TSR Mailbag (Part One)

Updated: Jul 17, 2019

Graphic by John Cusick

Part two coming tomorrow.

Do you think the NAU men have a strong chance of defending their XC title?

Yes, I think they have a very strong chance of defending their title which is crazy to think about when you consider that they lost their top three runners from last year. Of course, what some people fail to realize is that they also return three All-Americans in Luis Grijalva, Blaise Ferro, and Geordie Beamish. Having those three will give the Lumberjacks a key edge when it comes to high-octane scoring.

Of course, this team is great outside of those top three. Theo Quax, Ryan Raff, Brodey Hasty, and an elite recruiting class will likely give NAU a ton of lineup options later this fall. However, the worry I have with that group is that all of those runners are young, and inexperience is never good to have at large championship meets. That lack of experience could leave NAU vulnerable against deeper teams who have more veterans.

Regardless, when you compare Northern Arizona to other teams around the country, it is very reasonable to suggest that they could win it all (again) come November.

Could you elaborate on the XC point system and how that works with wildcard teams?

If you're confused about the Kolas system, then don't worry, you're not alone. The qualifying system for XC Nationals is extremely difficult to keep track of and there are a handful of caveats to keep in mind when calculating the qualifiers. It took us months to learn the system, but now that we know it, we feel extremely confident in our understanding of it.

For now, we'll keep this extremely simple.

31 teams make it to Nationals. 18 of those teams are automatic qualifiers. Those automatic qualifiers finished in the top two at their regional championship meet. This leaves us with 13 spots to Nationals that will go to at-large or "wildcard" teams.

In order to qualify for Nationals, those 13 teams need to secure as many points as they can during the regular season. The more points they have, the better. To score points during the season, teams must defeat other programs who will finish in the top two of their region. If a team earns an at-large bid to Nationals, then they will also give points to any team who beat them during the regular season.

For the most part, the Kolas system is pretty fair in the way that points are allocated. It has it's conceptual imperfections, but it rewards teams for running well during the regular season as well as those who peaked at the regional championships.

The impact of this system is the same between all of the potential wildcard teams. If you run well against top talent during the regular season, then you can likely earn yourself a spot to Nationals. That's why larger meets who host elite competition (like Nuttycombe and Pre-Nats) often produce most of the Kolas points during the regular season.

Will TSR be at meets doing interviews this fall?

If we make it out to meets, we would definitely like to! Unfortunately, many of us have jobs or are full-time student-athletes with a handful of responsibilities. If we can take the site full-time and grow a large enough budget, then live coverage and interviews will certainly be in our plans. Until then, we'll try our best with the resources that we have.

What meet carries more weight: Nuttycombe or Pre-Nats?

The Wisconsin Nuttycombe Invite generally holds the most weight when it comes to the Kolas qualifying system. Why? Because more top-tier teams attend Nuttycombe than they do Pre-Nats. We don't have the numbers to support that, but I feel pretty confident about it.

Last year was a bit unique due to a scheduling switch where Nuttycombe and Pre-Nats weren't held on the same weekend (because it makes no sense to have two different meets at the same place on the same weekend). Because of that, we saw a ton of teams pour into Pre-Nationals.

However, splitting Pre-Nats into two races (Cardinal and White) meant that the concentration of Kolas points was going to be split in half. After all, you can't score Kolas points if there are simply less top teams to beat. Because of that, teams were still able to score more points in their Wisconsin race than they did in their Pre-Nats race.

It will be interesting to see if teams decide to regress back to their pre-2018 racing schedules this fall and choose Wisconsin over Pre-Nats like they used to. If they don't, then we could see more teams travel to Pre-Nats and have that be the most influential cross country meet in the country.

I think Arkansas might be the best women's team going into the cross country season. What do you think?

This is a great point and I'm glad someone mentioned the Arkansas women. The Razorbacks may have the best top four in the NCAA this year and frankly, they have may have had the best top four last year.

Unfortunately, the ladies from Fayetteville struggled at NCAA's last year, dropping to 14th overall after some fans had predicted them to win the national title. For that reason, they are likely an overlooked team coming into the 2019 season.

It's 100% fair to suggest that Arkansas could win the national title this fall. Despite the contradictory results from NCAA's last year, their top four runners (Katrina Robinson, Lauren Gregory, Carina Viljoen, and Taylor Werner) are all capable of finishing as All-Americans at the national meet. If they do that, then the Razorbacks could very easily win NCAA gold.

However, just like Colorado, there is plenty uncertainty with the second half of their lineup. Will the Arkansas women have a strong enough supporting cast to fend off deeper teams like BYU or Stanford? The success of this team will likely depend on #5 scorer Maddy Reed who struggled in larger meets like Nuttycombe, Pre-Nats, and Nationals, but thrived in races like the SEC Championships and the South Region Championships.

Long story short, it would be no surprise to me if Arkansas wins the women's national title this fall. However, they have areas that need addressing just like any other top team.

Which collegiate or pro runner are you the biggest fan of?

Whichever one gives us the most page views.

What's your favorite thing about covering NCAA running?

Gosh, this is a loaded question. There is a lot to enjoy. I like that we essentially get to write about whatever we want. We're not your traditional site that covers news and nothing else. Often times, we'll provide insight and analysis - something that makes TSR a ton of fun. I think that's what makes us unique and what has gotten us to this point.

At the same, we've made a ton of connections throughout the country. We get leads on a handful of stories all the time (some of which we can't always report). It also helps that we have great contributors who not only produce outstanding content, but they are simply awesome people. When you have good group around you, everything is a lot more fun.