Over the last decade, the women of Johns Hopkins have dominated D3 cross country, bringing home five titles on the grass. After a outstanding 2018 season against D3 competition and even contending in D1 invitationals, it seemed as though the Blue Jays would bring home a sixth title and complete a three-peat last fall.
However, they weren’t quite alone in their seasonal success. The women of Wash U. were coming off of a great season in which they won every invite except for a competitive Loyola Lakefront Invitational, comprised of strong D1 and D2 programs. They were certainly poised to place well at Nationals and potentially contend with Johns Hopkins.
Wash U. would end do more than just contend. At the halfway point of the race, they were down by 113 points. Just 2000 meters later and with 1k to go, they were down by only 16. After a phenomenal race by both teams, the Bears would narrowly defeat the Blue Jays by just one point, 98 to 99. They were led by Paige Lawler, who used a great second half to take the win and become a national champion. The Bears also had three more All-Americans in Aly Wayne, Sophie Watterson, and Lisa Gorham, whose performances were all clutch in helping the team take the win.
Even though they didn’t win the national title, Johns Hopkins had a stellar day on the course. Caelyn Reilly took 6th, Tasha Freed was 19th, Felicia Koerner took 22nd, and Therese Olshanski finished in 35th, matching the four All-Americans that the Bears had. What is even more amazing about Johns Hopkins’ performance was that they had their fifth and sixth runners placed 43rd and 47th overall, showing some insane depth. To have nearly six All-Americans and not win the title is certainly heartbreaking, but this performance should give the returning Blue Jays a big fire underneath them for a great 2019 campaign.
Behind the firepower of the first two teams, there was a solid battle for the remaining podium spots. Holding 3rd place through the 3k and 5k splits, MIT would end up securing their position and taking 3rd with 247 points. Moving up well at the end of the race, UW-Eau Claire would claim the final podium spot, taking 4th with 265 points. Behind them, there was a tie for 5th, with SUNY Geneseo and Brandeis each scoring 277 points, with Geneseo winning on a tiebreaker. With only 30 points separating 3rd-6th, and other teams close behind, the race for 3rd proved to be a close affair.
Looking forward to this upcoming season, each of the top five teams return at least three runners, and many of them have earned trips to indoor and outdoor Nationals this past year. Here’s some of our thoughts looking ahead for each of those five teams...
Continuing the Success of Wash U.
After their national title last fall, Wash U. will be looking to earn themselves yet another podium finish. They return some great runners, lose some great runners, but at the end of the day they have established themselves as a top caliber program; they will be ready when it matters.
Paige Lawler had a great cross season last year, culminating in winning the national title, coming from behind late in the race. After that great year, it must have been hard to only race three times during the entirety of track, and not qualify for NCAA’s. Even with one off season, she is not to be counted out, as she racked up three All-American finishes the year prior in track. With a resume like that on her sleeve and a healthy summer under her legs, Lawler should be ready to throw down with the best once again, and take a stab at becoming a repeat national champion. Her low-stick scoring will pay huge dividends for the Bears.
Sophie Watterson will also be another key returner, coming off of last year’s 13th place finish. In track, she continued her progression by qualifying for the indoor 5k and outdoor 10k, placing 7th and 9th, respectively. If she can rally down to a top 10 finish, the duo of her and Lawler will be devastating for other teams.
Also returning from last year’s NCAA Championship are Megan Girmscheid and Gabby McGinn. Their experience from last year’s meet should give them an edge to potentially be scoring members for the Bears. Some other names to be on the lookout for are Sophie Young, Caitlin Horn, and Katie Snodgrass. These women have solid performances on their track records, and could step up and find themselves running in late November.
Overall, Wash U. has many pieces that they can put together to assemble a national-caliber squad for the fall. It may not be exactly certain who will complete the lineup, but knowing the success and prestige of this team, they will be contenders come the national meet.
The Johns Hopkins Revenge Tour
It must have hurt for the women of Johns Hopkins last year. To score less than 100 points, put their top six in the top 47, and still not win - that is tough. After all of that, they rallied very well during the track season, and should be ready to bring it on the grass.
The Blue Jays return four members from last year’s squad, and each of them have qualified for either indoor or outdoor Nationals by way of individual merit. Caelyn Reilly has proven herself to be a top contender for this fall after her 6th place finish last year. After taking 4th, 2nd, and 4th in national finals this past year, she proved herself to be a year-round star. She will be one of the favorites for this fall to contend for the national title along with Paige Lawler as well as Kaitlyn Mooney of Coast Guard.
Therese Olshanski had a nice breakthrough outdoor season, culminating in a 5th place finish in the outdoor 1500 at Nationals. After her All-American, 35th place finish last year, she should be ready to repeat that performance and be a key low point scorer for the Blue Jays.
Sam Levy will be ready to earn an All-American finish after placing 47th at the national meet last fall. She had a solid track season qualifying for Nationals in the 5000 meters during both seasons, and could work with someone like Olshanski to chase down low point totals. She has the experience and scoring consistency, but can she become a legitimate low-stick for her team?
Rebecca Grusby is the final returning member of the group. She only raced twice during track, but has valuable experience from national meets on the track back in 2018, as well as XC Nationals last year. She, along with Ariel Keklak, could be names who fill out the scoring and sneak into All-American finishes for Johns Hopkins.
With the momentum of many of these runner’s track seasons carrying them into the summer, the Blue Jays are looking very strong on paper. They are more than ready to do their thing, and pick the pieces up from last year’s runner-up finish.
Experience is Key for MIT
The MIT women’s 3rd place finish last year continued a streak of placing in the top six every year that has now reached 10 years. That streak is a great indicator of the consistent success of their program. Given that the Engineers return six women from last year's national meet lineup, they will be a team that will contend for yet another top six finish.
Sophomore Izzi Gengaro is the top returner for the Engineers. As a true freshman, she finished 54th, just shy of an All-American honor, but impressive for her first time around. The one big question surrounding her is that she did not run a single race during track. If she is healthy through the summer and is back to form later this fall, she should be competing for an All-American finish while providing a consistent scoring presence throughout the regular season.
Katie Collins and Jenna Melanson both qualified for Nationals on the track; Collins in both then indoor and outdoor 5k, and Melanson in the indoor 3k. After their respective 72nd and 89th place finishes last year, they have the experience to be low point scorers for the Engineers and rack up All-American finishes.
Much of this scoring is speculative, and it assumes that they will all become legitimate low-sticks, but the potential is there for them to bring significant scoring potency to the top half their lineup.
Katie Bacher, Einat Gavish, and Marissa McPhillips round out the rest of the returners for MIT, and having so many fellow runners with championship experience will help propel these three to be scoring runners for the squad this fall. The key for these three (or other potential contributors) is how low they can score.
The Engineers have lots of experience on the national level, both in cross and track. It will be imperative that everyone involved is ready to go when push comes to shove, as if things go very well, they could find themselves sneaking their way to a 1st or 2nd place finish. They are a team that should not be overlooked, even without a superstar.
Power of the Blugold Pack
The Blugolds climbed their way to a solid 4th place finish last year, and edged out some close competition for that last podium. After losing 2 of their top 3 to graduation, they return a solid group from last year who have that key experience for the next year. In a similar position to MIT, they don’t have a superstar that would be contending for a national title, but their returners have the potential to work together to earn some solid finishes.
Lexie Tremble and Emma Drangstveit are the top returners, and they are both coming off of track seasons where they made lots of progress, and set many PR’s. After their respective 57th and 68th place finishes last year, they are right in the hunt for All-Americans, and could certainly work together to bring the points even lower for Eau Claire.
Lizzy Cisewski and Naomi Long also return from last year, and their experience will do them greatly for the fall. If these two have solid summers, they and other potential contributors have the talent to work with or off of Tremble and Drangstveit to have a low 1-5 split.
Eau Claire is yet another team that finds themselves in the hunt at nationals more than not, and they have a program that has been great during both track and cross country. With the potential for a nice pack and small split, they could find themselves on the podium in the fall.
Keeping SUNY Geneseo’s Streak
The Knights were in contention for a podium finish through 5k of last year’s race, but ended up just missing out by a mere 12 points to UW-Eau Claire. Even though it must have been disappointing, that 5th place finish continued a 5 year streak of placing in the top 5. With the returning members from last year’s squad plus other contributors, they should be ready to keep the streak rolling to 6.
Genny Corcoran had a great track season this past year, setting PR’s in nearly all of the distance races, and placing 4th in the outdoor 10k. After her 20th place finish last fall and her track season, she is another contender that could vie for the national title, and a great low stick for the Knights. Taylor Rettig qualified for the outdoor 5k this track season, and along with Olivia Baumann are solid returners from last year’s nationals that dropped some time during track.
While those 3 are the only returners, there are some other names that could find themselves running at the national meet. Annibel Coolican and Eileen Reinhardt threw down some solid times during the track season, and along with Rettig, Baumann, and other potential contributors can form a solid group behind Corcoran to propel the Knights to yet another podium finish.
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It’s going to be a fun season seeing how these teams and others will duke it out. While I’ve only previewed 5 teams for both men and women, there are many other teams who I believe will step up and challenge for the podium. Stay tuned for some more D3 content!