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NCAA Pre-National Meet Preview

Eight of the top ten men’s and seven of the top ten women’s teams to compete.

The collegiate cross country season will descend upon Terre Haute, Ind. for the 2009 Pre-National Invitational meet. Not only will we see eight of the top ten men’s and seven of the top ten women’s teams, but we will get our first indications as to who will take the coveted “at-large” bids for the NCAA championship race later in the season. Here’s a quick look at the races and what to expect from teams and individuals alike.

Men’s Blue Race
Teams: Featured in the first race of the day will be #2 NAU, #3 Alabama, #7 Oregon, #9 William and Mary and #14 Washington. The big questions concern the depth of W&M and whether they are a true top-10 contender. Expect a big race from NAU as they will run at full strength for the first time this year, giving the teamm a chance to prove it is a legitimate championship contender. Oregon is coming off a big loss at their home meet and will look to regain their stature as on of the top-5 teams in the nation.

Individuals: Look for a huge effort from NAU junior All-American David McNeill, who is a top-5 national talent. Challenging McNeill will be a slew of Africans from Auburn, Alabama and UTEP. Oregon Sophomore Luke Puskedra hopes to bounce back from a poor showing at his home meet. A possible dark horse will be Butler Senior Andy Baker, who finished a strong third at Notre Dame.

Men’s White Race
Teams: #1 Stanford will look to prove its ranking against #4 Colorado, #5 BYU, #8 Portland and #12 Iona. Portland looked fantastic at Dellinger early in the season and will look to move up here. Although NAU is missing, we will see three of the top-four teams (Colorado, BYU and New Mexico) from the Mountain Region, which is considered one of the strongest in the country, giving us a great preview of how that regional may shake out.

Individuals: This is all about Liberty’s Sam Chelenga and how fast he can run. It is unlikely anyone in the race can keep up with Sam’s torrid pace, but look for challenges from Stanford’s Chris Derrick, Arizona State’s Brandon Bethke, and New Mexico’s Jacob Kirwa. Portland’s Alfred Kipchumba could be a dark horse to watch for here.

Women’s Blue Race
Teams: Lining up for the blue race will be #4 Oregon, #6 Stanford, #7 Iowa State, #11 Florida State and #13 Georgetown. Expect some solid pack running from the Ducks, using their depth to take down the other teams. This will be a chance to see what #19 Colorado can do in a larger race, and if they will have a chance at a top-10 national finish.

Individuals: This will certainly be the top individual race of the day as we get a chance to watch Colorado’s Jenny Barringer, the overwhelming favorite to win nationals, take on some of her top competitors. If anyone can make Jenny look human it is Florida State’s Senior phenom Susan Kuijken. Many eyes will be on Oregon freshman Jordan Hasay, running in her second collegiate meet for the Ducks. Hasay’s teammates Nicole Blood and Alex Kosinski will likely also battle for a top-5 place. An entrant never to be ignored is former NCAA 10K champion Lisa Koll of Iowa State, who will look to make her mark heading in to the second half of the season.

Women’s White Race
Teams: Rounding out the day will be #1 Washington, #5 Princeton, #8 Minnesota, #9 Florida and #12 Baylor in the women’s white race. Washington is the overwhelming favorite for the national title and there is little chance any of these teams will be within 40-50 points of them here. Princeton looks solid as a top-5 team, but will need to hold off strong squads from Minnesota and Florida to stay there. #15 Syracuse and #17 Arizona State will try to prove they belong in the top-10 team discussion.

Individuals: Could we see a sweep by Washington? Probably not, but four in the top five is likely. Last year the team ran as a pack when possible, so it’s hard to say who is the favorite if it comes down to four Washington women, but we’ll say Kendra Schaff is the favorite.  Princeton’s Liz Costello ran well at Notre Dame and Florida’s leading lady, Stacey Johnson, could also be one to break in to the top-5. A dark horse to watch for here is New Mexico’s Ruth Senior, a junior with tons of potential.

You can catch the entire event live on starting at 11:00am local time on October 17th.