Four Takeaways From Nuttycombe Wisconsin Invitational
NEW ORLEANS — We said the Nuttycombe Wisconsin Invitational was going to be a good one.
With 37 ranked teams in attendance from the most recent 60-team NCAA Division I Cross Country National Coaches’ Poll, how could it not?
Well, both championship races lived up to those high hopes.
QUICK LINKS: Meet Recap | Men’s Results | Women’s Results
Team titles went to the top-ranked men from Northern Arizona and the fourth-ranked women from Washington. Syracuse’s Justyn Knight and Boise State’s Brenna Peloquin earned the individual victories.
Here are four takeaways from a busy day of racing in Madison, Wisconsin.
NAU Proves It’s A Rightful No. 1It was No. 1 versus No. 2 versus No. 3 for the first time in the short history of the Nuttycombe Wisconsin Invitational. Northern Arizona took on defending national champion Syracuse and BYU, a team that knocked off the Orange earlier this season.
We would soon learn if the Lumberjacks deserved their top billing, a spot they held down since the Cougars edged Syracuse at the Panorama Farms Invitational.
NAU staked its claim in a major way Friday as it unveiled its “A” team for the first time this season and clobbered the “A” teams from 11th-ranked Stanford, 3rd-ranked BYU and 2nd-ranked Syracuse, in that order. The Lumberjacks scored 78 points, compared to 118 for the Cardinal, 144 for the Cougars and 167 for the Orange.
Futsum Zienasellassie debuted for NAU and finished runner-up to Syracuse’s Justyn Knight. This was Zienasellassie’s first sanctioned XC race since 2014 and proved to be in top shape, which came as no surprise after his strong outdoor track season.
The Lumberjacks showed off their depth behind Zienasellassie as they finished 8th, 17th, 20th and 31st. Their 31.1-second spread was third behind 21st-ranked Colorado State and 29th-ranked Illinois.
NAU’s next test will come at the Mountain Region Championships and then eight days later at the NCAA Division I Cross Country Championships in Terre Haute, Indiana.
The Future Is Bright For KnightFor the second consecutive meet, Syracuse’s Justyn Knight proved that he’ll be a game contender come November — even more so than last year when he finished fourth — and that’s a scary proposition for three-time individual champion Edward Cheserek, Futsum Zienasellassie and Villanova’s Patrick Tiernan, among others.
A few weeks after breaking the course record with a hellacious final 3K at the Panorama Farms Invitational, Knight kicked down NC State’s George Parsons in the final 100 meters for his second win of the season. Knight crossed the finish line in 23:53.1, two seconds ahead of Zienasellassie, who finished runner-up. Parsons faded to fifth.
These past two races proved Knight has elite-level fitness and closing speed.
Will it be enough to take down The King come November 19?
We know it takes two things to beat Cheserek: Elite-level fitness and closing speed. If Knight can put those together in a month, we could see a new heir to the throne.
The Time Is Now For WashingtonIf the Women’s Championship Race at the Nuttycombe Wisconsin Invitational proved one thing, it’s that the national title will be up for grabs. Preseason favorite New Mexico isn’t what it was last year and current No. 1 Providence did little to instill confidence.
Why not Washington?
For the second consecutive meet, the Huskies proved their worth. This time they took down 17 other ranked teams, including the top-ranked Friars and No. 3 NC State, across 6K on the Thomas Zimmer Championship Cross Country Course.
Washington showed it has zero depth issues as it put its entire lineup inside the top-50. Amy Eloise-Neal and Charlotte Prouse went 4-5, with its next five runners finishing 34-36-45-48-50. Plus, the Huskies’ seventh finisher, Katie Knight, struggled a bit on Friday as her history shows she’s closer to No. 3 than the back of the scoring lineup.
We’ll learn a lot more about Washington over the next month as it will take on a stacked field at the Pac-12 Championships and West Region Championships before turning its attention to Terre Haute, Indiana and the NCAA DI Cross Country Championships.
Peloquin Shines Once AgainBrenna Peloquin finished 9th at NCAAs last year as a freshman.
It’s safe to say Peloquin wants much more after watching her past two races.
Peloquin showed a ton of moxie at both the Roy Griak Invitational and Nuttycombe Wisconsin Invitational, both of which ended up as wins for the sophomore.
It was at the former where she broke Michigan’s Erin Finn, a tough runner in her own right (see: finishing last year’s NCAA meet with no shoes), and won by 11 seconds.
Peloquin tried to crush the spirits of Notre Dame’s Anna Rohrer and New Mexico’s Alice Wright — two other NCAA individual contenders — the same way she did Finn, but they fought back. Rohrer even took the lead from Peloquin at one point down the stretch.
Did Peloquin back down? No. She threw in another surge and pulled away for another major victory. Peloquin crossed the finish line in 20:00.8, one second ahead of Wright.
Over the course of two weeks she took down many of those same runners she’ll see in Terre Haute, Indiana on November 19. At this point, very few stand in her way between her and a national title (other than teammate Allie Ostrander, who has yet to run this season). She’ll see almost of them by NCAAs with the notable exception of Colorado’s Erin Clark, who finished 11th last year in Louisville, Kentucky.