Four Key NCAA XC Runners Who Haven't Raced Yet

It’s mid-October, the Nuttycombe Invitational and Pre-Nationals have come and gone, conference meets are on the horizon and the NCAA Championships are only a month away. The results thus far have altered some pre-season projections and solidified some of the expected favorites. However, “regular season” results aren’t always a predictor of post-season success. This is especially true when accounting for the fact there are some top runners who have yet to race this fall.  

Here are four athletes whose late-season debut might shake up the national meet. 

Vincent Kiprop

The pre-season top-ranked runner in the nation has been conspicuously absent this fall. Despite not racing this fall, he’s still fourth on the FloXC rankings--a testament to his strong resume that includes second-place finishes in the 5000m indoors and 10,000m outdoors as well as a seventh-place run in the 2017 NCAA Cross Country Championships. Kiprop was entered in the Nuttycombe Invitational but scratched the race. 

Without him, Alabama’s big three (Kiprop, Alfred Chelanga, Gilbert Kigen) is reduced by a third and any chance of getting on the podium evaporates. Alabama didn’t have Pre-Nationals on their schedule so questions about Kiprop are really focused on missing one race, Nuttycombe.  The next opportunity for Kiprop will come at the SEC Championships next weekend. 

Lilli Burdon

Conventional wisdom said that Burdon would be deployed at the same time as fellow Oregon transfer, Katie Rainsberger. But Rainsberger has now raced three times and there has been no sign of Burdon. 

Last spring she was on fire--placing third in the 5000m at the NCAA Championships and lowering her personal best to 15:43.22. She’d add some much-needed depth to the #14 Huskies. Washington’s fifth-runner was 85th at Pre-Nationals. A solid race by Burdon would have put Washington in range of third-place Stanford (Washington finished 5th, 70 points back of the Cardinal). 

Samantha Drop

The Georgia junior, who was 30th at NCAAs in 2017, has been absent for the Bulldogs. Her twin sister, Jessica, has raced three times, including an 11th-place finish at last Saturday’s Pre-Nationals. Due to the duo’s propensity for finishing right next to each other, it’s easy to predict where Samantha would finish. 

At Pre-Nationals there was a 47-second gap (and 36 places) between Georgia’s top runner, Jessica Drop, and their number two runner. Heading into SECs, Georgia would love to have Samantha back on the start line to chop away at that team score. Currently, the Bulldogs sit 23rd on the FloXC rankings, one spot ahead of conference opponent Ole Miss.  

Bethan Knights

Knights was 23rd at NCAAs last fall and followed that up with a personal best in the 5000m of 15:45.95 during the indoor season. In March, she placed 12th at the NCAA Indoor Championships in the 5000m. But she hasn’t raced since, missing the outdoor season. 

The Bears have also been racing without Brie Oakley. The sophomore was 38th at NCAAs in 2017--the second-best finish by a freshman in the race.  Her most recent run is May’s NCAA West Prelim 5000m. 

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