) won the Chile Pepper Festival and then finished 8th at Nuttycombe, just behind Charlotte Prouse. She’s already running with (and beating) All-Americans from last fall and Arkansas has a history of producing top NCAA talent.

Robinson also has a deep history of performing in championship races. She’s won seven national championships in Australia, has silver and bronze medals from the Youth Commonwealth Games in 2017, and was 8th in the U20 IAAF World Championships 1500 meters this summer.

Even with all of her success, it’s probably a bit early to peg her as a top 10 finisher this fall. NCAA's aren’t until November 17th, leaving plenty of racing between now and then. Keep an eye on Robinson, she may surprise quite a few people.

Garrett Zatlin: Reasonable

Sam said everything I needed to. Robinson's extensive experience on the national stage is a huge advantage, especially in a larger field like Nationals. Just look at what we saw from James Sugira of Eastern Kentucky. Although Robinson's youth is a cautionary aspect to look out for, she will only get better as she adjusts to collegiate competition throughout the season. There weren't many top individuals missing from the Nuttycombe entries (although there were a few).

Georgia will not qualify for Nationals

Sam Ivanecky: Overreaction

Right now, the Bulldogs sit 4th in the South region behind Ole Miss, Georgia Tech and Florida State. The last time more than two teams qualified from this region was in 2012, but this year may be another anomaly. The current USTFCCCA coaches poll has all four of these teams in the top 30 and many of the normal NCAA powers are looking more vulnerable this fall. Florida State and Georgia Tech have already accumulated head-to-head wins with strong performances at the Joe Piane Invitational and Battle-at-Beantown meets, respectively. Ole Miss has not raced since Beantown (where they won) and is scheduled to compete again at Pre-Nats.

On the other hand, Georgia looked fairly weak in their last race, stumbling to a 2nd place finish behind Yale. It’s important to note that 2017 All-American Samantha Drop has yet to compete for Georgia this fall. Had she run, the Bulldogs likely would have won easily and would look much stronger than their current group. Unless Drop does not race this fall, it’s hard to see Georgia not making the meet given they’re lead by two All-Americans. If she doesn’t return then there is a good shot they won’t be in Wisconsin come November.

Garrett Zatlin: Reasonable

I still view Georgia as the overall favorite in the South region, but the start of their season has been unimpressive to say the least. They were upset by Georgia Tech, lost to Yale, and haven't had Samantha Drop in their lineup. Without her in their top seven, it's tough to see how they'll be able to maintain their edge in terms of firepower. Ole Miss had a wildly impressive race while Georgia Tech has quietly assembled solid performance after solid performance. With a strong Florida State team lurking the shadows, I don't think it would be crazy to say that Georgia won't make the national meet. There seems to be a lot of shakiness in their lineup.

Notre Dame will not qualify for Nationals

Sam Ivanecky: Reasonable

This year was supposed to be a big comeback for the Irish after redshirting Anna Rohrer last fall. The way things are stacking up this season, that may not be the case.

So far, Notre Dame has only a 4th place finish to show, getting beaten by BYU, Furman, and Florida State at their home meet. While it’s important to note that Allie Heffernan, normally their second runner, dropped out at Joe Piane, the Irish failed to beat any teams who could boost them in the KOLAS category. Anna Rohrer looked decent with her 3rd place showing, although it’s a bit surprising to see her lose on the home course.

The weekend’s disappointing showing isn’t helped by how loaded the Great Lakes region is this fall. Wisconsin (TSR #8), Michigan (TSR #9), Indiana (TSR #11), and Michigan State (TSR #12) are all ranked ahead of Notre Dame and none of these teams should finish behind them at the regional meet. Making NCAAs with a 5th place regional finish is hard if you’re not in the Mountain or the West regions and the Great Lakes region doesn’t have a 6th team that should push the Irish into NCAA's.

With only Pre-Nats and ACC’s left, the pressure is on for Notre Dame to show up and score some points. The one advantage they have this year is that ACC’s appears to have a few more ranked teams than normal. If Notre Dame can beat some notable programs over their next two competitions, they have a chance to make NCAAs.

Garrett Zatlin: Overreaction

Yes, the Great Lakes region is stacked this year, and Notre Dame looked rusty in their first true challenge of the year (Joe Piane). Still, having Allie Heffernan drop out of the race is a huge hit to the team score and it shows a result that isn't truly indicative of their true talent. Between Pre-Nats and ACC's, I think there are enough opportunities for the Irish to build up their Kolas point totals before the regional championships. If they had been in a weak conference, I'm not sure I would say that.