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November 20, 2017

What we learned from the 2017 NCAA Cross Country National Championships

The 2017 NCAA Cross Country National Championships took place in Louisville, Kentucky on Saturday morning and featured two great races. The New Mexico women won their second national title in three years led by individual champion Ednah Kurgat and three other women in the top 15. Northern Arizona capped a perfect season to defend its title and win by 53 points over Portland, BYU and Stanford. The Lumberjacks put their top five in the top 40.

NAU put on a show

Tyler Day and Matt Baxter running 1–2 with about a kilometer remaining in the race was not what we expected. The hype going into the meet thought we’d see Justyn Knight and Grant Fisher side-by-side before the finish line. Day and Baxter going 2–3 was big in making this the biggest win since Oklahoma State’s 72-point showing in 2012.

Lomong ran out of his mind. We had him projected for a 94th place finish based off his previous cross country results this season and he took 8th. Oops. Lomong was not part of the top seven from last year’s championship team but there were little signs that he would come through for them in 2017. He was 11th at the Louisville Classic and then 43rd at Wisconsin. We should’ve taken note.

Here’s what Mike Smith said about Lomong after the race (via NCAA.com)

“You have some really good runners that will go through the NCAA system and never touch eighth. I’m really happy for him. He’s a guy who came into my office last summer looking for all the training that he could possibly take and I told him I could give him all this milage, without a guarantee it was going to work. He stayed in Flagstaff all summer and ran up in the peaks everyday. I know how far he’s come so when I see him perform like that today, I’m just so happy for him.”

Portland Shut Up The Haters

If you were on Twitter on Saturday shortly after the race wrapped up, Portland alums were having a field day.

The Pilots rested some of their stars for the West Coast Conference Championship and caught some flak from LetsRun. (BYU ended up winning that conference championship with a 1–2–3–4–5 perfect score.) Portland ran a full squad at the regional championship and then stunned many with their second place finish at nationals. Emmanuel Roudolff-Levisse, Jeff Thies and Nick Hauger pulled off All-American showings in 11th, 14th and 26th. Matt Welch came through for them in his season debut with a 46th place finish. Rob Connor knew his team and proved to be a wizard. The first secret weapon that he showed off was Roudolff-Levisse and then he had Welch come through at the perfect time. The PODUM boys are back.

PS: We want Rob Conner on the CITIUS MAG Podcast.

BYU underwhelmed

We might get some thoughts from Isaac on the championship in general in the coming days but it wouldn’t be a stretch to say that BYU finishing third was maybe not what we all expected. A podium finish is never something to be upset about. However, given our projections and the way that the BYU men ran all season, we kind of expected it to be a much closer race. Matt Baxter and Tyler Day dropping the hammer after 4K really put the sting on the clash of titans that we al expected. Rory Linkletter, who was believed by many to be a potential contender for the individual crown, finished in 39th so it was Casey Clinger who would be their top guy in 24th place. The good news is that Clinger is the only major piece that they lose for next year and he’ll be back in 2020. This team will rebound and their window for a championship remains open.

New Mexico’s Women Got It Done

As Isaac wrote in his scouting report before the meet, New Mexico was the most complete team from top to bottom. They had the strongest individual with Ednah Kurgat pulling off the undefeated season. She was backed by the best freshman in Weini Kelati, who finished seventh overall. Their key transfer, Charlotte Prouse (joined the team from Washington), placed 13th. One of the key pieces of their 2015 championship, Alive Wright, finished 14th. There was some pressure on Alondre Negron Texidor to close out the victory and some of the women upfront gave her enough of a cushion to coast in at 85th place and seal the victory by 15 points.

Like their head coach told the media after the race, this is a much different team from the one that scored 49 points at the championship in 2015. This one had much stiffer competition and there were major questions about that fifth piece.

San Francisco Ran Tough

When Isaac and I talked over the phone about two weeks ago, he thought the Dons could be a major stunner if they won the NCAA championships. They took second with 105 points and our good friend, Dan Lilot, tweeted that it is the lowest runner-up score since 1997 and the lowest since the field expanded to 31 teams in 1998. Outdoor 10,000 meter champion Charlotte Taylor finished third overall with Weronika Pyzik finishing just six seconds behind her in fifth. Taylor, Marie Bouchard and Elizabeth Bird are seniors but they shouldn’t be too difficult to replace with Tatjana Schulte (who maybe didn’t have her best day at NCAAs) and Lea Meyer waiting in the wings.

Wood Report Assessment

We’ll regroup with Isaac in the coming days. Watching Peter Lomong break the Wood Report rankings was comical but also had Nate Silver-election night feels. I think Isaac was able to predict 21 of the 40 men’s All-Americans. He got some kudos on Twitter from Jamie Morrisey of Michigan on predicting that she would finish 22nd and she finished…22nd. There were some highlights and definitely some misses. No one is perfect but we appreciate everyone who has followed the rankings and projections along throughout the season. Isaac takes a lot of time and effort to put them together.

Vlogs to Watch

A cool look at the 2017 NCAA cross country women’s champions from Charlotte Prouse.

Emma Abrahamson ahead of her final cross country race

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