By: Kyle Markley
Last Friday, under the shadow of the Golden Dome, on a clear blue October morning some of the country’s elite colligate cross country runners gathered in South Bend, Indiana to compete in the Joe Piane Invitational. These were my biggest takeaways from the meet.
1. NC State women are legit national title contenders
The wolfpack dominated the blue division race from start to finish. Pack strength was prevalent the whole race with their top five runners all remaining in the lead pack until the last stretch of the race. NC State won with a final score of 38 with their top five finishing 3rd, 6th, 8th, 9th, and 12th. Overall, the Wolfpack looked dangerous enough to take down the defending champs BYU and win the team title.
2. Furman’s men squad might be the sleeper pick of the year
The 19th ranked team in the country walked away champions of the blue division race, winning in 129 points. This came as a shocker as it required upsetting 10th ranked Butler, 15th ranked Alabama, 18th ranked Ole Miss, and 2nd ranked Notre Dame who ran their JV squad. Furman is coming into championship season as an underdog, but the rest of the NCAA better watch out because this dog has a serious bite.
3.Mercy Chelangat looks to repeat as XC champion
Chelangat dominated the race from start to finish on Friday, pulling away from the field in the later stages of the race to take the win. In a stacked field she proved not only to her competition, but the entire NCAA, that she is a gamer and is ready to win anytime, anyplace.
4. Adrian Wildschutt looks dangerous this season
FSU’s Wildschutt’s performance on Friday proved he is a legit contender to win the individual title this year at Nationals. The defending cross country runner up pulled away from the pack near the halfway point and never looked back, dominating the 2nd half of the race. After watching Wildschutt race, I believe he’s the man to beat come Nationals for two reasons: he wants to redeem himself from coming up short last season and he has home field advantage with Nationals being run on Florida State's home course.
5. Notre Dame is hiding their Cards well with their men’s team
The 2nd ranked Fighting Irish did not run their whole squad on Friday, saving some of their runners for Pre-Nationals in two weeks. This decision keeps the strengths of the Irish in the dark for a little longer. The biggest question that remains is whether Notre Dame can repeat their success from last season and compete with the likes of NAU, Stanford, BYU, and OSU. Even though it would have been awesome watching the top Notre Dame men compete at their home invitational, the hype lives on for a showdown between powerhouse programs at Florida State in two weeks.
Drop in the comments your biggest takeaway so far this season!