What was the storyline of the weekend?
Garrett: It has to be the Adams State women dropping 23 POINTS in a National Championship race to dominate the competition. Going 1-2-3-6-11-22-27 (in the team scoring) is otherworldly. I won’t act like I know the history of the D2 NCAA Championships, but that has to be one of the single greatest performances we’ve ever seen from a women’s team at a national meet...ever.
Quenten: Garrett hit the nail on the head, this Adams State women’s team deserves to be the storyline and will continue to be for a very long time after this historic performance. The Grizzlies 23 points was indeed the lowest score in meet history as it cements them as perhaps the greatest D2 women’s cross country team of all time.
Grace: Adams State’s 23 points is by far the biggest storyline on the women’s side. For the third time in a row, they’ve made a very competitive race look like a walk in the park.
John: It’s as easy as 1-2-3...or something like that? I dug in a little bit and the 23 points scored by the Adams State women is tied for the single best team score in D2 history. I’ll let you take a guess on who that team was...the 1999 Adams State team. We knew they’d be good with Cotter and Roisin Flanagan back in their lineup, but I don’t think we thought they’d go have 1-2-3 finish at Nationals. And for the last bit of information here, all seven runners were All-Americans.
Garrett: On the men’s side...EZRA MUTAI???? An American International freshman that we haven’t even ranked just won the whole darn thing. That is just mind-blowing. Say what you want about BYU upsetting NAU, but this may have been the biggest upset of the weekend.
Quenten: Yes, American International Erza Mutai’s performance was mind-blowing and completely amazing, but what caught my eye was Colorado Mines dominance. The Orediggers won the National Championship by a whopping 79 points over runner-up Adams State. This margin of victory was the biggest in 41 years. Hats off to this squad for completely showing en route to a second national title since 2015.
Grace: I have to go with Colorado Mines on the men’s side. They won by 79 points and dominated the field. I think their ability to not only win, but win by that much, shows just how talented the Orediggers truly are. A margin of victory by that size is not an easy feat at that level.
John: I’m going to go a different route here and it applies to both races, but wow was this race fast in the first half. The three leaders of the men’s race went through the 5k in 14:27. The women went through 800 meters at 2:25. I thought the men’s race would go out fast, but I thought there would be more than just three runners. And for what it’s worth, it seemed like every single athlete paid the price for it. We saw Chepkesir fall off the wagon, Mutai did so as well before Kimutai relinquished after he paid the price for the fast pace. Getting lost in all of this was how composed the Colorado Mines men were in the fire of it all. They handled the hot pace and managed to have six All-Americans on their way to an absolute runaway with the team title.
Which teams over performed?
Garrett: The Augusta men over performed BIG TIME. Quenten had them finishing 33rd while John had them finishing 21st. To see this team jump all the way to 9th (!!!) is incredible. Securing a top 10 finish after a season where they stayed under the radar is hard to put into words. They peaked at the right time this season and they deserve every bit of their top 10 finish.
John: Yeah so, I’ll eat my words here. Augusta ran fantastic. As did Queens (N.C.). Both teams ran much better than I expected this weekend. I think Queens benefitted from running this course earlier on in the season. They were able to get their men back on track for an 8th place finish. Meanwhile, the Augusta men were doubted, well, because I didn’t think they had been in the most competitive races before this weekend. Clearly that was wrong. Shout out to them.
Quenten: Boy was I wrong about the men of Adams State. I believed this team would be fighting for a spot on the podium after what seemed to be a struggling season. But with Kale Adams finishing as the individual runner-up and a surprise top 10 performance by Carson Bix, this team impressively over performed finishing 2nd behind Colorado Mines. Big shoutout to this Grizzlies team as the future remains ever so bright. If anyone wants to heckle me on Twitter, go for it, because I was so wrong about this team.
Grace: I’ll have to agree with Garrett on this one, the Augusta men showed up big time. They were able to pull off a 9th place finish after having a pretty average season and were predicted to be in the back of the results.
Garrett: On the women’s side, seeing Alaska Anchorage place 8th overall is pretty darn impressive. Sure, they had a great 1-2 punch with Chelimo and Jeptoo, but we already knew that they post those kind of results, and we figured their bottom three scorers would be a much bigger liability at the national meet than they were. Truthfully, their bottom three scorers still weren’t super impressive (although #3 runner Joan Kipsanai finished 82nd in the team scoring) and that is what ultimately kept AAU in contention for a top 10 finish.
Quenten: Huge congrats to the women of Alaska Anchorage (as mentioned by Garrett) and also Cal St. East Bay. Both these teams were under the radar all season, but rightfully over performed on the right day as these programs had a top 10 team finish. Congrats ladies!
Grace: Cal State East Bay shocked me the most. I was not expecting them to finish in the top 10. They were able to beat UCCS and Lee, two teams that have been ranked in the top 10 most the season.
John: Cal State East Bay takes the cake here. Top 10 for them? Remarkable. Angelina Ronquillo led them with a 30th place finish giving them the low-stick needed to achieve a top 10 finish. However, without Claire Fisher and Amanda Navarro and their strong races, we wouldn’t be talking about this team.
Which teams under performed?
Garrett: Seeing Alabama-Huntsville drop to 19th place overall was tough. They’re a talented group and posted a few strong performances this year. I really thought they would be better, but it seems like their team was probably better suited for the smaller meets.
Quenten: This was not Western Colorado’s day as they came in at TSR #3 in our rankings and a legitimate title contender, but ultimately finished 7th overall. Aside from the great outings by Taylor Stack (3rd) and Charlie Sweeney (11th), the team's remaining scorers faded to outside of the top 80. It will be interesting to see how this team bounces back as track looms around the corner.
Grace: Western Colorado falling back to 7th was a shock to me. Quenten pointed out that only two runners cracked the top 80 which was a huge blow to their team score and something that surprised me. Putting two runners in the top 11 is a notable accomplishment, but the rest of their scorers weren’t able to perform as well as I thought they would.
John: Three immediately stick out. Western Colorado, Missouri Southern, and Southern Indiana. I’m going with Southern Indiana, though. Outside of Titus Winders finishing 13th, they had a pretty rough day. Austin Nolan was 99th and their #3 runner finished 141st. This was a team on the outside looking in heading into this weekend within our rankings, but they under performed by dropping to 21st overall.
Garrett: On the women’s side, you could make an argument that Michigan Tech under performed the most. They just struggled a ton after both John and Quenten predicted them finishing 10th this weekend. Only one runner finished inside the top 140 (Emily Byrd, 55th) while the rest of their lineup simply couldn’t get themselves out a scoring hole. They had a very respectable season, but just couldn’t put it together on the big day.
Quenten: For the women I would have to agree with Michigan Tech. This team had a great season thus far coming in and as mentioned I predicted them finishing 10th this weekend. But outside of low-stick Emily Byrd, no other Michigan Tech runner finished in the top 140, which gave this team the outcome of yesterday.
Grace: On the women’s side I completely agree that Michigan Tech underperformed, but I’m going to have to go with UCCS. They finished 15th overall after being ranked in the top 10 for a majority of the season. Front-runner Kayla Wooten fell all the way back to 56th after placing 11th last year.
John: It would be hard to say anyone besides Michigan Tech or UCCS performed worse. Wooten for UCCS and Byrd for Michigan Tech both were supposed to lead these teams to a top 10 finish this year. Tough finish to a year for both teams after a successful regular season.
Who are the unsung heroes from the national meet?
Garrett: You gotta give some serious credit to Carson Bix from Adams State who finished 10th overall. He was a respectable supporting scorer for most of the year, but to see him step up and peak at the right time is really exciting. Kale Adams will likely get the glory for his 2nd place finish, but Bix securing a top 10 finish is likely what gave the Grizzlies an edge over 3rd place Chico State.
Grace: Carson Bix was undeniably the biggest hero of the weekend. Props to him on the fantastic race.
Quenten: Yes, Carson Bix was PHENOMENAL. If would have told me he would place in the top 10, I would’ve called you crazy. He stepped up and delivered, helping the men of Adams State impressively capture 2nd place. The best part about all this is that Bix is still only a junior, which means with the departure of senior Kale Adams, this team is indeed in the right hands for the upcoming future.
John: Yeah, I have to echo the Carson Bix love here. 10th overall at the NCAA meet after finishing 15th at the South Central Regional Championships is quite the improvement. Dude was a huge factor as Adams State placed 2nd overall.
Garrett: How about Morgan Molesworth of Colorado Mines? She finished 16th overall in what was a very impressive, step-up race for her. We knew she had some talent and that she could be competitive, but having her finish three spots ahead of Baker gave the Orediggers three women inside the top 20, securing them a 3rd place finish on the podium. Props to her for running an absolute monster race.
Grace: Tiffany Christensen’s 13th place finish was a step-up performance and allowed the Grizzlies to tie the lowest point total in NCAA history. Without a doubt she is a talented runner, but her improvement has been significant in the past few weeks.
Quenten: As the big storyline goes to the women of Adams State, I want to dig a bit deeper into their team performance and give some huge credit to Tiffany Christensen’s 13th overall finish. Just a couple of weeks ago, Christensen was Adams' #7 runner at the RMAC Championships, placing 16th, but came through in a big way on Saturday as she defeated athletes that once beat her just a few weeks ago.
John: I will go a different direction here. Billie Hatch had arguably the race of her life yesterday. She was 131st last year and improved to 8th this time around. There was no team for Hatch to help, but she showed everyone that she was an elite runner in D2.
Explain the weekend in one sentence
Garrett: I have way too many tabs open on my laptop.
Quenten: Adams State and Colorado Mines (yep, that’s the sentence).
Grace: Anything can happen.
John: I actually know nothing about this sport.