cross-country-women-d1 flag | October 31, 2013

Big meet in the Big East

Cross Country, Division I, Big East

Three teams at Big East Championships

Nowhere in the country is there a bigger grouping of top-10 teams than in the first championship race in the new-look Big East, as No. 3 Georgetown, No. 4 Providence and No. 7 Butler will all duke it out.

The Hoyas of Georgetown — the final champions of the old Big East last season — didn’t have a top-10 individual finisher in their Pre-Nationals championship against then-No. 2 Florida State (now No. 5), but what they did have was a close-knit scoring group. Led by Samantha Nadel in 14th, the Hoyas put their five scorers within the top 32 finishers and their top six in the top 50.

In that same race, No. 7 Butler claimed three top-30 individual finishes, led by 10th-place Katie Clark, to finish third overall. The Bulldogs and Georgetown were the only two teams in the field with three finishers within the top 30 individuals.

While Georgetown’s and Butler’s strengths are their depth, No. 4 Providence features the top 1-2-3 punch in the nation behind Emily Sisson, Sarah Collins and Laura Nagel. The trio finished runner-up, fifth and ninth, respectively, in a loaded Wisconsin adidas Invitational field, but the lack of a strong No. 5 runner doomed the Friars to a third-place finish behind No. 1 Arizona and No. 2 Arkansas.

Another team to watch is Villanova, receiving votes nationally. The Wildcats feature last year’s old Big East champion Emily Lipari, and will look to bounce back from a disappointing 16th-place finish at Pre-Nationals.

Two teams at ACC Championships

Coming off its first Pre-Nationals since 2009 at which it didn’t emerge as a team champion, No. 5 Florida State turns its focus to the ACC Championship. FSU has claimed the meet five years in a row, and with a potent 1-2 duo in Colleen Quigley and Hannah Walker, it is going for a sixth.

Quigley took fifth at Pre-Nationals and Walker Was sixth, but FSU’s final three scorers couldn’t keep pace with Georgetown en route to a runner-up finish to the Hoyas, 117-162. That wasn’t FSU’s first sign of vulnerability this season, as No. 9 New Mexico nearly defeated it at the Notre Dame Invitational in early October.

Fewer than 30 points behind FSU at Pre-Nationals was No. 10 Virginia, which finished fourth as a team and will likely challenge for the win this weekend. Led by 11th-place Barbara Strehler, the Cavaliers displayed impressive depth with six runners finishing among the top 70 finishers, a feat bettered only by winner Georgetown.

No. 19 Syracuse, No. 22 Notre Dame and No. 27 Boston College are the remaining ranked teams in contention for the ACC crown. Not ranked but still a significant factor could be Duke, which was ranked No. 4 early in the season but has since fallen out of the poll after poor team showings at Notre Dame and Wisconsin.

No. 1 Arizona at PAC-12 Championships

Arizona has  impressed in both of its major competitions thus far, riding its significant depth to team titles at the Roy Griak Invitational and the Wisconsin adidas Invitational, facing formidable fields in both races. Elvin Kibet led the way at Griak with a runner-up finish, while Kayla Beattie paced the Wildcats at Wisconsin in seventh place.

While Arizona has been working its way up the rankings, defending Pac-12 and NCAA Champion No. 12 Oregon has been moving in the opposite direction. The Ducks were fifth at the Pre-National Invitational, nearly 100 points behind team champion Georgetown, and were the only team in the top 12 without a top-20 individual finisher. Megan Patriginelli, who has been the top runner for much of the season, placed 25th.

Other teams that dropped in the rankings in the wake of the Pre-Nats/Wisconsin weekend were No. 13 Washington, No. 16 Colorado and No. 20 Stanford. Washington was ninth at Wisconsin, while Colorado was seventh and Stanford ninth at Pre-Nationals.

No. 2 Arkansas at SEC Championships

Arkansas will be going for its first SEC title since last taking the crown in 2008, ending a streak of three in a row.

The current Razorbacks are looking to start a new streak, and with the depth they showed in a runner-up finish at Wisconsin it will be tough to stop them. Led by Grace Heymsfield in sixth, Arkansas had three top-15 finishers and all seven runners came across the line among the top 80 finishers.

No. 6 Michigan State at Big Ten Championships

No. 14 Michigan are the defending Big Ten champions, but will have to overcome the rival Spartans of No. 6 Michigan State in order to bring another title back to Ann Arbor. MSU finished fourth at Wisconsin behind 22nd-place Leah O’Connor and 25th-place freshman Rachele Schulist. The x-factor for the Spartans will be, of all people, defending Big Ten champion Sara Kroll, who has not competed in uniform for MSU yet this season but easily won the "B" race at Wisconsin running unattached.

The Wolverines were sixth at Pre-Nationals behind 16th-place freshman Erin Finn.

A quartet of ranked teams are hot on Michigan’s trail in the National Poll, making this race one of the deepest in the nation. No. 15 Minnesota, No. 21 Indiana, No. 28 Wisconsin and No. 29 Penn State will all be going for the team title and crucial head-to-head wins to count toward potential at-large consideration into the NCAA Championships.

No. 8 Iowa State at Big 12 Championships

Iowa State is coming off an impressive fifth-place showing at Wisconsin, led by 10th-place finisher Crystal Nelson.

The Cyclones have won the past two Big 12 titles.

No. 9 New Mexico at MW Championships

New Mexico has won five consecutive Mountain West titles. Five was also the margin of defeat in the surprise runner-up showing to then-No. 2 Florida State (now No. 5) at the Notre Dame Invitational. The Lobos put three finishers in the top 11, led by third-place runner Samantha Silva. Most recently they finished sixth at the Wisconsin Invitational.

Individual Pre-Nationals champion and former National Athlete of the Week Emma Bates’s No. 25 Boise State squad is the top challenger.

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