Biggest Winners And Underperformers From The Nuttycombe Invitational and Pre-Nats

By Chris Chavez

October 17, 2023

The biggest NCAA regular season weekend took place in Madison and Charlottesville this weekend with the Nuttycombe Invitational hosted by the University of Wisconsin and the 2023 Pre Nationals hosted by the University of Virginia.

We discussed the biggest winners and underperformers from the weekend with cross country guru Isaac Wood. The following has been transcribed from the latest episode of The CITIUS MAG Podcast and edited lightly for clarity.

Biggest Winners of the Weekend

NAU Women's Cross CountryNAU Women's Cross Country

Andrew LeMay / @lemay.photo

Northern Arizona University’s Men And Women

Isaac Wood: “Northern Arizona is an amalgamation of having a great coach, living at altitude and a great place to train with a bunch of motivated athletes. They’ve created this culture where they know that they’re the best and they show up to every meet believing it. The women’s team has now caught up to the men. Honestly, it’s almost too bad. No one else can do what they can do. No one else has 7000ft. No one else has maybe the best coach in America – potentially the world – in Mike Smith. No one else has the training potential that exists around Flagstaff. It was just a matter of time before it all leveled out with the women and men.

What a show of force by the NAU women! They got out and put themselves right in the mix from the front, stayed there and just dominated. They had five in the top 20. It was perfect. They ran a perfect race. Keira Moore looked really good. She was 14th at the meet in Virginia a few weeks back but 18th at Nuttycombe is a better performance than that. Adding Ruby Smee into the mix really helped after she transferred from San Francisco. She’s an experienced veteran. In the preseason, I would’ve put her in the Top 20 women in the country. When she’s you’re No. 6 runner, it’s scary for everyone else. They just have a level of depth that is really hard to beat.

On the men’s side, talk about a good rust-buster. If you’re Mike Smith, you couldn’t be happier about how Young ran. They put five in the top 29. It was interesting because when you watched the race, it looked like Drew Bosley kept slipping on the downhill. When you lose your rhythm, it’s hard to get back in it. I imagine that Bosley (who finished 8th in 23:32) will be even closer to Young in a race where he doesn’t lose momentum like five or six times.

NAU has so many pieces that it’s not necessarily going to be Young, Bosley, Aaron Las Heras, Theo Quax and Santiago Prosser as their Top 5 in that order. Brodey Hasty could come through for them again. Quax could be a bit tighter with Las Heras. Prosser is so underrated. He’s not talked about as much. He’s so solid for them as a junior. He’s run 7:59 for 3000m, 13:46 for 5000m and was 17th at the Virginia Invitational for them. I could see him moving up as the season goes on.

Parker ValbyParker Valby

Andrew LeMay / @lemay.photo

Florida’s Parker Valby Wins Nuttycombe in 19:17 For A New Course Record

Isaac Wood: “Valby did her thing, which we all knew she was going to do. I think we were all waiting for Katelyn Tuohy to close the gap and she never did. I think Valby has learned some lessons on how to win and run from the front. She took some confidence from the NCAA Outdoor Championships as well. She was able to keep her foot on the gas.

We don’t know where Tuohy is at with her training. I think it’s unfair to say that Valby is categorically better than Tuohy right now. I don’t know what their training was like for this. But, you do have to read these individual results with a grain of salt. Tuohy looks great all the time but she always shows up in cross country at the championships. I will reserve judgment on whether Valby is categorically better than Tuohy until NCAAs. But, you do have to rank her above Tuohy because she won head-to-head.”

Graham BlanksGraham Blanks

Andrew LeMay / @lemay.photo

Harvard’s Graham Blanks Claims The Men’s Individual Title In 23:23

Isaac Wood: “There’s major confidence that comes from knowing that you can win a race like this. I’m hesitant to say he’s going to win the NCAA Championships because it’s hard to say but you’re an idiot if you don’t put him in your Top 5.”

Kaylee Mitchell From Oregon State Finishes 5th, Leads Team To A 7th Place Finish

Isaac Wood: “I thought Mitchell was really strong. She’s coming off a victory at the Dellinger Invitational so she has some confidence right now that she’s one of the best women in the NCAA. Coach Louie Quintana has them going. This is his best team yet. In the Pacific Northwest, there are a lot of really good athletes. It was only a matter of time until they had a team in this spot. I’m not surprised that they’re this good. They might make the biggest jumps in the rankings.”

Harvard’s Maia Ramsden Finishes 6th Overall

Isaac Wood: “For being considered more of a 1500m runner, I thought she ran really tough in those conditions. It was a really good showing for her.

Olivia Markezich Takes 9th, Notre Dame’s Women Finish 6th

Isaac Wood: “I have to apologize to Notre Dame because when I said I thought Colorado’s women would be among the teams to beat, I should’ve said Notre Dame. I blew that one. The Fighting Irish women are really good. Markezich really came through for them.”

Habtom Samuel (3rd) And Rocky Hansen (6th)l Are The Best Freshmen

Isaac Wood: “Hansen is so poised. I think he runs with a chip on his shoulder as one of the top recruits coming into the year but so many eyes were on Connor Burns and Simeon Birnbaum ahead of him. He’s found his groove at Wake Forest. Yeah, North Carolina may be kicking themselves but John Hayes is proving himself to be one of the best recruiters in the NCAA. Every single top prospect is considering Wake Forest.

We joked about whether Samuel could run in the cold. He looked fine. If you’re New Mexico coach Darren Gausen, you have to be patient with him. You want Samuel to be feeling his very best at the end of the season. When you have someone as gifted and with his resume, you’re going to err on the side of being more conservative at these meets. That’s how they have to play it. Third is a good finish for him but he’s probably better than that. I think he’s the most gifted runner in the NCAA but it’s a matter of putting it together on the day.”

Let’s Talk About Lipscomb’s Women: Finishing 10th On The Women’s Side

Isaac Wood: “What?! When was the last time Lipscomb was even talked about as a team going to NCAAs? In the 15+ years that I’ve been watching and studying this, I’ve always thought they were a solid program. They brought in a new coach a few years ago in Nick Polk, who was a well-respected sports science and medicine manager with USATF, and he’s done a very good job. It’s fun to see this team develop. They just jumped from No. 29 to No. 16 in the Coaches Poll.”

Cal Baptist’s Men Go From 14th to 4th In The Final 2K

Isaac Wood: “Valentin Soca is the best runner on their team and he was their fifth guy at Nuttycomb. He’s going to keep getting better. I’m telling you now. He’s going to come through for me at some point and I’ll have my moment to gloat. I like him. Cal Baptist has a shot at the podium.”

Carmen AlderCarmen Alder

Johnny Pace / @pacephoto

BYU’s Women Win The Pre-Nats Women’s Title 32–90 Over Arkansas, Carmen Alder Claims Individual Title In 19:36

Isaac Wood: “Alder ran incredible. If you had told me before the race that a BYU woman was going to win the race individually, I would’ve said, ‘Good for Aubrey Frentheway.’ That’s who I would’ve presumed won. She ended up being 7th and BYU’s No. 3 behind Alder and freshman Jenna Hutchins. Alder was a really good recruit coming out of high school, where she was a 4:40 miler. If you can hang in coach Diljeet Taylor’s training, talent will develop. Alder is another example of that. It was a convincing win. She won by 11 seconds.”

Arkansas Men's Cross CountryArkansas Men's Cross Country

Johnny Pace / @pacephoto

Arkansas’ Men Win The Pre-Nats Men’s Title, Ben Shearer Wins In 22:55

Isaac Wood: “I was very impressed with Shearer. He has a 7:54 personal best for 3000m, which is solid but he didn’t jump out to me as the guy who would go and win PreNats. Now, you have to be impressed by his season. He was second at the Chile Pepper Cross Country Festival last month and won the Cowboy Preview. This was a validating performance that he’s a Top 10 guy at NCAAs.

I wasn’t as surprised by Arkansas taking down Tennessee. The Razorbacks didn’t have a chance to show their cards before this. You don’t know what people have until they do it. When Patrick Kiprop isn’t your No. 1, that’s scary for everyone else because Kiprop is really good. Add in Kirami Yego, who was third overall and Arkansas’ No.2 at PreNats, and that 1-2-3 punch is strong. Jacob McLeod being just six seconds behind Kiprop is another good sign.”

Biggest Underperformers

Florida Needs A No. 5 Despite Finishing 5th As The Team (1-16-30-38-177)

Isaac Wood: “I think they have the people on their roster who are good enough to close the gap for podium contention. They just need their athletes to be a bit more battle-tested. This was their first real big test. They’ll learn from that and they’ll be better. I don’t know if it will come in time to put them in a spot to win but definitely podium.”

Providence’s Women Were Ranked 18th, Finished 24th In Wisconsin

Isaac Wood: “So much of this meet is about getting out. They didn’t. The teams that didn’t get out paid the price. No matter how good you are, passing 100 people from 3K to 6K is really hard because every single person that you pass is going to fight you off. NAU was the byproduct of doing the opposite where they got out really well and stuck it. This isn’t the case for just Providence but if you look at the 20th team (Syracuse) and back in the results, every single coach is having that conversation with their athletes after the race.”

Stanford’s Men Finish 20th

Isaac Wood: “I wouldn’t hit the panic button just yet. Cole Sprout is seasoned and talented. We know what we can do later in the year. He didn’t have a great day and finished 84th. If there was ever a day not to have a day, it’s a meet in the middle of the year. As long as they can get the points that they need to get into Nationals, despite how they do at NCAA Regionals, they’ll be just fine. Lex Young (86th) will get better as the season goes on. They have a young team – literally because they have the Young twins – with some talented freshmen. That transition to college is never easy and never a slam dunk right away.”

Montana State’s Men Have Some Work To Do After 4th At Pre-Nats

Isaac Wood: “I think they’ve been ranked in the Top 30 for most of the year but they didn’t get very many points out of Pre-Nats. They’re going to need to do some work at the Mountain Regional. That’s the good news, though. There are so many good teams in it that if they sneak ahead of some, they’ll get pushed in.”

Chris Chavez

Chris Chavez launched CITIUS MAG in 2016 as a passion project while working full-time for Sports Illustrated. He covered the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro and grew his humble blog into a multi-pronged media company. He completed all six World Marathon Majors and is an aspiring sub-five-minute miler.