Updated: Nov 9, 2019
Men's Preview by John Cusick
Women's Preview by Grace McLaughlin
At the beginning of the season, it would have been easy to say that this was Queens (N.C.)'s region to run away with. Three months later, that doesn't seem to be the case (but hey, that's why they run the races).
This is essentially a three-team race between Queens (N.C.), Mount Olive, and Augusta University. All three of these program won their respective conference meets, and they won them handily.
Queens scored 22 points, Mount Olive posted a perfect score of 15 points and Augusta tallied a total of 29 points.
Mount Olive looks to be the early favorite in this region after going 1-2-3-4-5-6 at the Conference Carolinas Championship with only 17 seconds between that group. They were also runner-up at the Royals XC Challenge and 33rd at Paul Short (Gold race).
Tai Smith is the low-stick for this team and continues to prove that he should be in consideration for All-American status this year. Jacob Gonzalez has done a good job serving as their #2 man this year while Branson Oduor, Jacob Willis, and Jay Hall have helped bridge the gap between Smith and their #5 scorer.
Queens (N.C.) was one of our top 10 teams coming into the season and quickly fell out of the rankings. Anthony Raftis hasn't quite looked like himself since the beginning of the year and it's been a roulette of sorts in terms of who will lead this team on any given race day.
Lately, it's been Yannick Duppich who most recently came away with the SAC individual title. Nick Kipkemei was five seconds behind him while Raftis was 11 seconds back in 4th place while Felix Wammetsberger finished 5th.
The Royals were 2nd at the Cougar Challenge early in September and then 4th at the Capital Cross two weeks later. This team will need Raftis to move his way back towards the level of Duppich and give them a potent 1-2 scoring punch. If they aren't able to do that, then it wouldn't come as a surprise to me to see this team finishing in 2nd place this weekend.
Augusta University is a team that I don't think anyone is really looking at right now. They've been a bit under the radar, but they just pieced together a really solid 35 second time spread at their conference meet to finish 27 points ahead of 2nd place Flagler.
Jacob Poston and Chase Kennedy both had very strong races in that conference meet finishing 3rd and 5th, respectively with their teammates finishing 6-7-8 to round out the scoring.
The issue for them is that if you look at their schedule, they haven't raced anyone of note this year other than Mount Olive who truthfully made light work of the Jaguars, beating them by 77 points. Will they be able to hang with the top teams this weekend? Or will Queens and Mount Olive simply have too much firepower? Whatever your thoughts are, we still think that they have some solid postseason momentum in their favor right now.
To clear up the individual race, this is Joshua Chepkesir's to win. He just won the Peach Belt title by more than a minute and he has run away from most of his competition all season long. He'll take this wire-to-wire and probably won't be challenged for most of the race.
1. Mount Olive
2. Queens (N.C.)
3. Augusta University
4. Anderson (S.C.)
1. Joshua Chepkesir (UNC Pembroke)
2. Silus Kipkoech (UNC Pembroke)
3. Tai Smith (Mount Olive)
4. Yannick Duppich (Queens (N.C.))
5. Micah Kipchumba (Wingate)
6. Jacob Gonzalez (Mount Olive)
7. Anthony Raftis (Queens (N.C.))
8. Jacob Poston (Augusta)
9. Marcus Graham (Flagler)
10. Branson Oduor (Mount Olive)
Queens University (N.C.) headlines the Southeast Regional Championships. They started off their season with a 3rd place finish at the Cougar Challenge, then a 19th place finish at the Capital Cross Challenge, a 7th place finish at the Royal XC Challenge, and a win at the South Atlantic Conference Championships.
It's been a solid season for the Royals so far, but they have a few inconsistencies, mainly when comparing their Capital Cross performance to their other races.
Hannah Wolkenhauer will be the top runner for the Royals this weekend and they'll need her to finish near the front. At Capital Cross and their own Royals XC Challenge, the team faced issues with their depth. It wasn't a huge problem at the SAC meet, but it could prove to be a big one in the future.
Next up is Wingate. They placed runner-up behind Queens at The South Atlantic Conference Championships. Earlier in the season, the Bulldogs won their home meet and the Catawba Fleet Feet XC Invite. They were three places behind Queens at the Royal XC Challenge, finishing 10th overall.
At Paul Short, the pack time between their 1-2-3-4 runners was 42 seconds. That time spread moved to 1:33 when you add in their #5 runner. At PSAC's, that spread hovered around the same time (1:36) meaning that, at the very least, this team is consistent. Their backend is going to need some work, but this race shouldn't be overly competitive compared to a few of their races from earlier this season. As a result, that gap should play less of a role in their team score.
We are projecting to see the Flagler women in 3rd place. They have had a decent season that began with a 3rd place finish at the VSU Border Clash, a 4th place finish at the Queen City Invite, and a 17th place finish at the Lewis Conference Crossover. The highlight of their season thus far is winning the Peach Belt Conference Championships to edge out North Georgia.
North Georgia has had an equally impressive season. They started out with a runner-up performance at the VSU Border Clash, a win at their home meet, a 3rd place finish at the Wingfoot XC Classic, a 5th place performance at the Queen City Invite, another win at the Bobcat Cross Country Invite, and a runner-up performance at the Peach Belt Conference Championships.
It seems clear that the North Georgia women wanted to get as much race experience as possible this year. They should be well-suited for this weekend after toeing the line for a variety of meets this season.
Flagler and North Georgia finished nine points apart from each other at the Peach Belt meet which only highlights the fact that their varsity lineups are actually pretty similar. Flagler went 2-4-7-13-14 to beat North Georgia's finishes of 5-6-10-11-17. Flagler's spread was 38 seconds while North Georgia's was 35 seconds.
It wouldn't come as a surprise to see North Georgia finish higher than Flagler this weekend given that the regional field will be larger than their conference meet. Even then, Flagler's low-sticks could make the difference.
Lenoir-Rhyne is the biggest surprise in this preview. They were 9th at this meet a year ago, but I'm predicting them to finish 5th this year. They have been close behind the above aforementioned mentioned teams throughout this season.
The Bears started their season off with winning their home meet before recording a 2nd place finish at the Wingate University Bulldog Stampede, finishing 6th at the Queen City Invite, placing 17th at the Royal XC Challenge, and taking 3rd at the South Atlantic Conference Championships.
On the individual side of things, I can say with certainty that Nicole McMillen of Tusculum will be the champion. She has been on fire since her 6th place performance in the steeplechase at NCAA's last spring. McMillen opened up her season by winning Zaxby’s Open which was then followed by a 2nd place finish at the Wingfoot Classic, followed by three more wins.
Every recent result points to her earning yet another W this weekend.
Hannah Wolkenhower of Queens was runner-up behind McMillen at their conference meet and it should be a repeat situation on Saturday. Franziska Althaus of Wingate was close behind Wolkenhower and should be favored for 3rd.
Janet Kwambai and Caroline Hillard of Lenoir-Rhyne and Rachel Strayer of Carson Newman should round out the top six.
There is a pretty clear team winner and an almost certain individual champion going into this meet, but the top five teams and the overall individual race should be exciting to watch.
1. Queens (N.C.)
4. North Georgia
1. Nicole McMillen (Tusculum)
2. Hannah Wolkenhauer (Queens (N.C.))
3. Franziska Althaus (Wingate)
4. Janet Kwambai (Lenoir-Rhyne)
5. Rachel Strayer (Carson-Newman)
6. Caroline Hilliard (Lenoir-Rhyne)
7. Micah Weathers (Augusta University)
8. Malia Cryan (Flagler)
9. Erman Jepleting (UNC Pembroke)
10. Kayla McManama (Flagler)
*We erroneously omitted Leah Hanle from our predictions when transferring the article from a document to our site platform. We apologize for the error.