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2017 FloXC Countdown: #17 Iowa State Women

Follow our 2017 FloXC Countdown, where FloTrack ranks the top 25 cross country teams and individuals in the NCAA this season which will be LIVE on FloTrack. The No. 17 women's spot goes to Iowa State, and here's why:

Probable Top Four:

JR Anne Frisbie (9:29 3K; 16:29 5K; 33:49 10K; 77th at '16 NCAA XC)
JR Abby Caldwell (9:32 3K; 10:19 3K SC; 193rd at '15 NCAA XC)
FR Cailie Logue (4:42 Mile; 10:09 3200; 3rd at '15 NXN)
SR Bethanie Brown (9:19 3K; 16:09 5K; 128th at '16 NCAA XC; 37th at '13 NCAA XC)

Fifth Woman Battle:

JR Evelyne Guay (2:08.4 800; 4:22 1500; 223rd at '16 NCAA XC)
JR Kelly Naumann (9:45 3K; 10:21 3K SC; 16:57 5K; 232nd at '16 NCAA XC)

Impact Freshmen/Transfers:

Cailie Logue via Girard, KS (4:42 Mile; 10:09 3200; 3rd at '15 NXN)
Amanda Vestri via Webster, NY (9:35 3K; 2nd at '17 NBN Outdoor 5K; 27th at '16 NXN)
Sarah Leinheiser via Carmel, IN (10:37 3200; 8th at '15 FL XC; 7th at '15 NXN)
Karly Ackley via Grand Forks, ND (10:32 3200; 7th at '17 NBN Outdoor 5K; 84th at '16 NXN)

Analysis:

Directed by head coach Andrea Grove-McDonough in her fifth year, the Iowa State women face a crisis that they are well-equipped to overcome in 2017. The Cyclones wowed the nation with their runner-up finish at NCAAs in 2014, but since then their national finish has declined every year, culminating in a disappointing third-to-last placing last year -- their worst in eight consecutive appearances at NCAAs. But while we may say this every year, in 2017 there are a few key reasons to feel good about ISU.

The first reason is in their returners. The top two '16 Cyclone finishers in Anne Frisbie and Bethany Brown both come back, though only Frisbie is coming off a PR (33:49 10K) in a distance race on the track in 2017. Star recruit Branna McDougall's stay at ISU may have only lasted one year (despite her 152nd-place NCAA showing she transfers back to Canada this fall), but the Iowa State 6-7 duo of Evelyne Guay and Kelly Naumann also both return and will look to round out the squad again in 2017.

But the most important reason why 2017 could be a rebound year for the Cyclones is their stellar freshman newcomers. There are several members of the FloTrack No. 15 recruiting class who, if Grove-McDonough chooses not to give them a redshirt, could make an immediate impact: Cailie Logue, Amanda Vestri, Sarah Leinheiser, and Karly Ackley.

Though Logue and Leinheiser can both boast top-ten cross country finishes at the national high school level during their junior years, the knock on their shoulders is that their best years may be behind them -- Logue had a bad day at regionals and failed to qualify for nats in 2016, and Leinheiser was just 123rd at NXN her senior year. Showing more recent form would be Vestri and Ackley, who were both in the top ten at the New Balance Nationals outdoor 5K on the track in 2016.

The star power is there for the Cyclones to see a massive improvement on their 2016 showing. With so much young talent it's clear that the future is bright for Iowa State, but should the freshmen step up, that upswing could be in full force this cross country season.

FULL WOMEN'S RANKINGS HERE
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