We are aware that certain conferences and universities will not be competing this fall due to ongoing concerns surrounding COVID-19. However, for the sake of content, we have constructed these rankings as if a regular cross country season will happen.
There has been a lot of conversation about numerous distance programs in the NCAA when it comes to this theoretical 2020 cross country season. However, one team that has not been talked about enough and continues to stay under the radar is Tulsa.
Under normal circumstances, the Golden Hurricanes would be making a bid to get on the podium with two high-level talents and a very strong group of experienced supporting scorers. This puts Tulsa in very elite company as they look to disrupt the pecking order at the top of the NCAA.
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To kick off the 2019 cross country season, the Tulsa men took on the Rhodes College Cross Country Invitational. While this was just a rust-buster, Tulsa ran their "A" team and just missed out on a sweep as Cincinnati’s Aaron Bienenfeld took the individual win over Tulsa’s Scott Beattie.
However, Tulsa’s season really kicked off at the ultra-competitive Nuttycombe Invitational. Nuttycombe weekend is when the NCAA cross country season's most competitive racing gets underway, and Tulsa was ready.
Peter Lynch placing a shocking 14th overall was a pleasant surprise for many fans of the Golden Hurricanes. However, it was Patrick Dever, Cameron Field, Isaac Akers and Scott Beattie in 35th, 39th, 41st and 46th, respectively which kept Tulsa’s time spread tight which secured a 3rd team place finish behind Northern Arizona and Stanford.
Tulsa's narrow five-point lead over Midwest regional rival Iowa State was important at the time given that the Cyclones were favored to make the podium all year long.
Next up for Tulsa was the American Athletic Conference (AAC) Championships. This race was likely not a big one on Tulsa’s radar as the expectation was surely to win in dominant fashion. They did just that, but again missed out on sweeping the team score as Aaron Bienenfeld took the top spot for Cincinnati.
Two weeks later, Tulsa headed to the Midwest Regional Championships in a similar situation: expecting a finish in the top two in order to punch a ticket to the NCAA Championships. Tulsa’s only real competition in the region was Iowa State, but they increased their gap from Nuttycombe on the Cyclones by nearly 20 points to take the team win.
By the time NCAA’s rolled around, Tulsa was ready to go. Their worst team finish all year was a 3rd place result at Nuttycombe and they had won every other race without many significant challengers.
Led by Patrick Dever (11th) and Peter Lynch (13th), Tulsa proved that their Nuttycombe performance wasn't a fluke and took down all but four teams in Terre Haute. Dever and Lynch were followed by Cameron Field in 77th, Scott Beattie in 81st and Isaac Akers in 100th, giving the Golden Hurricanes a well-rounded group of low-sticks and reliable scorers.
Tulsa walked away with an excellent 5th place team finish and cemented themselves as a key group to watch heading into 2020.
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Patrick Dever (TSR #8) and Peter Lynch (TSR #7) were both set to return to the team this fall, putting the 'Canes in good hands up front. This duo often has the luxury of being able to hang back a bit in races that Tulsa is favored in, leaving them fresh for when it matters thee most.
Patrick Dever (8:03 (3k) and 13:54 (5k)) and Peter Lynch (14:09 (5k) and 29:29 (10k)) are two top-level talents who have proven that they can thrive in almost any race no matter how large or small. However, it's Tulsa's strong crew behind them that will help this team get on the podium when competition returns.
Based on their championship lineup from last fall, Tulsa is returning six of their top seven, losing only their seventh runner (Adam Breaux) to expired eligibility.
Despite what TFRRS says, we have confirmed that Cameron Field has another year of cross country eligibility and would have returned this fall to use that final season. He is a VERY important returner as Field was the third scorer and 77th place finisher at the NCAA Championships last fall.
Although he is more of a middle-distance runner on the track, Field made massive improvements in the longer distances during the 2019 cross country season. Not only did he run well at the national meet, but he also finished 39th at the Nuttycombe Invitational (which we mentioned above), validating his improved endurance.
We then come to Scott Beattie who returns for the Hurricanes as an 8:09 (3k) and 13:59 (5k) runner. Last fall, he took 46th at Nuttycombe, 2nd at the AAC Championships, 11th at the Midwest Regional Championships and ultimately 81st at NCAA’s. He doesn't need to be a superstar, but Beattie's consistency, reliability and experience as a scorer could have been the reason why Tulsa got on the podium at the now-cancelled 2020 cross country national meet.
As for Isaac Akers, he is also a current junior who comes in with personal bests of 8:10 (3k) and 14:10 (5k). His 41st place finish at Nuttycombe, 3rd place finish at the AAC meet, 8th place finish at the Midwest regional meet and 100th place result at NCAA’s makes him a similarly skilled scorer to Beattie.
The trio of Field, Beattie and Akers proved to the country last fall that you don't need to be an All-American to have a major impact on your team. We didn't expect that fact to change this fall.
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It shouldn't come as any surprise that Tulsa has a majorly successful and experienced top-five returning this fall. However, the rest of this lineup is where there could be some vulnerability. Depth was a concern for this team last fall and if someone had a bad day, their overall score could have inflated to the point where they wouldn't have been in podium contention.
The last varsity returner from last year's 2019 national lineup is Reed Sahadevan, a current senior. In 2019, Sahadevan was 187th at Nuttycombe, 16th at the AAC Championships, 47th at the Midwest Regional Championships and 197th at NCAA’s. These finishes, along with his personal bests of 8:35 (3k) and 14:49 (5k), are admittedly far off his previously mentioned teammates.
Despite the limited options, Tulsa does have a few younger guys who could fill in that last varsity spot left behind by Adam Breaux.
Last fall, freshmen Ryan Shumaker and Colton Palmer lined up only once for Tulsa at the AAC Championship. These guys are by no means veterans when it comes to collegiate racing, but they finished 36th and 45th at their conference meet, respectively.
In high school, Shumaker ran 9:14 (3200) and 14:54 (5k) while Palmer ran 9:20 (3200). Both of these guys were competitive recruits and now have a year of collegiate training under their belts.
Neither Shumaker nor Palmer raced on the track this past indoor season, so they are still a bit unproven as to what they are capable of doing at the collegiate level. However, at least one of them can be expected to step into larger roles for the Golden Hurricane whenever they next get the chance to race.
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Tulsa has proven leaders up front and a tradition of success behind them that makes them one of the top cross country teams in the NCAA. Few programs have two runners who have the proven potential to finish in the top five at the NCAA XC Championships, but Tulsa is one of those teams.
It's time that we start giving Tulsa the respect that they deserve. If some teams aren't careful, we could end up seeing yet another national meet upset whenever cross country competition returns...