MEET PREVIEW: Roy Griak Invitational
NEW ORLEANS — Business is picking up in NCAA Division I Cross Country and this weekend’s schedule proves just that.
Two big meets are on the docket as multiple ranked teams take to the course at the Panorama Farms Invitational hosted by Virginia in Earlysville, Virginia and Minnesota’s illustrious Roy Griak Invitational in Falcon Heights, Minnesota.
QUICK LINKS: This Weekend’s Schedule | Panorama Farms Entries | Roy Griak Information
We’ll bring the action from both meets to your computer, tables and/or phones LIVE beginning tomorrow afternoon on the debut of the National Results Wall, presented by the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA). That can be found by visiting USTFCCCA.org.
This post, however, will serve as an all-encompassing preview for the Roy Griak Invitational, which is set to begin Saturday, September 24 at 12:20 p.m. CT with the start of the Merrill Fischbein Men’s Gold Competition. The Jack Johnson Women’s Gold Competition is slated to get underway at 1:35 p.m.
Let’s get to it.
Women’s Race: A Preview Of Things To Come?There are three major storylines surrounding the Jack Johnson Women’s Gold Competition.
The second is that nine teams that were ranked latest USTFCCCA National Coaches’ Poll will be in action and that could very well affect next week’s ballots.
And as a corollary to the second, we should get an idea of how the Big Ten Championships could shake out with four high-profile teams from the conference in action on Saturday.
First things first: We could see four women who finished in the top-10 of NCAAs either last year or the year before go head to head. Boise State’s Allie Ostrander, the runner-up at the 2015 Griak Invitational and NCAAs, will be joined by her teammate Brenna Peloquin (9th at 2015 NCAAs), Iowa State’s Crystal Nelson (7th at 2014 NCAAs) and Michigan State’s Rachele Schulist (4th at 2014 NCAAs).
Not bad, right? Well, let’s throw in Michigan’s Erin Finn — who finished 19th at NCAAs last year with one shoe — as well as Michigan State’s Alexis Weirsma (21st) and Penn State’s Tessa Barrett (38th) for good measure. Not to mention Mississippi State’s Rhianwedd Price (24th in 2014) and Iowa State’s Bethanie Brown (37th in 2013).
The long and short of it is that we’ve got a who’s who of NCAA XC ready to compete.
When it comes to the team race, Boise State returns to defend its title with three of its runners from last year’s squad (Ostrander, Peloquin and Minttu Hukka). The Broncos put on a clinic as they scored just 36 points compared to Michigan State’s 116.
Boise State’s surprise victory last year shook up the polls and if another team can pull off a shocker, the same thing could happen once again. If any team in the field could come from the middle of the poll to win the team title, it could be Iowa State. The Cyclones welcome back Brown and Nelson in addition to an already solid lineup featuring Erin Hooker and Perez Rotich.
Also, in about one month, Minnesota hosts the Big Ten Cross Country Championships. Wanting to race against good competition is one thing, but getting a preview of the course is another. That’s why we’ll see Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State and Penn State in action come Saturday, alongside the host Gophers.
Men’s Race: High Stakes For Individual, Team ComponentA perfect storm is brewing for the Merrill Fischbein Men’s Gold Competition.
The previous year’s team champion is back in the mix and 30th-ranked Michigan State returns more than half of its scoring lineup from the 2015 Griak Invitational. No team has won consecutive team titles since Wisconsin polished its off 12 years ago.
Lastly, five of the top-8 finishers from 2015 are listed among those entered: Abbey, his teammate Jerrell Mock, Boise State’s Michael Vennard (3rd), San Francisco’s Alex Short (5th) and Michigan State’s Ryan Robinson (8th).
When it comes to the overall team race, though, placing will be critical. Many of the teams entered aren’t in the top-2 of their respective region rankings and need wins over other at-large teams to be able to punch a ticket to Terre Haute come November.
Michigan and Michigan State are ranked third and fourth in the Great Lakes Region. Illinois and Iowa State are ranked fourth and fifth in the Midwest Region (Oklahoma is second). Southern Utah and Colorado State are fifth and sixth in the Mountain Region. Furman is fourth in the Southeast, while Boise State, Portland and UCLA are third, fourth and seventh in the West, respectively.