NCAA Cross Country Championships Women’s Team Preview: Will NAU Break Up The NC State Three-peat?
It was only a matter of time before the Northern Arizona University women caught up to their male counterparts. With the same team resources as the men, a beneficial training environment, and one of the best coaches in the country, there was no reason why top female talent wouldn’t flock to Flagstaff. Now, as the Lady Jacks sit atop the national coaches’ poll headed into the big dance in Charlottesville, the question worth asking is if they are a bigger favorite than their dynastic men’s squad.
Reigning champion Katelyn Tuohy is expected to add, at most, 2 points to the team score, but she’ll be relying on her teammates to outplace the competition as well. That starts with the Scottie Pippen to Tuohy’s Michael Jordan, fifth-year senior Kelsey Chmiel (3rd at 2022 NCAAs). Chmiel has been the most consistent member of the Wolfpack supporting cast in what has been a bit of a rocky season by NC State’s sky-high standards. This will be her fifth appearance at the NCAA Cross Country Championships, and she has managed to improve her result at each and every one (22nd in 2019, 9th in 2020*, 6th in 2021, and 3rd in 2022).
Behind their top two, NC State has a number of important question marks that could make or break the team’s attempted threepeat. Expectations were high for the Wolfpack when they added Alabama transfer Amaris Tyynismaa (9th at 2022 NCAAs) ahead of the track season last year; however, the reigning ACC 5000m champion on the track has struggled with injury this fall and hasn’t finished either of the two races she has started. Two-time All-American Samantha Bush (15th at 2022 NCAAs) seems to be rounding into form with her sixth place finish at the Southeast Regional meet, but she opened the season with a seventh place finish on her own team, followed by a DNF at Nuttycombe. NC State may have to rely on their talented crop of young runners to cover the gaps. Keep an eye out for redshirt freshman Grace Hartman (8th at 2023 Southeast Regional), who edged out standout true freshman Leah Stephens, the Wolfpack’s third runner at both ACC Championships and Nuttycombe.
Read our preview here:
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