Updated: Oct 12, 2018
Ranked Teams Entered
● New Mexico (TSR#3)
● Stanford (TSR#5)
● Wisconsin (TSR#8)
● Michigan (TSR#9)
● Georgia (TSR#14)
● Furman (TSR#15)
● Washington (TSR#17)
● Notre Dame (TSR#19)
● Utah State (TSR#24)
● Yale (TSR#25)
New Mexico will be looking to make a statement after being soudly defeated at Nuttycombe by Colorado and Boise State. While the trio of Ednah Kurgat, Weini Kelati, and Charlotte Prouse are easily the best 1-2-3 of any team, the Lobos continue their search for someone who can step up as a fifth scorer. There were almost 50 people between their fourth and fifth runners at Nuttycombe, a gap that a team like Stanford could capitalize on.
One possible solution for the Lobos is Sophie Eckel. She won the "B" race at Wisconsin in a time that would have put her nine places ahead of their fifth runner in the "A" race. Keep an eye on her as a possible scorer for the Lobos.
Another New Mexico runner to watch is Adva Cohen. The Iowa Central star was 35th at Nuttycombe and should be looking to move up this weekend. Although she ran well, New Mexico will need her to improve as the season goes on to compensate for their fifth runner. I would expect her to be in the mix early on Saturday to try and close the gap on Prouse. If the Lobos can find a reliable fifth runner this weekend, then they’ll cement their status as title contenders. If not, they may be a stretch to make the podium come NCAA's.
Stanford looks poised to take a swing at New Mexico this weekend. This will be the first meet where they race their entire top seven, led by Elise Cranny and Fiona O’Keefe. Both are coming off impressive runs at the Stanford Invitational where Cranny beat out Katie Rainsberger for the win and O’Keefe was close behind in 3rd. Christina Aragon sat out that race, but finished with Cranny and O’Keefe when the trio went 1-2-3 at the San Francisco Invitational earlier this fall.
Neither Courtney Smith nor Ella Donaghu have raced yet, but it would be surprising if they were held out again this weekend. Both Jessica Lawson and Rebecca Story have looked solid this fall and should add depth behind a strong scoring group. While Stanford doesn’t have the same firepower up front like New Mexico, they have a much stronger backend and could easily finish ahead if a fifth Lobo doesn’t step up. If Stanford runs everyone in their top group this weekend, I think they get the win over New Mexico.
The battle for 3rd should be between the Great Lakes rivals of Wisconsin and Michigan. They come in ranked 8th and 9th, respectively and will run head-to-head for the first time this fall.
The Badgers are coming off an impressive 6th place finish at Nuttycombe where Alicia Monson ran an incredible race for the individual win. Wisconsin has the “home course” advantage over Michigan and Monson has now won back-to-back races on that course this season. With a strong front three, the Badgers will need their four and five runners to improve if they want to be top three in this race.
Michigan has yet to race a strong field, winning both the Woody Greeno Invitational and the Greater Louisville Classic with ease. While they don’t appear to have any standout front-runners, they’ve raced very well as a pack and look to be a deep team. Although Wisconsin has a stronger front three, the competition between the two teams will likely come down to the final two scorers. It’s a little hard to determine where Michigan’s pack will end up, but if they can gap the fourth and fifth Badgers they’ll have a good chance at taking down Wisconsin.
The Georgia Bulldogs are the dark-horse of the White race and will be looking to bounce back after a rough go at the Paul Short run. They finished runner up behind an unranked Yale squad and just ahead of Utah State. Samantha Drop, an All-American in 2017, didn’t race then, but it would be surprising if she’s not on the starting line this weekend. Pre-Nats will hold extra importance for Georgia as they’ll be looking for Kolas points to pull away from the competition in the South region. Right now, Georgia sits 4th in the South region (according to the coaches poll) and will need a strong showing if they hope to qualify for NCAA's with an at-large bid. Two of the teams ahead of them, Ole Miss and Florida State, will run in the Cardinal race this weekend.
Another team who has held out one of their top runners is Washington. After gaining some key figures from Oregon, the Huskies were poised to be a top 10 team this fall. While we’ve seen Katie Rainsberger race multiple times, the other Oregon transfer, Lilli Burdon, has yet to compete. Burdon is arguably a top 20 talent this fall and should greatly improve Washington when she starts racing. However, it remains in-question why she has yet to run. Under most circumstances, a team holding out their top talent isn’t abnormal, but given that Rainsberger and the other top group have been racing, it’s hard not to speculate on Burdon. If she does race, it should put Washington in contention with the likes of Wisconsin, Michigan, Georgia, and Furman. Without her, it’s hard to see the Huskies challenging any of them.
The individual race features arguably a deeper field than in the Cardinal race. The New Mexico duo of Weini Kelati and Ednah Kurgat went 2-3 at Nuttycombe and should be in a similar position this go around. Kurgat is coming off her first XC loss since 2016 and appears beatable this fall. Kelati seems even better than last season and comes in with a full year of experience to bolster her PR's.
We’ll also get a first look at the reigning NCAA 10k champion Sharon Lokedi of Kansas. She’s coming off a win at the Rim Rock Classic and can go toe-to-toe with any women in this field. The only concern around Lokedi has been her inconsistency on the XC course. Given her current trend, this could be the year she finally betters her 5th place finish from NCAA's in 2016. I expect her to be near the front from the gun and will be ready to go if the New Mexico duo takes it out hot.
Speaking of strong performances from 2016, does the name Anna Rohrer sound familiar? After redshirting 2017, Rohrer opened this season with a 3rd place finish at Joe Piane and although she was edged out, the race was only 5k whereas Pre-Nats is a 6k. Given the fact that Rohrer tends to be better when the race is longer, I suspect she’ll be close to the front this weekend. For Rohrer to win the race, she will need to be quick from the start. She doesn’t have the closing speed of runners like Elise Cranny or Katie Rainsberger, but she can break them earlier if the pace is honest. Kurgat seems to also prefer to run fast from the start, so this race could easily favor Rohrer over some of the others.
Speaking of Rainsberger, she should be one of the runners mixing it up at the front. She’s coming off a rough track season, but seems to have transitioned well to Washington with a few races under her belt already. She was 2nd at Stanford behind Elise Cranny and seems poised to bounce back this fall. While I don’t see her contesting for the win this weekend, she and teammate Lilli Burdon should both be aiming for top 10 finishes in a very deep field.
Staying in the PAC-12, Elise Cranny of Stanford is an interesting case. In her true-freshman season, she finished 12th at the cross country national meet, but has not cracked the top 50 since. While she’s found success on the track, she has never been able to put it together in the fall… until now? She cruised to a 1-2-3 victory at San Francisco with O’Keefe and Aragon and then beat Rainsberger a couple weeks later at the Stanford Invite. It’s hard to say how well she’ll do in a fast race from the gun, but she has the 1500 speed to close hard. Plus, she's proven before that she’s more than capable of being a effective cross country runner. This weekend will be Cranny’s chance to prove her 12th place finish was no fluke. Keep an eye on her, especially if the race gets out slower.
Of course we can’t forget the hometown hero and Nuttycombe champion Alicia Monson. She is now 2-0 on the Thomas Zimmer course this season and took down reigning champion Ednah Kurgat for one of those victories. In prior years, she hadn’t been nearly as fast, but after a strong track season she’s burst onto the scene and clearly means business. On one hand she seems poised to continue her winning streak, especially being on her home course. On the other hand, she won’t surprise anyone this time around. The field knows what she can do and if anyone was sleeping on her at Nuttycombe, they’re wide awake now. While Monson should be with the top pack, I don’t see her extending the win streak with how strong this field is.
Given how deep this field is, it’s impossible to mention every runner who may be in the top pack. Dorcas Wasike of Louisville and Jessica Drop of Georgia both have faced minimal competition this fall, but were All-Americans last year. Don’t count out Fiona O’Keefe of Stanford either. She was just behind Rainsberger at Stanford’s home meet.
Sharon Lokedi (Kansas)
Ednah Kurgat (New Mexico)
Weini Kelati (New Mexico)
Dorcas Wasike (Louisville)
Elise Cranny (Stanford)
Alicia Monson (Wisconsin)
Anna Rohrer (Notre Dame)
Katie Rainsberger (Washington)
Jessica Drop (Georgia)
Charlotte Prouse (New Mexico)