Can OK State Men, PSU Women Validate Their Rankings At Cowboy Jamboree?
The meet changes format which should better prepare the women for the distance they will race at NCAA regionals and nationals in the coming weeks. Local college races are renamed "black" races and remain 5K / 8K, and larger university races have been renamed as "orange" races; the women's distance has been extended from 5K to 6K while the men's remains 8K. It should be noted, though, that while all the DI ranked teams appear in the orange races, there could still be some solid talent in the black races -- last year, the winning time in the women's college race (17:47 by OK City's Aminat Olowora) was even faster than the university race winning time (17:59 by Tulsa's Clara Langley). Olowora returns as a senior this year, and is in a prime position to defend her black race title after demolishing the NAIA championship record by 17 seconds in the outdoor 5K this spring.
Orange Women's 6K
When: Saturday September 30, 9:15 AM CT
Ranked Teams: No. 12 Penn State, No. 22 Missouri, No. 25 Oklahoma State, NR Mississippi, NR Tulsa
Hot Individuals: No. 1 Karissa Schweizer (SR, Missouri), NR Jamie Kempfer (SR, Missouri)
Last year, the Oklahoma State women gave up their six-race event record winning streak to Tulsa, who almost pulled off the perfect sweep with a 1-2-4-5-8 showing. Granted, that was without their top runner at the time in NCAA mile champ Kaela Edwards, but now that she's lost to graduation, the '17 Jamboree women's squad looks essentially the same as last year's and will face a stiff challenge to beat the two teams ranked ahead of them along with a mostly-new unranked Tulsa team.
Tulsa graduates all of its top three at this meet from last year, including race winner Clara Langley, so a repeat may be a bit much to ask. But the big news in this year's race will be the presence of FloXC Week 1 No. 12-ranked Penn State, who will no doubt be the pre-race favorites. Their star runner Elizabeth Chikotas won't be running, but they certainly have the depth to make up for that led by senior Jillian Hunsberger, who is coming off a 21:06 6K win at Harry Groves.
The biggest story at this meet, however, could belong to one particular Missouri Tiger in No. 1 Karissa Schweizer. Should she toe the line with her team, we'll get a nice glimpse into the fitness of last year's NCAA XC, indoor 5K, and outdoor 5K champ. If she runs an honest race the individual win should be hers, but by how much? She opened her season at the Commodore Classic two weeks ago with a 5K win by over a minute, so she may not be afraid to stretch out the legs and go for it again in Stillwater.
Orange Men's 8K
When: Saturday September 30, 9:45 AM CT
Ranked Teams: No. 17 Oklahoma State, No. 18 Tulsa, No. 24 Mississippi
Hot Individuals: No. 11 Hassan Abdi (SR, Oklahoma State), NR Sylvester Barus (SR, Oklahoma State), NR Tim McGowan (SR, Penn State)
OK State pulled off the win last year, but with No. 18 Tulsa just one spot behind them in the FloXC Week 1 rankings, this could be a tight team battle up front. And the stakes have never been higher -- if the Cowboys win this one, it'll extend their men's win streak to eight, which would tie Arkansas (1975-1982) for the longest winning streak in meet history.
On the individual side, Hassan Abdi will definitely be the one to watch, having thrived in his first year of the NCAA system last year, culminating in a 16th-place finish at NCAA XC. Abdi didn't race at the Cowboy Preview, so this is the first chance we'll get to see his fitness; he should no doubt be aiming for that individual title. And with teammate Sylvester Barus, who made the finals of the NCAA 10K last spring, also making his season debut, they could have a powerful one-two punch.
But Tulsa might have something to say about that with their depth: they beat an Abdi-less, Barus-less OK State at the Cowboy Preview earlier this year, and their top NCAA XC finisher last year Benjamin Preisner (72nd) has yet to debut this season. Ole Miss could also be in the mix despite losing a killer graduating class, as they've still got guys like Sean Tobin, 62nd at NCAAs last fall, who has also yet to run this season.