Who Could Challenge Karissa Schweizer At Pre-Nationals?
For the past year, the senior standout from Missouri has shown her dominance by capturing NCAA titles in cross country, the indoor 5K, and outdoor 5K, all of which have earned her the right to be called heavy favorite for another NCAA crown.
Watch her 2016 NCAA XC victory:
This year's NCAA title race is shaping up to be quite different from last year, with several emerging stars who have the potential to challenge for a top finish. It all begins with a showdown at the Pre-National Invitational. Here are four athletes who could challenge Schweizer in Louisville:
Katie Rainsberger | Oregon
As a freshman, Rainsberger stunned fans with a fourth-place individual finish at the 2016 NCAA Cross Country Championships. Her placing led the Oregon Ducks to a team title and catapulted Rainsberger to several standout performances on the track. During the indoor season, she was a member of the distance medley relay that broke the collegiate record. She also placed third in the 3K at the NCAA Indoor Championships. During the outdoor season, Rainsberger went on to place fourth in the 1500m at NCAAs and ended the season with a 4:09 personal best.
This year, Rainsberger has emerged even stronger as shown by her dominant victory at the Bill Dellinger Invitational on September 29. She obliterated the meet record when she crossed the finish line in 18:47, a staggering 37 seconds faster than the previous record. The Colorado native was already a threat for a top-three finish last year, but her season debut showed that she is ready for even more improvement this fall.
Dani Jones | Colorado
Dani Jones emerged on the track last year when she kicked her way to NCAA titles in both the distance medley relay and the 3K at the indoor championships. Her 3K victory was especially head-turning, as the Colorado Buffalo out-kicked Schweizer for the crown in the final 100 meters. The performance earned Jones her first individual NCAA title and introduced the competition to her formidable kick that proved she is capable of taking down the best in the NCAA.
Last fall, Jones finished 22nd at the NCAA cross country championships, but is already showing signs of vast improvement over the grass. At the Joe Piane Notre Dame Invitational, she earned a third-place finish to New Mexico's Ednah Kurgat and Alice Wright. As she leads the No. 1-ranked Colorado Buffaloes into the competitive portion of the season, Jones is showing that she is ready to pounce on a top individual finish in November.
Sharon Lokedi | Kansas
The Pre-National Invitational will be Sharon Lokedi's first cross country race this season, but the Kansas standout is poised for another impressive year.
In the 2016-17 season, Lokedi notched a fifth-place finish at the NCAA cross country championships and a third-place finish in the 10K at the NCAA outdoor championships.
Elinor Purrier | New Hampshire
After winning the Battle in Beantown, Elinor Purrier has shown that she is ready for another display of strength over the grass this fall. Last year, Purrier notched a seventh-place finish at the NCAA cross country championships, a runner-up finish in the indoor mile, and a fourth-place finish in the steeplechase.
Her seventh-place finish in cross country was especially impressive given the fact that the performance was her first time competing at the championship.
Watch these competitors lead a field of 12 top-ranked FloXC individuals at the Pre-National Invitational LIVE on FloTrack this Saturday.