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October 13, 2017

PreNats Preview: BYU vs. Arkansas, New Individual Champions To Be Crowned

Everyone wants to get invited to the party. And the after party, if you can score a ticket to that, you’re someone special.

But don’t sleep on the pre-party, where the expectations are high, the outlook is optimistic, and the tone is set for the revelry to come. All of this best describes collegiate cross country’s big pre-game party: Pre-Nationals this Saturday in Louisville.

More than 100 men’s and women’s teams will get to test drive the E.P. ‘Tom’ Sawyer State Park course and determine what works and what needs to change before the national championship meet is held on the same course in November.

Last year in Indiana, Edward Cheserek took home the men’s individual title while leading his Ducks to a pretty decisive team victory over Arkansas and Colorado. On the women’s side, Michigan great Eric Finn dropped the hammer, winning by more than 30 seconds, while the Buffaloes of Colorado were victorious in the team standings.

So what can we expect from this year’s event?

Well first off, there will be new individual winners on both the men’s and women’s side, as Cheserek and Finn have both graduated. While it may be easy to anoint Missouri’s Karissa Schweizer as the probable winner (and I will because she has been the best women’s collegiate distance runner the past year, including a fourth place finish at last year’s Pre-Nationals) she will have some stiff competition.

Also returning from last year’s top 10 are New Hampshire’s Elinor Purrier (fifth) and Oregon’s Katie Rainsberger (sixth), both of whom have tasted sweet victory already this season. In fact, this is the order these three will cross the finish line on Saturday.

The other competition that will be exciting to watch is the men’s team battle. The top three teams from Pre-Nats 2016–Oregon, Arkansas, and Colorado–are all returning and will have the likes of No. 2 BYU, this year’s “it” team, to deal with. Experience, and the motivation from a second place finish last year, gives the edge to Arkansas.

Just a little about the course: This is third time since 2012 E.P. ‘Tom’ Sawyer State Park hosted the Pre-Nationals. It is relatively flat with some “slight rolling terrain” as described by the University of Louisville. The men will run 8K while the women will traverse 5K.

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