NCAA 2013 XC Champs Preview - 'The Big Dance' - USA Athletics Scholarships

NCAA 2013 XC Champs Preview – ‘The Big Dance’

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Hundreds started back in August, but only a few remain. And 39 British and Irish athletes to be precise (full form guide at the end of this article). The NCAA Cross Country Championship meet is upon us.

On Saturday 23rd November, after a one year hiatus where Louisville hosted, the nation’s elite will converge again on Terre Haute, Indiana, to Cross Country Town USA. Before last year’s edition in Kentucky, the previous championship away from Indiana State’s course was in 2003, held in Northern Iowa.

It goes without saying that the meet is fiercely competitive. 255 of the best student athletes, each having earned their spot in the race, and there is no such thing as wildcards. To get some idea of the depth involved, we recommend checking out the PBs of athletes who finish in the 150s or worse. Last year, we posted an article yesterday highlighting what makes this the most competitive race in the world, and the one with the lowest spread in finishing times.

A bad patch mid-race can cost you 50 places; likewise some teams like to charge through the field during the second half. Performing well in is therefore as much about strategy as it is shape of the athlete. The craft of each individual coach will come into play, especially given the new host course. We will see who has done their research.

It is also worth mentioning how the build-up adds to the sense of occasion. Athletes typically arrive in town on Wednesday or Thursday, three days prior to the meet. Jogging the course, watching movies, shopping, sitting around in the hotel; it is the same for everyone. On the Thursday evening a pre-race banquet is held. This will be a combination of awards and speeches, and if anything helps to build the anticipation ahead of the race. We did always use to wonder why no such banquet was held post-race but that discussion can be left to the NCAA for another day.

As per usual there is plenty of British and Irish interest. As a reference point, the most recent British and Irish winners of the men’s and women’s races include:

  • 2000: Keith Kelly (Ireland & Providence)
  • 1989: John Nuttall (Britain & Iowa State)
  • 1990 & 1991: Sonia O’Sullivan (Ireland & Villanova)
  • 1982: Mark Scrutton (Britain & Colorado)
  • 1974: Nick Rose (Britain & Western Kentucky)

Last year, Oklahoma State wrestled back their men’s title after Wisconsin ended their ‘three-peat’ chances a year previous. That feat had only been accomplished before by the crack outfits of Villanova ’66-68, UTEP ’78-81, Arkansas ’90-93 AND ’98-2000 and to a lesser extent Drake in the 40s, but a dominant Badgers outfit prevented the Cowboys adding their name to that illustrious list. If you would like to read more about that UTEP team and the 1982 British NCAA Champ, Mark Scrutton, well, here it is.

There doesn’t appear to be much in the way of ambiguity over the favorite. That goes to Texas Tech’s Kennedy Kituka, last year’s winner, who has boldly stated that he is looking to break 28:00 on the 10k course. Only perhaps Kemoy Campbell, UTEP’s Rotich, Oregon’s Cheserek or Harvard’s Maxim Korolev are likely to get close.  Or maybe UK’s O’Hare or Farrell? Have your say on top Brit here and win a pair of XC spikes.

On the women’s side, last year’s triumphant Oregon team will be again competitive along with previous champs Georgetown and Villanova. Outside British bets include Butler, FSU and Iona. The individual race looks set up for Dartmouth’s Abbey D’Agostino, although there are a host of pretenders including Cal Poly Sophomore Laura Hollander. Either way, this will be a lot closer than the men’s race. Have your say on the top Brit here for a chance to win a pair of XC spikes.

Also taking place this weekend are the NCAA Division II Cross Country Championships, which are being held in Spokane, WA. Whilst not as prestigious as the DI equivalent, the DII Championships are nevertheless still very competitive. Adams State has been the dominant team in recent years, winning 4 of the last 5 men’s team championships. Although Oliver Aitchinson is an ASC Grizzly, he will not compete for Adams this year on the XC.  It remains one of the best rivalries in NCAA XC.

Here is our NCAA form guide. Click on the image to expand it.ncaa13formguide

We will have full updates throughout the race on Twitter. Indiana State will host the Championships on Saturday, Nov. 23, at the Wabash Family Sports Center Course, IN.  The men’s race will begin at 5pm GMT (12PM Central Time US).

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