TSR's 2020 Rankings Update #1: D1 XC Top 25 Teams (Women)

The Stride Report has opted to only rank teams that have competed this season (i.e. results are posted on TFRRS). We will not be doing "mid-season" individual rankings for the altered 2020 season, although we may opt to do season-ending individual rankings. That is still TBD.

25. LSU Tigers

They joined the Arkansas women and Ole Miss women as the only teams to crack 100 points at the SEC Preview meet and have their top three runners finish in the top-20 of that race. They also won the "Open" section at the Florida State Invitational. We wouldn't put too much stock into that analysis, but it was enough for LSU to grab the final spot in our mid-season(ish) rankings update.

24. Louisville Cardinals

At this point, the options are a bit limited when it comes to rankings, but Louisville has a few exciting pieces to watch.

Purity Sanga, a transfer from Tennessee Tech, looks to be the new low-stick for this team after individually placing 3rd at the Louisville Classic the other weekend. If Dorcas Wasike returns to this lineup (which, at this point, is a big "if") then the Cardinals could have a wicked 1-2 punch.

For that reason, we're ranking them at TSR #24.

23. Boston College Golden Eagles

Admittedly, BC hasn't looked quite as strong this season as we were expecting them to. Sure, they lost a few veteran scorers from last year's lineup, but this was still a team that qualified for the NCAA Championships in 2019 and still had a low-stick in Lauren White.

White has been great this season, but the rest of the team has simply been too far behind to have a significant impact on the results. However, in fairness to the Golden Eagles, they haven't had Anna Oesar race this season and a few potential contributors have also been sidelined.

We think there are one or two other women who could make this team a bit better which is why we have ultimately settled on ranking this team at TSR #23.

22. Georgia Bulldogs

The Georgia women finished 4th overall at the Florida State Invitational in their season debut, finishing just one point ahead of Boston College.

Samantha Drop will likely keep this team competitive as the season progresses while teammate Grace Clements appears to be a good-enough second scorer for this lineup. However, the rest of their varsity group was increasingly more spread out at each spot when you look at the FSU Invitational results.

That said, we did not see Nicole Pachuta nor Ellie Hall -- two varsity contributors from last year -- race for the Bulldogs at Florida State.

What kind of impact would they have made on this race? That part is a bit unclear to us, but we would imagine they could have only helped this team in their season debut.

21. Virginia Tech Hokies

The Hokies lost a handful of veterans from a 2019 squad that was just on the cusp of qualifying for the NCAA Championships. They have a few respectable names, but this is a team that is better suited for the track than the grass (at least for right now).

It doesn't help that Virginia Tech is part of a deep conference with top-ranked teams. So for that reason, we have them ranked over a few SEC and BIG 12 programs simply based on the competition that they have to face.

20. Navy Midshipmen

The Navy women didn't just sweep the Pitt Panthers, they perfect swept them (taking the top seven spots (or more) in a race instead of just the top five spots). Admittedly, that's the only race that we have seen from this team, but we have to think that a perfect sweep over an ACC program is good enough for a Top 25 ranking.

19. Kansas State Wildcats

Kansas State joined Iowa State and Oklahoma State as the only teams to score under 100 points at the Cowboy Jamboree the other weekend (scoring 90 in total). Jaybe Shufelberger was a pleasant surprise, finishing 4th place overall, while teammate Kassidy Johnson (who is typically a middle distance specialist on the track) finished 10th. Their final three scorers finished 20-26-30 in the team scoring.

Kansas State has proven that they have a pair of legitimate front-runners and that they have good-enough depth to be competitive in the BIG 12. They may not be able to beat the likes of Iowa State, Oklahoma State and (maybe) Texas, but they have a few respectable pieces.

18. Wake Forest Demon Deacons

The Wake Forest women have only competed once this season (the Virginia Invitational). Admittedly, that race didn't go very well for them as they finished 3rd (out of three teams) and lost to 2nd place Virginia by nearly 40 points.

However, it's important to note that this team didn't have Elise Wright, Amy Harding-Delooze or Isabelle Dutranoit in that race. Wright was the team's top scorer last year while Harding-Delooze and Dutranoit were also varsity contributors.

This team isn't perfect, but they still have a few key names and a good amount of potential to watch out for.

17. Tennessee Volunteers

The Volunteers of Tennessee have only raced once this season, resulting in a 4th place finish at the Louisville Cross Country Classic where they finished 17 points behind Kentucky.

The good news for Tennessee fans is that this team has a killer 1-2 punch in Sydney Seymour and Katie Thronson, two women who finished 2nd and 4th in Louisville the other weekend. However, the gap between that top two and the rest of their scorers was significant, as their final three scorers finished 25-29-33 in the team scoring.

Based on one race, the Volunteers have the necessary firepower to compete with some of the better teams in the SEC this year. However, they need to lessen the gap between their top two and bottom three scorers.

16. Missouri Tigers

Yes, they were 3rd at the Commodore Classic four points behind an incomplete Alabama lineup, but the Missouri women have still shown flashes of promise and potential.

Sarah Chapman was the 2nd place finisher at the Commodore Classic and later beat the entire Arkansas squad at the Gans Creek Classic to take home the overall win. She seems to be emerging as one of the better low-sticks in the entire SEC.

Ginger Murnieks has proven to be a respectable second scorer behind Chapman while freshman McKenna Revord has been a solid third scorer in this lineup. They still need to solidify and close the gaps between that top three and the rest of their backend, but there are few respectable pieces on this team who have kept the Tigers competitive (enough) this season.

15. Virginia Cavaliers

The Virginia women had a solid season opener, finishing 2nd on their home course to UNC. They later finished 3rd to NC State and a Hofstad-less UNC team at the Wolfpack Invitational.

The ladies of UVA haven't always been super consistent, but Hannah Moran, Kiera Bothwell and Gabby Karas have looked strong (at times) in their two meets of the 2020 season. Plus, they haven't had 2018 cross country individual national qualifier Abby Green in their lineup. She would likely be the top scorer for this team if she toed the line for the Cavaliers this season.

Overall, we think there are a handful of promising pieces on this team and we see them only getting better as the season goes on.

14. Duke Blue Devils

They didn't run at the Wolfpack Invitational, but the Duke women had a nice race in their season opener at the Virginia Tech Invitational.

Although NC State scored a perfect 15 points to take home the win, you have to acknowledge the fact that the Duke women finished 6-8-9-12-13 in the team scoring. Michaela Reinhardt was the top non-NC State runner in the race and the Blue Devils pulled away from Virginia Tech by 31 points.

It's tough to gauge the fitness of a team that was obviously the second-best squad in a field of three teams, but we think TSR #14 is an appropriate ranking for the Blue Devils.

13. Army Black Knights

An upset win over a limited Syracuse team in their season-opener was a pleasant surprise for fans of Army West Point. Although they lost in their rematch at the Battle in Beantown, they still kept things close and proved that their initial win was no fluke.

The freshman duo of Georgia Jones and Helen Shearer have emerged as front-runners for this team and have been supported by a respectable amount of depth which is mixed with veterans and underclassmen.

We would like to see them race a team other than Syracuse (and Boston College), but it's been a nice season so far for the Army women.

12. Alabama Crimson Tide

The Crimson Tide have finished 2nd in their two meets so far this season. They were 21 points behind Kentucky at the Commodore Classic and 13 points behind Florida State at the FSU Invitational.

However, the Alabama women didn't run all of their weapons in either of those meets. We didn't see Lauren Brackin or Allie Wilson at the Commodore Classic and Wilson continued to be sidelined at the FSU Invitational.

When the Crimson Tide have a complete top five, they have the potential to be a scary-good team. However, until then, we have them ranked at TSR #12.

11. Kentucky Wildcats

The Kentucky women took home a pleasantly surprising win at the Commodore Classic in their season opener, defeating Alabama by 21 points. Although we think that the Crimson Tide had more to offer in that race, it was hard not to be encouraged by that victory if you're a Kentucky fan.

However, one could argue that their 3rd place finish at the Louisville Cross Country Classic (where they finished 22 points behind Ole Miss) was their best race of the season. Sarah Gearing established herself as a true low-stick by taking the overall win while the rest of her teammates finished 11-14-23-27 in the team scoring.

What's even better is that three of those women in Kentucky's top five are underclassmen.

This team will need a little more scoring potency to truly take on the likes of Ole Miss and Notre Dame, but you have to be impressed by the progress that this team has made so far this season.

10. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets

The Yellow Jackets were the surprise winners at the Mountain Dew Cross Country Invitational, taking down a Florida State team that admittedly didn't have their full lineup. However, at the Florida State Invitational, Georgia Tech finished 3rd. In that instance, the Yellow Jackets didn't have their full lineup.

Front-runner Nicole Fegans easily won the Mountain Dew XC Invite by seven seconds and the next four competitors for Georgia Tech placed within the top eight of that race. The combination of Liz Galarza, Mary Claire Solomon, Mary Kathryn Knott and Claire Moritz proved to be high-impact scorers in a smaller, top-heavy field.

At the Florida State Invitational, Fegans started the race, but recorded a DNF. Teammate Ellen Flood was also a DNS.

If Fegans had finished the race, Georgia Tech would have had a guaranteed low-stick. Instead, Galarza led the team with a 13th place finish while Mary Kathryn Knott was not far behind in 17th. The spread between their 3-4-5 runners was only six seconds, but without Fegans or Flood, it wasn’t enough to give the Yellow Jackets a jump over Florida State or Alabama.

When this team is at full strength, they could be a problem. We'll be eager to see how they take on their ACC rivals later in the season.

9. Syracuse Orange

The Syracuse women were upset by the Army women in their season-opener, although the Orange didn't have a handful of women from their projected top seven. However, Syracuse rebounded in their second matchup and pulled away for the win with a similar lineup.

The Orange have been led by Amanda Vestri, but have also been supported by freshmen like Savannah Roark and Sarah Connelly. If they add a few of their veterans back into this lineup, then the Syracuse women could end up being a problem for their conference foes at the ACC Championships.

8. North Carolina Tar Heels

The UNC women have shown flashes of promise for the last few seasons and they seem to only be getting better. Freshman Sasha Neglia looks like a true front-runner and despite Paige Hofstad not running in their second race of the season, the Tar Heels are expected to have a very good 1-2 punch.

The rest of their current freshmen class have been running surprising well and there are still a few veterans who have yet to race this season. In other words, the Tar Heels may have one or two more weapons that they could inject into their top seven.

The results haven't exactly been jaw-dropping so far, but there is still so much potential for this team moving forward and we think that they will only get better in the second half of October.

7. Iowa State Cyclones

The Cyclones have snagged two 1st place team finishes this fall, one at the Bob Timmons Classic and the other at the Cowboy Jamboree. Superstar Cailie Logue has also picked up two wins of her own by large margins. The Cyclones are proving they are much stronger this fall as compared to 2019 after women were able to gain more experience in collegiate races.

Behind Logue in their season opener was Dana Feyen, Larkin Chapman, Janette Schraft and Madelynn Hill who were very impressive in their last outing. Each woman has (seemingly) made improvements so far this season and it's clear that a year of experience has benefitted them.

Yes, we know that Iowa State beat Oklahoma State in their last matchup, but we address that ranking conflict at our TSR #6 spot below...

6. Oklahoma State Cowgirls

Let's address the elephant in the room. Yes, we know that the Iowa State women (soundly) defeated Oklahoma State at the Cowboy Jamboree the other weekend. However, the Cowgirls didn't have Molly Born race and Taylor Somers simply had an "off" day. If Born runs and Somers is at her best, then the Oklahoma State women would have taken home the team victory.

Not only that, but the Cowgirls also had Taylor Roe and Gabby Hentemann finish 2nd and 3rd overall. That's a ton of firepower that Oklahoma State has on their roster and in the big picture, we believe that gives them the edge in future races.

5. Ole Miss Rebels

Two runner-up team finishes have highlighted the 2020 cross country season for Ole Miss thus far, losing only to SEC rival Arkansas and ACC counterpart Notre Dame. However, a big takeaway for the Rebels is that Clio Ozanne-Jaques is finally back in their lineup after racing at the Louisville Cross Country Classic.

Anna Elkin and Skylar Boogerd have been a very nice 1-2 punch for this team at both the LSU SEC Preview and the Louisville Cross Country Classic. Supporting scorers such as Victoria Simmons, Ryann Helmers and Nicole Rice have also done a nice job by consistently posting respectable results and not allowing a gap to form between them and the Rebel's top two.

If Ozanne-Jaques can return to her 2018 form and finish alongside Elkin, big things could happen for the Rebels at the SEC Championships. The rest of this team is making great strides and we think that they'll only get better as the season goes on.

4. Notre Dame Fighting Irish

Like others, Notre Dame is two-for-two this fall, winning both the Irish Classic and Louisville Cross Country Classic.

Freshman Jessica Schneider has been the first woman across the finish line for the Fighting Irish in both races, assuming the role of Notre Dame's top scorer. As for veteran senior Erin Archibeck, she has been a solid #2 runner for this team, finishing 3rd at the Irish Classic and 7th in Louisville. Teammate Annasophia Keller has made encouraging progress with each passing season and has stepped into a key scoring role nicely this fall.

In Louisville, the Fighting Irish defeated Ole Miss by seven points and placed all five scorers within the top 13. The catch is that they did that without Maddy Denner (TSR #32).

If Denner had toed the line and finished within the top three of this race, Notre Dame could have had an even more dominant win.

3. Florida State Seminoles

Yes, FSU did lose to Georgia Tech at the Mountain Dew Invitational, but the 'Noles weren't running a handful of their top scorers from last year's team.

In that race, sophomore Rebecca Clark finished 2nd while veteran Addison Coggins crossed the line three seconds later in 3rd. The next three scorers for the Seminoles placed within the top 10. However, without the likes of Funderburk, Skyring and Ryan, it was easy to see why the Georgia Tech women took home that win.

At the Florida State Invitational, many would have expected to see Maudie Skyring, Elizabeth Funderburk, Lauren Ryan and Jodie Judd leading the pack after their success last fall. However, things don’t always go as planned.

Ryan was absent from the results, Skyring competed unattached (placing 19th) and both Funderburk and Judd had "off" days, placing 11th and 20th, respectively.

However, Coggins, Churchill and Clark once again led the team, crossing the line in 4th, 5th and 6th, respectively. Funderburk was the fourth Seminole, adding key points to FSU’s score to take down Alabama and Georgia Tech.

Long story short, this team hasn't been at full strength yet and seems to be doing what they have to in order to get through the regular season. They still have a very strong team full of veterans and when they put all of their pieces of the puzzle together, they should be a difficult team to take down.

2. Arkansas Razorbacks

The Lady Razorbacks didn’t need much time to regroup after graduating four seniors from their top five last fall. Lauren Gregory is proving that she has returned to full strength after an injury-plagued 2019 fall. Freshman Taylor Ewert is showing that her experience on the high school national level has translated well to college. Transfers and newcomers are also stepping up and helping this team from a scoring perspective.

The LSU SEC Preview Meet was the first race on the schedule for Arkansas and the women put together a perfect 15-point score against a rising Ole Miss team. Ewert began her college career with a win while teammates Abby Gray, Logan Morris, Gregory and freshman Corie Smith kept Arkansas' top-five time spread at inly 20 seconds.

At the recent Gans Creek Classic, it appears that the Razorbacks went more for the pack-running approach. Gregory led the team this time around, but was also joined by Furman transfer Krissy Gear. It had been thought that Gear wouldn’t compete this fall due to SEC transfer rules, but with her up in the top five, Arkansas just got stronger.

It’s a shame that NC State and Arkansas won’t be racing each other this season because both teams have the firepower and depth to make for a thrilling matchup.

1. NC State Wolfpack

Two meets into the abbreviated 2020 cross country season and the Wolfpack have put together two 1st place finishes, dominating their competition both times.

At the Virginia Tech Invitational, Wofford-transfer Hannah Steelman made her NC State debut and led her new team to a perfect score after not racing since February/March. Steelman won the race by a solid seven seconds over veteran Dominique Clairmonte.

All-American Kelsey Chmiel was close behind Clairmonte and was followed by Nevada Mareno and Savannah Shaw. The Virginia Tech Invite was also a promising start for redshirt freshman Ashley Holt who made her debut for the Wolfpack.

Earlier in the week, we saw NC State host the Wolfpack Invitational, taking down ACC rivals UNC and Virginia on their home course. Clairmonte was the leader this time around and has proven that she might just be the low-stick NC State needs after the departure of Elly Henes.

Steelman was the runner-up in this instance, but Samantha Bush and Mariah Howlett, both sophomores, were the ones who jumped into the scoring (along with Chmiel who finished 9th overall).

This race wasn’t indicative of Chmiel’s overall talent given her major success in 2019, but one has to remember that there isn’t exactly much riding on this season as there isn’t an NCAA XC Championship this fall.

We should also note that NC State has yet to run Marlee Starliper and Katelyn Tuohy this season, but that could be an advantage for these two freshmen moving forward as they'll have additional time to develop.