What were your thoughts on Gonzaga’s and Princeton’s national qualifying appeal to the NCAA?
Sam: Based on the rules, it was a waste of time. Most people could look at the TFRRS results and the rule book to figure out those two teams weren’t going to NCAA's. That’s not to say the rule is a good one (it’s not), but if you go on the guidelines it was very apparent that nothing new was coming out of it.
Brett: It clarified the rules. Barring any changes or updates to the rulings next year, we now know and will be aware of how team DNF’s will be accounted for regarding Kolas points.
Maura: Gonzaga and Princeton probably wasted their time trying to appeal the NCAA decision. Unfortunately, the NCAA cannot make every team happy when they announce the at-large bids.
Ben: It was worth a shot, but it was never likely to work. The fact that the rule was vague and that NC State didn’t have their "A" team at Nuttycombe meant that the appeal was destined for failure.
Michael: I don’t blame them for trying, but I think they must have known the odds of winning the appeal were low. It’s good that the precedent has been set in case a future situation like this occurs though.
Garrett: I'm with Ben and Michael here. It wasn't going to hurt anything, but the A team vs B team ruling along with no mention of DNF's leading to the distribution of Kolas points suggested that this appeal wasn't going to go anywhere. That said, I stand by my assertion that flawed Kolas logic was a bigger deal than a vague rule.
What is the percent chance that the Arkansas women lose on Saturday?
Sam: 40%. I think the Arkansas women are good enough where they win this meet more than they lose it if we ran it a bunch of times. What concerns me is who they have at their #5 spot. I think the Razorbacks and Stanford are very close on paper and if you check my predictions, you’ll see I think that Saturday falls into that 40%.
Brett: 15%. The Arkansas women have looked really good this year, and I think this Saturday should reflect that well. As Sam said, their #5 could be an issue, but I think that the scoring potency among their top four will earn them a national title, especially with how Katie Izzo has been running recently. However, Stanford will put up a valiant effort to take the win. In my opinion, they could change the outcome.
Maura: 30%. The Razorbacks are by far the favorite and have one of the best quartets in the country on the women’s side. My only concern for Arkansas is their #5 runner. Lauren Gregory did not compete at regionals, but that could have been for precautionary reasons. If this is the case, and Gregory toes the line in Terre Haute, she will need to compete to the best of her ability because Arkansas’ #6 and #7 runners make them a little vulnerable.
Ben: I really like this Razorback team, but I think there is a 40% chance they lose. They deserve to be the favorites, but not overwhelmingly so. With BYU and Stanford running well all season, either team could take the title from Arkansas.
Michael: I’m going to say 25%. Arkansas is very deep and deserve to be the favorites. That said, I could see Stanford or BYU pulling off an upset, but I would be surprised if it happens. The Razorbacks would need to have an off day in order to lose.
Garrett: Give me 35%. If this team runs to their full potential, they should win the national title. Still, their performance from last year's national meet still haunts my thoughts when making predictions and the drop-off from their top five to their next two runners is pretty significant. They have the most talented top five, but if anything goes haywire, the Razorbacks could be in trouble.
What is the percent chance that the Northern Arizona men lose on Saturday?
Sam: Zero. They won’t lose, even with Colorado looking pretty good. NAU is simply too good and Mike Smith is a wizard. Honestly, he could coach the Knicks to above a 0.500 record.
Brett: 1%. I just don’t foresee any outcome where NAU loses, they’re too good. Even if Colorado has their best absolute day, they’d come up just short of NAU. But I’ll give the field a 1% chance, anything can happen.
Maura: Zero. Whoever NAU races is sure to assist in bringing home to team title for a fourth straight year. Also, for anyone wondering, NAU started their winning streak in Terre Haute in 2016.
Ben: 3%. There is a chance that everything goes wrong that they don’t win, but I mean everything would have to go wrong. They are as close to a lock as any team can be.
Michael: 1%. As much as I would love to bring in a hot take and say something like 10% or 20%, the numbers don’t lie. This is absolutely NAU’s race to lose, and they are more than capable of making sure that doesn’t happen. However, I won’t say zero because you never know what might happen.
Garrett: 4%. Colorado is the only team in the field that has shown that they can match NAU's firepower this season...but only through four runners. NAU's depth is just way too good and their veterans are too experienced to slip up. Even saying 4% seems like a pretty aggressive prediction.
Which team do you expect to overperform at NCAA’s?
Sam: The obvious answer from me is Stanford given that I have them winning it all, but since I already mentioned that, I’ll take the Florida State women. The Seminoles had a phenomenal conference meet, coming within 12 spots of a talented NC State squad. Maudie Skyring appears to have bounced back nicely and Elizabeth Funderburk has been solid all season. While FSU comes in ranked TSR #10, I could see them finishing 6th or 7th.
Ben: I think the Ole Miss men will outperform their ranking. After last year’s disappointing race, I think the Rebels will bounce back in a big way after getting some experience last year. Farah Abdulkarim is someone who I could see sneaking into the top 50 and Waleed Suliman is a consistent low-stick. Throw in Cade Bethmann who has been much better this year, and I think Ole Miss has the makings of a top 10 team.
Maura: I am hoping for something big from the Purdue men. The trio of Jaret Carpenter, Brody Smith, and Curt Eckstein offer some key low points for a team with a questionable backend. However, their last two scorers ran well at the Great Lakes regional meet, finishing in the top 25. If the first three run to their potential and the last two scorers replicate their regional finish, then the Boilermakers could outperform their TSR #10 ranking.
Brett: I’m going to agree with Maura, the Boilermakers are in need of some redemption after last year’s poor performance. As for another team who could have a good run this weekend, I’m going to go with Notre Dame. They’ve had some struggles this year, but they have the guys to have a really good performance if things go their way. Dylan Jacobs and Yared Nuguse are two excellent low-sticks, and these two could both end up in the top 30. Meanwhile, Andrew Alexander can be a solid #3 option.
Now, we’ve been talking about him all year, but I think Danny Kilrea is due for a comeback race. He showed up last year when it mattered the most, earning All-American status. Will he do that again this year? I’m not sure.
If he does have a great race, could we see three Notre Dame All-Americans?
Michael: I think the Virginia men will overperform this weekend. Their win at the Southeast Regional Championships was very convincing with a 16 second time spread between their top five runners. To me, this indicates that they were holding back a bit once they knew they were safely going to qualify.
They might not have any All-American favorites, but I think they have five guys who can get pretty close and maybe sneak one or two in there. They are at TSR #21 in our rankings, but I think they could be more like 15th. If you look at our predictions, you’ll see that I’m not the only one who thinks that the Cavaliers are underrated.
Also, I think Portland is underrated (and they usually are). Coach Rob Conner knows how to peak his team at the right time and I think they will be a podium contender.
Garrett: I am all in on the Michigan men. I think their lineup dynamic is perfectly suited for the National Championships. They have a tight pack, great depth, plenty of experience, have been consistent all season, an All-American candidate in Devin Meyrer, and maybe a second All-American in John Aho. If a few top teams slip up (which happens on occasion), Michigan could comfortably slide into the top 10.
Which team do you expect to underperform at NCAA’s?
Sam: Honestly, this is tough because I feel really solid about our rankings. If I had to go out on a limb, I guess I would take the Washington women because they have a lot of faces who haven’t performed at NCAA's before. Only two women in Washington’s top six have placed in the top 100 at NCAA's.
Melany Smart has looked great this fall, but hasn’t run at a national meet yet. Only Lilli Burdon and Katie Rainsberger have been here and done well. Burdon is a bit of a wildcard (but I don’t like to bet against her) and Rainsberger will be top 20. That leaves Smart, Allie Schadler, Shona McCulloch, and Haley Herberg as unknowns. I could see Washington maybe slipping up and getting beat by Michigan State and NC State.
Ben: I think the Syracuse men are a candidate to underperform at NCAA's. They did not have a great regional meet and have only run well at ACC's as of late. Without Aidan Tooker, they don’t have a low-stick to bail them out if their pack does not run that well. Dragon and company stepped up at ACC's, but I am worried about their ability to do so in the larger field at NCAA's.
Maura: I have to go with the Colorado women. As much as it hurts me to push the Buffaloes back in team finishes, they just are not as strong as I thought they would be heading into the season. Graduating key runners from last year’s NCAA championship team hurt Colorado this fall.
Sage Hurta is a top 15 athlete and Tabor Scholl (if healthy) is another potential top 15 finisher. However, after these two, things get a little dicey for the Buffaloes. Rachel McArthur is a solid runner, but she has not performed well on the national stage. Annie Hill does not have any experience racing at NCAA's and although Holly Bent has come on strong late in the season, she was only 80th at last year's national meet.
Michael: I think the Penn State women will underperform at NCAA's. They won the Mid-Atlantic Regional Championships by a close margin, but their race didn’t go perfectly. Their #5 runner fell back from the rest of their pack, and if that were to happen again on Saturday, we could see some excess scoring in a more competitive national field. The Mid-Atlantic region is not very strong compared to the other eight, and that gap could undoubtedly grow in a larger field.
Brett: This was a really tough call, but one team that could underperform if things get out of hand for them is the Tulsa men. They have a very strong top five, and that could propel them to a very strong team finish. However, there is some volatility in their pack. If one guy falls off and has a bad day, they’re in trouble. There has been a significant gap between their top five and their final two varsity runners this season and it was most apparent at Nuttycombe. This could be a problem if one (or more) of their top five falls off. If their pack runs well, they’ll have a good day. However, one guy running poorly could drastically change things for the worse.
Garrett: I've got to agree with Brett. I don't think Tulsa gets enough respect, but it's hard to ignore the fact that if they have one guy run poorly at the national meet, things can go south for the Golden Hurricanes pretty quick.
The biggest threat to Kurgat’s national title hopes is _____
Brett: It’s got to be Conner Mantz. His aggressive, pace-pushing strategy has worked really well for him this year, and I’m excited for him to match-up against Kurgat.
Sam: Oliver Hoare. The Badger has looked good this season and I think his range makes him dangerous in a national championship setting. Both Hoare and Kurgat have wicked kicks and it could be a tight battle at the end.
Maura: I have to go with Brett on this one. Conner Mantz is one to watch. Mantz races hard from the gun and is not afraid of throwing in some surges to break up the pack.
Ben: While I think the fun answers are Hoare and Mantz, I think the boring answer (but the right one) is Vincent Kiprop. He has a proven ability to run well at NCAA's and has been dominant this year with teammate Gilbert Kigen. Whether he has a strong enough kick to take down Kurgat we will find out, but he will be in the right position to win with 800 meters left.
Michael: It has to be Conner Mantz. I love watching Mantz race with his aggressive front-running style, and I’m sure he will put on a show this Saturday. If he can keep his foot on the gas for long enough, I think he may have the ability to break Kurgat.
Garrett: The Alabama duo. If I would have told you back in 2017 that neither Kiprop, Kigen, nor Chelanga would win a national title by the end of 2019, I think everyone would have thought I was crazy. These two are hungry to win that first national title.
Alicia Monson, Weini Kelati, or the field. Who you got?
Sam: Whittni Orton.
Kelati has lost.
Monson has lost.
Orton has not.
In the individual rankings, I wrote that I didn’t think Orton would remain undefeated, but having more time to think on it, I like her chances. The lack of races we’ve seen Orton in leaves an aura of mystery around her along with the idea that she is probably the freshest of anyone in this field.
Brett: Alicia Monson. Kicking down Weini Kelati at Nuttycombe was huge, and she’s been on a roll ever since. I think she’ll be able to take home a title for the Badgers this weekend.
Michael: I have to go with Monson. Kelati will likely take it out hard, but Monson seems to have a better ability to stay relaxed for longer. After seeing Dani Jones storm past Kelati last year, and Carmela Cardama-Baez almost catch her in the 10k during outdoors, I think if Monson is within striking distance with 400 meters to go, the race is hers.
Ben: I was going to go with Monson, but you know what, give me the field. Orton and Birk-Jarvis will contend and Taylor Werner is my sleeper pick.
Maura: Monson all the way. Kelati may like to grind from the beginning, but Monson has the better overall finishing kick. If the Badger sits and bides her time on Kelati’s shoulder early in the race, I would not want to be Kelati with 400m left to go because Monson has the ability to blow past her.
Garrett: Alicia Monson. The Terre Haute course seems to have a few similarities to the Wisconsin course (maybe I'm wrong on that) and it is seemingly difficult enough where an all-out effort from the gun by Kelati could come back to hurt her. Monson thrives in the conditions that we're expecting on Saturday and I think that will ultimately lead her to the national title.
List three men who are NOT inside our XC Top 50 and give us three-word descriptions as to why they will be All-Americans on Saturday?
1. Kieran Tuntivate (Harvard): Gutsy and aggressive
2. Blaise Ferro (NAU): Overshadowed low-stick
3. Euan Makepeace (Butler): Underrated and experienced
1. Kieran Tuntivate (Harvard): Audacious low-stick
2. Dallin Farnsworth (Utah State): Aggressive and relentless
3. Olin Hacker (Wisconsin): Rested up Badger
1. Farah Abdulkarim (Ole Miss): Consistent Rebel leader
2. Dallin Farnsworth (Utah State): Program game-changer
3. Thomas George (Missouri): Hitting his peak
1. Dallin Farnsworth (Utah State): On a tear
2.Sam Worley (Texas): Kick at regionals
3. Nick Wareham (Georgetown): Underappreciated low-stick
1. Casey Comber (Villanova): Training for 1500
2. Olin Hacker (Wisconsin): Wannabe All-American
3. Dallin Farnsworth (Utah State): Mountain West Champ
1. Addison Dehaven (Iowa State): Just ask Rod
2. Kieran Tuntivate (Harvard): Dude is tough
3. Nick Wareham (Georgetown): Underrated Minnesota talent
List three women who are NOT inside our XC Top 50 and give us three word descriptions as to why they will be All-Americans on Saturday?
1. Taryn O’Neill (NAU): Underappreciated front-runner
2. Anastasia Korzenowski (Minnesota): Hasz twins replacement
3. Paige Hofstad (UNC): Peaking on time
1. Sarah Feeny (Utah): Utes power back
2. Kathryn House (Michigan): Rising 2nd Wolverine
3. Allison McGrath (Illinois): Could surprise many
1. Lilli Burdon (Washington): Proven All-American
2. Adva Cohen (New Mexico): Talented and fresh
3. Clare O’Brien (Boise State): Bounce-back performer
1. Julia Zachgo (NC State): Wolfpack podium push
2. Caitlin Klopfer (Tulsa): Strong regional run
3. Rachel McArthur (Colorado): Wetmore is clutch
1. Elizabeth Funderbuck (Florida State): Consistency is key
2. Lilli Burdon (Washington): When it matters
3. Taryn O’Neill (NAU): Blue-hair magic
1. Julia Zachgo (NC State): Key off teammates
2. Samantha Drop (Georgia): Why not both?
3. Adva Cohen (New Mexico): Lobos are underrated
Give us your bold prediction for Saturday.
Sam: Literally read anything I wrote above.
Maura: For the men: Camren Fischer and Conor Lundy of Princeton and James Mwaura of Gonzaga will finish before the first NC State athlete. For the women: Stanford’s O’Keeffe, Donaghu, and Lawson will finish within 10 seconds of each other.
Michael: Portland finishes top three.
Ben: Taylor Werner for the win.
Garrett: Michigan men finish 6th overall. Stanford women upset Arkansas for the national title.
Open Mic: Tells us anything you want for Saturday’s National Championships
Sam: The Minnesota high school class of 2015 will have three All-Americans on Saturday - Joe Klecker (Hopkins, MN), Jaret Carpenter (Wayzata, MN) and Nick Wareham (Woodbury, MN).
Ben: I want to see a team race that comes down to the last kilometer. This likely won’t happen on the men’s side, so I’m hoping that the women’s race comes down to the wire. We didn’t see any close races last year, so hopefully this changes this year.
Michael: Ben, you’re telling me Morgan McDonald and Grant Fisher kicking down that final straight didn’t have you on the edge of your seat?
Ben: It had me jumping out of my proverbial seat, but the team title had already been wrapped up at that point. I want to be staring at the scoreboard after the race like I was when Syracuse took down Colorado to figure out who won.
Maura: Two things: #1) The weatherman is calling for 40°F and a 40% chance of rain. If the threat of rain goes away, this is prime cross country weather. #2) Terre Haute stinks. Bring your nose plugs if you do not want to smell the cooking of Cornflakes as you run around the course cheering.
Garrett: It may be easy to get bored of seeing one team dominate the National Championships year in and year out, but what the Northern Arizona men are doing is special. Take a moment to appreciate how rare this level of dominance is on Saturday, especially in today's day and age.
What you are witnessing is more than a dynasty.
This may end up being the greatest dynasty of all time.
Bonus Round: Give us a picture of your dog or cat
Maura: Utah State’s Luke Beattie has an Instagram for his dog. Follow @kenai_robert.
Garrett: Ignore the fact that her lip is stuck and just pretend that she’s smiling at you.
Ben: I don't have a dog, but I do have this.