Written by Garrett Zatlin and Maura Beattie
The Stride Report has opted to only rank teams that have competed in cross country races this season (i.e. results that are posted on TFRRS). These rankings are based on a team's performances from this season, not necessarily their potential moving forward. We may choose to update these rankings following the completion of a few other cross country meets at the end of the month.
25. Baylor Bears (Unranked)
Going into the BIG 12 Championships, Baylor had raced three times this season, recording a 1st place finish (Abilene Christian Invitational), a 4th place finish (Cowboy Jamboree), and a 3rd place finish (Arturo Barrios). The Bears were quietly putting together a season that ultimately culminated into a 6th place finish at the BIG 12 Championships, their best finish since the 2017 season.
Freshman Lily Jacobs did a great job of leading a team full of veterans. Jacobs was 10th at Arturo Barrios and then placed 23rd at her conference meet, the fourth-best freshman overall.
Veterans Celia Holmes, Sarah Antrich, Sadie Hamrin, Madelaine Johnston and Mazie Larsen only added to the strength demonstrated by the Bears. Their top five time spread was only 34 seconds which helped keep the Baylor women just 14 points back of a decent Kansas State squad at the BIG 12 Championships.
It will be interesting to see how the Bears regroup in the winter, but they will at least benefit from the fact that more experience was gained during the fall.
24. Kansas State Wildcats (-2 / 22)
Admittedly, the Kansas State women didn't really standout in any major way this season. Even so, they put up decent results and they only lost to teams that we currently have ranked ahead of them.
Jaybe Shufelberger has proven to be a great front-runner and Kassidy Johnson has turned out to be a respectable second scorer for a lineup of this caliber. While they still need to make improvements, they deserve a nod of respect for their performances this fall.
23. LSU Tigers (+2 / 25)
Rising up two places in the rankings following our mid-season update are the LSU Tigers. After a runner-up finish at Arturo Barrios Invite, the women of LSU raced their way to a 5th place finish in a deep SEC field, eight places higher than where they finished in 2019. Middle distance star Katy-Ann McDonald placed a strong 12th at the SEC meet, her highest finish yet, to lead a team of predominantly underclassmen.
In the same meet, sophomore Julia Palin and freshman Shelby Spoor posted decent finishes of 31st and 37th, respectively. Seeing senior Alicia Stamey finish in 46th place speaks to the growth that she has made year after year. They're still well behind teams like Kentucky, Tennessee and Ole Miss, but they made great improvements this fall.
22. Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders (Unranked)
The Blue Raiders finished 7th at the Blazer Classic in mid-October behind teams that are ranked ahead of them. However, the race that really put them on the map was their performance at the Conference USA Championships last weekend.
Middle Tennessee State won their conference meet with only 31 points, 44 fewer points than 2nd place Charlotte. Four runners in the top five places kept the score low for a team that may need a more reliable fifth scorer in the future. Joice Jebor, Eusila Chepkemei, Faith Rono and Mercy Chepkurui swept spots 2-3-4-5 while Francisca Jebor stepped up to finish 17th.
The Blue Raiders’ varsity lineup features a strong mix of veterans and underclassmen. If Francisca Jebor can close the gap between herself, Rono and Chepkurui, then Middle Tennessee State could find themselves placing higher in deeper fields.
21. Syracuse Orange (-11 / 10)
Don't look too much into their 8th place finish at the ACC Championships, this team is better when all of their scorers toe the line. They didn't have Lauren Dickinson, Rachel Bonner or Abigail Spiers this season, leaving the Orange to rely on Amanda Vestri and some inexperienced freshmen. We have to rank them based on how they performed this fall, but they'll certainly be better in the future. If anything, this was a great season for their freshmen to gain collegiate racing experience.
20. Virginia Cavaliers (-5 / 15)
It was a decent season for the Cavaliers which ended with a 7th place finish at the ACC Championships. They had a few strong results from Hannah Moran, Kiera Bothwell and Gabby Karas during the season, but they needed a bit more consistency at times and a little more support at certain areas of their lineup.
That said, they didn't have Abby Green until the ACC Championships, so they may have some greater scoring potential whenever we next have a cross country season.
19. Navy Midshipman (-1 / 18)
After posting a perfect score against Pittsburgh in early October, the Navy women went off to compete against arch rival Army West Point. Unfortunately for them, Navy came up two points short of defeating Army West Point. All five scorers placed within the top-11, however the Army women had six women in front of Navy's fifth scorer.
We were supposed to see this team in a rematch with Army at a November 11th meet that was also going to feature Air Force, but that meet has since been cancelled.
18. Army West Point Black Knights (-6 / 12)
An early-season win over Syracuse was impressive, even if they lost in their rematch at the Battle in Beantown. A two-point win over a respectable Navy team says a lot about how impactful the freshman duo of Georgia Jones and Helen Shearer have been for them this season.
The rest of their lineup has been solid and they have a proven top five. They haven't really raced any top-ranked teams yet this season, and only move back in our rankings due to the debut of a few other teams. However, the Black Knights deserve plenty of respect.
17. Oklahoma State Cowgirls (-11 / 6)
Going into this fall, it looked like we were going to be watching what Taylor Somers and Molly Born record the same kind of results that made them All-Americans last fall. However, Somers struggled and Born didn’t compete.
That said, what we were expecting from Somers and Born materialized in Taylor Roe and Gabby Hertemann, the Cowgirls newest dynamic duo.
Since our last rankings, Oklahoma State competed at the OSU Invitational and the BIG 12 Championships. Competing on their home course for the final time this season, OSU was led by Roe in 2nd place and Hentemann in 12th place. Only 15 seconds separated their 3-4-5 scorers, a great time spread amongst a deep field, but they didn't finish high enough to get the edge on Southern Utah.
The Cowgirls came into the BIG 12 Championships looking for an improvement, but they left with an underwhelming 4th place finish. Roe and Hentemann did their thing up-front, but the depth continued to be an issue with Born not in the lineup and Somers continuing to falter in the results.
Despite what we saw from them this season, this team could have one of the best top-four's in the country once Born returns and Somers replicates her 2019 fitness.
16. West Virginia Mountaineers (Unranked)
The Mountaineers had opened up their 2020 season two weeks prior to their conference meet at the Panther Open and easily took down Pittsburgh with only 18 points. This was a promising start to their season before taking on bigger names in Kansas.
A 3rd place team finish at the BIG 12 Championships last weekend was all it took for West Virginia to jump into our rankings. They were led by sophomore Ceili McCabe’s 4th place finish. Having Katherine Dowie and Charlotte Wood finish alongside one another in 10th and 11th place, followed by Antigone Archer in 17th place, helped the Mountaineers remain ahead of Texas' top four scorers. However, the Longhorns ultimately edged the Mountaineers in the final results.
Hayley Jackson, the 10th place finisher at the 2019 BIG 12 Championships, didn’t compete, but if she had, WVU could have very easily challenged Texas for runner-up honors. This is a very respectable group, so be sure not to sleep on them when the winter season comes around.
15. Texas Longhorns (Unranked)
There wasn't a ton of high-level competition at the Arturo Barrios Invitational, giving Texas an easy win and leaving us unsure of just how good they were. However, the Longhorns had a decent showing at the BIG 12 Championships, finishing 2nd overall and beating a talented West Virginia squad by four points.
Beth Ramos proved to be one of the more respectable individuals in the BIG 12 with her 6th place finish while Ava Peeples, Claudine Blancaflor, Gracie Morris and Madeline Vondra put together a very tight scoring pack which finished 12-13-15-16 in the final results.
We truthfully didn't see this team race a whole lot, but they ran well and we're eager to see how they'll fair in larger fields in the future.
14. Tennessee Volunteers (+3 / 17)
It really stunk that the Tennessee women weren’t able to compete at the SEC Championships due to COVID-19 precautions after the growth they were displaying during the fall.
The Volunteers' season was highlighted by a 4th place finish at the Louisville Classic and a 5th place finish at the Blazer Classic. Juniors Katie Thronson and Sydney Seymour were key front-runners, both finishing within the top-four in each of those meets this season. The other scoring three for the Volunteers posted respectable finishes and kept a decently small time spread.
Moving forward, the Tennessee women are a fairly young team led by two great veterans. Freshmen Kayla Gholar and Callie Tucker will be two women to watch as their collegiate careers progress. These runners were key in keeping the Vols close to conferences rivals Kentucky and Ole Miss during the regular season, but they will also be the differentiators in terms of how much better Tennessee can be in the future.
13. Kentucky Wildcats (0 / 13)
The Wildcats capped off a respectable season by finishing 4th at the SEC Championships, just a single point away from Ole Miss. The Tennessee women actually beat Kentucky at the Blazer Classic earlier in the year, but the counter argument is that Kentucky beat Tennessee at the Louisville Classic. With the Volunteers unable to compete at the SEC Championships, it was only right at the women from Lexington, Kentucky got the nod.
Jenna Gearing gave this team some major scoring potency during her breakout season while underclassmen Tori Herman and Kaylie Kenne have been reliable middle-lineup scorers. There have been gaps at the backend of their lineup at certain points this season, but they're a respectable team that will only improve as the roster gets older.
12. Ole Miss Rebels (-7 / 5)
Gosh, what a weird season for Ole Miss. They were by no means bad and they actually recorded many top finishes throughout the season, such as a 2nd place result at Louisville and a 3rd place result at the SEC Championships. However, as the season progressed, it became clear that they were closer to the tier that Kentucky and Tennessee were on.
Even so, this is a strong group with a ton of depth as well as a lot of experience. Their lineup is interchangeable in certain scoring spots, but their scoring potency just wasn't as strong as a few other teams this fall.
11. Notre Dame Fighting Irish (-7 / 4)
Although they finished 6th at the ACC Championships (losing to UNC on a tie-breaker), this Notre Dame team is likely better than that. The problem, however, is that their win at the Louisville Classic over Ole Miss now seems to hold (slightly) less weight now that we know where Ole Miss stands in this altered season hierarchy.
After being Notre Dame's top low-stick in her two appearances this season, Jessica Schneider struggled and finished 35th overall at the ACC Championships. Maddy Denner, the 3rd place ACC finisher from last year, faltered to 17th in that same race. When those two are at their best, the Fighting Irish are a MUCH better team.
Unfortunately, we have to base their ranking on how they performed throughout this season. While we certainly believe that they could have been better, we had to settle for ranking them at TSR #11.
10. North Carolina Tar Heels (-1 / 9)
After finishing 8th at the ACC Championships one year ago, coach Chris Miltenberg coached the Tar Heels to a clutch 5th place finish the other weekend.
North Carolina is a very young team that had four freshmen in their top seven and then three veterans. Sasha Neglia is likely the best freshman in the NCAA this season after producing four top-six finishes, two of which were wins. Placing 6th at ACC’s is extremely promising for this young runner as she finished right alongside of (or just ahead of) potential All-American athletes.
Paige Hofstad secured a solid 11th place finish at the ACC meet which was a little further back than we expected. Even so, she ran well and gave this team a reliable scorer near the front of each race that UNC toed the line for.
Hofstad and fellow senior Emmeline Fisher did a great job of leading underclassmen like Kelsey Harrington and Taryn Parks throughout the season. Harrington held her own on the college scene, finishing 19th at ACC’s in a relatively deep conference. Parks, who is more of middle-distance ace given her high school resume, often emerged as a solid backend scorer for the Tar Heels.
This young team used the fall to their advantage and with some strong races under their belts, watch out for the Tar Heels come the winter now that they have some experience.
9. Southern Utah Thunderbirds (Unranked)
Although they have only raced once, the Southern Utah women put together a solid race at the Oklahoma State Invitational which catapulted them into the top-10 of our rankings during this abbreviated cross country season.
In Stillwater, the Thunderbirds raced their way to a 2nd place finish behind BYU. Alison Pray continues to be a solid low-stick for this Southern Utah squad as she placed 5th in a fairly deep field.
Seeing senior Julieta Navarrete-Lamas place 11th was promising after she redshirted the 2019 season. The three other scorers kept themselves in the top-35. However, SUU had a 1:44 time spread between their top five scorers.
As we move into the winter cross country season, the Thunderbirds will need to minimize those lineup gaps if they want to remain competitive in larger fields. However, when you consider that the Oklahoma State Invitational was their first race since the 2020 indoor track season, this was a good result for the Thunderbirds.
8. Duke Blue Devils (+6 / 14)
The Duke women quietly put together a solid season which they concluded with a 4th place finish at the ACC Championships, thanks in part to a 4th place individual result from Michaela Reinhart and a 10th place finish from Samantha Schadler.
The duo of Reinhart and Schadler was complemented by Amanda Beach and Sara Platek who finished side-by-side in 26th and 27th place, respectively. As for the remaining athletes, Duke never really had a solidified fourth of fifth scorer during the season as a few athletes cycled in and out of that position throughout the year.
The Blue Devils were only five points behind Florida State at the ACC Championships. If Beach had finished right alongside Reinhart and Schadler like she had done prior to the conference meet, then Duke would have surely defeated the Seminoles.
Regardless, a 4th place finish is a five-place improvement from the 2019 ACC Championships and it sets Duke up nicely for the winter cross country season.
7. Florida State Seminoles (-4 / 3)
Not the greatest season from Florida State, but let's keep things in perspective. They didn't run many of their top women at the Mountain Dew Invitational, they beat a handful of talented teams at the Blazer Classic and they finished 3rd at the ACC Championships -- only 10 points back of Georgia Tech -- without Lauren Ryan in their lineup.
Was it an amazing season for the 'Noles? No, not really, but they still put together a few decent races and took down many teams that we have been very high on this fall.
6. Iowa State Cyclones (+1 / 7)
As expected, the Iowa State women won the BIG 12 Championships and scored only 39 points in the process, 23 points fewer than runner-up Texas. Cailie Logue taking home the crown was pretty much a given. However, what truly helps Iowa State move up in our rankings is that their other scorers stepped it up and all finished within the top-18 of the same meet.
Freshman Brenna Cohoon, who was the team’s eighth runner at both the Bob Timmons Classic and the Cowboy Jamboree, shockingly emerged as Iowa State's second runner at the BIG 12 Championships, securing a 5th place finish.
Meanwhile, teammates Winrose Chesang (7th) and Dana Feyen (8th) did a great job of keeping the gap from between runners 2-3-4 at only 10 seconds. Janette Schraft was Iowa State’s fifth runner and brought in key points that were needed to help defeat the Longhorns.
The scoring five for the Cyclones was always changing during the season, but that didn’t seem to matter as the women won each of their three meets by large margins and showed off their respectable depth.
5. Alabama Crimson Tide (+7 / 12)
Coming into this year, if you had told me the Alabama women would be our TSR #5 team, even during an altered season, I would have thought you were joking.
Last fall the Rolling Tide placed 5th at the SEC Championships and 6th at the South Regional Championships -- not exactly finishes that were eye-popping. However, with some newfound strength and the return of All-American Esther Gitahi, the Alabama women rose to the challenge and peaked at the SEC Championships.
Mercy Chelangat proved that her personal best of 15:37 (5k) was no fluke as she won the SEC title the other weekend by 12 seconds. Having Gitahi back in the lineup provided another key low-stick for the Rolling Tide, but the real story has to be the rise of sophomore Jami Reed.
Reed placed 6th at the SEC Championships, a finish that could be indicative of a future All-American honor. Through three runners, Alabama was well ahead of the top-ranked Arkansas. Although their backend needs some improvement, the firepower that this team boasts is scary good.
4. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (+4 / 8)
The Yellow Jackets were just consistently good throughout the season. Nicole Fegans was one of the most reliable low-sticks in the country and the rest of their lineup only got better as the season went on.
A 2nd place team finish at the ACC Championships, which was largely powered by big performances from Liz Galarza and Mary Kathryn Knott, has established the Georgia Tech women as one of the best teams in the country for this altered cross country season.
3. BYU Cougars (Unranked)
One race was all it took for the women of BYU to jump into our top-three. Competing at the OSU Invitational in mid-October, the Cougars had an excellent showing and scored a mere 22 points, placing all five scorers in the top nine (top seven if you take out the two unattached runners).
Whittni Orton did what she was expected to do and picked up the individual win, but those who came behind her proved themselves to be key members of a team that we thought would be rebuilding (sort of) after the graduation of key athletes.
Aubrey Frentheway was the 3rd place finisher and looks to potentially be the team’s second scorer as we move into the winter season. Freshman Lexy Halladay secured a great 6th place finish in the results and was 12 seconds ahead of veteran Anna Camp.
Only 35 seconds separated runners 2-3-4-5-6-7. That time spread, however, could be even shorter based on the depth of this BYU roster and how quickly this team usually develops.
2. Arkansas Razorbacks (0 / 2)
A dominant season for the Razorbacks naturally puts them near the top of our rankings. Their lineup was incredibly deep and their new pieces were able to handle most of their competition fairly easily this season. However, their win at the SEC Championships wasn't quite as dominant as we expected it to be.
Even so, they ran well and they may only get better as their younger athletes become more familiar with collegiate competition.
1. NC State Wolfpack (0 / 1)
We expected the NC State women to take home the ACC title relatively easily, but to win by 52 points over a talented Georgia Tech squad is wildly impressive. Dominique Clairmonte is a now an elite-level low-stick who gave the Wolfpack a lethal top two alongside Hannah Steelman. With three sophomores filling the final three scoring spots, you have to commend this NC State squad for what they have been able to accomplish.
Their mix of firepower, depth, experience and youth -- all without Katelyn Tuohy and Marlee Starliper -- only solidifies how highly we think of them.