Earlier today, Marlee Starliper announced via Instagram that she will be transferring to the University of Colorado starting in the fall. According to TFRRS, she is expected to hold three seasons of cross country eligibility, at least two seasons of outdoor track eligibility and numerous seasons of indoor track eligibility.
Starliper, who has run with the NC State women since the fall of 2020, has had an interesting collegiate career since she first entered the NCAA. The Pennsylvania native was once a high school megastar, running times of 2:09 (800), 2:49 (1k), 4:37 (mile), 9:07 (3k), 9:54 (3200) and 16:30 (5k XC). In 2019, she finished runner-up at the Foot Locker XC National Championships one week after finishing 5th at the NXN Championships.
The soon-to-be Buffalo runner was part of the famed 2020 NC State recruiting class which also featured Katelyn Tuohy, Jenna Schulz, Claire Walters and Alyssa Hendrix. It was, at the time, viewed as the greatest distance-centric group of American high school recruits possibly ever assembled.
Since venturing to Raleigh, North Carolina, Starliper has been plagued by numerous injuries. She has only contested three seasons of competition since joining the Wolfpack and has only completed the entirety of one of those seasons.
However, when Starliper has toed the line, she has been incredibly dangerous.
In the spring of 2022, Starliper put together a few modest 1500 meter efforts before throwing down a monster 15:37 PR over 5000 meters to qualify for the NCAA Outdoor Championships. Once on the national stage, she would post yet another 5k PR of 15:36, finishing 9th overall.
This past fall, Starliper proved that her spring campaign was no fluke, earning a 12th place finish in a loaded Joe Piane Invitational field. However, that would be her last race of the 2022 cross country season.
And after three races from earlier this spring, Starliper's season ended in late April.
When she's healthy and at her best, this former high school phenom can be a wildly valuable scorer with All-American potential on the grass. Of course, ensuring that she can put together a full season of competition has proven to be a challenge.
Starliper will now join a Colorado program that just landed another young transfer star from a powerhouse program. I am, of course, talking about Natalie Cook. And much like Starliper, Cook has also dealt with recent season-ending injuries of her own.
The Colorado women were dealing with multiple injuries from some of their top talents earlier this year. Top cross country scorers such as Emily Covert and Hannah Miniutti were sidelined in the fall of 2022 due to health setbacks.
With top All-American standouts such as Bailey Hertenstein and Ella Baran set to return to Boulder, Colorado later this fall, the Buffaloes were already primed to have a strong nucleus of firepower headlining their lineup in 2023. But now, they'll (hopefully) return both Covert and Miniutti while Starliper and Cook will aim to be fully healthy by October and November.
Coach Mark Wetmore is clearly taking a "high risk, high reward" approach for the upcoming cross country season. More than half of the Buffaloes' projected varsity lineup have significant injury history and there's no guarantee that everyone will be able to toe the line this fall.
But if everyone from Colorado's projected varsity lineup does toe the line completely healthy come October and November, and each of those women are in top form, then this a team that could realistically win the national title.
There was already an outside possibility that the women from Boulder could contend for a national team title this fall if everything went perfectly. And now, with Starliper expected to join the team three months from now, the idea of NCAA gold returning to this historic cross country powerhouse seems increasingly more realistic as long as she can be at 100%.