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2017 FloXC Countdown: #1 Johns Hopkins Women

2017 FloXC Countdown: #1 Johns Hopkins Women
Follow our 2017 FloXC Countdown, where FloTrack ranks the top ten cross country teams and individuals in the NCAA this season which will be LIVE on FloTrack. The No. 1 women's spot goes to Johns Hopkins, and here's why:

Probable Top Four:

JR Felicia Koerner (16:41 5K; 34:27 10K; 4th at '17 NCAA 10K; 29th at '16 NCAA XC)
JR Tasha Freed (10:49 3K SC; 158th at '15 NCAA XC)
SR Caroline Smith (9:47 3K; 62nd at '16 NCAA XC; 12th at '15 NCAA XC)
JR Ellie Clawson (57th at '16 NCAA XC)

Fifth Woman Battle:

JR Natalia LaSpada (17:29 5K; 36:03 10K; 31st at '16 NCAA XC)
SO Sam Levy (17:38 5K; 224th at '16 NCAA XC)
SR Bridget Gottlieb (17:01 5K; 35:36 10K; 6th at '15 NCAA 10K; 37th at '14 NCAA XC)
JR Gina D'Addardio (10:16 3K; 26th at '16 Mideast XC)
SO Lauren Jacob (17:51 5K)
JR Emily Stahl (17:56 5K)
SO Rebecca Grusby (10:10 3K; 117th at '16 NCAA XC)
SO Kristin Meek

Impact Freshmen/Transfers:

Therese Olshanski via Mountain Lakes, NJ (2:12 800)

Analysis:

Hopkins is the definition of a title favorite: they return six out of seven women from a team that won nationals by 74 points. And some of those women have gotten even better. Felicia Koerner was 29th last fall, but she's ranked at No. 3 on the strength of her track season: 9:24 (No. 2 all time)/16:41/34:27/fourth in the 10K outdoors. Caroline Smith was 62nd last year, but she was 12th the year before, and head coach Bobby Van Allen reports that she is back to her 2015 form. Tasha Freed wasn't in the top seven last year, but she was two years ago. She made nationals in the steeple and Van Allen expects her to have a shot at scoring this fall.

From there, the riches continue. At their season-opening 4K on September 1, Ellie Clawson (57th at '16 NCAAs) and freshman Therese Olshanski were both in the top four. (This article went to press before the September 15 Iona Meet of Champions.) I haven't even mentioned two All-Americans yet: Natalia LaSpada was 31st last November and made outdoor nationals in the 10K, and Bridget Gottlieb was 37th at XC nationals in 2014 and sixth in the outdoor 10K, though she only raced a total of five times in the 2015-16 academic year.

That's a total of seven potential All-Americans, at least -- by dint of finishing in Hopkins's top four, you're a potential All-American. The Blue Jays have won four national championships in the last five years, and they've "only" had three, three, four, three, and three AAs in those seasons, so this roster has what it needs.

This is a dynasty. Van Allen knows how capricious nationals can be, saying, "Sometimes it comes down to a crapshoot, who's feeling good one particular day . . . I'm certainly not saying we're lucky, but of the last five years, the best team was the year we didn't win. So you can't have bad luck hit you on that day."

Trying to win a fifth title in six years instead of a sixth straight isn't all bad, though. Van Allen says, "The pressure is there, but the fact that we didn't win in 2015 alleviates some of it, because we're not continuing a streak."

The biggest question for Hopkins is how healthy their and WashU's rosters will be this fall. But at a program that has won so much, the second biggest question might be how you keep everyone driven to win. Except for Smith, no one on the roster has run cross country nationals more than once. And according to Van Allen, "The excitement seems to be higher than in the past. The team culture is great. . . . They've had the development together where most of them were not in the top seven as freshmen, and they've developed and have the opportunity now." It's an extremely good opportunity.

FULL WOMEN'S RANKINGS HERE
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