Women's Cross Country Nationals Preview
MASON, OH - The Johns Hopkins women's cross country team has arrived in Mason, Ohio beginning race preparations for tomorrow's NCAA Championship meet. The Blue Jays are aiming for their third-consecutive championship and are primed for a big weekend in the Buckeye State. Hopkins has held the unanimous top-spot in the country since winning the 2012 National Championship.
So Where's The Race?: Wilmington College will play host to the 2014 NCAA DIvision III Cross Country National Championship tomorrow. The men's eight-kilometer race will being at 11:00 a.m., followed by the women's six-kilometer at 12:30 p.m.
How'd They Do It?: Hopkins won its seventh consecutive Centennial Conference crown on Nov. 1 before capturing its seventh straight Mideast Regional crown two weeks later. At Regionals, Hopkins had four of the top seven finishers, and five of the top 13. Their 28 points won easily, as they finished 71 points ahead of second place Dickinson. As the top finisher at Regionals, the team received an automatic bid to the NCAA Championships.
Who to Watch: As they have proved all season, the Blue Jays are an extremely deep and talented team, having seven runners finish in the top-19 of the Regional race.
Junior Sophia Meehan has been the catalyst for the Jays all season. Meehan was the top overall finisher at the Regional race, earning her Regional Runner of the Year. This came on the heels of another top performance, as she won the Centennial Conference Championships and was named Conference Runner of the Year.
In last week's Regional Championship, Meehan set a course record, finishing with a time of 21:18, 36 seconds ahead of the second-place finisher, teammate Bridget Gottlieb. Meehan's top time this season is 20:30, which she set at the Paul Short Invitational.
Speaking of Gottlieb, the freshman from California has been superb all season, finishing second at the Regional meet with a time of 21:54. This came on the heels of a third place finish at the Centennial Conference Championships. Gottlieb has consistently been a top-five finisher for the Jays this season.
The trio of Tess Meehan, Chelsea Powers and Ashley Murphy has been as consistent as anybody for the Blue Jays. Meehan and Powers finished seventh and 13th, respectively in last weekend's regional meet. Murphy will be back in action after being held out at Regionals.
For senior Frances Loeb and junior Hannah Oneda, Regionals was used as a test-run. With both having been out of action for the bulk of the season due to injury, each had her first race last weekend. Loeb shined, finishing fifth with a time of 22:06. Meanwhile, Oneda, who hadn't competed since Aug. 30, ran well, finishing 19th with a time of 22:36. Both are capable of big things, after finishing 15th and fourth, respectively, at Nationals last season.
Top Contenders: The Blue Jays will get stiff competition from MIT, St. Lawrence, Middlebury and SUNY Geneseo. The Engineers of MIT finished fourth last season at Nationals, and are currently the second-ranked team in the country. After winning the New England Regional last weekend, the Engineers have their eyes on dethroning the Blue Jays.
St. Lawrence hasn't lost a meet since coming in second behind Hopkins at Paul Short. The team from Canton, New York narrowly defeated Geneseo at the Regional meet last week, so it's safe to say these teams are very similar.
Meanwhile, Middlebury has only lost to MIT this fall. It is a veteran team, who will look to improve on last year's third place finish at Nationals.
What Van Allen Says: "The excitement of an NCAA Cross Country Championship is really on it's own level, unlike any other sport. It's also unlike any other meet, creating a very fun, enjoyable atmosphere. The competition level this year will be extremely high, and I am very excited to see how it all unfolds."
Live scoring for the Championships can be found here, while a stream of the race can be seen here.