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Preview: The NCAA Women's Regional Championships

Preview: The NCAA Women's Regional Championships

The Women's Regional Preview will include the top ten individuals and the top five teams for each region. Asterisks are placed by the teams and individuals that will be going to the NCAA meet, automatic and at-large bids.

Great Lakes
Host: University of Wisconsin

Even though there are 32 teams in the race, it's essentially the Big 10 show. Intrastate rivals #6 Michigan and #11 Michigan State once again go head-to-head for the team title. The last two years, Michigan and MSU have swapped first and place finishes (Michigan State won with 80 points in 2010 and Michigan won last year with 45 points). When the two met for the first time at Big 10's, Big Blue had the upper hand with their depth as they had seven runners in before MSU's 5th girl. #18 Toledo is coming off a very strong Mid-American Conference Championship with 24 points and should not be discounted. Though they took fifth at Big East, Notre Dame was only ten points out from third place. They took third in the region last year.

The individual race should also be another Big 10 showdown with a little A-10 action sprinkled on top. Sara Kroll kicked for home at Big 10's and could garner another individual title on Friday. Not too far behind was UM's Rececca Addison (third at Big 10's) and Lead O'Connor (fourth).

Both Katie Clark from Butler and Julie Accurso from Ohio University have been turning some heads this season. Clark took 11th at Pre-Nationals right behind UM's Jillian Smith while Accurso took 2nd at Notre Dame and was right behind Accurso at Pre-Nats with a 13th place finish.

Individual Predictions:
Sara Kroll (Michigan State)
Katie Clark (Butler)
Julie Accurso (Ohio U.)
Rebecca Addison (Michigan)
Leah O'Connor (Michigan State)
Gabi Anzalone (Wisconsin)
Jillian Smith (Michigan)
Amanda Eccleston (Michigan)
Ashley Beutler (Wisconsin)
Kaylin Belair (Toledo)

Team Predictions:
Michigan State
Notre Dame

Host: Penn State University

This may be first time since 2009 that the women's national champion will not come from either the Big East or the Mid-Atlantic Region (hint: It's been two teams). Even though they may be on the outside looking in for a podium spot at NCAA, perennial powerhouses #9 Georgetown and #25 Villanova will be in the hunt the Mid-Atlantic Regional. Georgetown has been quiet this season after their third place finish at Paul Short and fourth place showing at Pre-Nationals. Last year, the Hoyas didn't even win the Big East crown (they took third), but came on late to win nationals.

Is it possible for the returning champions to be under the radar? Well, look at the Wisconsin men.

The Nova women also had a slow start at Paul Short, but have been on a roll ever since. When Emily Lipari is strong, the Wildcats are strong. Nova was seventh at Pre-Nationals and fourth at Big East. However, a lack of depth may hurt Villanova at regionals.

Between the two enduring champions are the #15 Penn State women. The Nittany Lions have been anticipating a trip to Louisville as they previewed the course at the Greater Louisville Classic where they took 5th. They could easily sneak in for an automatic bid if everything goes well on Friday.

Not to be forgotten (again, sorry) is West Virginia. The Mountaineers took fourth at Big 12's and have been crushing the competition in the B races at Greater Louisville and Pre-Nationals. They'll have to mix it up with the big girls if they want a ticket back to Louisville.

The individual race could be a toss-up with the majority of contenders coming from teams that could receive an auto-bid. On paper, Emily Lipari should lead the way after winning the Big East and taking 7th at Pre-Nationals. She looks to be past her disappointing 44th showing at Paul Short. If we use the Wisconsin Invitational as a guide, the next two finishers should be Meghan McGlinchey (33rd) from LaSalle and Rebekka Simko (34th) from Penn State.

There are still some question marks for the Mountaineers. Sarah-Anne Brault has finally returned and took 10th at Big 12's, but WVU is still without Kaitlyn Gillespie (she finished 27th at NCAAs last year).

Individual Predictions:
Emily Lipari (Villanova)
Meghan McGlinchey (LaSalle)
Rebekka Simko (Penn State)
Nicky Akande (Villanova)
Madeline Chambers (Georgetown)
Sarah-Anne Brault (West Virginia)
Katrina Coogan (Georgetown)
Annamarie Maag (Georgetown)
Tori Perri (Penn State)
Brooklyn Ridder (Penn State)

Team Predictions:
Penn State
West Virginia

Host: Missouri State University

The ice cream sundae that is the Midwest Regional is dominated by the Big 12, but there's a little cherry on top from the Missouri Valley. The top spot should easily go to the #2 Iowa State Cyclones. When we saw them at Big 12's, we realized that they're not going to settle for second place at nationals. Even before their conference meet, they were doing workouts on the course. Arguably the best one-two punch in the NCAA, Betsy Saina and Meaghan Nelson, lead the way.

Behind them is less definite. #21 Oklahoma State came to Big 12's with one goal: beat Texas. In their post race interview, their next milestone was to make nationals and have a good showing there. This could happen if #28 Minnesota doesn't have anything to say about that. Their fourth place in a strong Big 10 conference championship makes them a formidable contender.

Depending on how hard ISU runs, the individual race should be simple to predict. It took a while for us to give her some love, Aliphine Tuliamuk-Bolton has been on a tear. She's won once in Louisville (first at Pre-Nationals) and took 12th at Nationals last year.

Her competition will be the aforementioned Saina and Nelson from ISU. However, I can imagine the Cyclones putting the team first and running as easy as possible to make it to NCAAs.

The rest of the individuals should come from the same race we saw in Austin, TX. If they follow suit from conferences, Monika Juodeskaite (Oklahoma State), Mareike Schrulle (Iowa), Jessica Engel (Oklahoma), and Natalja Piliusina (Oklahoma State) should all be in the mix.

Individual Predictions:
Aliphine Tuliamuk-Bolton (Wichita State)
Betsy Saina (Iowa State)
Meaghan Nelson (Iowa State)
Monika Juodeskaite (Oklahoma State)
Jessica Engel (Oklahoma)
Mareike Schrulle (Iowa)
Natalja Piliusina (Oklahoma State)
Crystal Nelson (Iowa State)
Samantha Bluske (Iowa State)
Laura Galvan (Kansas State)

Team Predictions:
Iowa State
Oklahoma State

Host: Colorado State University

The thin air in Fort Collins, CO will produce some tight competition in the Mountain Regional. Among those in contention for the team title are #13 Weber State, #17 New Mexico, #24 Colorado, and Southern Utah. Weber State took 10th at Wisconsin and cruised to a Big Sky Championship behind Amber Henry and Sarah Callister. More on the two in a bit.

There should be a good battle between New Mexico and Colorado for second. The Lobos have been 3rd at Notre Dame and 11th (right behind Weber State) at Wisconsin. We can't publicize any submissions, but they may have uploaded a certain video about mustaches that you readers should take the time to watch.

However, you can't count out the girls from Boulder, CO. Ever since our visit to CU, we've been closely watching the Colorado women. They took 7th at Pre-Nationals and then 5th in the best women's race in the country (or probably the best conference overall) at Pac-12's. After her Olympic summer, Shalaya Kipp looks to be coming into form with an 11th place finish at Pac-12's.

Southern Utah is on the outside looking in right now. They were second to Weber State at Big Sky with 36 points (Weber State scored 29 points). The only concern is that the scores were so close because the meet was essentially a duel meet. Weber State and Southern Utah put a total of 10 runners in the top 15 overall. That gap in the team scores should be a bit larger on Friday.

The individual race will again come down to team tactics. Either Risper Kimaiyo from UTEP or Amber Henry from Weber State could vie for the win. Kimaiyo took 2nd at Pre-Nationals while Henry placed 3rd at Wisconsin (the FloRatings for those two races are very close). It will depend if Henry will pack it up to save herself for a tough race eight days later at NCAAs.

Behind those two (or at least one of them), will be a solid mix that includes Amanda Mergaert (Utah), Lacey Oeding (New Mexico), Sarah Callister (Weber State), Taylor Thornley (Weber State), and Josephine Moultrie (New Mexico). Thornley has been on the rise after her third place finish at Big Sky while Moultrie persumably took it easy at Mountain West as she was the Lobos' third finisher.

Rochelle Kanuho (Northern Arizona) and Natalie Shields (BYU) will need to have smart and solid races if they don't want their seasons to end.

Team Predictions:
Weber State
New Mexico
Southern Utah

Individual Predictions:
Risper Kimaiyo (UTEP)
Amber Henry (Weber State)
Amanda Mergaert (Utah)
Lacey Oeding (New Mexico)
Sarah Callister (Weber State)
Shalaya Kipp (Colorado)
Josephine Moultrie (New Mexico)
Taylor Thornley (Weber State)
Rochelle Kanuho (NAU)
Carrie Verdon (Colorado)
Jamie Smith (Southern Utah)

: Yale University & Fairfield University

The Women's Northeast Regional is epitome of postseason cross country racing. Among those in the conversation for an auto-bid are well-established teams (Cornell), teams on the rise (Connecticut), teams in need for redemption (Providence), and teams that could surprise (Boston College).

#8 Cornell stormed onto the national scene with a win at Paul Short and fifth place showing at Wisconsin. They took out the brooms and swept the first three places en route to their 31 point victory at Heps. The trio of Katie Kellner, Emily Shearer, and Rachel Sorna look to stay up front in the pack.

After their second place finish at the Big East Championship, #16 Connecticut have silenced the doubters. Earlier this season, the Huskies finished 4th at Roy Griak and then 19th at Wisconsin. They've come into form at the perfect time and if all goes well at Yale, they'll take second there as well.

One team that they beat at Big East will look to reverse that result come Friday. Dark Horse #20 Providence College will have to forget those postseason memories and start a new chapter if they don't want their season to end again. While they took third at Big East, they shocked the running world when they failed to qualify for NCAA's last year. Though they've been lead by freshmen Sarah Collins throughout the season, we once again ask the same question: Where is Emily Sisson? If Sisson even toes the line on Friday, the Friars should not repeat last season's misfortunes.

#27 Boston College may have jumped in the national polls, but are they getting enough love? They finished third behind Duke at ACCs who are ranked 10th in the nation.

The last question in our never ending series of rhetorical statements is where is Abbey D'Agostino? She crushed the field at Paul Short, but has been silent ever since. We've heard all sorts of crazed theories (thanks, anonymous internet), but we'll finally have an answer on Friday. She missed Heps so whatever injury/illiness she has must be serious. If she's as fit as she was in September, she'll be a safe bet to move on.

Team Predictions (in no order due to variables):
Boston College

Individual Predictions:
Sarah Collins (Providence)
Allison Lasnicki (Connecticut)
Katie Kellner (Cornell)
Lindsay Crevoiserat (Connecticut)
Shelby Greany (Providence)
Laura Nagel (Providence)
Sarah Pagano (Syracuse)
Rachel Sorna (Cornell)
Emily Sisson (Providence)?
Abbey D'Agostino (Dartmouth)?

: Florida State University

The South is more cut and dry compared the other regions. It certainly helps to predict team and individual winners when the number one team toes the line. #1 Florida State have looked unbeatable for the majority of the season (with the exception being Pre-Nationals, which they won over Oregon).

This entire section could be dedicated to discussing FSU, so we'll just briefly mention that Violah Lagat, Colleen Quigley, Kayleigh Tyerman, Amanda Winslow, Georgia Peel, and Jessica Parry should all be in the mix. Five of the six were all in the top 25 at Pre-Nationals with Lagat and Quigley taking fourth and sixth respectively.

#14 Florida could be this season's Cinderella story after the South Regional. They were under the radar for the majority season and even their 9th place finish at Pre-Nationals didn't necessarily put them in the national conversation. But after a big upset win at SEC's over Arkansas and Vanderbilt, the Gators (chomp) mean serious business. That conference title vaulted them to 14th in the national poll and second in our South Regional prediction.

The former team that wore the glass slipper to the national ball was Vanderbilt. It'll be tough for them to repeat the same magic from last season, but will still be in the mix for a spot in the top three.  There were far behind Florida and Arkansas at SEC's and were nearly fourth (or even fifth) if not for some clutch running.

If those team predictions are true, then the majority of individual qualifiers will come from Vanderbilt. They have a trio that includes Hannah Jumper, Kristen Findley, and Liz Anderson that should be up front for the Commodores. Others to watch out for include Carly Hamilton (4th at SECs), Katherine Showalter (Sun Belt champion), and Katie Breathitt (9th at SECs)

Team Predictions:
Florida State

Individual Predictions:
Violah Lagat (Florida State)
Colleen Quigley (Florida State)
Florence Ngetich (Florida)
Kayleigh Tyerman (Florida State)
Carly Hamilton (Georgia)
Amanda Winslow (Florida State)
Agata Strausa (Florida)
Hannah Jumper (Vanderbilt)
Kristen Findley (Vanderbilt)
Katharine Showalter (Georgia State)

South Central
: University of Arkansas

The home team #12 Arkansas will have to fend off the #22 Texas Longhorns in the South Central showdown on Friday. After their conference races, both teams are very comparable in terms of depth. Arkansas went 5, 10, 11, 18, and 26 at SEC while Texas went 3, 6, 15, 30, 33 at Big 12. Texas had arguably tougher competition in their conference meet, but the two should lock horns at regionals.

Both teams have a solid one-two up front with the edge going to Texas. Sara Sutherland (9th at Pre-Nationals) and Marielle Hall (16th at Pre-Nationals) will have to overcome the duo from Arkansas that includes Grace Heymsfield (14th at Louisville) and Andrina Schlapfer (13th at Louisville). It's almost a toss up from then on out between the two teams with this edge going to Arkansas. However, Arkansas should be fine if Semehar Tesfaye is healthy. She lead Arkansas at Louisville and Chile Pepper, but dropped out at SEC.

After Texas and Arkansas, the individual bids to NCAAs is wide open. Below are the names, school, and highlights of potential individuals:

Agnes Kemboi (TCU) - 12th at Big 12
Lauren Smith (Stephen F. Austin) - 8th at Chile Pepper
Laura Carleton (LSU) - 4th at Chile Pepper
Mary Alenbratt (SMU) - 2nd at Conference USA
Rachel Johnson (Baylor) - 13th at Big 12
Ashlee Powers (SMU) - 8th at Notre Dame

Team Predictions:
Texas A&M

Individual Predictions:
Sara Sutherland (Texas)
Marielle Hall (Texas)
Semehar Tesfaye (Arkansas)
Grace Heymsfield (Arkansas)
Andrina Schlapfer (Arkansas)
Megan Siebert (Texas)
Agnes Kemboi (TCU)
Mary Alenbratt (SMU)
Lauren Smith (Stephen F. Austin)
Ashlee Powers (SMU)
Laura Carleton (LSU)
Rachel Johnson (Baylor)

Host: University of North Carolina-Charlotte

The Southeast is full of new faces and surprises this fall. #10 Duke have been in the thick of the competition this season with a 9th place finish at Louisville, 7th place at Wisconsin, and then an impressive 2nd place finish at ACCs. They've been climbing the national poll and now sit comfortably in tenth after finishing behind #1 FSU at ACC. The Blue Devils have been lead by Juliet Bottorff, who finished 3rd at ACC, 8th at Wisconsin, and 5th at Louisville. She looks to have returned to the form that won her the outdoor 10k national title.

#19 William and Mary are the favorites to take second while North Carolina State is on the bubble. The Tribe have gathered solid performances this season with a 2nd place finish at Paul Short, taking 6th at Pre-Nationals, and taking back the CAA team title. North Carolina has finished 4th at Notre Dame, 21st at Wisconsin, and took 4th at ACC.

While we have a general idea of the team predictions, it's a whole new world for the individuals. The pre-race favorite is Cally Macumber from Kentucky who has already beaten the majority of her competition earlier this season at Pre-Nationals. She may be able to add the Southeast Regional title to her trophy case that already includes the SEC individual champion plaque.

Macumber may be new to the scene, but there are two returners that could easily take the title. Catherine White returns from a two year hiatus to take 2nd at ACC and 21st at Wisconsin. The last time she ran regionals, she not only won, but placed fourth at NCAAs.

The other returnee is Juliet Bottorff from Duke (profiled above). Bottorff was injured for the majority of last fall, but has been in excellent form and could easily run for the win.

Team Predictions:
William and Mary
NC State
North Carolina

Individual Predictions:
Cally Macumber (Kentucky)
Catherine White (Virginia)
Juliet Bottorff (Duke)
Elaina Balouris (William & Mary)
Chelsea Oswald (Kentucky)
Katie Harman (James Madison)
Emily Stites (William & Mary)
Lianne Farber (North Carolina)
Kelsey Lakowske (Duke)
Jillian Prentice (Richmond)

Host: University of Washington

We've saved the best for last. The West Regional has six teams ranked in the national poll and a large amount of individuals who could win NCAAs (we guess at least four).

For the sake of simplicity, we predict that the results from the Pac-12 conference race will be the same at the West Regional. That means that #3 Oregon should win, followed by #4 Arizona, #5 Stanford, #7 Washington, and #29 UCLA. However, between #26 San Francisco is ranked between Washington and UCLA in the regional rankings. USF won their fourth straight WCC title a few weeks ago and had some of that regional magic last season to make it to NCAAs. It'll be a tough challenge for them this year, but regionals is all about late season magic. If Lauren Suur is more fit than at their conference meet, their odds will improve. Suur was 7th two weekends ago at WCC, but finished 26th at NCAA's last fall.

The individual race will see the return of Cal Poly freshman phenom Laura Hollander. We watched her go for broke at Wisconsin with her 19:33 course record run over some the top individuals in the nation (Saina, Bottorff, etc). She then followed that up with another course record at Big West (we'll have the FloRating for this race later today). In her postrace interview at Wisconsin, she said she wanted to run well at conferences and hopefully regionals. Well, she's accomplished one of those goals and looks to fulfill the second one.

With all of the talk centered around Hollander, one would think that she's the big favorite to win. However, there might be some "lesser known" competitors that may have something to say about that. Among the list of "people we've never heard of" include Kathy Kroeger (Stanford), Jordan Hasay (Oregon), Elvin Kibet (Arizona), Alexi Pappas (Oregon), and Allie Woodward (Oregon). Oh right - those girls.

Kroeger kicked for gold at the Pac-12 championships, so she is currently the favorite on paper. However, the duo (or rather, trio) from Oregon has been on an incredible rise. Hasay is improving every race and most recently finished second behind Kroeger at Pac-12. Behind her in fourth and fifth place respectively was Pappas and Woodward.

Is this the best trio in the NCAA?

We almost finished this preview without mentioning the Washington Huskies, but last year's runner-up from Nationals is a different team this year. Megan Goethals has returned from injury and lead Washington at the Pac-12 with a 12th place finish. The big piece of the puzzle for Washington is whether Katie Flood is hurt, had a fluke race at Pac-12, or is simply not in form. She finished 29th at Pac-12, but is coming off one of the best years in school history. Can she turn things around?

Team Predictions:
San Francisco

Individual Predictions:
Laura Hollander (Cal Poly)
Kathy Kroeger (Stanford)
Jordan Hasay (Oregon)
Elvin Kibet (Arizona)
Alexi Pappas (Oregon)
Allie Woodward (Oregon)
Jennifer Bergman (Arizona)
Shelby Houlihan (Arizona State)
Jessica Tonn (Stanford)
Kelsey Santisteban (California)

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