There was a point in the summer when the Oregon women’s cross country team appeared to be on shaky ground. When the 2018 cross country roster was released in August, it lacked Katie Rainsberger and Lilli Burdon—two All-Americans at the core of a Ducks squad primed for another top-five finish at the national championships.
With them, Oregon returned four of the top five from a team that placed fifth last year, but after the two followed longtime Oregon women’s distance coach Maurica Powell to Washington, the core was down to two.
The cliche in NCAA sports is that power programs don’t rebuild, they reload. Oregon’s summer is better described as a restructuring.
With the Powells gone, Helen Lehman-Winters moved from the University of San Francisco to run the women’s team. Weronika Pyzik and Isabelle Brauer, who finished fifth and 15th at the 2017 NCAA Championships, came to Eugene with their coach. And the void left by two All-Americans was immediately filled by two All-Americans.
The team also added Philippa Bowden, a senior from England with a 10,000m personal best (32:33) that's four seconds faster than Pyzik’s. It’s too early to know if they ended up better off than they were at the beginning of the summer, but at the very least it’s clear there won’t be a significant drop-off for the Ducks this year.
At Friday’s Bill Dellinger Invitational, Pyzik, Brauer and Bowden debuted for Oregon in a 1-7 sweep. Pyzik ran with the lead group on the 6K course that included Susan Ejore, NCAA 1500m champion Jessica Hull and 2017 cross country All-American Carmela Cardama Baez. Ejore crossed the line in 19:32 just in front of the other three to get her second win of the season. Thirty seconds later, Brauer crossed the line ahead of Bowden and Amanda Gehrich.
The Oregon men also lost big names during the coaching change, but unlike the women’s team, they haven’t instantly repopulated their team with All-Americans. Despite the absences of Tanner Anderson (Washington) and Brodey Hasty (NAU), the Ducks are still ranked No. 10 in the nation. They got a good test on Friday in the form of No. 3 Portland.
The Pilots ran a B squad and unattached athletes, but still beat the Ducks (who also ran some athletes unattached) 25-38. Reuben Kiprono of Portland won the race in 24:39 ahead of Cooper Teare who finished in 24:54. Teare was one of the athletes who ran unattached, but said after the race that he will compete for the Ducks this season.
Syracuse Men Show Strength In Boston, Ole Miss Women Surprise
Syracuse put four men in the top 10 to easily win the Coast-To-Coast Battle In Beantown. The Orangemen entered the meet ranked 12th in a competition that featured four ranked teams and saw strong performances from Aidan Tooker (second) and Noah Affolder (fifth), which helped them rack up 37 points. Washington, led by Oregon transfer Tanner Anderson, scored 70 points for second.
The highest-ranked team in the meet (No. 8 Campbell), had two low scorers in Amon Kemboi and Lawrence Kipkoech, but could only manage sixth. Kemboi won the race in 24:03, the same time as Tooker, and Kipkoech took third in 24:05. However, Campbell’s next runner scored 47 points, which dropped the Camels out of the top five.
Is this good? pic.twitter.com/TXV9Y3NfzV— Syracuse XC/Track (@CuseXCTF) September 21, 2018
In the women’s race, Ole Miss’ first runner crossed the line 10th, but the Rebels had five women in the top 33 to carry them to a close win. Lisa Vogelgesang was Ole Miss’ top finisher, finishing in the same time as her teammate, Madeleine King.
Providence entered the meet as the highest-ranked team (No. 19) and only finished 11th, but the Friars did get the individual win from Abbey Wheeler, who ran the 5K course in 17:10, which put her seven seconds ahead of Minnesota junior Bethany Hasz and Virginia freshman Abigail Green. Georgia Tech placed second as a team, three points behind Ole Miss.
Arkansas Sweeps Chile Pepper Festival
The No. 7-ranked women’s team and No. 13-ranked men’s squad from Arkansas easily handled the fields at the Chile Pepper Festival. The meet was an opportunity to see some new faces for the Razorbacks. Freshman Katrina Robinson led the women’s team by running 16:15 on the 5K course to take the individual title. Carina Viljoen placed second as the Razorbacks put three in the first four to score 34 points--well ahead of second-place Wichita State.
True Freshman Katrina Robinson led the way for No. 9 Arkansas as the Razorbacks captured the 30th Annual Chile Pepper Festival team title 🏆 in dominating fashion #WPS🐗— Razorback Track & Field/Cross Country (@RazorbackTF) September 22, 2018
📰 | https://t.co/vF1zUvzvU3 pic.twitter.com/AWVLIlDwVe
Gilbert Boit, running his first cross country season for Arkansas after transferring from Tennessee Tech, looked like he will be a key piece for the Razorbacks' attempt to finish in the top 10 at the NCAA Championships.
Boit was the first collegiate finisher, running 24:05.8 for 8K to place second in the race. Frankline Tonui of the American Distance Project took the win, finishing just ahead of Boit. Cameron Griffith and Ryan Murphy ran 24:23 and 24:28 to place third and fourth for Arkansas.