Pre-Nats Preview: Cardinal Race (Women)


Ranked Teams Entered

● Colorado (TSR #1)

● Oregon (TSR #4)

● Arkansas (TSR #7)

● BYU (TSR #10)

● Indiana (TSR #11)

● NC State (TSR #13)

● Portland (TSR #18)

● California (TSR #21)

● Ole Miss (TSR #22)

● Minnesota

● Florida State


Colorado is headed back to Wisconsin in hopes of maintaining their winning streak and will be led by the stellar trio of Dani Jones, Makena Morley, and Sage Hurta. At Nuttycombe, their front four were all in the top 20 with their fifth and sixth not far behind. Colorado has more depth than anyone else in either race, and it goes a long way in deep fields like this. Although they won’t get another shot at New Mexico, this race gives the Buffaloes a chance to assert their dominance over other highly ranked opponents as they transition into championship season.


Two weeks ago, the Buffs steadily moved up throughout the race and I would expect a similar strategy this weekend considering the talent they'll be facing. Still, with how much depth they have, it’s hard to imagine anyone taking down Colorado this weekend, possibly even this season. Expect them to run a smart race and finish atop the podium once more on Saturday.


Although this will be Colorado’s second go at Madison, the Oregon Ducks will be truly racing for the first time this season. The new-look Ducks “raced” the Bill Dellinger Invitational where they swept a weak field with ease. This weekend will provide much needed insight as to how the team stacks up as whole given Dellinger was essentially a workout.


Led by San Francisco transfers Weronika Pyzik and Isabelle Brauer, Oregon will be looking to prove that they may have gotten better even after losing much of their old team. With the return of All-American Carmela Cardama-Baez, the Ducks have exceptional firepower. Their top three should be near the front of the race , but there is some uncertainty as to who will step up after that.


Jessica Hull was 16th at Pre-Nats last fall and should be a reliable scorer this weekend. Susan Ejore or Philippa Bowden will likely be their fifth runner, but neither are proven on the XC course and could leave the Ducks vulnerable if they don't meet expectations. While the Ducks are ranked highly, it seems like a stretch to see them take down Colorado without a proven fifth. Saturday will be a good chance to see if Oregon has the depth to compete for a podium finish this year.


If there was a dark horse team to take down Colorado, it would be either Arkansas or BYU. Arkansas is coming off a 5th place finish at Nuttycombe and is starting to look like a real podium contender. They have a low-stick in Katrina Robinson and had three in the top 20 at two weeks ago. Their other two scorers, Sydney Brown and Maddy Reed, were back in the 60's which won’t cut it on Saturday if they want to challenge for the win. Brown and Reed were both in the top 30 at Pre-Nats last fall, and if they have a similar performance this weekend, the Razorbacks can close the gap on Colorado.


It’s a big “if”, but even if those two improve from Nuttycombe, Arkansas could easily finish runner-up.


BYU dominated the field at Joe Piane earlier this season, winning with only 37 points over TSR#15 Furman and TSR#19 Notre Dame. If the win wasn’t impressive enough, Erica Birk and Whittni Orton went 1-2, and handily beat Anna Rohrer on her home course. BYU also managed to have six in the top 20, displaying depth that will be necessary to compete in deeper fields like Pre-Nats.


Ranked only 10th in our Top 25, the Cougars could very easily finish 2nd this weekend if their performances are anything like what we saw at Joe Piane. They haven’t seen much competition this fall, and when they have, they’ve dominated. It’s dangerous to put too much value on one race, but right now BYU look to be a dark horse for an NCAA podium finish.


Outside of top 10 ranked teams, the Cardinal race features another five ranked squads who could mix things up. Indiana had a huge performance last time they were in Madison and if Katherine Receveur has a better day, they may finish even higher this weekend.


Both NC State and Portland fell somewhat short of expectations when they last raced. Given that this will be their second time on the course, it’s reasonable to assume that things may play out in their favor.


For NC State, the biggest question mark is Nevada Mareno who had a rough debut. However, I would expect her to be in their top five this time around. Portland looked good through four runners, but their fifth was almost 60 places back from #4. If someone steps up, they become a much better team and should be in contention for a top five finish this weekend.


One team to keep an eye on is California. Although they raced at Joe Piane, neither Bethan Knights nor Brie Oakley ran. When you add in these two, the team becomes much, much better. However, their biggest concern should be depth, something that could hurt them substantially in such a large field. If they can put together a solid 3-4-5, they may beat out a few other ranked teams.


In this race, the individual race appears to be a clash of the front-runners from the big name teams. Eric Birk-Jarvis is coming off a huge win over Anna Rohrer at Joe Piane and should be one of the top contenders in Madison. After redshirting 2017, Birk-Jarvis appears to back where she left off when she was 34th at NCAA's in 2016. She’ll face heavy competition in the Colorado trio of Dani Jones, Makena Morley, and Sage Hurta. Jones and Morley finished 4th and 6th (respectively) at Nuttycombe after executing their race plan to perfection. The two Buffs will have an advantage of Birk-Jarvis this weekend thanks to their prior course experience.


The new Duck duo of Pyzik and Brauer should also be near the front. Both were top 20 at the national meet last fall and coasted through the Bill Dellinger meet in September. Although Brauer was nearly a minute behind Pyzik, I can’t imagine there’s much meaning to be taken from a home meet that was used as a workout.


Katherine Receveur of Indiana is coming off a somewhat disappointing finish at Nuttycombe where she placed 24th. After a phenomenal season on the track, she was predicted to be a top 10 finisher at NCAA's this fall. This second attempt in Madison should be much better and I would expect to see her in the top 10 of this field.


One name that is on my radar this fall is Katrina Robinson of Arkansas. She won the Chile Pepper Festival and followed it up with an 8th place finish at Nuttycombe. Originally from Australia, Robinson is only a freshman, but comes in with loads of championship racing experience from the "land down under". She’s my dark horse pick to win over a field full of veterans.


Predictions

Team:

  1. Colorado Buffaloes

  2. Arkansas Razorbacks

  3. BYU Cougars

  4. Oregon Ducks

  5. Indiana Hoosiers

  6. Ole Miss Rebels

  7. Florida State Seminoles

  8. NC State Wolfpack

  9. Minnesota Golden Gophers

  10. Portland Pilots

Individual:

  1. Katrina Robinson (Arkansas)

  2. Dani Jones (Colorado)

  3. Weronika Pyzik (Oregon)

  4. Erica Birk-Jarvis (BYU)

  5. Katherine Receveur (Indiana)

  6. Bethan Knights (California)

  7. Makena Morley (Colorado)

  8. Brie Oakley (California)

  9. Whittni Orton (BYU)

  10. Sage Hurta (Colorado)