A few members of the TSR crew got together to do a "fantasy draft" of sorts for the D1 NCAA XC Championships. The rules are pretty simple. Each writer drafts eight individuals, but their best five finishers at the national meet will be the only ones who contribute to their overall fantasy team score (like a regular cross country race). The writer with the lowest overall score wins the draft. The draft was done in snake order (left to right, right to left, etc).
Here are the results...
Round One Selections
Michael: Alicia Monson has only lost one race all year and it was to Weini Kelati in early October. She then convincingly beat Kelati two weeks later at Nuttycombe. Monson has experience at the top, and the possibility that the weather could be cold and rainy (maybe snow?) should only give her an advantage due to the fact that she trains in Wisconsin all year. She’s my pick to win.
Garrett: The next logical option was Kelati. At the very least, she'll finish in the top three. Not sure there's much to talk about here.
Maura: Fiona O’Keeffe has been consistent this fall, never failing to finish outside the top four. She is already a three-time All-American in cross country and knows what it takes to be successful. I fully expect O’Keeffe to compete for a top three finisher this weekend in Terre Haute.
Brian: Interesting to see Orton is the only undefeated runner left in the NCAA and I was able to take her 4th! Although she doesn’t have the late-season championship experience, she has proved that she is ready to run on the big stage after her regular season campaign.
Sam: I’ve been pretty big on Werner since last outdoor season and the fact that she slipped all the way to 5th made picking her a no-brainer. Werner has consistently finished near the front of every meet this season and her ability to close well could be key in a championship scenario. I don’t know if she can take down Monson or Kelati, but if anyone in the field can, it’s Werner.
Ben: Birk-Jarvis was an easy pick at this point. She has put herself at the front of the pack in every race and most of those times has picked up a top three spot. I think she has a great chance at taking that 3rd place spot.
Brett: Joyce Kimeli was the best name left for the last of the first rounders, so this was a good pick. She’s been competing well this season, finishing no worse than 3rd in any of her races, including Pre-Nats and SEC’s. She should be a contender for a top five finish this weekend.
Round One Discussion
Maura: Brett, thank you for choosing Kimeli in the first round. If you had not, I wanted her on my team.
Brett: You’re welcome!
Michael: Kimeli is a great pick. Nothing in this round really surprises me, all of these women have the ability to finish in the top five.
Brian: If I had the first pick, I probably would have went Kelati, but hard not to go with Monson after her big win at Wisconsin.
Sam: Brian, you snagged Orton right before I could…I like that pick a lot. She’s still undefeated and both Monson and Kelati have lost (albeit, to one another).
Ben: This year’s top five might be one of the hardest to predict in recent memory. I think if the order was changed around a few times, we would have seen several iterations of the top five draft order.
Garrett: Any of these women could end up winning the title if they have a superb, breakout day. Maybe that ends up being the difference-maker in who wins this draft?
Round Two Selections
Brett: Anna Rohrer has been a consistent cross country force to be reckoned with over her NCAA career. She’s finished in the top 10 every year at Nationals, and it seems likely that she could do that again.
Ben: Izzo has come out of nowhere to be a key member of the Razorbacks. She won SEC's and finished with the pack of Arkansas runners throughout the season. Will her inexperience be an issue? Maybe, but the Razorbacks have pushed the pace all year and should be prepared for the fast pace and tough competition of Nationals.
Sam: If you told me at the start of the season that Ella Donaghu would win the West region, I might have laughed at you. Yes, Donaghu had been a strong runner for Stanford, but she was only 20th there last fall and didn’t even finish in the top 50 at NCAA's (69th). This season, Donaghu has looked like a completely different runner. The race that really stands out for me was her 6th place finish at Nuttycombe. She proved that she could compete in a field similar to NCAA's and I could see her as a dark horse for a top 10 finish on Saturday.
Brian: Elly Henes is one of the most consistent runners in the NCAA. She has won her last two meets (ACC's and the Southeast region) and it looks like she is peaking at the right time. Henes placed 14th at Nuttycombe, and based off of this selection, I project her to place higher come Saturday.
Maura: Ednah Kurgat of New Mexico was the NCAA individual champion in 2017, but then fell to 5th place in 2018. Kurgat did not have to strongest outdoor track season, but she has rebounded from her 2018-2019 seasons and is ready to contend for a top five finish. I do not think she is a favorite for the individual title this fall as she has lost to her teammate, Weini Kelati, by an average of 53 seconds in their past two races, but another All-American honor is possible for the Lobo ace.
Garrett: I just love Rainsberger's consistency. I don't know if she'll finish in the top 10 this weekend, but she is a very safe pick and I love that she is a veteran who has consistently thrived on the big stage.
Michael: Carina Viljoen has finished in the top 10 in every race she has run this year. Arkansas is looking incredibly strong, and Viljoen is just one athlete who makes them the favorite to win the team title.
Round Two Discussion
Maura: I have thought the same thing about Katie Izzo and her lack of experience racing at the NCAA's, but Arkansas seems to be able to take an athlete and prime her for success at the meets where it matters (well, except for NCAA's last year).
Michael: Ednah Kurgat raises some question marks for me. She absolutely has the talent and skills to be a top 10 finisher, but the gap between her and Kelati at the Mountain West Championships and Mountain Regional Championships was huge. She was 2nd in both races, but a gap that big at NCAA's could be problematic.
Ben: I am also worried about Kurgat. In a deep field, I wonder if she will be able to keep up with the pack as everyone chases Kelati.
Brian: I thought it might have been a round early to pick Rainsberger, but then again, she has the experience at NCAA's so we will see.
Sam: Both Rainsberger and Rohrer are very safe picks. They probably won’t truly contend for the win, but they will be low-sticks and I think that makes them great picks here.
Garrett: Truthfully, Anna Rohrer has me staying a little cautious. She's an absolute beast, but her race at ACC's didn't inspire much confidence. That said, she's a veteran when it comes to the national meet and has never left this race without All-American honors...so maybe I talked myself back into liking her.
Ben: A safe pick makes a lot of sense in this format as you can use your later picks on high-risk, high-reward runners. Snagging someone like Rainsberger who is a lock to finish within the top 20 isn’t bad value.
Round Three Selections
Michael: Sage Hurta has stepped up big for Colorado this fall. While the Buffaloes might not be the same team that won NCAA's last year, they are still top 10 caliber and Hurta could certainly find herself in the top 20. She was 22nd last year, so she has experience performing well at NCAA's.
Garrett: Wayment is the most underappreciated distance runner in the country. She gets overshadowed a lot by her teammates, but she has been super close to Birk-Jarvis and Orton all season long. She could realistically be a top 10 finisher on Saturday and I don't think people realize that.
Maura: Washington was solid last season, but I would say that they got even better this fall with the addition of Melany Smart. The Australian has not been afraid to put herself alongside the nation’s best in the races that matter most. Her 5th place finish at PAC-12’s and 3rd place finish at regionals are promising. Smart will not only be competing for a top 15 finish, but she will also be looking to earn the title of “Top True Freshman.”
Brian: Jessica Lawson has shown to be one of Stanford’s low-sticks. Placing high at Nuttycombe and capping off the season with a 3rd place finish at PAC-12's and 2nd place finish in the West region, she is ready to take on the NCAA’s stiff competition with the Stanford ladies who are hoping to get on the podium (and maybe earn more).
Sam: Fuller has only finished outside the top 10 once this season (13th at Nuttycombe) and is coming off a runner-up finish to Monson at the Great Lakes Regional Championships. It’s hard to bet against someone who is running that close to Monson heading into the final meet of the season, especially since Fuller was 21st last fall. She has a great chance to better that mark this season and someone who can finish in the top 15 is definitely a steal in the third round.
Ben: I’ll use the same logic that I used for Izzo. Devin Clark has been a great part of Arkansas’ dominance, and I think that Arkansas will put behind the demons of last year and run much better this year on their way to the title. Because I believe this, I think Clark will finish within the top 25 at NCAA's which makes her a solid pick in round three.
Brett: Competing in the battle for “Top True Freshman” alongside Smart, I had to go with Erika VanderLende for my next pick. She’s been extremely impressive this year, finishing 4th at John McNichols, 5th at Pre-Nats, 6th at BIG 10’s, and 4th in the Great Lakes region. She could contend for a top 15 finish this weekend, but considering she’s finished close behind some great ladies this year, maybe a top 10 finish could be in her future?
Round Three Discussion
Maura: Of Smart and VanderLende, who do you think has a better shot at finishing as the top true freshman in the field?
Brett: I think my pick would indicate my answer: VanderLende will be the top true freshman at NCAA’s.
Michael: I’m taking Maura’s side here. In my opinion, Smart has performed better in deeper fields than VanderLende and that will help her chances at NCAA's.
Brian: I think VanderLende is going to be the top freshman. She was my next pick if Brett didn’t draft her first.
Sam: For the sake of argument, I’ll say you’re all wrong and that Kelsey Chmiel has a big day.
Ben: The consistency that Smart has had all year makes me believe that she will keep it up and hold off any challenges from VanderLende or Chmiel. It is also interesting to wonder how much would change if another freshman, Emily Covert, was in the mix for Colorado.
Garrett: It has to be Smart. She hasn't given us any reason to doubt her. She's been extremely impressive in every race she has toed the for.
Round Four Selections
Brett: Finishing just one second ahead of my previous pick (VanderLende), Amy Davis of Wisconsin has been a great #2 option for the Badgers. She’s just missed out on All-American honors the last two years, taking 67th last year and 55th the year prior, and she should be able to notch a top 20 finish with a great day.
Ben: I think I am just picking an SEC all-star team. Pascoe was dominant coming into the postseason and has acquitted herself well so far. She was 7th at SEC's which might have been her worst race of the year and then was 2nd at the South regional meet. She was 32nd at NCAA's last year, and I expect much of the same from her this year.
Sam: If you thought I would go the whole draft without drafting a member of the #GirlGang, you clearly haven’t read a single article I’ve written this season. Gabrielle Jennings has been on fire this fall and is coming off a runner-up finish to Elly Henes at the Southeast regional meet. She also finished 8th at Nuttycombe earlier this season and appears to have a good shot at finishing between 10th and 30th at NCAA's. As they say these days, You Go Girl.
Brian: It wasn’t hard to select Indiana’s low-stick Bailey Hertenstein. She has run well during the regular season and into the postseason meets. She has shown that she can battle with the best of the best after placing 6th in the Great Lakes region and NCAA’s should prove no different. Her 127th place finish last year at NCAA’s gives me doubts going in, but I am confident that this year will be different.
Maura: I am really liking Oklahoma State’s Taylor Somers heading into NCAA's. It definitely had to be her 9th place finish at Pre-Nationals. She then took 2nd at BIG 12’s, only three-tenths of a second behind the winner. Somers was 137th at NCAA's in 2018, but I could see her making at least a 100 place improvement this weekend.
Garrett: I have no idea how Hannah Steelman slipped to the fourth round. What a steal. She hasn't faced a ton of big-time competition outside of the postseason this year, but Steelman is one of the few small-school stars who has consistently proven that she is more capable of holding her own on the nation's biggest stage regardless of who she is racing.
Michael: I just had to jump on the #GirlGang train with Sam here. Savannah Carnahan finished right behind Gabrielle Jennings at the Southeast Regional Championships and has been running well all season. These two lead a very strong Furman team that could end up doing really well at NCAA's. I think if one of these women run well, the other will too.
Round Four Discussion
Maura: Davis of Wisconsin has to be one of the best picks in this round. She has been confident all season long and has outperformed last years results, race after race.
Brett: I almost picked Gabrielle Jennings to spite Sam, but I decided to let him roll with his #GirlGang pick. Jennings, as well as Savannah Carnahan, are both good picks in this round. I’m excited to see how they perform in tandem.
Michael: Taylor Somers is a great pick this round. Her performance at BIG 12's especially stands out to me, showing she is ready to go.
Brian: I really wanted Jessica Pascoe here, but Ben stole her. She has been a consistent front-runner at all her meets and I think she is going to be an easy All-American at NCAA's.
Garrett: Big fan of the Pascoe pick. After having a breakout 2018 cross country season, I think Pascoe will have a much more measured approach about how she will run her race on Friday.
Sam: I love how my name has become synonymous with the #GirlGang. I do really like the Carnahan pick regardless. She’s coming on strong at the right time and could be in the top 25 on Saturday.
Ben: I was really hoping that either Carnahan or Jennings would fall to the next round, but not surprised to see either of them picked here. Both have been exceptional low-sticks for Furman this year.
Round Five Selections
Michael: Cailie Logue of Iowa State is on fire right now, coming off wins at BIG 12's and the Midwest Regional Championships. This kind of momentum can go a long way, and she has taken down some big names like Taylor Somers and Winny Koskei in the process.
Garrett: Everyone likes to talk about VanderLende and Smart in regards to who will be the top freshman at NCAA's, but Chmiel could very easily be the one who comes out on top. I don't usually pick freshmen to do well at a national meet, but women are seemingly immune to that train of thought. Chmiel has shown encouraging consistency this season and I like that she has held her own in big races. I think there is a ton of potential upside for her.
Maura: BYU’s Olivia Hoj could sneak into the top 40 this weekend if she runs a solid race. Hoj has been consistently near the front of the field, placing 12th at Bill Dellinger and 14th at Pre-Nationals. Last weekend at the Mountain Regional Championships, Hoj placed 7th in a deep individual field. BYU has a shot at making the podium and low points from Hoj will elevate the Cougars.
Brian: Alsion Pray of Southern Utah has shown this season that she is capable of finishing in the top 40 at NCAA's. She has been a little inconsistent throughout the season, but it wouldn’t be a shock to see her up in the top 50 early. She had a poor race at Wisconsin, but has rebounded well in the postseason.
Sam: Had Maura not taken Fiona O’Keefe, I would have critically debated drafting the entire Stanford team. Jordan Oakes has looked very solid for the Cardinal this season and could be a dark horse coming into Saturday. While Oakes was only 30th at Nuttycombe, she’s looked very strong in her past two races where she’s finished 8th at PAC-12's and 5th at the West regional meet. Oakes could be in the top 30 at NCAA's which would make her a steal this late in the draft.
Ben: A little bit of a risky pick because Scholl did not finish at the Mountain regional meet and was 30th at PAC-12's. Still, this is the same runner who was 12th at Joe Piane, 10th at Pre-Nationals and 15th at NCAA's last year. The talent is there, plus she has the NCAA experience. She has the potential to finish within the top 20 on her best day, but her floor could be much lower.
Brett: It will be interesting to see how Poppy Tank and the Utah women perform this weekend. They’ve been up and down as a team so far, but Poppy Tank has had solid performances all year as their #1 or #2 runner. If she continues that trend along with Bella Williams, she could end up as an All-American.
Round Five Discussion
Maura: I am a little surprised to Scholl picked in this round. Her build-up to NCAA's has been rocky. But, at the same time, I agree with Ben about the fact that she is extremely talented and a top athlete when healthy.
Michael: The Scholl pick surprises me a bit too, but if she is healthy and fit heading into Nationals, she has too much upside to slide. Kelsey Chmiel is a great pick here too, I think she could challenge for the title of top freshman alongside Melany Smart and Erika VanderLende.
Brett: I like the Olivia Hoj pick in this round. As BYU’s #4 runner, she’s got a chip on her shoulder behind Orton, Birk-Jarvis, and Wayment, but if she can finish in the top 30, it’ll go a long way for the Cougars.
Ben: I agree, Hoj has been very impressive behind the Cougars' top three. Where she finishes could determine the team title.
Sam: The Cailie Logue pick concerns me. Logue is an extremely strong runner, but she’s never been an All-American before. That trend SHOULD change, but it still makes her a bit risky.
Ben: I’m not super concerned about her. While she hasn’t run well at NCAA's before and I think she is running at the peak of her powers now. A top 40 place seems very likely.
Garrett: Ditto what Ben said. Sooner or later she'll finish as an All-American. Why not now?
Round Six Selections
Brett: This could be a great pick or a risky pick in Lauren Gregory. She didn’t run regionals, which could be a little concerning, but she’s got the potential to do some great things for the Razorbacks. If she’s on her game, I think she could end up as a sneaky All-American as the Razorbacks’ #5 scorer.
Ben: One of the leaders of Florida State’s great season so far, Skyring has been consistently excellent all season. I expect that to continue at NCAA's where I feel she is a safe bet to finish within the top 50.
Sam: After making it through five rounds with a very consistent group, I decided to gamble a bit in the later rounds. Maddy Denner is coming off her worst run of the year…BUT, she is still incredibly talented and could be an All-American (or better) at NCAA's. Remember that Denner has now finished ahead of teammate Anna Rohrer twice this fall and was 11th at Nuttycombe. A similar run this weekend would put her in the conversation for top 30.
Brian: Jessica Drop looks to be finishing her season strong after an average Pre-Nats finish. At this point in the draft, I am looking for talented runners who have a chance to finish high and crack my top five. Jessica Drop fits that narrative.
Maura: I am picking a runner who not many had heard of before the Big Sky XC Championships. Camila Noe took down the women of NAU and SUU en route to a victory on a snowy and cold course. She followed the performance up with a 5th place finish at regionals. This will be Noe’s first trip to NCAA's, but she is making a case for why she could be a top 40 finisher in Terre Haute.
Garrett: I had to go with my Hokies on this one and take Sara Freix. But outside of my homer pick, I truly do think that Freix is an underrated runner. She was 2nd at ACC's ahead of a loaded field and has shown tremendous progression in the postseason. Freix has clearly taken a jump up in fitness and I think I actually feel safer about her potential on Saturday than I do with Chmiel.
Michael: Paige Hofstad has been trending in the right direction after a disappointing 55th place finish at Joe Piane. 5th at ACCs and 9th at the Southeast Regional Championships shows that she has gotten over whatever was holding her back earlier in the season and that she has All-American potential.
Round Six Discussion
Maura: Lauren Gregory competing at NCAA's will be imperative for Arkansas because without her scoring in the top five, the Razorbacks become vulnerable and potentially could finish outside of the top two.
Michael: I couldn’t agree more about Gregory. Her absence at the South Central Regional Championships wasn’t a problem, but it could be at a much deeper national meet. Maddy Denner is also potentially very underrated. If she can get back onto Rohrer’s level, she could far outperform her sixth round placement.
Brett: I think Denner should be able to come back from her regional performance, she’s a sleeper for a top 30 finish. She could end up being a good steal from this round.
Garrett: I'm with you Brett. I don't think her regional performance was a big deal. Her performance at ACC's (where she finished 3rd) was very encouraging.
Brian: I liked all the picks in this round. At this point in the draft, you are looking for potential more than consistency.
Sam: Ditto what Brian said. At some point you have to gamble and I think we’re all rolling the dice a bit here.
Ben: Ditto what Brian and Sam said. I think Gregory has the most potential out of this group to finish in the top 40. She might also be the riskiest, but at this point, you have to shoot for the stars.
Garrett: For what it's worth, I think Hofstad was a really great pick. She has a ton of upside and has been peaking at the right time. She's experienced and this is the season where she is finally reaching her full potential after years of injuries.
Round Seven Selections
Michael: Susan Ejore might be a somewhat risky pick here as she did not compete at the West Regional Championships. However, she has run well at meets like PAC-12's and Nuttycombe which makes me confident that she can be an All-American if she’s back in the lineup.
Garrett: Lydia Olivere won the BIG East title and the Mid-Atlantic regional title. I get that those aren't necessarily the most competitive meets relative to other conferences and regions, but it's still super impressive. She deserves a little more respect than she has been getting.
Maura: Sometimes the smaller, lesser-known schools have a talented runner who can do some damage at the national meets. Northern Illinois’s Ashley Tutt is a prime example of this. Tutt has won all but two races this fall. She was 17th at Pre-Nationals and then 4th at regionals. She has been knocking on the door of an individual qualification to NCAA's the past two years and finally earned her place on the line.
Brian: Who better to scoop up after Jessica Drop then her sister Samantha Drop. She had a very average start to the season and possibly dealt with injuries. Over the past few races, however, Samantha Drop has run with her sister and has finished high at the regional meet.
Sam: Cohen has the potential to be the biggest steal of this draft (in my opinion). The steeplechase star narrowly missed All-American honors last fall, but looked like a top 25 talent during much of the season. This year, she has only raced twice due to the World Championships, but recently notched a 15th place run in the Mountain regional meet which was a huge step up from her 33rd place finish at the Mountain West Championships. If Cohen can continue to improve heading into NCAA's, she has the talent to be a top 25 finisher.
Ben: Burdon has steadily improved throughout the season, and if she can replicate her NCAA's from last year, then I just got the steal of the draft. After having a rough regular season, Burdon finished 33rd at NCAA's. While the Husky has not put together any races that would indicate another All-American finish, she has had a better season than she did last year.
Brett: Sticking with the Michigan trend, Kathryn House has been on the rise these past few meets, taking 10th at BIG 10’s and 15th at regionals after some other good performances this year. We could see her finish in the top 60, and with a great day, maybe in the top 40.
Round Seven Discussion
Maura: Burdon has been inconsistent this fall, but she did put together an All-American finish last season after not racing until PAC-12’s. She could pull off a surprise top 40 finish for a second year in a row.
Michael: I agree with Sam that Adva Cohen could end up being the biggest steal of the draft. She seems to be peaking at the right time in an abbreviated season. Good pick.
Ben: I completely forgot about Cohen. Might have picked her up earlier if I had remembered her. If she continues to get back into her 2018 form, then an All-American finish seems likely.
Garrett: Cohen may have been the steal of the draft...
Brett: I like the notion about Ashley Tutt. She’s had a great season up to this point, earning her a place on the line this weekend. She might not be a well-known name nationally, but she took 17th at Pre-Nats, won the MAC, and took 4th in the Midwest region. If she ends up as an All-American, I won’t be surprised, but it would elevate her status as a national contender.
Brian: I liked the Lydia Olivere pick. She was next on my board before Garrett picked her. She placed 1st at the Mid-Atlantic regional meet and she was picked in the 7th round.
Sam: Maudie Skyring could have a big day this weekend. She might be a bigger steal than Cohen...
Garrett: I also like the Florida State women in this meet. Skyring, Funderburk, and Lauren Ryan all have the potential to finish as All-Americans (depending on who you ask).
Round Eight Selections
Brett: Sarah Schmitt of Indiana has been made great progress since Nuttycombe, taking 12th at both BIG 10’s and the Great Lakes regional meet. If she keeps up this trend, she’ll continue to be a reliable #2 scorer for the Hoosiers, and could even challenge for an All-American spot.
Ben: I think we all kind of forgot about Koskei. She was 3rd at the Midwest regional meet and was 35th at NCAA's last year. She has the talent, experience, and form of someone who will finish the season as an All-American.
Sam: Bella Williams was my only late rounder that I don’t consider a gamble. She’s been consistent all season and provides a “fallback” option in case a handful of my other seven picks tank. Honestly, even if they don’t, Williams has the talent to put together a great day and is on the bubble for All-American.
Brian: Elizabeth Funderburk was right behind the Drop sister and looks to be a strong #2 for Florida State. She placed well at Pre-Nats and this is a sneaky late round pick that could help in the long run.
Maura: Heading into NCAA's, I think Shona McCulloch of Washington is heading in the right direction. McCulloch may have taken a few races to find her groove, but she has found it at the right time. In the past three races, McCulloch has finished 12th (Pre-Nationals), 12th (Pac-12’s), and 11th (West Regional Championships). Can you say consistent? I do not think she will find herself in the top 15 this weekend, but she's definitely a possible top 40 athlete.
Garrett: I have no idea how everyone forgot about O'Neill. She's been absolute stud and continues to impress me. I think she'll handle the big stage well and ignite an already strong NAU team.
Michael: Aoibhe Richardson has been having a breakout season. She won Roy Griak, she won Pre-Nationals, and then took 4th at both the West Coast Conference Championships and West Regional Championships. I think she is extremely talented and could definitely outperform her TSR #47 ranking.
Round Eight Discussion
Sam: Well, I didn’t forget about Koskei… You just had the pick right before mine. Very solid late round grab.
Maura: Each runner picked here could slide into the top 40 if they bring their “A Game.”
Brett: I’m with Maura here, many of these 7th and 8th round picks could certainly all be in the mix for All-American positions, even if they may be underrated.
Michael: I take back what I said after last round...Winny Koskei in the final round might be the biggest steal of the draft.
Brian: I agree with the discussion here. A lot of potential in this round, only time will tell if they can perform and potentially move into our fantasy team scoring fives.
Ben: I like the Funderburk pick here. She has flashed some All-American type performances this year, and I am high on the Florida State women as a whole. Very solid value in round eight.
Garrett: I really liked the Bella Williams pick. I think she is probably the safest (maybe outside of Koskei) to finish as an All-American in this round. Underrated pick.