The Group Chat: D1 Nationals Reactions

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Recap the men’s & women’s races in one sentence.

Ben: Arkansas and Weini Kelati shook off their demons from last year and I think I may be hallucinating, but did BYU just dominate Northern Arizona?

Maura: Historic day for the BYU men and women.

Sam: The Razorbacks and Cougars run their way to redemption.

Garrett: Why am I emotional?

Michael: Arkansas gets the job done and confirms their favorite status, but BYU shocks everyone (except Logan).

Which team over performed the most? What about under performed?

Editor's Note: We totally overlooked the Furman men who weren't even ranked inside our XC Top 25 teams this season, only to finish 14th overall at Nationals. They had a phenomenal day and for whatever reason, we overlooked them. Kudos to them on a great performance.

Ben: I think it has to be New Mexico on the women’s side in terms of over performing. We knew that they would be a top 10 team, but to finish 4th is crazy! While Air Force outperformed their ranking by more, I think earning a podium spot over NC State, Washington, Wisconsin, and Michigan State is more impressive.

As for under performing, I think the Washington women had a tough day. Melany Smart, who looked like a veteran in her first NCAA Championship, had a terrific race. Rainsberger ran well, but didn’t finish as high as we expected. The rest of the lineup really struggled. McCulloch, Herberg, and Burdon did not run well and consequently, the Huskies fell to 11th.

Maura: The Air Force women over performed the most in my eyes. The Falcons came in at TSR #14 and finished 8th overall. Maria Mettler and Mahala Norris came away with All-American honors, leading a time spread of 48 seconds. Looking ahead towards 2020, four of their top seven will be back.

I agree with Ben regarding the Washington women under performing. Smart’s 12th place finish provided key low points, but the other scoring four just didn’t show up. If those bottom three scorers (McCulloch, Herberg, Burdon), had moved this pack closer to the top 50, Washington could have competed for a podium finish.

Moving to the men, BYU easily over performed. The Cougars were not expected to compete for the title after graduating three All-Americans, but that clearly did not matter to this group. Three All-Americans this fall highlight the season. Mantz was 3rd and fought all the way to the line. Daniel Carney and Jacob Heslington were there when they were needed the most.

The Wisconsin men very much under performed in Terre Haute. The Badgers were TSR #8, but they faded all the way back to 18th. Oliver Hoare was supposed to challenge for a top 10 individual finish, but was 18th (which was still solid). After Hoare, runners 2-3-4-5 scored 447 points.

Ben: If you don’t say BYU, then you don’t have a heart, but since everyone will pick them, I’ll pick the second best over performer. It's between Michigan and Notre Dame. I said the Irish coming into the race so I’ll go with them.

Danny Kilrea finally put together a great race finishing 50th overall while Jacobs, Nuguse, and Alexander all ran well. After a season that saw the Irish’s expectations rise and fall, this was a fantastic performance to cap off the season.

The Ole Miss men had a tough day. I really thought they had a chance at earning a top 10 finish, but they fell to 22nd. It was the same story as last year. Suliman had a great day, but he didn’t get any support from the rest of the lineup.

Sam: I’ll take the Furman women as my over performer. Yeah, BYU men for sure, but everyone else is talking about them so I’ll talk about someone new. After starting the season ranked #9, Furman pretty much sat around #15 for much of the season and had some concerns about their #5 runner. The #GirlGang showed up huge today and put together a 9th place finish thanks to great runs by Caranahan and Jennings.

The Washington women definitely had the under performance of the meet. Smart ran really well, but Rainsberger was surprisingly only 33rd. McCulloch, Burdon and Schadler all went backwards over the last two to three kilometers which ultimately dropped the Huskies quite a bit. I think a lot of people had them on the podium, but missing the top 10 stings today.

Garrett: The Furman women over performed by finishing 9th overall, although you could maybe make an argument for Air Force in 8th. Regardless, this was a great race for the Paladin women who were excellent up front with Carnahan and Jennings securing clutch 13th and 20th place finishes, respectively. With their #3 and #4 scorers placing 58th and 65th in the team scoring, the gap between them and their #5 runner (who finished 139th) became far less impactful in the grand scheme of things.

As for the men, the easy answer is BYU...but I want the correct answer. I’m going with the Michigan men who finished 7th overall when no one (except me) had them mixing it up with the top teams in this race. BYU ran exceptionally well and pulled off one of the greatest upsets of all time, but I feel like this race was also lost by NAU in some sort of way. Quantitatively, Michigan outperformed more than BYU did.

In terms of under performing, Washington women finishing 11th is definitely the under performance of the weekend. There was a lot of hype around the Huskies coming into the meet, and both Smart and Rainsberger ran well to finish as All-Americans. The problem was that Lilli Burdon wasn’t the All-American we thought she could be and the rest of the lineup fell back too much.

On the men’s side, well, it feels kind of obvious that the Northern Arizona men under performed. They didn’t win the national title and that’s really all the reason I need to say to justify this answer.

Michael: The Furman and Air Force women clearly beat their projections, but I think New Mexico also over performed. With Kelati silencing the doubters and Ednah Kurgat turning in a solid performance for 9th, the Lobos had two very solid low-sticks. Adva Cohen crossing in 55th as their #4 runner undoubtedly helped them secure a podium finish as well.

For the men, I think Tulsa showed up big and finished higher than many people thought possible. Having two guys in the top 15 was huge for them and is clearly what allowed them to take down Stanford and Michigan. 5th place for the Golden Hurricanes is much better than many of us predicted, and Patrick Dever and Peter Lynch’s performances also exceeded expectations.

Also, the Harvard men in 15th?? I don’t think anybody saw that coming. This proves that their regional victory was no fluke and that the Crimson are the real deal.

As far as under performances go, Northern Arizona goes without saying. We all gave them between 0-4% chance of losing, and that ended up being the case. I would not have bet against this team based on their performances all season, but the dynasty is over (for now).

For the women, I expected to see Utah do a bit better than 16th. Zero All-Americans for the Utes surprises me, and I think they could have been a top 10 team on a good day.

Do you think course conditions had any impact on tactics during the race?

Maura: For the women, the course conditions did not seem to impact athletes. Kelati was able to surge mid-race and never let up. The women had the advantage of racing first, so the course had not yet been trodden down. By the time the men raced on the course, the men who could compete the best in the rain and mud prevailed.

Ben: Umm, maybe, probably, I guess? I don’t know, man. BYU with a team that I think is worse than their team from last year just beat an NAU team that I think is deeper than they were last year. The weather had to have been some kind of factor. You could see how the leaders were running wide on the turns to avoid slipping in the mud.

Sam: I agree with Maura. I think maybe the mud and rain had thrown off some people mentally and maybe it gave BYU a slight mental edge over NAU? I don’t know, that might be a reach, but you never know. Either way, people like Kurgat and Kelati still ran away from the field like we’ve seen them do in the past, so the impact probably wasn't crazy.

Garrett: Maybe, but that didn’t stop Seufer from going out and laying down an aggressive pace. If he did it, there was no reason for anyone else NOT to do it if they wanted to. Kurgat and Kelati put themselves so far ahead of their competition that it pretty much didn’t matter who wanted to employ a sit-and-kick strategy. So in the big picture, the weather (although far from ideal) shouldn’t have had much of an impact on race strategies.

Michael: Not having been at the race, it is difficult to say for sure, but I don’t think the weather or course conditions changed the results all that much from what might have happened in perfect conditions. The times may have been faster with good weather, but I don’t think the results would have looked too different.

Which team/runner ran closest to expectations?

Maura: How can you not say Edwin Kurgat of Iowa State? He won the race as expected. Enough said.

Garrett: *See Maura’s answer above*

Ben: Kurgat did exactly what we expected. Maura is spot on. Arkansas women did pretty much what I expected. Four All-Americans and Lauren Gregory did just enough as the #5 woman to close the deal.

Sam: With the exception of Courtney Wayment, the entire women’s top 10 was pretty on par with where people came in with predictions. Kelati & Monson going 1-2, Izzo & Werner being in the top five…the race played out very close to what we thought would happen.

Garrett: Also, how about the NC State women (5th), Michigan State women (6th), and Wisconsin women (7th)? If we had said that those teams would finish in those places and in that order, I think everyone would have been in full agreement. They ran pretty much up to par as far expectations.

Michael: Just like Garrett said, NC State, Michigan State, and Wisconsin all got the job done perfectly. NC State stands out to me the most. Elly Henes and Kelsey Chmiel also ran almost exactly as I thought they would. A podium finish would have been ideal for the Wolfpack, but they did exactly what they needed to.

Individually, which runner had the best day relative to expectations?

Ben: For the women, it has to be Courtney Wayment who gave BYU a great chance at sweeping both team titles. The Tulsa men of Patrick Dever and Peter Lynch put in big performances to finish 11th and 13th, respectively. Speaking of Tulsa, they have gotten lost in the shuffle, but they put together a fantastic race to finish 5th and beat Stanford.

Maura: Ella Donaghu of Stanford had a great day. For someone who had not finished higher than 69th at NCAA's, her 8th place finish today brought in key points that helped the Cardinal earn a spot on the podium. Purdue’s Jaret Carpenter was expected to finish 30th, but he bettered that by 20 spots. Carpenter’s 10th place performance is a 99 place improvement off of last year and helped the Boilermakers finish 11th overall as the second BIG 10 team.

Sam: Oh man, the women had so many…Molly Born, Callie Logue…but I’ll take Hannah Nuttall of New Mexico. The Lobos managed to get on the podium behind great days for Kelati and Kurgat, but Adva Cohen struggled after sitting out much of this fall. Nuttall really put it together and was one of the biggest surprises to finish as an All-American in 35th.

Garrett: No question that it was Aoibhe Richardson of San Francisco. She barely snuck into our rankings and although we knew she was good, she was largely untested this season. Richardson put up an incredibly clutch performance and validated herself as one of the best names in the country. Props to her.

Michael: Cooper Teare finishing 6th was huge. It was no secret that he was one of the top guys in the NCAA, but I did not see him pulling off a top 10 finish in such a deep field. Savannah Carnahan finishing 13th is huge too! The Furman women crushed it.

Is BYU’s upset over Northern Arizona the single biggest upset in NCAA history? What does this win mean for BYU’s legacy? What does this loss mean for Northern Arizona's legacy?

Maura: BYU’s upset over NAU definitely has to be one of the biggest upsets in NCAA history. Both NAU and BYU were in rebuilding years (depending on who you ask) after graduating key runners.

2020 could see BYU vie for another title. Mantz, the 3rd place finisher from today, should challenge for the individual title. Casey Clinger will be back next fall when he returns from his mission. McKay Johns will also be returning. Four of their top 7 will be back and they will know what it now takes to dethrone the favorites.

NAU will be going home disappointed, but they are still arguably one of the best teams in the nation. The Lumberjacks had their seven in before any other team, but their pack was just too far back to compete with BYU. The 20 second spread between their top five was superb, but NAU will need to return to the drawing board to figure out where they can improve for next year.

Garrett: I don’t see how this isn’t the biggest upset ever. I may not be the history nut that a few others are, but if BYU was going to win the national title, it was going to be in 2017 or 2018. For them to win it all after graduation decimated their roster and a season-ending injury took out their #2 runner (Shumway) is absolutely unbelievable.

BYU could go on to win more national titles in the future, but none will be more impactful than this.

Northern Arizona didn’t have the star low-sticks this year like they did in 2018, but this team was arguably deeper and simply more talented than some of their past squads. If there was a year for them to lose, I would not have chosen this year.

As for NAU, this isn’t the end of a dynasty, but it should make us reevaluate whether or not this is the greatest dynasty of all time or not.

Also, this is by far the greatest rivalry in the history of NCAA cross country.

Michael: In my opinion, this has to be the biggest upset in NCAA history. Not only did we all give NAU a 0-4% chance of losing, but a majority of us predicted BYU to finish 3rd behind Colorado. For them to win by 54 points is absolutely unbelievable. NAU has dominated for three years, and with BYU losing so much talent to graduation, their chances looked very slim.

NAU also lost a lot, but they reloaded with young talent and this almost seemed like their best lineup of their dynasty era. As far as NAU’s legacy goes, I don’t think this loss does too much damage. The Lumberjacks were still dominant all year, they just didn’t put it together on the big stage. They could very well return to their dominant ways next fall.

For BYU’s legacy, this win validates all of their podium finishes over the years. Past teams have come close with arguably more talent, so for this group to put together a win has to mean a lot. They’ll be back next year, and this rivalry will be one of the most exciting ever. NAU will want to prove that this was just one slip-up, and BYU will want to solidify themselves as the top dogs. I’m already counting down the days to 2020.

Ben: This is the greatest upset ever because it wasn’t even close! BYU took the lead from 3k and never let it go. NAU, while they didn’t have the low-sticks like Day or Baxter, looked just as good, if not better than last year (when you look at this season as a whole).

BYU, after losing all of that talent from last year, looked to be rebuilding. Heck, Clayson Shumway never raced this season! BYU lost to Oregon earlier this season! They weren't supposed to win this race!

NAU wasn't challenged at all throughout the 2019 season. No one thought that BYU had enough scoring potency. The Cougars looked to have only two All-Americans and finished with three while their bottom two scorers just missed out on the top 40.

It seemed plausible that NAU had seven or eight All-Americans on their roster and yet, finished with only three. Drew Bosley, a true freshman, led the team.

This was an upset that seemed unfathomable. It was a complete reversal from Louisville two years ago where NAU got out quick and established a lead that BYU couldn’t recover from. This year was BYU turning the tables.

As for BYU’s legacy, I think this puts their three year run in better perspective. After a poor performance in Louisville two years ago, their dominance seemed diminished. Last year’s runner-up performance brought them more validation, but this victory puts this three-year run in its rightful place.

For NAU, this is still one of the greatest dynasties ever. They nearly won with four freshmen in their top seven. While it is disappointing, this result should not take away from their legacy or their dominance in the past. There is a reason why this was such a surprising result.

Like Garrett said, maybe this takes them out of the best dynasty ever conversation, but they are still one of the best ever.

Sam: I’ll say a hard maybe because the 2004 NCAA meet between Colorado and Wisconsin was insane. That Wisconsin team had Simon Bairu, Matt Tegenkamp and Chris Solinsky with Bairu taking the individual win. Colorado still somehow pulled it off with a four point win in that race.

The argument for 2019 is that NAU was walloped by BYU. Many people had BYU finishing 3rd and yet they put it together and ran one of the best races we’ve seen in the past decade.

I’ll say that this meet was the biggest upset of the past decade. Ever? Maybe. As for legacies, I don’t think it changes anything. We knew that both programs have been incredible for years and if anything, it will only build an even better legacy of competition between the two in the coming years.