MEET PREVIEW: Nuttycombe Wisconsin Invitational (Men’s Championship Race)
NOTE: An earlier version of this story included defending champion Marc Scott as a contender. Scott exhausted his XC eligibility last year and has one more year left on the track.
NEW OLREANS — Over the years the Wisconsin Invitational grew into the monster that it is today, only satiated when it devours numerous nationally-ranked teams.
QUICK LINKS: Meet Home | Live Results | Watch Live ($)
When the men’s championship race gets underway at 2:20 p.m. ET, there will be 19 teams that were ranked in the most recent NCAA Division I Men’s Cross Country National Coaches’ Poll in addition to seven that received votes. You can see them all in the chart to the right.
The biggest headline is the heavyweight battle between No. 1 Northern Arizona, No. 2 Syracuse and No. 3 BYU. For as big of a meet as this has become, this is the first time in history that the top-3 teams went head-to-head-to-head in Madison.
This will also serve as the first true test for the top-ranked Lumberjacks, as well as the season debut of their top runners. We have yet to see Tyler Day or three-time XC All-American Futsum Zienasellassie compete on the XC course in 2016. Zienasellassie put together an impressive track season, however, finishing fourth in the Indoor 5000 and then battling Edward Cheserek over 10,000 meters outdoors before finishing runner-up.
The Orange, who aren’t only the defending meet champion but reigning national champion, want to show they’re no worse for wear after losing 39-44 to the Cougars last month at the Panorama Farms Invitational. Syracuse trotted out its entire lineup in Virginia, yet didn’t get the same production from Colin Bennie and Philo Germano as it did Justyn Knight (1st, meet record – 23:13.8). Knight and Bennie went 2-6 at Wisconsin last year with Martin Hehir thrown in the middle (4th).
On the flip side, this is BYU’s chance to show it’s for real. As previously mentioned, the Cougars upended the Orange in Virginia and did so by putting four runners in the top-10. To wit: BYU finished a very distant runner-up to Syracuse at this meet last year (101-186), but will have Nicolas Montanez and Clayton Young this time. Montanez didn’t run at Wisconsin last year, while Young took 145th. But Young’s fifth-place effort in Virginia leads you to believe the sophomore is ready to continue his potential breakout season over another challenging 8K course.
It would be foolish to count No. 7 Portland, No. 8 Iona or No. 11 Stanford out of the race for team glory. The Pilots put the nation on notice with a thrilling victory at the Roy Griak Invitational, while the Gaels stomped the competition into the dirt at the Paul Short Run two weeks ago. This weekend could also mark the debut of Grant Fisher and Sean McGorty for the Cardinal, which would thrust that team up the leaderboard in a hurry.
Speaking of Fisher and McGorty: If they run, it would signal a tremendous battle between the nation’s top dynamic duos. Fisher and McGorty would square off against Bennie and Knight (Syracuse), Amos Kosgey and Erick Rotich (Eastern Kentucky), Jefferson Abbey and Jerrell Mock (Colorado State) as well as Morgan McDonald and Malachy Schrobilgen from the host Badgers.
Six of those 10 men were All-Americans last year and there could be a total of 13 All-Americans from 2015 in the race.
Of those men, who gets the individual win?
Well, it’s hard to count out Knight or McGorty. Or Schrobilgen or Bennie. Or Iona’s Chartt Miller or McDonald. After all, those are six of the seven men who finished in the top-10 of this race one year ago.
We’ll be sure to find out tomorrow afternoon when the 8th running of the Nuttycombe Wisconsin Invitational gets underway in Madison, Wisconsin.