The Group Chat: Pre-Nats Preview


A handful of the top teams in the country have opted to preview the National Championship course in Terre Haute, Indiana instead of traveling to Wisconsin. Our TSR crew decided to take a closer look at the entries and give our thoughts on what we should expect to see...


Preview this meet in 10 words or less...


Maura: Podium contenders are going head-to-head in the Midwest.


Ben: Separating the pretenders from the contenders.


Michael: A slightly underwhelming field with Nuttycombe the day before.


Brian: The second best race of the weekend.


Sean: ​A perfect time to disappoint.


Brett: Only half of the battle this weekend.


Which team has the most to prove this weekend?


Maura: For the women, I’ve got to say Florida State. The Seminoles finished a surprising 3rd at Joe Piane, but what makes this performance even better was their 15 second spread among their top five scorers. Maudie Skyring led Florida State with her 17th place, Jodie Judd and Elizabeth Funderburk were close behind in 22nd and 23rd while Addison Coogins (33rd) and Lauren Ryan (34th) crossed the line together. At Pre-Nationals, Florida State needs to prove they belong in the top of the team race. The fact that these women can finish within shouting distance of one another will be imperative this weekend if they want to finish in the top five.


As for the men, Washington has to prove that they are still in contention for a top four finish at NCAA's this fall. The Huskies appear to have their full top seven (and then some) racing in Terre Haute this weekend. The last time Washington toed the line (with a handful of their best talent) they finished 5th at the Battle in Beantown. Talon Hull raced well and came away with a 3rd place finish in that meet, but behind him, the rest of the team struggled.


Fast-forward three weeks and the Huskies swept their home meet with Mick Stanovsek winning and Tibebu Proctor finishing 2nd unattached. This time, Proctor will be in uniform. Freshman Sam Tanner is also making his uniform debut. However, the big name to watch will be Andrew Jordan who needs to regroup from his Beantown performance in order to add scoring potency to this squad.


Ben: I agree 100% with Maura on the men’s side. Washington came into the season as a podium contender and are now a major unknown. Will the addition of Proctor be enough to fix the problems that the team had at Battle-in-Beantown? This is a great opportunity to prove that their performance in Boston was just a fluke and that they should be considered as one of the top teams in the country once again.


On the women’s side, I will go with another South region team in Ole Miss. The Rebels had a slightly underwhelming performance at Joe Piane and will look to prove that they are the top team in the South. With Florida State looking strong early, Ole Miss can prove that they are a top 15 team in the country by beating the Seminoles as well as some of the other top teams in the field.


Michael:​ On the men’s side, it has to be Washington. After a disappointing showing in Boston, the Huskies need to show that they can still be a podium team after coming into the season with so much promise. I also think BYU also needs to show up in a big way this weekend if they want to be able to aim for the podium like they have in past years. Losing stars like Rory Linkletter, Connor McMillan, and Clayton Young, as well as Clayson Shumway being out at the moment, has had a major impact on BYU’s success. They still have an incredibly deep and talented lineup, but I’m not sure I would pick them to finish on the podium if Nationals was this weekend. Luckily, they have time to put themselves in a better position and this weekend is a great opportunity for them to show that they belong in that conversation.


For the women, I think Georgia has a lot to prove as a team. At the moment, Georgia looks to be out of the national qualifying picture in what has become an increasingly deep South region. I think this is a team that has a lot of firepower and they could still pull off a qualifying spot despite not looking incredibly strong right now If the Bulldogs can make a statement and beat some ranked teams, they may be able to pick up some valuable Kolas points and move up the rankings.


Brian: On the men’s side, I think we can all agree that Washington needs to prove that they belong in the podium conversation, so I’m going to go in a different route. The Iona men need to prove they are a national caliber team. For the most part, the Gaels are untested and the Northeast region looks like a battle between Army, Syracuse, Iona, Stony Brook and the Ivy’s. With Syracuse looking like a lock to qualify automatically (which may be debatable given their Nuttycombe performance), it will be interesting to see how Iona stacks up against stiff competition in this Pre-Nats race.


On the women’s side, I think Colorado has the most to prove this weekend. After a 2nd place finish at Joe Piane, the women of Colorado need to prove that they can win big meets short-handed. Their top four were strong, but Utah’s close spread gave them an edge. It will be interesting to see how Colorado’s bottom three varsity runners respond after a lackluster race in South Bend two weeks ago.


Sean: ​I’ll be looking to Iona and Oklahoma State to be out for something to prove. Both have been serial NCAA qualifiers that look to have some vulnerabilities this season. Oklahoma State will be looking to prove themselves after returning Ryan Smeeton and Isai Rodriguez this weekend. Their performance without them at the Chili Pepper Festival was concerning to say the least. Plus, Smeeton’s experience in Doha is an extra variable looming over this team.


For the Iona men, upstart programs like Stony Brook and Army are looking to play spoiler this fall. Iona had success at their home Paddy Doyle meet, but they didn't beat any national-level competition in that race. If Iona can use their strong top three, they should be able to stay in contention for a national ranking, but they’ll need to show they can do that outside of NYC.


On the women’s side, I’m with Brian for Colorado. Venters is still out of the lineup and the loss to Utah at Notre Dame puts a lot of pressure on the Buffaloes. Luckily, BYU is also without a top runner in Whittni Orton (according to the entries), lessening the pressure just a bit.


Brett: Once again, the Washington men. No surprises there. However, for some variety, I’m going to go with the Ole Miss men. With a 28 second split between their top five at Joe Piane, which earned them a 2nd place finish ahead of many good teams, they proved that they are a legitimate cross country threat once again. If they can manage to get that split even closer or move that pack closer to the front, then who knows what they could pull off this weekend.


For the women, I’ll go with BYU. They’ll be without ace Whittni Orton (according to the entries), who won the Dellinger Invite - a heavy loss, for certain. They will have to show that their depth will be able to propel them to a good team finish while competing with the likes of Colorado and Washington.


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


Maura: The Illinois women will shock us with a great performance this weekend at Pre-Nationals. At John McNichols, the Illini women finished 6th and then backed that performance up with a 2nd place finish at the Buckeye Preview. Rebecca Craddock has been the team leader this fall and has been closely followed by a pack of teammates. 15 seconds separated their middle three runners. Illinois is on the rise this fall and could knock off some top teams this weekend.


The men of Iona have been pretty quiet this fall. They have only raced their top runners at the Iona Meet of Champions and easily won the meet. At Paul Short last weekend, Iona ran their younger and less experienced runners and finished 19th overall. This team has stayed ranked this fall because of talent and roster depth. Pre-Nationals will be a coming-out party for the Iona men.


Ben: The Washington women will finish top three and be very close to taking down Colorado and BYU. If Lilli Burdon can improve upon her performance from Joe Piane, then the Huskies are poised to look even better than they did two weeks ago. This is a team that absolutely can land on the podium. With Melany Smart and Katie Rainsberger up front, the Huskies will have the luxury of owning firepower that can compete with pretty much any other team at this meet. Add in solid depth behind them, and all of the sudden, this is a group that is one All-American away (hopefully Burdon) from being a top four team come November.


Michael:​ I think the Arkansas men could pull out a surprising performance this weekend. Gilbert Boit is a potentially underrated low-stick and he has a strong team behind him to back him up. I don’t think it is unrealistic to say they could break into the top five this weekend.

This may not come as the biggest shock if it happens, but I think the Colorado women will blow this field out of the water and prove that their loss to Utah at Joe Piane was just a bump in the road. Even without Emily Venters and Emily Covert in the lineup, I think Colorado is the best team in this field and can make easy work of the other teams entered. That is not to take anything away from teams like BYU and Washington, but I think Colorado will be back to their usual form and put themselves in an even more favorable position to repeat as national champions.


Brian: On the men’s side, I agree with Maura and see the Iona men as the team that will shock us with a great performance. This team hasn’t unloaded their squad to their full potential and it will be interesting to see how high the Gaels can finish. They will be led by Johnjack Millar who seems to be a candidate as a potential low-stick.


On the women’s side, this might seem odd, but the Yale women will shock their competition with a higher finish than some of the ranked teams in the field. After a solid race at Panorama, the Bulldogs looked prime to overtake Columbia as the favorite to win the Ivy League title.

Sean: ​Let’s go big with the Yale women. They’ve remained relatively quiet so far with the Panorama Farms 2nd place being their only invitational performance. Kayley Delay and Jocelyn Chau are two strong frontrunners who should help bring this Ivy squad into the national conversation. They’ll definitely need the back of the top five to close the gap to the front, but I have faith in this squad this weekend.


The men’s set up is a much more challenging task. I’m going to go for the Midwest group of Iowa. Both teams are set up to really challenge Oklahoma State, while neither is really expected to do anything. Iowa was ahead of Wyoming at the Joe Piane Invite and within 40 points of Wisconsin. With a great race, Iowa could easily defeat 3 or 4 top 25 teams.


Brett: The Oklahoma State men will crack the top five this weekend. The trio of Isai Rodriguez, Ashenafi Hatte, and Ryan Smeeton have the potential to do some wicked damage up front. If they all rise to the occasion and are well supported by guys like Bryce Quigley, Adam Dayani, and Alec Haines, then the Cowboys will make a serious name for themselves and be in the running for a top 10 team finish come November.


As for the women, I’m going to agree with Maura and go with the Illinois women. After a rough BIG 10 performance last year, the Fighting Illini bounced back to earn a 4th place in the Midwest region. This year, they have continued that momentum with their John McNichols and Buckeye Preview performances, now with a great recruiting class to add to their depth. Rebecca Craddock is having herself a great season and has been a solid up-and-coming name in the NCAA this fall. The rest of their scoring pieces have been solidly condensed and getting closer to Craddock will make this team an even larger threat than they already are.


BYU will be without Whittni Orton this weekend while the Colorado women have still not added Emily Venters or Emily Covert to their lineup. Who wins and why?


Maura: The Colorado women will win Pre-Nationals. However, BYU and Washington will not make it easy for the Buffaloes since Colorado will need to rely on the depth of their roster. Venters and Covert not racing will affect Colorado because the #5 runner for this team is a little questionable at the moment. Sage Hurta and Tabor Scholl have proven that they are two legitimate low-sticks this year, but Annie Hill and Rachel McArthur will need to carry the middle and back portions of their scoring five. Colorado will use Pre-Nationals for redemption after losing to originally unranked Utah at Joe Piane, so they will have some extra motivation to reclaim their #1 ranking.


Ben: Give me Colorado, but just barely. The loss of a talented front-runner for BYU is really going to hurt. I understand that they have the depth to make up for her loss, but it will still set them back. As for Colorado, I think they will clean up their #5 spot and will run better than they did at Joe Piane. It will be a close one, but I think the Buffaloes, behind their strong top four, will earn the victory.


Michael: ​As everyone else has said, it goes to Colorado. The Buffs look like they will be just fine without two very talented runners, but BYU may have more to lose. The BYU women do not look as prepared to me to take down this field at this point in the season.


Brett: The Pre-Nats victory will go to the Buffaloes. After their close loss at Joe Piane that turned some heads, the Colorado women should be ready to avenge that defeat this weekend. If they can get Annie Hill and Rachel McArthur a little closer to Hurta and Scholl to function as a pack throughout the race, as well as having a solid #5 scorer, then they should be able to return to the top. However, BYU and Washington will certainly put up a challenge.

Sean: ​In almost all of these questions, I feel like I get left to defend the less popular choice. But, I won’t. Colorado has shown that without Venters or Covert they can still compete at the top of the NCAA while BYU has not quite shown that without Orton. Colorado comes out on top.


Brian: Not to beat a dead horse, but I also like Colorado in this race. They looked a little iffy at Joe Piane and lost to a team in Utah that they should have beat, but this group has strong front-runners and BYU losing Whittni Orton is too big of a hit for Cougars to overcome.


Which runner will have the greatest impact in their season-debut for their team? Gilbert Boit (Arkansas), Isai Rodriguez (Oklahoma State), Ryan Smeeton (Oklahoma State) or Tibebu Proctor (Washington)?


Maura: Tibebu Proctor of Washington will have the greatest impact in his season-debut for the team. Proctor will help elevate Washington in the team competition due to his status as a guaranteed low-stick. His finish at Washington’s home meet is promising (although it was likely just a rust-buster for him) as we head into Pre-Nationals. The reason behind me not picking the Oklahoma State duo of Rodriguez and Smeeton is that Rodriguez hasn’t raced since February and Smeeton may have peaked for the IAAF World Track Championships. Boit should score in the single digits, but Arkansas doesn’t have a solid back half to help the team finish high.


Ben: Ryan Smeeton is the one that I am the most interested in. After a great spring that saw him finish runner-up in the steeplechase at NCAA's, it will be interesting to see if he can run better than he did last fall. For Oklahoma State to be a top 10 team, they need Smeeton to be an All-American type runner for them. He has the ability to turn Oklahoma State team into a top 10 team instead of just a top 20 team. While Proctor, Boit, and Rodriguez will all certainly give their team huge scoring potency, I think it is clearer where they will finish. Additionally, their introduction to the squad won’t influence their team’s rankings as much as Smeeton.

Michael:​ Tibebu Proctor will make the greatest impact for Washington. The Huskies have a lot to bounce back from after a disappointing result in Boston, and Proctor is exactly who they need in the lineup to do that. Washington can be a podium team in November, but they need to put themselves in position to get there first. The addition of Proctor could be enough to push Washington to a win this weekend, and I don’t think Boit, Rodriguez, or Smeeton will have that impact on their teams as the Huskies are just that much better right now.


Brett: I’ll have to go with Isai Rodriguez. His cross country season last year was nothing short of amazing, culminating with a 4th place finish at Nationals. In track, he only ran indoors and did not qualify for Nationals. It will be interesting to see if he returns to form like last year and be a consistent single-digit scorer. If so, Oklahoma State will be very dangerous up front, along with Ashenafi Hatte and Ryan Smeeton.


Sean: ​It has to be Gilbert Boit! If Boit had run attached at the Chili Pepper, Arkansas wins the whole meet. Boit’s debut is particularly impactful since it’s clear the type of shape he is in and how much it improves the Arkansas top five.


Brian: In this race, Tibebu Proctor for Washington is going to have the greatest impact. Washington, as a team, is still looking for their identity and this weekend looks to be the race to prove their worth in the podium conversation. Adding back an All-American from 2018 never hurts and Tibebu Proctor should be an instant low-stick for the Huskies.


Complete the following sentence: After this weekend, we will have learned that…


Maura: The race for the podium got a whole lot more interesting.


Ben: Washington is (or is not) a podium team and if Ole Miss is a legit top 10 squad.


Michael:​ the Colorado women look a lot more favorable to repeat as National Champions.


Brett: The Washington men are legit, and the Colorado women are looking strong.


Sean: ​Just how strong the BYU men are.


Brian: The Colorado women are a legitimate threat to Arkansas.


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


Maura:

  1. Colorado

  2. BYU

  3. Washington

  4. Ole Miss

  5. Oklahoma State

  6. Arkansas

  7. Iona

  8. Florida State

  9. Virginia Tech

  10. Duke


Ben:

  1. Colorado

  2. BYU

  3. Washington

  4. Ole Miss

  5. Oklahoma State

  6. Florida State

  7. Iona

  8. Arkansas

  9. Virginia Tech

  10. Duke


Brett:

  1. Colorado

  2. BYU

  3. Washington

  4. Oklahoma State

  5. Ole Miss

  6. Iona

  7. Florida State

  8. Virginia Tech

  9. Arkansas

  10. Minnesota


Brian:

  1. Colorado

  2. BYU

  3. Washington

  4. Oklahoma State

  5. Iona

  6. Ole Miss

  7. Virginia Tech

  8. Florida State

  9. Virginia

  10. Arkansas


Sean:

  1. BYU

  2. Colorado

  3. Washington

  4. Ole Miss

  5. Arkansas

  6. Iowa

  7. Iona

  8. Virginia Tech

  9. Oklahoma State

  10. Florida State


Michael:

  1. Colorado

  2. Washington

  3. BYU

  4. Ole Miss

  5. Arkansas

  6. Oklahoma State

  7. Iona

  8. Florida State

  9. Virginia Tech

  10. North Carolina


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


Maura:

  1. Colorado

  2. BYU

  3. Michigan

  4. Florida State

  5. Washington

  6. Illinois

  7. Ole Miss

  8. Boston College

  9. Georgia

  10. Oklahoma State


Ben:

  1. Colorado

  2. BYU

  3. Washington

  4. Florida State

  5. Michigan

  6. Ole Miss

  7. Illinois

  8. Boston College

  9. Oklahoma State

  10. Virginia Tech


Brett:

  1. Colorado

  2. BYU

  3. Washington

  4. Michigan

  5. Florida State

  6. Illinois

  7. Ole Miss

  8. Oklahoma State

  9. Boston College

  10. Georgia


Brian:

  1. Colorado

  2. BYU

  3. Michigan

  4. Washington

  5. Florida State

  6. Illinois

  7. Ole Miss

  8. Boston College

  9. Oklahoma State

  10. Virginia Tech


Sean:

  1. Colorado

  2. Washington

  3. Michigan

  4. BYU

  5. Illinois

  6. Ole Miss

  7. Florida State

  8. Boston College

  9. Virginia Tech

  10. Yale


Michael:

  1. Colorado

  2. BYU

  3. Michigan

  4. Washington

  5. Illinois

  6. Florida State

  7. Ole Miss

  8. Georgia

  9. Oklahoma State

  10. Boston College