Updated: Sep 26, 2018
By: Sam Ivanecky
25. Providence Friars
On paper, the Friars look like they could be a very strong team this season, but it remains to be seen if that will translate to the course. Earlier this summer, Coach Treacy was able to bring in Penn State transfer Tessa Barrett who was 38th at Nationals in 2015, as well as William & Mary standout Regan Rome. In 2015, Rome finished 25th at Nationals and was 69th the following season. Providence also returns Abby Wheeler and Maria Coffin from last year's 16th place team. Wheeler was only 101st at the national meet last fall, but won the Battle in Beantown over a quality field this past weekend. She will likely be a key low-stick for this team in 2018.
Providence’s success is riding on a lot of unknowns right now as Barrett did not race XC last fall and Rome has no results from the fall of ‘17 through the spring of ’18. She did race at Beantown, but finished 36th.
The Providence women went into last weekend's Boston race ranked 11th in the most recent coaches poll. However, they ended up finishing 11th overall for the meet. Wheeler had a phenomenal finish to take the win, while both Coffin and Rome finished in the top 40.
However, the final two Providence scorers were 95th and 116th. They didn’t run Tessa Barrett or Abby D’Sylvia, an Australian freshman with a 4:28 1500 personal best, so it remains to be seen what their full squad can do. We should have a better idea of their true talent when they compete this Friday at the Nuttycombe Invitational.
24. Georgetown Hoyas
The Hoyas lost three of their top five, but look ready to fill these spots right away. Redshirt sophomore Paige Hofstad was 15th in the 2016 Mid-Atlantic Regional Championships and ran a 5000 meter PR of 16:04 in February. After redshirting last fall, Hofstad opened this season with a 3rd place finish at the Spiked Shoe meet.
Two new faces will help the Hoyas reload behind Hofstad, one of whom is Carleton College transfer Meg Mathison. A true sophomore, Mathison was 6th at D3 NCAA's last fall and owns personal bests of 4:55 in the mile and 21:00 in the 6k (XC). She hasn’t raced yet this season, but she will likely debut this weekend at Nuttycombe.
Katherine Lee is the other new Hoya who should be running near the front. Lee finished 4th at Foot Locker XC Nationals in 2017, and owns PR's of 4:46 (mile) and 9:26 (3k). She too was absent from Georgetown's lineup at Spiked Shoe, but expect her to be in the Hoyas top three at Wisconsin this weekend.
Georgetown also brought in a strong recruiting class which includes names such as Alyssa Aldridge (10:27 3200), Katherine Modrall (8th at Spiked Shoe), and Katie Dammer (4:47 1600).
The Hoyas will face tough competition at the Mid-Atlantic regional from Villanova and Penn State, but if they’re able to pick up Kolas points during the season, they should have a strong case for making Nationals in November.
23. Utah State Aggies
After their first-ever team appearance at NCAA's last fall, Utah State is looking to be a contender in an ever-challenging Mountain Region once again. The Aggies will be led by returning All-American Alyssa Snyder who finished 25th at NCAA's last year. In the spring spring, Snyder finished 4th in the 10,000 meters at the Outdoor National Championships in a time of 32:58. Realistically, Snyder should be in the top 15 to 20 at NCAA's this fall which would be a huge low-card for Utah State.
In addition to Synder, USU also returns Kashley Carter, Cierra Simmons, and Presli Hutchison, their 3–4–5 from last fall. Grace Gibbons, a transfer from Iowa State with a 10:23 steeplechase PR, could have a key scoring role on this team over the next few months.
Simmons had an impressive spring in the steeple, finishing 8th at NCAA's with a PR of 9:49. She should certainly finish higher than her 112th place finish from Nationals last fall. We would even argue that she breaks into the top 50 or 60 later this fall. If Simmons is able to translate her track fitness to cross country, the Aggies will have a much stronger 1–2 than last season which could be huge when racing in the loaded Mountain region.
So far this season, Utah State appears to have only raced once at the BYU Autumn Classic (although they held out most of their top squad). Only Gibbons and Hutchinson ran, although they both appeared to struggle a bit. The Aggies will have their first real showing this weekend at the Paul Short Run where we should see their full lineup.
22. Ole Miss Rebels
Originally, this looked like a team that wouldn’t be making a return to NCAA's in 2018 after graduating their 2–3–4 runners from last fall. However, they made a huge statement this past weekend after winning the Battle in Beantown, beating three USATFCCCA ranked teams (#11 Providence, #22 Syracuse, #24 Minnesota) in the process.
What’s even more remarkable is that they only ran one runner from last fall's NCAA lineup (and she ended up as their sixth scorer at Beantown). Additionally, Coach Vanhoy appears to have held out Clio Ozanne-Jaques and Anna Braswell, their first and fifth runners from last year's national meet. There’s reason to believe that Ole Miss should only get better as the season goes on given how young their current squad is. Six of the top seven at Beantown were underclassmen.
Lisa Vogelgesang could be a key runner for Ole Miss when championship season rolls around. Vogelgesang is a redshirt freshman from Germany who was a three-time German XC champion and 7th in the European U20 steeplechase in 2017. After redshirting last fall, she was the top Rebel at Beantown, finishing 10th overall.
Sophomore Madeline King also appears to have made a big jump from last fall as she finished right with Vogelgesang in Beantown. She ran a PR of 16:51 in the 5k last spring and looks ready to contribute over the next two months.
While it’s certainly early, Ole Miss appears to have reloaded and will be gunning for another birth to Nationals. The team appears to be deeper than last fall, and should be in contention with Georgia and Florida State to qualify out of the South region.
21. Indiana Hoosiers
The senior-laden Hoosiers, led by Katherine Receveur, are ready to improve on their 24th place finish from last fall. Receveur was 20th at 2017 National Championships and won the Iona Meet of Champions earlier this month. She has the talent to be a top 10 finisher at Nationals if she remains healthy.
Senior Margaret Allen was only 137th last fall, but had a breakout track season, finishing 13th at NCAA's in the 10k. She was 3rd behind Receveur at Iona and looks poised to make a step up in her fitness this year. Lexa Barrott and Haley Harris finished 9th and 10th at the Iona Meet of Champions and were less than 15 seconds behind Allen.
The biggest surprise from that meet may have been freshman Sarah Schmidt who finished 7th overall. The Indiana recruit was 8th at both the Foot Locker National Championships and Nike Cross National Championships in 2017.
There is no doubt that this team is talented, but we're still waiting to see what else they can do. The Hoosiers won the Iona Meet of Champions after defeating Columbia on a tie-breaker, but faced limited competition after that.
This weekend, the Hoosiers women will be at Nuttycombe where we'll get a better idea of how they stack up nationally. They’ll face strong competition at the Great Lakes Regional Championships, but should rack up enough KOLAS points to return to NCAA's in November.
20. California Golden Bears
The Golden Bears return their entire top seven from last year and will be led by All-Americans Bethan Knights (23rd) and Brie Oakley (38th). Knights has been an All-American in track as well and should be top 20 at NCAA's this fall. She has plenty of experience, having been an All-American in XC as a freshman. She is expected to provide strong leadership to a younger Cal team.
Oakley was a standout in high school and carried that success into college as a true freshman. She finished 38th at the Cross Country National Championships and followed that up with times of 4:44 (mile) and 16:02 (5k) on the track. She should be an All-American once again this fall.
The Golden Bears brought in TCU transfer Brenley Goertzen (15:51 5k) who was 108th at the national meet in 2016. They also added California high school star McKenna Brown who ran 10:15 for 3200 meters and was runner-up at the California State XC Meet.
Keep in mind that Cal returns all seven runners AND adds these two women, giving their roster some unreal depth. The team has only run once so far this season (the San Francisco Invitational) where they finished 3rd behind Stanford and Nevada. Most of their top runners did not compete (Knights, Oakley, Goertzen, Brown), but a young group posted strong results. They will provide great backup this season in case one of their top runners has a bad day.
The Golden Bears will race this weekend at the Joe Piane Invitational where we should get to see just how good they are with a full squad.
19. Notre Dame Fighting Irish
Last fall, Notre Dame finished 6th in the Great Lakes, being the first team in their region to not qualify for Nationals. However, we expect them to be in that qualifying group this year, largely due to the return of junior superstar Anna Rohrer. At the national meet, she was 6th as a freshman and 3rd as a sophomore before redshirting last fall. In her return to competition, she reestablished herself as an All-American, placing 6th in the 10k at Nationals. Rohrer will likely debut at the Joe Piane Invite this weekend.
The Irish also return six of their top seven from 2017 (losing their fifth) and recruited Jacqueline Gaughan who was 5th at Foot Locker XC Nationals last fall. Senior Annie Heffernan had somewhat of a down year in 2017, but was 41st at Nationals in 2016. She's a big name to watch.
Fellow senior Rachel DaDamio showed improvement this past spring, qualifying for the Outdoor National Championships in the 5000 meters for the first time in her collegiate career. She went on to run a new PR of 16:07. There is a lot of great upside potential for her this year.
Not only should Notre Dame be a lock to make NCAA's this fall, but they have a very real chance of finishing in the top 10 if everything comes together by November.
18. Michigan State Spartans
Losing only one of their top five from last fall, the Spartans will be led by sophomore Maggie Farrell who looks to improve on her 64th place finish. Although she didn’t race much on the track, a 2nd place finish at the Spartan Invitational (behind teammate Erin McDonald) indicates that Farrell is ready to pick up where she left off.
McDonald was fourth last spring in the Big 10 5k and won the Spartan Invitational to start this season. She was 111th at NCAA's last year, but should be in the top 100 based on how she’s trending. The Spartans also return the juniors Jeralyn Poe (99th NCAA XC ’17) and Lynsie Gram (116th NCAA XC ’17), a duo who could both crack the top 100 in 2018.
One name to keep an eye on is Holly Burrough. She was 76th at NCAA's in 2016, but has almost no results since then. If she is able to replicate that fitness in 2018, the Spartans should have all five women in the top 100 at NCAA's which should be enough to improve upon their 15th place finish from last fall.
Most of their top runners sat out the Spartan Invitational, but they’ll likely bring everyone for the Nuttycombe Invitational this weekend.