Men's and women's XC look toward NCAA titles

The Stanford men and women are both picked to challenge for the national championship this season. Track & Field News has picked to women to win over Georgetown, Villanova and Providence. They pick the men fourth behind Oklahoma State, Wisconsin and Northern Arizona. Flotrack has called the women's freshmen class No. 1 in the country and the men No. 2.

Meanwhile, the rankings, as of now, place the men No. 3 and the women No. 6. Our first meet with our top runners is tomorrow, Saturday, Sept. 24.

Our schedule is pretty limited, all the better to prep Stanford for the national championship meet. We have a big meet in the Stanford Invitational at 9 a.m. this Saturday, then at Wisconsin on October 14. The Pac-12 Championship is in Arizona on October 29, and then the NCAA Regional is here at Stanford on November 12. The finale, the NCAA Championships, are in Indiana on November 21. Not many meets, so the squad can be fit and fresh for the championship meet.

In the Pac-12, challenges to the men will come from Oregon and Colorado, picked eighth and ninth respectively in the nation.

For the women the Pac-12 challenges will come from No. 7 Arizona and No. 9 Colorado.

The Stanford men have a great mix of veterans and freshmen. Leading the way are two seniors, Chris Derrick and Jake Riley. Derrick is a 10-time All American who has finished in the top seven the past three years at the NCAA Championships. He was third last year, and Stanford's top runner. Derrick ranks fifth all-time in the 10K and seventh in the 5K on the Stanford track team.

Riley was fourth last season in the NCAA, Stanford's No. 2 finisher. He is a six-time All-American and on the track has been a 10K All American for three straight years. Riley ranks sixth all-time in the 10K at Stanford.

JT Sullivan is a senior who was Stanford's fourth finisher at the NCAA last season. Third-place finisher Elliot Heath has indoor eligibility remaining, but none in XC. Sullivan is a three-time All American and is Stanford's No. 3 steeplechaser of all time.

Sophomore Erik Olsen was Stanford's No. 5 finisher at last year's NCAAs. Olsen followed that up by winning the national junior cross country race.

In cross country, seven runners compete and the top five finishers score. With the deep Stanford team, the question will be who will be the three who join the four runners listed above? The possibilities:

Miles Unterreiner, who competed in three NCAA Championships last season, cross country, indoor and outdoor track. He is a junior who was our No. 7 runner at the NCAA cross country last season.

Ben Johnson, a junior, who missed the latter part of cross country last season but roared back to place seventh in the steeplechase on the track. Johnson is sixth all-time in the steeplechase at Stanford.

Brendan Gregg, a senior, who has missed the past two cross-country seasons with injuries. However he ran well on the track last season and will be a solid contender to be a top-seven runner, as he was in 2009.

There are as many as six other returning runners who will vie for a top-seven position but they will have to fight off two fantastic freshmen recruits, Jim and Joe Rosa. The Rosas had storied high school careers and are definite candidates to be running at the Pac-12 and National Championships.

The women:

Stephanie Marcy was Stanford's top NCAA finisher last season and is a track All-American as Stanford's sixth-fastest 10K runner all-time. She is in her final season and looking to make a splash.

Junior Alex Dunne was Stanford's No. 2 runner at the NCAAs last season, but missed the track season. Hopefully she is back healthy and if so, will be a big factor this season.

Jessica Tonn is a sophomore who was our No. 3 runner last year and like Dunne missed the track season. I understand she is healthy and ready to run as she did last season in both cross country and indoor track.

Georgia Griffin was our No. 4 runner, meaning that the top four are all back. The senior is No. 8 all time in the 10K, but missed the recent track season. (Yes, health is the key.)

Madeline Duhon was No. 6 last year and is back for her final season. Duhon has run a 4:21 1500.

Kathy Kroeger is a junior wasn't able to run in the NCAA last season, but achieved her second straight All-American honors in the 5K, in track. She is eighth all-time in the 5K at Stanford, with a great 15:45 time. Odds are Kathy will be our top XC runner this season.

And if Kroeger is not No. 1 for Stanford, then fabulous freshman Aisling Cuffe might be. Cuffe is the highest-ranked distance runner entering college. She is the national XC champ, the national two-mile champ and the holder of the American junior record in the two mile, 9:54. She is the Gatorade Track Athlete of the Year. The women are very deep, and often freshman are redshirted. However, vying for the top seven spots with those listed above are:

Freshman Mary Kate Anselmini, who for some time last season held the national high school 2K steeplechase record.

Emilie Amaro is a junior and our No. 4 steeplechaser of all time, but has been injured for much of the past year.

Claire Collison is a junior who didn't run last season but has been a top-six runner for us in the past.

Alli Billmeyer is a freshman who finished third for two years in the California State XC Championships, and was runner up in the 3,200 the past two years. She has run an outstanding 4:41 1600.

Freshman Jade Buchbinder was second in the California State XC Championships.

Julia Foster is a freshman who was the New Mexico State champ three times apiece in XC and the 3,200, and all four years in the 1600.

Molly McNamara is another freshman with a great resume. She is a seven- time high school All-American.

Aimee Trujillo is another freshman from southern California. She went to the cross-country and track state championships.

Finally, there's the young woman who as a high school sophomore was the second coming of Jordan Hasay. Injuries have held back freshman Chelsey Sveinsson much of the past two seasons, but if healthy she will be a huge addition. As a sophomore, she won the national mile and two mile. Before her injury, Chelsey was the Texas Gatorade XC Athlete of the Year as a junior.

Easy to see why the women XC freshman class was named No. 1, and with the 16 runners I have listed, the team have tremendous depth.

Can one of these teams become our 102nd NCAA Champion? Follow them on The Bootleg and GoStanford!

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