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NCAA Women’s DI Individual Preview

Published by
RunnerSpace.com/College   on Nov 22 2013, 03:51 AM

D'Agostino Leads a Loaded Women's Field

By Scott Bush

With only two out of the top eight finishers from the 2012 NCAA Cross Country Championships returning, the women’s race is wide open for top ten status. While there have been few surprises individually this fall, competition is fierce heading into championship weekend. Runner-up and top returnee Abbey D’Agostino looks to put one more star on her impressive collegiate resume, but for everyone else it’s a chance to prove they are the next big star in college distance running. Here are the top ten favorites and a dark horse worth keeping an eye on.

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Abbey D’Agostino (Sr., Dartmouth): The multi-time NCAA champion is on a mission to prove once and for all she’s the cream of the crop in collegiate distance running. Last fall, after dealing with injury through part of the season, D’Agostino cemented her status as one of the very best with a runner-up effort at the NCAA Cross Country Championships. The tenacious competitor didn’t exactly like finishing second and has been running with fire in her eyes all season. She’s dominated all of her races this fall, winning the Wisconsin adidas Invitational and cruising to an easy victory at the Northeast Regional. Saturday is D’Agostino’s chance to shine once again in a championship race and you can bet the odds-on-favorite will be up showcasing her extreme talent in a way we’ve not yet seen this season.

Emma Bates (Jr., Boise State): It must be said that Bates has not lost this season to a collegiate runner. While she lost over a 5k distance to prep phenom Alexa Efraimson at the Bill Dellinger Invitational earlier in the season, she picked up big wins at Pre-Nationals and again at the West Regional last weekend. Bates, who redshirted last fall, has taken to new coach Corey Ihmels training quite well and seems poised to give D’Agostino a run for her money. Do not count out Bates from challenging for a win.

Emily Sisson (Sr., Providence): After finishing 15th last fall at the NCAA Cross Country Championships, Sisson is looking for a little redemption. The fiery competitor will lay it on the line Saturday, shooting for a top three finish and helping her squad take home the top spot after a heartbreaking runner-up finish last fall. Sisson is running at the top of her game, finishing second at the Wisconsin adidas Invitational, winning the Big East Championships and finishing second behind Abbey D’Agostino at the Northeast Regional.

Aisling Cuffe (Jr., Stanford): A consistent and powerful front running force for the Cardinal this season, Cuffe continues her standout season this weekend. Cuffe finished 21st at NCAAs last fall, but seemingly took a step forward this season, with a runner-up effort at Pre-Nationals, Pac-12 individual victory and a third place finish at the West Regional. She’ll certainly contend for top five Saturday, with an even higher finish as a more than realistic expectation.

Colleen Quigley (Jr., Florida State): One of the most experienced runners in the field, Quigley continues to shine after a 12th place performance at the 2012 NCAA Cross Country Championships. The NCAA runner-up in the steeplechase and runner-up finisher at the ACC Championships earned a big win last weekend, taking home top prize at the South Regional. She placed fifth at Pre-Nationals and should work her way up into the top five or six runners for much of the race come Saturday.

Shelby Houlihan (Jr., Arizona State): Know a bit more for her track accomplishments, Houlihan showed up in a big way this fall, proving herself time and again among the nation’s best collegiate runners. The former Iowa state champion finished fourth at Wisconsin and the same position at the Pac-12 Championships, but ran a strong race at the West Regional finishing second. She’s a proven competitor and puts herself in position to finish well in every race she runs. Her consistency is a big plus and she’ll look to use her speed over the final stretch in Terre Haute, with an eye on a top five finish.

Marielle Hall (Sr., Texas): One of the shocking performances on regional weekend came at the South Central Regional, where Hall won. It wasn’t so much that Hall won, but rather that she won by 20 seconds. In a 6k distance, that’s mighty impressive, even if a few of the top five finishers were saving a little energy for Saturday. Hall’s had a terrific season, with a third place finish at Wisconsin earlier in the season, an eleven second win at the Big 12 Championships (over Midwest Region winner Crystal Nelson) and then her impressive regional victory. She’s running strong, a little underrated and ready to surprise.

Sarah Collins (So., Providence): Overshadowed ever so slightly by teammate Emily Sisson this fall, Collins has shown time and again that her tenth place performance at the 2012 NCAA Cross Country Championships was no fluke. The Swiss standout finished fifth at the Wisconsin adidas Invitational earlier in the season, third at the Big East Championships and third at the Northeast Region meet behind Sisson and Abbey D’Agostino. Providence’s top trio thrive off of running with one another, so expect Collins to once again challenge for a top ten finish.

Cally Macumber (Sr., Kentucky): Macumber entered this fall with high expectations and has lived up to them for the most part. Macumber finished a surprise sixth overall last fall in Louisville and looks to take another big step forward on Saturday. Her early season third place performance Pre-Nationals was a great start, but she slipped a bit at the SEC Championships placing only seventh. She rebounded nicely with a runner-up effort at the Southeast Region meet, now looks to score a very low place this weekend. Experience factors in during championship racing and Macumber can use that to her advantage.

Emily Lipari (Sr., Villanova): Much of how an athlete performs at the NCAA Cross Country Championships revolves around momentum. Lipari is one of those athletes with much momentum on her side. Not only did the seasoned veteran win the Mid-Atlantic Region, leading her team to an upset victory over rival Georgetown, but she build on a resume that already included a runner-up finish at the Big East Championships, where she finished seven seconds behind champion Emily Sisson and a seventh place effort at Pre-Nationals.

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Erin Finn (Fr., Michigan): While Edward Cheserek is clearly the top freshman in the country this year on the men’s side, the women’s side isn’t quite as clear cut. However, Finn made a great case for herself both at the Big Ten Championships and the Great Lakes Regional, where she placed first and second respectively. It’s not all that common for a freshman to win Big Tens and running well within herself at regionals shows she perhaps has another gear or two to use in Terre Haute. She’s been a terrific young leader of Michigan this fall and the Wolverines will lean on her more as they look to make one final push to a NCAA trophy.

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