The 2016 women’s NCAA cross country championship was an incredibly close competition between the top three runners with Missouri’s Karissa Schweizer pulling away late for the victory. While Schweizer is set to return for this upcoming season, she will be accompanied by six other runners who finished 2016 in the top ten including Notre Dame’s Anna Rohrer and Oregon’s rising sophomore Katie Rainsberger. With the added return of Boise’s Allie Ostrander to the field as well, the race is wide open unlike the past few years where there were targeted favorites in Molly Seidel, Kate Avery and Abbey D’Agostino.
At the scorching June USATF Championships in Sacramento, Schweizer narrowly missed making the USA World’s team, with a fourth place finish in the 5,000m in 15:18.69. Following a great outdoor season, where she also won the NCAA championship 5,000m in 15:38.93, is it possible one of the returning runners from last years top 10 upsets Schweizer?
Although coming off a disappointing finish to her outdoor season, Anna Rohrer did run a 31:58.99 in her 10,000m debut at the Stanford Invitational. With more experience in longer races, can she improve on her third place finish from last years cross country championship and capture the crown?
Not to be outdone, Oregon’s Rainsberger finished a stellar freshman year with a fourth place finish in the NCAA 1,500m championship race by running 4:14.20 and then followed that up with a 4:12.64 at USAs. As she still gets accustomed to collegiate running in her sophomore year, can she close the ten second gap that separated her from Schweizer in Terre Haute?
After these expected top finishers, there are a number of women closely grouped together that are looking to steal the championship including Kansas’ Sharon Lokedi, Brenna Peloquin of Boise State and New Hampshire’s steeplechaser Elinor Purrier. Any of these women have a legitimate chance at winning the cross country crown, but none but none strikes as much fear as a healthy Allie Ostrander.
After returning from injury this past outdoor season, Ostrander made her steeple chase debut running 9:55.61 at the Stanford Invitational and following it up with a 9:41.31 first place finish at NCAAs. Outside of these performances, Ostrander has not had to many races in the past season. However, when you look at how dominate she was previously in her freshman year: placing second at the 2015 NCAA cross country championship in 19:33.6 and winning the Wisconsin Invite in 19:19.5, then it is not a stretch of the imagination to see her dominate this fall. Following the previous outdoor season, it looks like Ostrander is healthy, but the unpredictability and previous cross country experience, make her a force to be feared and one that will change the landscape of the upcoming season.