The Group Chat: Nuttycombe Preview

Updated: Oct 18, 2019


One of the biggest regular season meets of 2019 is set to take place this Friday in Madison, Wisconsin. With so many top-tier teams scattered throughout the field, we decided to take a non-conventional approach and do this meet preview as a Group Chat article.


Below, our TSR contributors gave their takes and thoughts on tomorrow's major invite...


Suppose you’re talking to your friend who doesn’t follow (or understand) NCAA cross country at all. Explain in Layman’s terms why this meet is a big deal.

Maura: Nuttycombe is like a mini-NCAA Championship. Grab some popcorn because this is a must-see event. Teams flock to Madison, Wisconsin to race against other top programs and individuals from around the country. This meet is such a big deal because teams and individuals make a statement, surprise others, or (sadly) show weaknesses and vulnerabilities.


Garrett: Think of this meet as a college mid-term exam for the nation’s top cross country programs. It won’t completely dictate how well you do in the future, but there’s a pretty good chance you’ll know what to expect for the rest of the semester once this is done.


Ben: There are two reasons why Nuttycombe is must-watch television. First, it gives us a preview of some of the top five or 10 best teams in the country. We get to see how these teams compare to one another, and it gives us a preview of what to expect when NCAA's rolls around. Second, a team who is on the fringe of qualifying for NCAA's can swing their qualifying odds with a good race at Nuttycombe. If they are able to beat some teams who end up qualifying for Nationals, then they will have a better chance of earning a place at NCAA's.


Brett: This weekend has to be the “All-Star Weekend” of NCAA cross country. Madison, Wisconsin is the gathering spot where many top teams and individuals do battle and see who will reign supreme through the mid-way point of the season. The races will give a good indication of how certain teams and individuals are doing so far, but it isn’t the definitive race of the season: that is saved for Nationals in November.


Sean: Imagine the impact on college football if there were 10 different top 25 team matchups. Now imagine they’re all playing at the same place...at the same time. That’s basically Nuttycombe. Teams can essentially guarantee a qualification to the NCAA Championships if they run well, or they can put themselves in major jeopardy of ending their season early with a poor performance.


Brian: This is essentially a tune-up race for NCAA’s. This is how teams find out where they stand in comparison to the rest of the country. Some key runners might not have raced so far this season and this is the type of meet where everyone is set loose. The big-name teams and the big-name individuals will duke it out for bragging rights.


Michael: Everyone pretty much summed it up: This is one of the deepest meets all season aside from the NCAA Championship. This meet is a great opportunity for teams to perform well and accumulate Kolas points, boosting their chances of qualifying for Nationals. The results of this meet will have a huge impact on the rest of the season.


What’s the biggest question that you want answered at Nuttycombe this Friday?


Ben: Are the men of Oregon a legit podium contender? After their great race on their home course to beat BYU, will they be able to replicate that performance and hang with Iowa State and Stanford?


Maura: How good are the Utah women? Does their win at Joe Piane make them a one-run wonder?


Brett: How will the men of UCLA fare after Dellinger? With their close finish behind Oregon and BYU under their belts, how will that match up with a big field?


Brian: Can the Stanford men close the gap with NAU? With NAU adding two key pieces back into their lineup, will they wipe out this field?


Michael: Same as Brian. Can Stanford make it close with NAU? Even just a little bit?


Garrett: Just how good are the NC State women? Will Nevada Mareno race for the team this weekend? If so, what kind of impact does she have? The Wolfpack have all of the right pieces to be majorly successful this fall. They have a super star in Elly Henes, one of the best young talents in the country in Kelsey Chmiel, an underrated supporting scorer in Dominique Clairmonte, and a reliable backend loaded with scoring options. I really believe in this group, but their performance at Nuttycombe will tell us if they are a legitimate podium threat or a fringe top 10 team.


Sean: What’s happening behind Michigan for the BIG 10 women? On the men’s side, can anyone upset the top three projected teams of Iowa State, NAU, and Stanford?


Pick one men’s team and one women’s team that will shock us this weekend with a great performance


Maura: For the women, I have to go with Syracuse. We haven’t seen Syracuse race since the Battle in Beantown, but these ladies are primed for another breakout race. In Beantown, the Orange took the win with only 35 points and were led by Iowa State transfer Amanda Vestri. At Nuttycombe, Syracuse could come from behind and stun a handful teams. The team’s 41 second spread from Boston should be condensed this weekend.


As for the men, Utah State could shock teams with their performance. The Aggies are coming off of a dominating win at Paul Short where they scored 54 points, 98 points less than the 2nd place finishers. Utah State had a 18 second spread from among their top six. Luke Beattie, Dallin Farnsworth, and Adam Hendrickson were tightly packed up near the front and the next three guys stayed within an arm's length of one another. Am I saying that the Aggies will be a top five team this weekend? No, but I am saying that the Aggies, who are currently nationally ranked in the coaches poll, could surpass teams and finish at least 10th.


Ben: On their home course, I think the Wisconsin women will put in a big performance and earn a runner-up finish behind Arkansas. Led by Alicia Monson, the Badgers had a strong top four at Joe Piane, but because of their #5 runner, they finished 6th overall. I think we will see someone step up and run well on their home course to fill that final scoring spot this weekend. If that happens, then Wisconsin should have a breakout performance.


Despite the team tempoing at Paul Short, I really like the Princeton men this year. The amount of depth they have is staggering, and they have a plethora of seasoned veterans which should help them quite a bit in a race like this. Plus, freshmen Camren Fischer and Connor Nisbet look like they are ready to contribute. The only knock on the Tigers has been their lack of a clear low-stick, but I think they will beat a surprising amount of teams by utilizing their pack-running technique...if they don't run in the "B" race this year.


Brett: Even without the Hasz twins, the women of Minnesota looked strong at Joe Piane. They had a 32 second split among their top five while their final two runners (Tate Sweeney and Carissa Dock) were just three seconds back. If they can keep the integrity of their pack throughout, the Gophers could certainly challenge for a top 10 finish. A performance like that would speak volumes about this program even when many would have written them off due to the absence of the Hasz twins.


As for the men, NC State has a stellar squad this year. They finished 3rd at Joe Piane, beating some really strong programs in the process. Front-runner Ian Shanklin mixed it up with other big names two weekends ago while the rest of their scorers all finished within 20 seconds of each other.


The only problem for them might be in their final two varsity positions, but if they can get that same pack from Notre Dame running closer to Shanklin, then the Wolfpack could end up challenging for another big result.


Brian: I am going to go with a dark horse here by choosing the Princeton Tigers. If the Tigers, who have tempoed every race they’ve attended, finish in the top seven or eight of the men’s race, would you be shocked? Probably. This is a team that is returning their top five that placed 20th at Nationals last year, and in my opinion, they didn’t even race to the best of their ability. Conor Lundy looks healthy and ready to lead this group to a top five finish at Wisco.


As for the women, Michigan State is an untested team looking to embrace the competition. Led by All-American Annie Fuller, this is a team that is returning their top five from an 11th place finish at NCAA’s in 2018 and just dominated at Panorama Farms. If this group can close their gap from between their top two and bottom three scorers, then I think they could shock the competition and place in the top four come Friday.


Sean: I’d have to be looking at the Purdue men. This group has not gotten the amount of respect that they should have after their 4th place finishes at John McNichols and Joe Piane. They have one of the strongest three-man groups at the front of the field of any NCAA team outside of Stanford and NAU. They’ve been very close to jumping into the top 10 and I think this is their shot to upset some of the teams ranked above them.


On the women’s side, it’s been a full month since the Battle in Beantown. That left just enough time for us to be surprised again when Syracuse challenges for a top position. Amanda Vestri and Laura Dickinson will continue to lead the Orange while Jordan Jacob and Rachel Bonner will also be crucial scorers for the women of Syracuse. Based on their results from Franklin Park, the ability to stay close as a pack behind their two front-runners will allow this group to grab an upset or two.


Michael: I think the Virginia men are going to turn some heads this weekend. In my mind, they have been consistently underrated this year and this will be their first race of this caliber. The Cavaliers have a strong lineup that is deeper than many teams in the field. I think with a good performance, they can finally break into our Top 25. The only question is, how far up the rankings can they climb?


For the women, I am excited to see what Wisconsin can do. Can Alicia Monson contend for the individual title? How close can their #2 and #3 runners get to her? Wisconsin has a lot of potential to perform well, and with athletes like Amy Davis to back up Monson, the Badgers may be able to produce a surprising performance on their home course.


Garrett: I’ve got to go with the Utah State men on this one. They aren’t always a top-tier program, but they have stood out as a team capable of producing respectable distance runners. The Aggies usually boast quality depth and that seems to be the case this year after seeing their Paul Short performance where they easily took down a deep field. I think their lineup structure will bode well for them in a larger meet like Nuttycombe.


Then we have the women. I’ll have to say UCLA. They were 9th at Bill Dellinger, but didn’t have their top two low-sticks at that meet (Monica Hebner and Erika Adler). I think they are wildly overlooked and will put together a performance that easily beats expectations.


Over/Under 54.5 points for the Northern Arizona men this weekend?


Ben: I will go with a slight under here. To average about 11 points in a race as talented and deep as this would be quite a feat, but I think the Lumberjacks will able to do it. The aggressive front-running style that NAU employs puts them in a position to have five runners within the top 15.


Maura: NAU will score less than 54.5 points this weekend as we finally get to see the team’s entire top seven in action. The way these guys pack-run is fun to watch because they move together and fill in any open spots. At John McNichols, the Lumberjacks scored 31 points and that was without key members in their lineup. Nuttycombe will be a chance for NAU to prove their front-running dominance.


Michael: I have doubted NAU in the past and have been embarrassingly wrong. I have to go with the under in this situation, because NAU has shown us just how strong they are even without key athletes like Geordie Beamish and Blaise Ferro. They could be scary good with these two back in their lineup.


Brett: I’m going to play Devil’s Advocate and say they’ll be over. As Ben said, their front-running strategy works well for them, but this field is just too deep and talented. They will have scorers placing in the 20’s which leads me to believe that they will be around 60 to 75 points.


Brian: I think NAU will score significantly under 54.5 points. Let me get this right, a team that scored 31 points at John McNichols returns two critical members and is racing at the same location where they have proven they know how to race. Yes, NAU is going to dominate this weekend while placing five runners in the top 12, scoring around 35 points.


Sean: My first instinct was to say over, but I do think they’ll actually slip under. To think that three NAU Lumberjacks won’t score in the single digits seems ridiculous, even with the strength of this field. I wouldn’t push this score much under 50 points, but I do think that the low-sticks of Beamish and Grijalva will lower the score just enough.


Garrett: Let’s say that Northern Arizona’s top five runners place 5th, 9th, 11th, 14th, and 16th this weekend at Nuttycombe. That would be an outstanding display of firepower and depth. However, those finishes total a score of 55 points...which means that they hit the over. It looks like NAU is deeper than ever this year, but this Nuttycombe field is better than it was last year and although the Lumberjacks have a deeper roster, they don’t necessarily have an individual title contender like they did with Tyler Day in 2018 (well, not at the moment). I’ve been so wrong about NAU many times before, but I guess I don’t learn from my mistakes super well.


Over/Under 79.5 points for the Arkansas women this weekend?


Maura: Arkansas is good, but they will score slightly over 79.5 points this weekend. Taylor Werner will contend for the individual win and will score either one, two, or three points for the Razorbacks. Katie Izzo and Devin Clark will not be too far behind, but runners #4 and #5 are a bit harder to determine. Carina Viljoen and Lauren Gregory haven’t proven themselves to be top 20 finishers yet this season, but they could be surprise us this weekend. I am assuming Arkansas will score over 79.5 points because Katrina Robinson will not be on the starting line.


Ben: I am going to go under again for the Arkansas women. Like Maura, I have a lot of confidence in the Razorbacks top three. Unlike Maura, I think that Lauren Gregory and Carina Viljoen will run well enough to earn top 25 finishes. I think it is realistic to assume that Arkansas’ top three will score under 30 points, so as long as Viljoen and Gregory come in somewhere between 20th and 30th, the Razorbacks will manage to score 79 points or less.

Brett: I think the Arkansas women will be just under 79.5 points. Their top three are good, I think we can all agree on that. Following her finish at Chile Pepper, I think that Carina Viljoen will be a solid #4 option and could even stick with Devin Clark during this race. However, we shall see how Lauren Gregory fares as their #5 runner. I think she’ll surprise some people and come away top with a top 30 finish, putting the Razorbacks under 79.5 points.


Michael: I think Arkansas will be over 79.5, but not by much. This field is incredibly deep with teams like New Mexico, Wisconsin, Michigan State, NC State, Utah, and Furman fighting for those top spots. Arkansas is still the favorite in my mind, but I think the winning score will be relatively high with so much talent from a variety of other teams up front.


Brian: I think the ladies of Arkansas will also be just under 79.5 points. This was hard and in my opinion, this is a great O/U. This is a team that is fully dependent on how their #5 runner finishes. Their top four have shown that they are formidable and can be considered the best 1-2-3-4 punch in the country, but in cross country we score through five, so it will be interesting to see how Lauren Gregory, Maddy Reed, and Abby Gray work together and score the least amount of points possible.


Sean: As long as Taylor Werner, Katie Izzo, Lauren Gregory, Carina Viljoen, and Devin Clark all end up racing, Arkansas will definitely score below 79.5 points. If one member of that group does not race, it becomes an over, but with those five entered, it’s pretty clear that they’ll score less than 79.5.


Garrett: On paper, they should be under...but I’ll say over. Like Sean said, if their projected top five run to the best of their ability, then it seems like a pretty reasonable assumption to say that this team will easily trounce Colorado’s score from last year. Still, I worry about the health of Lauren Gregory and how well the rest of their lineup will do if someone falters. Despite all signs pointing to a score under 79.5 points, I’ll have to go against that.


Which team needs a “rebound race” the most?


Maura: I can’t think of a women’s team off the top of my head, but on the men’s side, Wyoming needs a “rebound race.” The Cowboys finished a disappointing 13th at the Joe Piane Invitational. Paul Roberts, an athlete capable of finishing in the top 10, slipped all the way back to 25th. The team’s #5 runner was all the way back in 113th (scoring 111 points). For a team that was projected to be at least top 15 at NCAA's, the Cowboys will need to put the puzzle pieces back together when they take on tougher competition at Nuttycombe.


Ben: In a similar vein, I’ll go with the Gonzaga men. This is a team that has expectations of making NCAA's this year, but struggled a bit at Joe Piane finishing in 14th, one spot behind Wyoming. James Mwaura and Peter Hogan put together solid races, but the rest of the squad struggled. For the ‘Zags to earn a spot to Nationals this year, they will need to pick up some points this weekend. With plenty of ranked teams in the field, they have a great opportunity, but they will have to run much better than they did two weeks ago.


Michael: I think the New Mexico women need a rebound performance. After finishing 7th at Joe Piane, New Mexico does not look like the team we expected to see this year. We currently have them at the #5 spot in our rankings, but we need to consider that they didn't have Adva Cohen. Luckily, they'll bring back their World Championship qualifier this weekend after she did not race at Joe Piane, so she could provide to be a big boost for the Lobos.


Brett: This might seem like an odd choice, but I’m going to go with the Notre Dame men. They finished 5th at their Joe Piane home invite, which isn’t bad, but they are a lot better than that. After Danny Kilrea ended up 80th overall, there was a rumor circling that he took a fall on the course. Without a mishap like that, he should right up with there with Yared Nuguse and Dylan Jacobs. This squad at full strength should be ready to contend for a top five finish behind some of the best teams in the nation.


Brian: In my opinion, Wisconsin needs to rebound off an 8th place finish at Joe Piane. Oliver Hoare raced well and finished 5th, but their #4 and #5 scorers need to close the gap for a stronger result this weekend. At their home course, expectations are high and this should set them up well given the familiarity they have with racing in Madison, Wisconsin. I expect to see the Badgers place in the top 10 despite stiffer competition.


Sean: Iowa State women! This is a team that really should be competing for a NCAA spot in the Midwest region, but they’re getting blown away by Minnesota, Illinois, and maybe even Oklahoma State. Of that group, only Iowa State and Minnesota will be competing. However, this will be the Cyclones' chance to say that they deserve a spot at Nationals.


Garrett: I’m looking at the Georgetown women this weekend. They beat regional rival Penn State at the Spiked Shoe Invite, but they severely underwhelmed at Paul Short. With the Nittany Lions not looking as strong as we thought they would be, the Hoyas' early-season win now seems to hold a little less value. A strong performance this weekend would put them back in the national qualifying conversation for the Mid-Atlantic region which is now up in the air between Princeton, Penn State, Georgetown, and maybe even West Virginia, Villanova, or Penn.


Predict the top 10 men’s teams at this meet...


Maura:

  1. NAU

  2. Stanford

  3. Oregon

  4. Purdue

  5. Iowa State

  6. Portland

  7. Notre Dame

  8. NC State

  9. Wisconsin

  10. Utah State


Ben:

  1. NAU

  2. Stanford

  3. Iowa State

  4. Oregon

  5. Notre Dame

  6. Purdue

  7. Portland

  8. NC State

  9. Syracuse

  10. Michigan


Brett:

  1. NAU

  2. Stanford

  3. Iowa State

  4. Oregon

  5. Notre Dame

  6. NC State

  7. Portland

  8. Purdue

  9. UCLA

  10. Utah State


Brian:

  1. NAU

  2. Stanford

  3. Iowa State

  4. Portland

  5. Oregon

  6. NC State

  7. Notre Dame

  8. Princeton

  9. Syracuse

  10. Wisconsin


Sean:

  1. NAU

  2. Stanford

  3. Purdue

  4. Iowa State

  5. Portland

  6. Oregon

  7. Syracuse

  8. Notre Dame

  9. NC State

  10. Princeton


Michael:

  1. NAU

  2. Stanford

  3. Oregon

  4. Iowa State

  5. Portland

  6. Purdue

  7. Notre Dame

  8. Princeton

  9. Virginia

  10. Utah State


Garrett:

  1. Northern Arizona

  2. Iowa State

  3. Stanford

  4. Notre Dame

  5. Portland

  6. Oregon

  7. Purdue

  8. NC State

  9. Utah State

  10. Syracuse


Predict the top 10 women’s teams at this meet...


Maura:

  1. Arkansas

  2. Stanford

  3. Utah

  4. NC State

  5. New Mexico

  6. Boise State

  7. Syracuse

  8. Wisconsin

  9. Oregon

  10. Air Force


Ben:

  1. Arkansas

  2. Stanford

  3. Wisconsin

  4. Utah

  5. NC State

  6. Boise State

  7. New Mexico

  8. Michigan State

  9. Syracuse

  10. Notre Dame


Brett:

  1. Arkansas

  2. Stanford

  3. Wisconsin

  4. Utah

  5. NC State

  6. New Mexico

  7. Boise State

  8. Notre Dame

  9. Oregon

  10. Minnesota


Brian:

  1. Arkansas

  2. Utah

  3. Stanford

  4. Michigan St.

  5. New Mexico

  6. NC State

  7. Boise State

  8. Wisconsin

  9. Oregon

  10. Notre Dame


Sean:

  1. Arkansas

  2. NC State

  3. New Mexico

  4. Utah

  5. Syracuse

  6. Oregon

  7. Michigan State

  8. Boise State

  9. Wisconsin

  10. Furman


Michael:

  1. Arkansas

  2. New Mexico

  3. Stanford

  4. NC State

  5. Utah

  6. Michigan State

  7. Furman

  8. Syracuse

  9. Wisconsin

  10. Oregon


Garrett:

  1. Arkansas

  2. New Mexico

  3. Stanford

  4. NC State

  5. Wisconsin

  6. Utah

  7. Syracuse

  8. Oregon

  9. Michigan State

  10. UCLA