TERRE HAUTE, Ind. – The NCAA Cross Country Championships are just a few days away and 31 teams and 38 individuals are making their final preparations for the big meet.
The action begins on Saturday at 1:15 p.m. (ET) for the women’s race at the LaVern Gibson Championship Cross Country Course.
The women’s field is wide open at this point, but can be argued that last year’s runners-up and pre-meet #1 Providence are the favorites coming into the meet. Providence is led by one of the nation’s best runner’s in Emily Sisson. Sarah Collins should also provide a very low stick come Saturday.
The Friars were third at the Adidas Wisconsin Invitational, but have since been undefeated with dominating victories at the Big East Championships and Northeast Regional meet to earn their top spot.
Providence will have a very intense battle with the Arizona Wildcats, who have had an excellent year and actually own a victory over Providence at the Adidas Invitational. The Wildcats are undefeated in 2013 and are arguably the co-favorites in Terre Haute for Saturday.
They will count on a very tight pack from their first four runners to win the title. They had a 15 second gap between their first four runners at the region meet on their way to the West Region championship over #12 Stanford. Kayla Beattie Elvin Kibet, and Maria Larsson lead the PAC-12 champions.
Also in the hunt for the NCAA championship are the SEC champion Arkansas Razorback’s, ranked #3 in the nation coming into the meet. Arkansas scored a very low 33 points to win the South Central Regional five runners among the races top 11. Arkansas was runner-up at the Adidas Invitational to Arizona, beating Providence, as well as being champions of the Chile Pepper Festival and SEC meet.
They will be joined by Florida State University in search of a national championship. The Seminoles will look to get a low stick from Colleen Quigley, who will be among the individual contenders in the race. Like Arkansas, the Seminoles scored a very low score at their regional, winning the South Region with 35 points. Hannah Walker could be another low scorer for the Seminoles, as they chase the title.
A few dark horse team could include Colorado, who won the Mountain Region meet with 29 points over #11 New Mexico and put seven runners in the top 15. The Buffaloes gave Arizona a scare at the PAC-12 championships and could end up National Champions if they beat the Wildcats this time around.
Also, another dark horse could be the Pre-National champion’s Georgetown. They were beaten at the Mid-Athletic Region by #9 Villanova 31-35, but have the resume of a contender as the head into the meet.
The individual race will just as wide open as the team race.
The favorite will be Abbey D’Agostino of Dartmouth, who was the runner-up at the NCAA championships a year ago in an epic finish that resulted in her losing to Betsy Saina of Iowa State by less than a second. Saina has graduated and D’Agostino will get her chance at a championship.
D’Agostino has been dominant in 2013 as the won the Adidas Invitational in 19:31 for 6,000 meters and her third consecutive Northeast Regional Championship.
D’Agostino’s biggest competition could come from the women she raced last Friday in Emily Sisson of top ranked Providence. Sisson was second to D’Agostino at the Adidas Invitational in a time of 19:44, and then won the BIG EAST title, before falling short at the Northeast Region in 19:59. Sisson should be able to mix up with D’Agostino once again in Terre Haute.
Texas star Marielle Hall could also give D’Agostino a challenge fresh off her dominant victory at the South Central region. She blazed a 19:40.7 for 6,000 meters, as she easily won the race. She was third to D’Agostino and Sisson at the Adidas Invitational.
Pre-National champion Emma Bates of Boise State could also be a contender. She has already won once in Terre Haute and could match that feat again on Saturday. The Mountain West champion beat a tough group of runners to win the West Regional in a time of 19:11 for 6,000 meters. Kentucky’s Cally Macumber could also be in contention, as she was sixth a year ago and is the second returner.