2017 Bill Dellinger XC Invitational

Things We Learned From The First Big Weekend Of NCAA XC

Things We Learned From The First Big Weekend Of NCAA XC

Quick recap of the most exciting moments in the weekend's NCAA XC action.

Oct 1, 2017 by Johanna Gretschel
Things We Learned From The First Big Weekend Of NCAA XC
Finally! We can all let out that collective breath we've been holding in since late June, because the competitive NCAA XC season is finally getting interesting. Forty-one FloXC-ranked teams (plus countless individuals) competed this weekend across the country, with many meeting at the Joe Piane Notre Dame XC Invitational, Louisville Commission XC Classic, the Bill Dellinger Invitational at the University of Oregon, Paul Short Run, Chile Pepper XC Festival in Fayetteville, and the Cowboy Jamboree in Stillwater, Oklahoma.

Here's a quick list of surprises that stuck out from the weekend's results.


Katie Rainsberger Is Super Fit

There's not much room for Katie Rainsberger to improve after placing fourth at NCAA XC for the Oregon Ducks as a freshman last year. But with a course record win at the Bill Dellinger Invitational, she proved herself worthy of being in the conversation as one of the front-runners for the individual title in November. She ran 18:47 for 6K to break the prior record by 37 seconds; you don't see sub-19 minute 6Ks too often and Rainsberger's mark is an average of 5:02 per mile.

Ducks coach Maurica Powell explained after the race how Rainsberger's time was so fast.

"The course is 100 percent short," she said. "There's no way it's 6K. I don't know how long it is but it isn't 6,000 meters. I mean, there's no way they ran that fast; it's impossible."

​Katie Rainsberger speaks to the media after breaking the Bill Dellinger course record in 18:47 for 6K:

And The No. 4 Oregon Women Seem Deeper Than We Thought

Behind Rainsberger, Oregon's Lilli Burdon and Jessica Hull ran 19:05 and 19:07 to sweep the top three individual spots. Transfers Carmela Cardama Baez and Susan Ejore placed 12th and 15th in their Ducks debut for a total team score of 33 points, well ahead of No. 2 Stanford (66), No. 18 BYU (78), and No. 6 Washington (95).

Numbers 6 and 7 were Emma Abrahamson and Judy Pendergast in 22nd and 43rd. In the post-race interview, Powell noted that she expects that No. 1 to 7 gap to close later in the season as Pendergast got a later start on her training. (Presumably as she was arranging her transfer from Harvard.)

Sure, Stanford held a few of their studs out, but Vanessa Fraser and Fiona O'Keeffe are both XC All-Americans and ran 15:26 and 15:46 for 5K this spring, respectively, and they were well-beaten by Oregon's top three in 19:12 and 19:16. Add back Alli Cash, 14th at '16 NCAA XC for the Ducks, and this squad is looking pretty dangerous.

​Watch the Bill Dellinger Invitational Women's 6K:

BYU Though...

The real team story of the Bill Dellinger Invitational belongs to the No. 6-ranked BYU men, who set the pace from the gun and held on for an impressive 17-point win ahead of No. 3 Stanford and No. 4 Oregon, who scored 73 and 75 points, respectively. Clayton Young, Rory Linkletter, Connor McMillan, and freshman Casey Clinger swept the top four spots, and their entire top seven finished within the top 10 thanks to Daniel Carney (seventh), Brayden McLelland (eighth) and Jonathan Harper (10th).

Same as the women's race, the Stanford men held out a lot of their top dogs, including Grant Fisher and Thomas Ratcliffe, both of whom factor heavily in the FloXC rankings. Still, a 17-point win is impressive and individual champion Young made a point of saying in his post-race interview that the Cougars don't want to be known as the team that's only good at the beginning of the season this year. (Note that around this time last year, the No. 14-ranked BYU Cougars shot up to No. 1 after taking down Syracuse and Stanford at the UVA Panorama Farms Invitational, only to finish behind both teams at NCAAs in seventh.)

Of note, the Ducks' top man in their season debut was true freshman Cooper Teare, who placed ninth in 23:53, 10 seconds behind Young and just ahead of teammates Sam Prakel and Tanner Anderson. Fellow freshman Reed Brown, who we optimistically ranked No. 10 in the pre-season thanks to his sub-4 mile as a high schooler and '16 Foot Locker victory, placed 34th.

​Watch the Bill Dellinger Invitational Men's 8K:

Allie Ostrander Is A Badass

After a nearly two-year hiatus from cross country, Boise State's Allie Ostrander won the Louisville Sports Commission XC Classic in convincing fashion with a time of 16:28 over runner-up Charlotte Imer of Eastern Kentucky, who ran 16:36. We already knew the reigning NCAA steeplechase champ was a badass (read up on her Mount Marathon exploits here), but now she gets another notch in her warrior belt after finishing Saturday's 5K race with bloody feet.

According to her mom, Teri Ostander (via the Peninsula Clarion), "Allie had her heel stepped on [at] the starting line at EP "Tom" Sawyer Park, partially removing her shoe. [She] ran . . . with the bad shoe until about four kilometers into the five-kilometer race, when it finally came off her left foot. . . . Allie's foot was a bit bloody when she finished."

New Mexico Women Are Living Up To The Hype

On the FloXC Pre-Season Podium Reveal Show, we asked if the 2017 New Mexico women could actually be even better than the 2015 New Mexico women, who won the NCAA XC championship with just 49 points, the lowest point total in modern history. With the addition of several high profile transfers (Ednah Kurgat from Liberty, Charlotte Prouse from Washington) and a national high school record holder (Weini Kelati), plus lead duties from veteran All-American Alice Wright, the Lobos certainly looked like a team full of potential in the pre-season.

They had a great first test vs. No. 1-ranked Colorado at the Joe Piane Notre Dame XC Invitational. The Buffs won, but just barely -- 47 to 51 points. As projected, No. 3-ranked Ednah Kurgat, No. 6 Alice Wright, and No. 13 Weini Kelati all finished within the top 10, but so did Prouse -- who was a bit of an unknown after not racing since last cross country season. Colorado won based on the strength of their fifth woman: Maddie Boreman was 18th for the Buffs vs. Kiernan Casey 34th for the Lobos; but New Mexico does have one more key player who was missing in action on Saturday: Elizabeth Weiler, who was a cross country All-American in 2014 for Lehigh.


Could Alabama Be The Best Team Not To Make NCAAs?

The Big Three Alabama trio of Gilbert Kigen, Vincent Kiprop, and Alfred Chelanga swept the top three spots at the Joe Piane Notre Dame XC Invitational, but the Crimson Tide finished just eighth in the team standings.

It makes me wonder if the team currently ranked No. 11 in the country might get left at home for the big dance. Obviously, the trio should make the NCAA championships regardless as they're good enough to qualify individually (Kigen and Kiprop are ranked No. 7 and No. 4, respectively, in the FloXC), plus the South Region is one of the easier regions in the nation. 

The 'Bama men were far from the only upset of the day as No. 20 Southern Utah pulled out the team win over No. 7 Colorado, and No. 22-ranked Sam Worley of Texas, the 4:00-flat high school miler, was not even the top freshman on his team as Connor O'Neill, who didn't even make the the Texas state track meet his senior year, led the Longhorns with a 13th-place run.

Missing In Action

Some kids we haven't seen yet this season: No. 1-ranked Justyn Knight of Syracuse, No. 2 Grant Fisher of Stanford, No. 3 Morgan McDonald of Wisconsin, No. 16 Gilbert Kirui of Iona, No. 17 Thomas Ratcliffe of Stanford, No. 24 Matthew Maton of Oregon, No. 8 Sharon Lokedi of Kansas, No. 9 Brenna Peloquin of Boise State, No. 19 Alli Cash of Oregon, and No. 23 Peyton Bilo of Cal Poly.