NCAA Championships Team Previews: Colorado Women
It would be a historic upset if they did. The Buffs are currently ranked #6, and no women's team ranked below #3 has won the meet in the sixteen years for which poll data is available. But one of the voters in that coaches' poll gave them a #1 vote, so at least one person on the panel believes it's possible.
Like virtually all contending teams, Colorado has run only three major meets: an invitational, their conference championship, and their regional championship. Their only loss in those was a fourth-place finish at the Pre-National Invitational, and they pulled off a massive upset to win the Pac-12 Championship over then-#2 Washington.
At Pre-Nats, the Buffs didn't have the services of track star Emma Coburn (senior, Crested Butte CO). She'd had a long summer of racing the steeplechase, culminating in a 13th-place finish at the IAAF World Championships on August 30. She opened up her cross-country season at the Pac-12, where her fifth-place finish was one of the major reasons the Buffs won that meet.
What would have happened at Pre-Nats if Coburn had run? Even if she won the race, the Buffaloes still would have been third behind Georgetown and Florida State. It's still a team sport and it takes a team effort.
Besides Coburn, the other team leader for Colorado this season has been Shalaya Kipp (sophomore, Salt Lake City UT), who was less than a second ahead of Coburn at both the Pac-12 (where she finished fourth) and the Mountain regional (fourth again). She was 40th at last year's NCAA Championships, and appears a heck of a lot better than that right now. She and Coburn are used to running together; they finished third and first, respectively, in the NCAA steeplechase last spring.
The Buff's third runner has been Lara Darco (junior, Walpack NJ), a transfer from Brown. At the Pac-12, where the team scored its upset, she was ninth, just 24 seconds behind Kipp and Coburn. If she can keep it that close at the NCAA meet, she gives her team a chance.
A big surprise at the Pac-12 Championships was Rachel Baptista (freshman, Austin TX), who had a breakout run to finish 14th. She ran a good race at the Mountain regional as well, proving it wasn't a one-off performance. Katie Cumming (senior, Hudson WI) also ran well at the Pac-12 for 18th, to keep the Buff's 1-5 gap at only 36 seconds.
The presumed other roster members for Monday's race are Camille Logan (sophomore, Littleton CO) and Rachel Viger (sophomore, Fort Collins CO). Both have been well back of their teammates, which gives the Buffs no room for one of the top five to have a bad day.
My bottom line: a very long shot to win, but has as good a chance as anyone at being runners-up.