Follow our 2018 FloXC Countdown, where FloTrack ranks the top cross country teams in the NCAA this season, which will be LIVE on FloTrack. The No. 3 women’s spot in DII goes to Western State, and here's why:
Probable Top Five:
SR Alicja Konieczek (9:47 3K SC; 15:59 5K; 11th at ’16 NCAA XC)
SO Aneta Konieczek (9:27 3K; 7th at ’17 NCAA XC)
SR Sophie Seward (16:36 5K; 34:27 10K; 22nd at ‘16 NCAA XC)
SR Kennedy Rufener (9:41 3K; 16:49 5K; 35:05 10K)
SR Chloe Andrie (94th at ’16 NCAA XC)
Kennedy Rufener via Western Oregon (9:41 3K; 16:49 5K; 35:05 10K)
Western State may have only been ninth last fall in Evansville, but with the return of eight-time NCAA champion Alicia Konieczek, plus the addition of two more potential All-Americans, the Mountaineers should take a massive leap forward in 2018.
Konieczek redshirted last cross country season, but the NCAA record holder picked up right where she left off on the track, collecting four more track titles in the spring to show she’ll be an individual contender on the grass this year. The senior-to-be was 11th at NCAAs back in 2016.
Two more cross country All-Americans will join Konieczek on this roster to give them title aspirations. Konieczek’s sister, sophomore Aneta, was the team’s No. 1 runner in Alicja’s absence, and returns after her seventh place finish at NCAAs. The two Polish sisters form arguably the best 1-2 punch in the country. Senior Sophie Seward missed last cross country season, but she had a spectacular spring of her own and has top 20 potential in cross country. She was 22nd at nationals in 2016.
The Mountaineers' secret weapon in 2018 will be transfer Kennedy Rufener, who comes over from Western Oregon after placing fourth in the NCAA 10k back in May. Rufener has elite track PRs that show she can also be an All-American on the cross country course. Add in solid fifth runner Chloe Andrie, who was 94th at NCAAs back in 2016, and the Mountaineers will be tough to beat this season if everybody runs up to their ability.
The two teams ahead of them are more proven on the XC course, but Western no doubt has the talent to win a title in 2018.