Villanova’s defending individual champion Sheila Reid and runner-up Emily Infeld of Georgetown downplayed individual glory in comparison to team success, but they’ll try to win both at the 2011 NCAA Cross Country Championships held in Terre Haute, Ind., at the LaVern Gibson Championship Course.

The 6,000-meter women’s race starts at 12:58 p.m. ET Monday.

“I just want to score as low as possible for my teammates because I know they’re going to be doing the same for me,” Reid said.

At last year’s NCAA Championships, Reid finished in 20:06.9 to Infeld’s 20.09.2, as their teams finished first and fourth, respectively. Earlier this month at the Mid-Atlantic Region meet, Reid crossed the finish line in 21:32.7 ahead of Infeld’s 21:34.0 mark as their teams shared the title.

“I feel like cross country really is a team sport, so it’s so much more special to be here with everyone and running for each other,” Infeld said.

Still, the individual title race should be compelling. Oregon junior Jordan Hasay, who finished third in 20:13 last season, is back after winning the NCAA West Regional earlier this month.

“I’m fully expecting to not just battle with her, but with a lot of girls, and I’m just really excited for the competition from everybody,” said Reid, who won individual outdoor national championships in the 1,500 and 5,000 meters last spring.

Favored status in the team race belongs to Florida State, owners of the No. 1 spot in the U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association poll since winning the Pre-Nationals meet last month on the same course. Among teams running for a trophy and podium spot, if not the title, are two-time defending champion and No. 2 Villanova along with No. 3 Washington, the 2008 winners. Also in the hunt is a preseason No. 1 Georgetown team currently ranked fourth, followed by a No. 5 Vanderbilt squad making its first NCAA Championships appearance.

The Seminoles earned their sixth consecutive berth and look to move into the top spot after runner-up finishes in 2009 and 2010. Despite graduating two All-Americans, the Seminoles captured their fourth consecutive ACC title and fourth South Region win in five years.

“I think we’re going into this race with confidence, but also knowing a ranking doesn’t mean anything,” FSU junior Amanda Winslow said.

Winslow, the South Region champ, has been the top finisher all season after finishing 138th in at last year’s NCAA Championships in 21:39.8. Junior Jessica Parry, who earned All-American status last season by finishing 22nd in 20:38.3, is joined in part by Hannah Brooks, Violah Lagat and ACC Freshman of the Year Colleen Quigley.

The Seminoles were ranked seventh at the beginning of the season but opened eyes by winning the Notre Dame Invitational in September.

Regional results
Region Team championship Individual championship
Great Lakes Michigan Danielle Tauro
Mid-Atlantic Villanova Sheila Reid
Mid-west Iowa State Aliphine Tuliamuk
Mountain Colorado Risper Kimaiyo
Northeast Syracuse Abbey D'Agostino
South Florida State Amanda Winslow
South Central Arkansas Silje Fjortoft
Southeast North Carolina Kendra Schaff
West Washington Jordan Hassay
• Championship Results

“There were just a lot of questions, and that’s why I felt it was a rebuilding year,” FSU coach Karen Harvey said. “But when you have captains like Amanda Winslow and Jessica Parry … they’re like little assistant coaches and they’ve helped me with all the new people. This team has definitely surprised, they have definitely become a very special team.”

Villanova returned three of its top five runners back from last year’s national championship squad, including Reid, senior Bogdana Mimic, who earned a second All-America honor with a 27th place individual finish at last year’s NCAA Championship, and sophomore Emily Lipari. Freshman Courtney Chapman, sophomore Nicky Akande and fifth-year senior Callie Hogan also regularly contribute. The Wildcats won a fourth consecutive Big East title as Reid became just the second three-time individual champion at the event.

“It’s definitely a very different team than the last two years,” Villanova coach Gina Procaccio, a former All-American and Big East champ as a Wildcat said. “The first year we were seven solid and at one point during the season everybody had been in the top five at one time or another. Last year was a little bit scary because we only had five, we had no depth and we had a freshman at No. 5, but the four were defending national champs.”

Looking to better its 16th-place finish from last season is Washington, the West Region winner for the fourth consecutive year. All-American senior Christine Babcock is the lone Husky holdover from the title team, and battled back from injuries following a seventh-place NCAA Championship finish as a freshman. Despite being diagnosed with mononucleosis earlier this fall, sophomore Katie Flood won the Pac-12 title and looks to better her 78th place finish in 21:11 last year. Junior Lindsay Flanagan, sophomore Justine Johnson and sophomore Liberty Miller are also making repeat NCAA appearances, while sophomore Megan Goethals will run the national course for the first time.

“The question marks we had a year ago are no longer questions; our group is very solid,” coach Greg Metcalf said. “We come here in a much better place than one year ago.”

Following a fourth-place finish in 2010, external expectations for the Hoya were high as evidenced by their early ranking. Georgetown returned six of seven runners from the 2010 NCAA line-up, but cross country All-American Madeline Chambers and track and field All-American Katie McCafferty were among injured runners this season. Coach Chris Miltenberg said the season has been “a journey.”

“We’re pretty proud that we can redshirt three All-Americans and still be a player right now,” he said. “I told them when we left D.C., I feel like we’ve already done it. Whatever happens [Monday], we’ve already done it because of all the things we’ve gone through.”

Along with Infeld and fellow All-American Emily Jones, Katrina Coogan, Kirsten Kasper and Claire Richardson helped the Hoyas tie with Villanova at the Mid-Atlantic Region title. Vanderbilt’s Steve Keith, this year’s South Regional and SEC Coach of the Year, said his team set high goals this year. Led by Alexa Rogers, Louise Hannallah and Jordan White, the Commodores have shattered school marks while earning a second-place finish to Washington at the Wisconsin Invitational, a spot in the national rankings and the school’s first SEC cross country title.

“It’s been about a four or five year project as far as recruiting and developing,” Keith said. “We have three seniors on our team who absolutely stepped up and have taken total control of the team. We have a good transfer [Kristen Smith] and a good sophomore [Liz Anderson] and they’ve been running tight, they run close together all the time.”

Another team that could be a contender is Pac-12 champion No. 6 Colorado. The Buffs are led by sophomore Shalaya Kipp.