The West region is one of three regions that are currently projected to qualify more than two teams from their region. SEVEN total teams are projected to make Nationals with another (Gonzaga) that has a shot at making it in as well.
While most of the other regional previews have focused on the teams at the top of the region (because those are the ones fighting for an automatic birth to Nationals), this one will look closely at the teams on the fringe of making it to Nationals. We will talk more about the Stanfords and Portlands of the year when we preview Nationals.
As long as the top teams finish in the top five in the region, they will qualify because of the amount of Kolas points they have. The same goes for the individual race because for a lot of the guys, the focus will be on doing well nine days later at Nationals. It will be interesting to see if some teams sit some of their guys or if some programs opt to have their guys hold back a bit and run in flats.
That being said, I am making these predictions based off of everyone racing normally as we have no way of knowing who will run (or run hard). With all of these disclaimers past us, let’s get into the top teams before we look at those who need a big race this Friday.
A quick look at one of the favorites. Stanford comes into this race after a nice performance that saw them win PAC 12's. Beating a very good Washington team by 18 points was impressive as was their top three. Led by Grant Fisher’s win, Stanford’s top three filled crowded the top four of their conference. Alex Ostberg ran another great race while Alex Parsons proved he is legit with his 4th place finish. A top 15 finish from Callum Bolger was a welcomed surprise while Tai Dinger and D.J. Principe finished 23rd and 24th, respectively. I expect Stanford to take it easy and run in the pack and then turn it on the last three or four kilometers to ensure themselves a top two spot. The Cardinal look podium ready.
The Pilots looked solid at the West Coast Conference Championships. Without Emmanuel Roudolff-Levisse, Nick Hauger went out and won the race over the entire BYU contingent. It was impressive to say the least...
Behind him were Riley Osen, Caleb Webb, and Rueben Kiprono who all finished in the top 15 which is a good sign as they look forward to Nationals. With two very good low-sticks already established, Portland needs those three to run well at Nationals in order to compete for a top five spot. At regionals, I expect Roudolff-Levisse to be back and pair up with Hauger to earn a pair of top 10 finishes. Look for the back of Portland's top five to pack up and finish in the top 25 to give the Pilots the second automatic qualifying spot.
A solid performance at PAC 12's was enough to beat Colorado by 20 points. A deep team that had eight guys in the top 30 at the conference meet, Washington blends depth with firepower. A very nice 2nd place finish from Talon Hull was a great sign. Hull, along with Tibedu Proctor and Tanner Anderson, give the Huskies’ plenty of talent up front. I think this team will coast to a top four spot at regionals and since they are currently projected to earn six Kolas points, they should be a shoe-in for Nationals where they will compete for a top 10 spot.
Boise State pulled off an impressive win at the Mountain West Championships ahead of Air Force, Colorado State, and Wyoming. The win was even more impressive when you realize that their traditional top two finished as their bottom two scorers. Ahmed Muhamed and Addison DeHaven both pulled off great races coming in 4th and 6th, respectively. The emergence of these two, along with Yusuke Uchikoshi and Miler Haller rebounding to fill their usual top scoring spots, could give the Broncos a potent top five that should comfortably stay in the top four at regionals. Like Washington, Boise State should earn plenty of Kolas points and cruise into Nationals.
Should Make Nationals
Oregon is another team who performed well at PAC 12's. They finished 5th, but were right on Colorado’s heels and were pretty far ahead of Washington State and UCLA. James West (the team’s number one all year) had an off race, but Cooper Teare, Jackson Mestler, and Charlie Hunter stepped up. Oregon needs a good performance at regionals because they do not have enough points to earn an at-large bid from the projected automatic qualifiers. Instead, they need to make sure that they are ahead of Washington State and UCLA who both could have enough points to earn an at-large bid and (potentially) push Oregon in. Out of these top five teams, Oregon needs a good performance the most, and I expect them to show up well against the pressure.
Washington State sits with five Kolas points according to the projections which is barely enough to make Nationals. However, as I mentioned in my South region preview, the 2nd place finisher in the South could move around some Kolas points. Washington State is projected five Kolas points because Tennessee is projected to finish 2nd in the region. If they don’t (and this is a real possibility), then any of the other teams in contention for the second spot will not give the Cougars a Kolas point which would drop their point total to four.
This would put them in a precarious situation as there are a few other teams that could have four or more points that could push Washington State out. Not all hope is lost, even if this scenario occurs. If Washington State can again beat UCLA, then the Bruins could push in Washington State as they would still have five Kolas points (although many of the West region teams have a favorable order in the selection process compared to other regions).
This does, however, put more pressure on the Cougars to come in 6th in the region to ensure themselves a good chance of making Nationals. After their performance at PAC 12's, I like their chances.
Chandler Teigan again provided the Cougars with a low-stick by coming 7th. Behind him Washington State had four runners within 26 seconds of each other. Nathan Wadhwani, Amir Ado, Colten Johnsen, and Justin Janke all ran solid races and finished between 21st and 36th. With Kyler Little right behind in 41st, Washington State has a deep pack who should help them stick together and run their race at regionals.
UCLA had a tough race at PAC 12's, losing to Washington State by 22 points. However, they still have time to bounce back and run well before Nationals. As long as Garrett Reynolds and company finish 6th or 7th at regionals, they should be guaranteed a spot a Nationals. Looking at the race, I expect Garrett Reynolds and Cole Smith to bounce back to give Colin Burke some help up front. The worry I have with UCLA is their four and five who were very far back at PAC 12's.
George Gleason, who has been a solid contributor this year, DNF’d two weeks ago, so I don’t know what his health is like. However, if he is healthy, then he will help significantly. Chris Morzenti, who didn’t run at the conference meet, is another runner who could really help fill out the top five. Overall, I think UCLA is much better than what they showed at PAC 12's and will prove that with no worse than a 7th place finish. With the amount of Kolas points they have / will have, and the fact that they are unaffected by the South region results, UCLA should be running again in nine days.
Gonzaga, like Furman, showed their National-level credentials at Pre-Nats. James Mwaura and Kyle Thompson both ran well in the Cardinal race to give the ‘Zags two top 50 runners. Peter Hogan, Bennot Gagnon, and Yacine Guermali filled out the rest of the top five at Pre-Nats. Scott Kopczynski and Kellen Manley both ran well at their conference meet and are two other runners who will provide some insurance for the top five.
While Gonzaga has looked good lately, it is tough to imagine them sneaking by UCLA and Washington State. However, running is crazy and Gonzaga certainly has the talent to compete especially if UCLA performs like they did at PAC 12's.
Where does Gonzaga’s one through three match up with Washington State and UCLA’s two and three? Gonzaga doesn’t have a low stick like Washington State, but if they can win the battle of the two's and three's against UCLA and Washington State, then they have a good shot. If Gonzaga does pull the upset, then they have a real shot at making Nationals (as outlined here).
1. Stanford Cardinal
2. Portland Pilots
3. Washington Huskies
4. Boise State Broncos
5. Oregon Ducks
6. Washington State Cougars
7. UCLA Bruins
8. Gonzaga Bulldogs
9. San Francisco Dons
10. Cal Poly Mustangs
11. California Golden Bears
12. Santa Clara Broncos
13. Loyola Marymount Lions
14. Arizona State Sun Devils
15. Pepperdine Waves
Stanford and Portland should cruise to the top two spots behind their talented low-sticks. Washington and Boise State’s depth will put them in a position to use their Kolas points to qualify for Nationals. I believe Oregon has enough to hold off charges from Washington State and UCLA to get pushed into Nationals. After Washington State’s solid performance at PAC 12's, I think they will continue to ride the momentum with Teigen having another great race. UCLA will bounce back after a tough conference with the re-addition of key contributors. Gonzaga will make it close, but in the end, I don’t think they have enough to defeat UCLA.
The individual race will be competitive, but Grant Fisher is on a different level than everyone else in the field. Behind him, Nick Hauger will prove his class again with a runner-up finish holding off Fisher’s teammates Ostberg and Parsons. One person we haven’t talked about yet is Chris Olley from San Francisco. At Nuttycombe, he stopped to tie his shoes in the middle of the race and still finished 38th. He then finished 3rd in the White race at Pre-Nats and 6th at the West Coast Conference Championships. He could surprise some people at regions.
The rest of the pack should be filled with the usual suspects from the teams outlined above.
1. Grant Fisher (Stanford)
2. Nick Hauger (Portland)
3. Alex Ostberg (Stanford)
4. Chris Olley (San Francisco)
5. Alex Parsons (Stanford)
6. Emmanuel Roudolff-Levisse (Portland)
7. Talon Hull (Washington)
8. Cooper Teare (Oregon)
9. Riley Osen (Portland)
10. Tibedu Proctor (Washington)
11. Chandler Teigen (Washington State)
12. James West (Oregon)
13. Tanner Anderson (Washington)
14. Colin Burke (UCLA)
15. Callum Bolger (Stanford)
16. Andy Snyder (Washington)
17. Yusuke Uchikoshi (Boise State)
18. Ahmed Muhamed (Boise State)
19. Garrett Reynolds (UCLA)
20. Miler Haller (Boise State)