The Battle Between Northern Arizona, Oklahoma State and Colorado
TERRE HAUTE, Ind. – A few days after nearly every Division I cross country team took to the nine regional sites across the country, the 31 teams and 38 individuals are set to compete at the NCAA National Championships.
The meet will begin Saturday, November 23 at noon (ET) at the LaVern Gibson Championship Cross Country Course.
The men’s field will be highlighted by a battle between Colorado, Northern Arizona, and Oklahoma State.
Colorado won the PAC-12 championships over #4 Oregon and #6 Stanford earlier this season, as well as winning the Pre-Nationals. Colorado has a very strong pack, which they will count on if they are to win the NCAA championship. Pierce Murphy and Ben Saarel led them at the Mountain Region meet.
Colorado, although possibly the favorites to win the championship on Saturday were beat by #2 Northern Arizona in the meet. The 2013 Big Sky champions, have an impressive resume in 2013, as they won the Adidas Wisconsin Invitational and edged the #1 Buffaloes at the Mountain region by a score of 61-69.
They will count on a very close pack as well, if they want to win a championship on Saturday. They are however led by Futsum Zienasellassie, who was third at the Mountain Region and could be a low stick for the Lumberjacks.
Also, among the favorites are the defending champion Oklahoma State Cowboys. The Cowboys will come into the meet ranked #3 nationally and an impressive resume, winning the Cowboy Jamboree defeating #2 Northern Arizona.
They also won the Big 12 championship by 44 points and won the Midwest Region over #13 Tulsa. The Cowboys used a 6 second spread from their first to fifth runners to win the meet. They will led by Tom Farrell, who was ninth at the championships a year ago.
Other teams that will look to upset the favorites will be BYU, who placed third at the Mountain region behind Colorado and Northern Arizona, but got a huge boost from Jared Ward, who was initially ruled ineligible by the NCAA, but reinstated for the region meet.
BYU could be a dark horse on Saturday. Oregon and Stanford both were beat by Colorado at the PAC 12 championships, but have had successful seasons and are looking to peak at the right time as they head into the NCAA Championships.
Stanford beat Oregon at the West region meet last Friday by a score of 53-63. Oregon could have a low stick in freshman phenom Edward Cheserek, but Stanford could have a great first four runners as they head four a head of Oregon’s third at the region.
On the individual side of things, Texas Tach’s Kennedy Kithuka will go into the meet as a heavy favorite a year after winning the meet. Kithuka has been undefeated this season with wins at the Cowboy Jamboree, Pre-Nationals, Big 12 championships, and the Mountain Region. Kithuka nearly set the Pre-National course record, as he ran a time of 22:52 on the 8,000 meter course. He also ran a time of 29:23.6 for 10,000 meters at the Mountain region.
If anyone is going to give Kithuka a scare at the NCAA championship it may come from Anthony Rotich of UTEP. Rotich has been the second finisher to Kithuka on several occasions including the Mountain region last Friday. Rotich was fourth at NCAA’s a year ago and is the second returner coming into the meet. If nothing else he will be one of the favorites to be this year’s runner-up finisher.
Maksim Korolev of Harvard could be a dark horse on Saturday. He won the Adidas Wisconsin Invitational and the Ivy League Championships, before winning the Northeast Region. Kemoy Campbell of Arkansas and Paul Chelimo of UNC-Greensboro could also be contenders on Saturday, as they both head at least a share of their region title last Friday.