The weather was nasty everywhere this weekend. That’s perfect for cross country. But is anyone really supposed to be this close to Kennedy Kithuka? (Photo courtesy Flotrack Facebook page.)
The second weekend of college cross country races with consequences was a good one, with top meets spread out across five states. Some teams may have already given themselves enough to qualify to November’s NCAA Championships while others missed golden opportunities.
The weekend began on Friday in South Bend, Indiana, with the 58th annual Notre Dame Invitational.
The women’s Blue Division race, the most competitive of the day’s events, was billed as a showdown between #2 Florida State and #4 Duke. That never materialized as the Blue Devils rested freshmen Wesley Frazier and Hannah and Haley Meier, their 2nd through 4th runners this season, and finished tenth. Duke senior Juliet Bottorff continued her strong fall and won the individual title by a large margin.
Knowing that Duke held off, Florida State would have appeared to be unchallenged for the win. It didn’t work out that way. The Seminoles did win but by a scant five points over #15 New Mexico in the closest Notre Dame women’s competition since 2005. FSU’s top two runners, Colleen Quigley and Hannah Walker, ran good races to finish 2nd and 4th. But they were split by New Mexico’s Sammy Silva, a junior transfer from Harvard, and the Lobos put two more in front of the Seminoles’ third. Only a late charge by FSU’s fourth and fifth runners sealed the win for them. Bottom line: Florida State didn’t look like a #2 team, and New Mexico looked a lot better than #15.
Behind them, #24 San Francisco took third followed by #28 BYU, #30 Princeton, and #19 Notre Dame. This was a particularly disappointing result for the host Irish as they missed a major opportunity to pick up at-large qualifying points.
The men’s Blue race didn’t feature teams ranked as highly but the result was far more interesting. #30 Columbia beat seven higher-ranked teams to take what coach Willy Wood called “probably the greatest win in the history of our program”. #7 Tulsa and #9 Princeton took second and third, and each had top runners better than those of the Lions, but no other team match the depth and team running displayed by Columbia. Unranked Minnesota took fourth, one place ahead of Colorado State, who pulled a runner-up shocker at last week’s Roy Griak Invitational. New Mexico was sixth and Notre Dame was seventh.
Hot, Hot, Hot
The nation’s weather was strange this weekend. The Gulf area narrowly missed a hurricane while Wyoming and South Dakota had a blizzard and the plains states saw a tornado outbreak. In the east, Pennsylvania had conditions so hot and humid that eighteen runners were hospitalized at Lehigh’s Paul Short Run and the late-afternoon races were canceled. Results from this meet should be taken with a grain of salt since there were an unusually high number of DNFs; more than 150 runners received medical attention.
The women’s Gold race (top division) saw #6 Georgetown come through with the victory as expected. An unexpected result was the runner-up finish by an unranked Dartmouth squad, led by individual champion Abbey D’Agostino. #12 Villanova was third, #10 Cornell was fourth.
The men’s champions were #15 Indiana. #11 Iona either ran a B-team or lost several runners to the heat or both, as they finished a well-beaten 39th out of the 47 teams. #20 Georgetown finished third.
Canadians Running Among Us
This weekend saw several top Canadian teams come south of the border to compete in major invitationals. The Guelph Gryphons, who have swept the men’s and women’s CIS titles seven times in a row, came down to the Greater Louisville Classic and put on a show–but hardly anyone even knew about it.
Like many college invitationals, the Greater Louisville Classic has several divisions. The Gold races matched up D-I teams against several top D-II and D-III teams in addition to Guelph and CIS women’s #2 Western Ontario. But in a somewhat unusual situation, the D-I teams were scored separately from the others. Louisville claimed victory among the D-I teams, but the Lexington Herald-Leader reported overall men’s scores as follows:
Greater Louisville Classic Men’s Gold Race
All divisions scored
1. CIS #1 Guelph 60
2. Louisville 100
3. D-II #7 Southern Indiana 129
4. Tennessee 152
5. D-III #4 Washington (MO) 227
6. East Tennessee State 304
7. D-II #8 Edinboro 311
8. Georgia Tech 311 (tie broken by #6 runner)
9. NAIA #1 St. Francis (IL) 321
10. Florida A&M 333
The Gryphons put three runners in the top ten and five in the top thirty. The competition was a bit weak–none of the D-I teams earned a single vote in the latest poll–but it’s still an impressive display of running by a team that gets little notice in this country outside of the border states.
As good as Guelph’s men’s team ran, the women ran better. The Gryphons put five runners in the top twenty, with a 1-5 gap of just 28 seconds. Gen Lalonde and Madeline Yungblut were just seventeen seconds behind Cally Macumber, Kentucky’s All-American who was sixth at last year’s NCAAs. Third-place Texas A&M was ranked #30 in the most recent Wood Running Report and Guelph was on another plane of existence from the Aggies. There is no doubt in my mind that this team is the best non D-I team in North America and could qualify to the D-I NCAAs–the only question is what they would do when they got there.
Again, your unofficial overall team scores…
1. CIS #1 Guelph 49
2. Kentucky 130
3. Texas A&M 131
4. Eastern Kentucky 176
5. Louisville 197
6. Miami (OH) 229
7. Tennessee 233
8. CIS #2 Western Ontario 280
9. Arkansas State 312
10. St. Louis 326
Over at Notre Dame, the CIS men’s #3 Windsor Lancers finished a respectable third in the Gold Division race behind D-II #3 Grand Valley State and D-III #1 North Central and ahead of fifteen D-I teams.
Arkansas hosted the Chile Pepper Invitational and, as the heavy favorites on both the men’s and women’s side, won with relative ease. #27 Villanova took second in the men’s race while running what appeared to be their A-team. Mud and lots of standing water along with the shallow field of competition makes it hard to read a lot into the results, but it should be noted that the Razorbacks’ Kemoy Campbell gave Texas A&M’s Kennedy Kithuka the second-closest race in his NCAA cross country career. The Hogs are very tough up front and their only weakness is depth.
The Oregon Ducks hosted the Bill Dellinger Invitational and both the men’s and women’s teams took on tough regional rivals. The #4-ranked men’s team dispatched #8 Portland while #7 Washington beat the Ducks’ #3-ranked women’s team. Neither Duck squad ran their best seven (and neither did Portland’s men), so take the results with a grain of salt. The most interesting part of the meet was the women’s individual race, which was won by high school junior Alexa Efraimson over some pretty good collegians.
Individual Power Rankings
OK, now you know what the top teams did. You want to know who the best runners are? Look no further.
1. Kennedy Kithuka, Texas Tech. Undefeated in his NCAA cross country career, he won again at the Chile Pepper Festival, but this time he had company.
2. Lawi Lalang, Arizona. He has yet to race in the 2013 cross country season.
3. Anthony Rotich, UTEP. Two-for-two on the year, won Notre Dame on Friday by more than three seconds.
4. Paul Chelimo, UNC-Greensboro. Also has yet to race in the 2013 cross country season.
5. Eric Jenkins, Oregon. Ditto.
6. Kemoy Campbell, Arkansas. He was closer to Kithuka at the Chile Pepper Festival than anyone was at last fall’s NCAA Championships. That earns some respect.
7. Soufiane Bouchikhi, Eastern Kentucky. I overlooked him earlier this year, a mistake I will not make again. He won both of his races this year and by an average of 20 seconds.
8. Tylor Thatcher, BYU. Idle this week, also two-for-two on the year.
9. Kirubel Erassa, Oklahoma State. Idle this week.
10. Shadrack Kipchirchir, Oklahoma State. Idle this week.
Also watch: Kevin Batt, Adams State; Luke Caldwell, New Mexico; Tom Farrell, Oklahoma State; Stanley Kebenei, Arkansas; Matt McClintock, Purdue; Chris O’Hare, Tulsa; Brian Shrader, Northern Arizona; Abbabiya Simbassa, Oklahoma; John Simons, Minnesota; Tabor Stevens, Adams State; Futsum Zienasellassie, Northern Arizona
1. Abbey D’Agostino, Dartmouth. She opened her season with a 26-second win.
2. Juliet Bottorff, Duke. An impressive win at Notre Dame bolsters her #2 position.
3. Cally Macumber, Kentucky. (read her 5Qw here) Lost at Louisville but won a tough race just a week earlier.
4. Laura Hollander, Cal Poly. Idle this weekend.
5. Emily Sisson, Providence. Idle; two-for-two this season.
6. Ann Eason, Eastern Kentucky. A big, big win over Macumber (see below) at Louisville.
7. Colleen Quigley, Florida State. Second at Notre Dame.
8. Elaina Balouris, William & Mary. Idle; two-for-two this season.
9. Samantha Silva, New Mexico. Nearly led the Lobos to what would have been a huge upset over Florida State at Notre Dame.
10. Shelby Houlihan, Arizona State. Idle.
Also watch: Kate Avery, Iona; Sarah Collins, Providence; Aisling Cuffe, Stanford; Samantha Ginther, Indiana; Elvin Kibet, Arizona; Laura Nagel, Providence; Waverly Neer, Columbia; Crystal Nelson, Iowa State; Barbara Strehler, Virginia; Jessica Tonn, Stanford; Hannah Walker, Florida State; Liv Westphal, Boston College
In the style of professional hockey, here are your three stars of the weekend…
The First Star: Kennedy Kithuka, Texas Tech
You gotta go with the guy who now has eleven wins in eleven NCAA cross country races.
The Second Star: Anthony Rotich, UTEP
Rotich won his second race in as many weeks at the Notre Dame Invitational over some tough competition.
The Third Star: Jack Boyle, Columbia
The Columbia Lions’ win at Notre Dame was hailed by coach Willy Wood as the greatest in team history, and he singled out Boyle as the hero. In just his second college race, he was the team’s fifth man. His 50th-place finish was eleven places ahead of runner-up Tulsa’s fifth man, and Columbia beat Tulsa by those eleven points.
The First Star: Ann Eason, Eastern Kentucky
The junior from Lexington has made huge progress over the last twelve months. A year ago she finished fiftieth at the Greater Louisville Classic and this year she won it, beating Kentucky All-American Cally Macumber (who she described as her idol). She didn’t make it to the NCAA cross country championships last fall but did make it to the outdoor NCAAs in June, where she finished ninth in the 5000 meters. She looks to have made another big step up this fall.
The Second Star: Abbey D’Agostino, Dartmouth
Horrid conditions at Lehigh’s Paul Short Run didn’t seem to affect D’Agostino, as she stomped a field that included two returning All-Americans.
The Third Star: Sammy Silva, New Mexico
The transfer from Harvard has made an immediate impact, leading the Lobos to a near-upset of #2 Florida State. She was 202nd at last year’s NCAA Championships but on Friday she beat the Seminoles’ Colleen Quigley, who was 12th at last year’s NCAAs.
Teams of the Week
The men’s award has to go to the Columbia Lions for their huge upset win at Notre Dame, the kind of win dreams are made of.
The women’s award goes to the Guelph Gryphons for their utter domination of the Greater Louisville Classic. If you think I’m going overboard, figure this: put their scoring five as close to Cally Macumber at last week’s Cowboy Jamboree as they were in this week’s race, and they’d all have beaten #18 Oklahoma State’s second runner.
Course of the Week: Rim Rock Farm
Kansas hosted the Rim Rock Classic this weekend at one of the nations best-loved and most gorgeous courses. It lies on land acquired by legendary coach Bob Timmons and has features like nowhere else: not just woodland and meadows and ponds white rail fence, but two covered bridges, a cemetary, and a cabin occupied by the course’s full-time caretaker. I profiled it last fall, check it out.