By: Michael Weidenbruch
This weekend, Lehigh University will host the 2018 iteration of their Paul Short Run. This meet draws huge numbers every year, bringing in top talent from all three divisions. The men’s side of this year’s Paul Short field will feature no less than 127 teams split across three races: gold, brown, and white.
Because of the truly massive size of this meet, I will only be covering the men’s gold race, (which features the top 43 teams) in this article.
Last year, Utah State took the team win over Georgetown and Adams State as well as the individual title, courtesy of Dillon Maggard. Utah State is the only team of last fall's top three that will be returning this year, and they’ll be without Maggard.
Over the past three years, Georgetown has racked up a win and two 2nd place finishes at Paul Short. I was somewhat surprised to see they won’t be there this year until I realized they’ll be at Nuttycombe, where many of the best teams in the country will be competing.
We won’t be seeing any teams ranked in our Top 25 and only one individual in our Top 50 (Peter Seufer, Virginia Tech, TSR #31) will be at Lehigh on Saturday. That, however, doesn’t mean we won’t see a super competitive field capable of producing some impressive results.
We might not see a 23-mid winning time like the past few years have produced, but don’t count this meet out. It’s no secret that the course at Lehigh is super fast; year after year, individuals have this meet marked on their calendar as an opportunity to shoot for a new PR.
With the number of teams in this field, anything could happen. The results from past years are so dense that there are many cases where more than five runners are crossing the line each second. As a result of this, it is easy for a team to rack up a bunch of points if just one of their guys has a bad day. I expect this race to be very close among the top teams, as there is no clear favorite in my eyes.
Army West Point is a team that lacks any true superstars, but has good depth. Last fall, Army won the Patriot League title over Navy who went on to qualify for Nationals for the second year in a row. They’ve only lost one man from last year’s top seven, and although that loss happens to be their top guy, the Black Knights work well as a team and should have no problems overcoming this.
Roman Ollar and Robert Santoyo should be able to pack a strong 1-2 punch. The Black Knights also have a slew of guys who can be expected to finish close behind those two. Army has the potential to prove themselves as a very underrated team this weekend.
The defending champions, Utah State, will be back for more this year, but will be without their star from last year. Other than Maggard, the Aggues should be returning everyone from their 2017 squad.
Luke Beattie and James Withers were both top 25 guys at this meet last year and will be looking to soften the blow of losing Maggard as much as possible. Without the competition from teams like Adams State and Georgetown, Utah State’s title defense may look a bit easier, but I don’t expect them to to run away from this field all that easily. Last year, Beattie and Withers finished had 10 second gap when they crossed the line. In a field this crowded, that could make a major difference in the scoring.
Virginia Tech has been known for their middle distance prowess over the past few years, but many of their former stars have graduated, leaving them without much support. The Hokies also lost their Coach Ben Thomas to Oregon, but former assistant coach Eric Johannigmeier is now at the helm and his familiarity with the program should make that transition pretty smooth.
Peter Seufer leads this squad into a new era; one that possibly includes some improvement on the cross country course. This team has a question mark next to their name at this point in the season, but I think they can still be a dominant force in the ACC and the Southeast Region. Behind Seufer, they have Jack Joyce, Fitsum Seyoum, and Diego Zarate (redshirt?) who all have low 24-minute 8k times on their resumes. Those kind of credentials can carry this team to continuous top finishes.
I had a reasonably difficult time picking a 5th place team from this year’s Paul Short field, but settled on the University of Connecticut for a few reasons. UConn had a pretty strong squad last year, finishing runner-up in the American Athletic Conference ahead of teams like Temple and East Carolina. Not powerhouses by any means, but respectable teams nonetheless. Temple is, in my opinion, highly underrated and a team to watch this year in the Mid-Atlantic region.
UConn isn’t a team that has made a ton of noise in the last few years, but they’ve snuck under the radar and have some key pieces. Patrick Begley has run 29:44 for 10K and Michael McGonnigle has a 24:27 8k PR. Eric Van Der Els could also be a factor for them; the redshirt sophomore doesn’t have a ton of collegiate experience, but he was a stud in high school. If he’s fit and racing, he should be right up with UConn’s top guys.
The Huskies are a bit of a toss-up for this race, but I am betting on them to surprise some teams and take a big finish.
Penn is on the start list for the gold race, but they are also entered at Nuttycombe. I am under the assumption that they will be sending their top squad to Nuttycombe, but in the event that they show up to Paul Short instead, Penn will certainly be a contender. Kevin Monogue, along with William and Colin Daly, are established runners who would shake up this field if they show up. I’ve left them out of my predictions because it looks like they’ll be at Nuttycombe, but if they’re at Paul Short I think they will contend for the win.*
*The same can be said about Charlotte, although we firmly believe that they will race at the Nuttycombe Wisconsin Invite as well.
On the individual side, Paul Leuvano of Boston University will likely be a factor as usual. Ryan Kutch of Fordham and Jack Tiernan of Wake Forest (brother of 2016 NCAA XC champion Patrick Tiernan) could also be factors up front. I’m sure there are some other names I have skipped over in this field. The lead pack will be huge late into this race, and it’s anyone’s guess as to who might be in there.
Also, while the Division One talent in this field might not look top notch like it has in the past, if you follow Division Three this is certainly a meet to watch. There will be a bunch of national caliber teams, and the competition between them should be pretty fierce.
Army West Point Black Knights
Utah State Aggies
Virginia Tech Hokies
Peter Seufer (Virginia Tech)
Paul Leuvano (Boston U.)
Luke Beattie (Utah State)
Roman Ollar (Army West Point)
Robert Santoyo (Army West Point)
James Withers (Utah State)
Fitsum Seyoum (Virginia Tech)
Patrick Begley (Connecticut)