The Queen of 2018

Updated: Apr 4, 2019


By: Sam Ivanecky


Although the NCAA Cross Country national meet is roughly two months away, it’s never too early to start making predictions about who will win. Defending champion Ednah Kurgat is back this season and is the early favorite. However, no woman has won back-to-back years since Sheila Reid of Villanova in 2010–2011, so it wouldn’t be shocking to see a new face on top of the podium come November. Here’s a quick breakdown of the front-runners.


FAVORITES

Ednah Kurgat (New Mexico)

Kurgat is the easy choice after going wire-to-wire last year and winning by a whopping eight seconds. Not only did she win last year, she finished first in all five races she ran last fall. She continued to build an impressive resume on the track with a runner-up finish at Nationals in the indoor 5k as well as 6th place in the same race during outdoors. If she remains healthy, there is no question she will remain the favorite.


Allie Ostrander (Boise State)

The 2018 NCAA steeplechase champion is the top returner behind Kurgat from the 2017 national meet (finished 4th). Ostrander started 2017 a bit on the slower side, finishing only 9th at the Nuttycombe Invitational, but returned to form by November. Previously, she finished 2nd at the 2015 national meet and redshirted the 2016 season. After a stellar spring on the track, it would be surprising not to see Ostrander light up the cross course.


Anna Rohrer (Notre Dame)

Entering the 2018-2019 academic year, Rohrer has finished 6th (2015) and 3rd (2016) at the national meet. She redshirted 2017 due to injury, but was back on the track this spring placing 6th in the 10,000 meter at Nationals. Based on that, it’s reasonable to assume she’s transitioned back into training with no lingering effects from her injury and should be in full health to lead Notre Dame this fall. In her most recent XC season, she never finished lower than 3rd. Will she be able to replicate that in 2018?


Sharon Lokedi (Kansas)

Her 44th place finish in 2017 was a bit of an anomaly after finishing 10th in 2015 and 5th in 2016. Earlier this year, she won the NCAA 10k over a field that included 2017 NCAA XC champion Karissa Schweizer as well as Anna Rohrer. After her track season, she seems like a lock for a top three finish. However, Lokedi has dealt with some inconsistency previously in XC. In 2015, she finished 11th at BIG 12's before finishing 10th at NCAA's. The Kansas Jayhawk was 10th at Pre-Nats in 2016 before her 5th place at NCAA's. If Lokedi can remain consistent this fall, she will be in the mix when she toes the line in Madison, Wisconsin.


DARKHORSES

Katie Rainsberger (Washington)

In the fall of 2016, Rainsberger finished 4th as a true freshman at Nationals. She also finished 4th in the 1500 meter final at NCAA's. While this hints at her ability to finish near the front in 2018, she seemed to struggle during her sophomore seasons of track and XC. Rainsberger, unfortunately, failed to make it out of the West Regional Preliminary last spring. Although she finished 16th at the 2017 national meet in XC, it remains to be seen how she will handle the transition from Oregon to Washington. So far this season, she has only competed once; a tempo effort at the Sundodger Invitational (which Ostrander won).


Weronika Pyzik (Oregon)

Pyzik made a huge jump from 2016 to 2017, going from 87th to 5th at Nationals. She continued to find success on the track, finishing 10th in the NCAA 10k and running a PR of 32:37. Her 5th place finish in 2017 shows she is capable of finishing near the front, but she lacks some of the experience that many of the other returners have. After such a big jump in 2017, it’s difficult to tell if she can continue to improve in 2018. However, based on her track season, it seems very realistic to be near the front again. Like Rainsberger, it will be interesting to see how she adjusts to training in a new environment.


Weini Kelati (New Mexico)

As just a freshman, Kelati finished 7th in 2017. She also finished 3rd and 5th in the indoor 3000 and 5000 meters, which prefaced a 9th place finish in the 5000 meters during outdoors. Despite her youth, Kelati had a consistent 2017 XC season, finishing between 15th and 2nd in all of her competitions. With only one XC season so far, Kelati’s potential remains somewhat unknown. However, based on her track performances, she should improve on her finish from last fall. While it likely won’t be a big enough jump to win in 2018, she could easily be on top in the coming years.


Dani Jones (Colorado)

She hasn’t finished higher than 10th (2017) at the national meet, but Jones should easily change that state in November. The Colorado star has experience winning on the national level with her victory in the 3000 meters at NCAA indoors in 2016. She was 2nd in the mile this past indoor season and redshirted outdoors, where she took the opportunity to race against the pros. Jones finished 5th at USA's in the 1500 meters and ran 4:07 at the Pre Classic, taking the overall win. She has consistently improved in her NCAA XC showings (49th in 2015, 22nd in 2016) and her coach Mark Wetmore is known for developing top-end female runners, including Olympic medalists Jenny Simpson and Emma Coburn. Barring injury, Jones should have her best performance at NCAA's this fall.


WAY-TOO-EARLY PREDICTIONS FOR 2018 NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIPS

  1. Ednah Kurgat (New Mexico)

  2. Allie Ostrander (Boise State)

  3. Dani Jones (Colorado)

  4. Sharon Lokedi (Kansas)

  5. Weini Kelati (New Mexico)

  6. Anna Rohrer (Notre Dame)

  7. Katie Rainsberger (Washington)

  8. Weronika Pyzik (Oregon)