WAC Championship Preview


The 2019 WAC Cross Country Championships are this Saturday, November 2nd at Swope Park in Kansas City, Mo. The men's 8k race begins at 10 a.m. (CT), followed by the women's 6k at 11 a.m. (CT). Expect relatively fast times as the weather looks clear on Saturday with a low of 35 and a high of 48 degrees.


Men’s Preview


Teams

Led by 2018 winner Kevin Lynch, Utah Valley arrives at the WAC XC Championships as the returning champs and the favorites to win yet another title. Utah Valley returns their entire top seven from last year and looks primed to win their fifth title in the past seven years.


The Wolverines have held their own this season, winning the team race in the Gold section at Joe Piane. Their depth was tested as they had four runners in the top 15, but their #5 runner was a freshman who finished 52nd.


In their most recent race, they closed that gap slightly, but it will surely be tested come Saturday. Expect Kevin Lynch to once again lead the team as the low-stick. Utah Valley’s success will come down to their final scorer and whether or not he can close the gap on the rest of the top four.


Trying to play spoiler to Utah Valley is California Baptist. There could be an argument that CBU should be favored in this race due to an early-season victory over Utah Valley back on September 14th. In that race, they showed very strong depth as they had five runners finish before Utah Valley’s #4.


The real test for CBU is to replicate their early-season performance which will require figuring out who their low-sticks are going to be in this race. Utah Valley’s two front-runners give the Wolverines a significant advantage as they will test CBU’s frontend. Meanwhile, the Lancers will rely on McMarshall Hartzenberg to lead the team to their first WAC title.


Another group trying to win their first WAC team title is UT Rio Grande Valley who placed 2nd last year at this conference meet. They are led by individual favorite Abraham Chirchir.


The key for this team will be how their 3-4-5 perform relative to their WAC rivals. So far this season, their top two have preformed well, but they have lacked the necessary depth to signify that the Vaqueros could win the team title.


One thing to note is that Omer Almog has been pretty off this season after he placed 2nd last year in this race. If he can replicate that performance, UT Rio Grande will have a strong chance to win this meet. It will be interesting to see if their lack of depth gets exposed or if that pack can minimize any gaps in a smaller field.


Individuals

On the individual side, Kevin Lynch is arriving as the favorite to win this meet once again. Winner of the WAC outdoor 5k and placing 3rd in the 10k, Lynch has proven that he competes at a high level and this cross country season has been no different.


A win won’t come easy though as Abraham Chirchir is looking to claim the individual title and score the least amount of points for his team. After not running outdoors despite a terrific indoor campaign, Chirchir has proven this season that he is a force to be reckoned with.


Last but not least, watch out for McMarshall Hartzenberg. He has quietly put together a respectable XC season so far and will be looking to be that major low-stick for CBU.


Men’s Predictions

Team

1. Utah Valley

2. California Baptist

3. UT Rio Grande Valley

4. NM State

5. Seattle U

6. Grand Canyon

7. Kansas City

8. Chicago State


Individuals

1. Abraham Chirchir (UT Rio Grande)

2. Kevin Lynch (Utah Valley)

3. McMarshall Hartzenberg (California Baptist)

4. Geofrey Kemboi (Utah Valley)

5. Hawk Call (Utah Valley)

6. Timothy Legemet (California Baptist)

7. Britain Reynolds (Utah Valley)

8. Jacob Lewis (Grand Canyon)

9. Michael Kirwa (New Mexico St.)

10. Max Selbach (Kansas City)


Women’s Preview


Teams

Returning their entire top five (and then some) from a 2018 WAC title, California Baptist (TSR #19) enters this meet as the heavy favorite to win back-to-back titles.


This team is deep, and when I say deep, I mean absolutely loaded. Their #1 runner seems to rotate in almost every new meet and that says a lot considering they return the individual champion from last year's conference championship.


Going into this weekend, the California Baptist women won the Arturo Barrios Invite, beating a respectable Florida squad. What was impressive about this victory was the fact that CBU put all seven of their runners across the line before Florida’s #3 scorer.


However, prior to that, the Lancers won the Roy Griak Invite by putting their entire top five in the top 20 of the race, beating out Columbia and Minnesota in the process.


Unfortunately, this team is not yet eligible for NCAA postseason competition since they are still going through the transition process of going from Division Two to Division One. That should give them even more incentive to end their season on a high note.


Trying to pull the upset in Kansas City is Utah Valley who will be led by senior Savannah Neuberger. This team is hungry for the championship crown after placing 2nd last year.


The Wolverines return their top two and four of their top five from last year. However, the biggest test for this experienced team will be trying to run with CBU up front. The Lancers are poised to place all five of their scorers in the top 10 of this race, so it will be interesting to see how Utah Valley approaches this race from a strategic standpoint.


One notable point to be made is that Hannah Branch has yet to race this fall after winning the 5k and 10k at the WAC Championships in the spring.


Another team that is looking for a strong showing on Saturday is Grand Canyon. Throughout this cross country season, they have shown that they have a formidable top three who can mix it up with the best in the WAC. Their vulnerabilities, however, begin at their final two scorer positions and the Lopes have yet to show that they can close that gap.


Two weeks ago, Grand Canyon and Utah Valley faced off in an early preview of the WAC Championships at the Santa Clara Bronco Invite where GCU put three runners across the line before Utah Valley’s #2 runner. However, the race quickly swung in Utah Valley's favor as they eventually put six runners in before GCU’s #4 scorer.


In a smaller race, GCU’s lack of depth shouldn’t be exposed as much, but it will still have an effect on this race as a whole.


Individuals

Individually, there should be a battle between CBU’s own top four to see who can take the individual title. Returning champ Anett Somogyi will enter the meet as the opening line favorite, but after a shaky race at the Arturo Barrios Invite where she was CBU’s #5 runner, anything can happen. Look for Emilie Renaud to help dictate the race up front and battle down the finish for the individual title.


As mentioned earlier, Hannah Branch (WAC 5k and 10k champ) would be in consideration for the individual title if she posted a result this fall, but we have unfortunately not yet seen one from her.


Overall, look for a pack of white jerseys up front.


Women’s Predictions

Teams

1. CBU

2. Utah Valley

3. Grand Canyon

4. NM State

5. Kansas City

6. UT Rio Grande Valley

7. Seattle U

8. CSU Bakersfield

9. Chicago State


Individuals

1. Anett Somogyi (CBU)

2. Emilie Renaud (CBU)

3. Fruzsina Ladanyi (CBU)

4. Dorcas Koech (UT Rio Grande Valley)

5. Anna Mate (CBU)

6. Elizabeth Balsan (Grand Canyon)

7. Savannah Neuberger (Utah Valley)

8. Andrea Kolbeinsdottir (CBU)

9. Paige Hildebradt (Grand Canyon)

10. Jessica Dominguez (New Mexico St.)