Sept. 12, 2006
Metairie, La. -
Bolstered by the return of five All-Americans, defending NCAA champion Stanford is ranked No. 1 in the first Division I women's poll of the 2006 season, the U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Associated announced Tuesday.
Stanford has won two of the last three NCAA Division I women's titles, including a first-place finish at last year's nationals in Terre Haute, Ind. The Cardinal returns three of the top collegiate distance runners in the country in Arianna Lambie, Katy Trotter and Amanda Trotter.
Colorado, the 2004 NCAA champion and runner-up in 2005, is ranked second in the initial USTFCCCA poll. Rounding out the top 10 behind Stanford and Colorado are Michigan, Oklahoma State, BYU, Illinois, Duke, Arkansas, Arizona State and Wisconsin.
A panel of Division I coaches votes in the USTFCCCA poll. The rankings will be released weekly on Tuesdays throughout the collegiate cross country season.
With all five scorers returning from last year's NCAA championship team, Stanford is a strong early-season pick to repeat.
"Repeating an NCAA championship may be more challenging than winning one in the first place," said Stanford cross country coach Peter Tegen. "Improving on previous years' performances is never easy. But it has to be part of the equation when defending goals for the upcoming season. I know our ladies are ready for the challenge."
Lambie, Katy Trotter, Amanda Trotter and Teresa McWalters ran on the 2004 and 2006 national championship teams. The Cardinal also returns Lindsay Flacks and Lauren Centrowitz from last year's championship team.
Tegen also recruited an outstanding group of freshman, including Anne St. Geme, the daughter of former Stanford great Ceci Hopp.
"We are going to pace ourselves and approach the season like a long race, getting ready for the bell lap," Tegen said.
Colorado finished second to Stanford at last year's NCAA meet, scoring 181 points to the Cardinal's winning total of 146. The Buffaloes lost two All-Americans from that team but return their highest individual finisher, Liza Pasciuto. Pasciuto placed ninth in 2005.
The Buffaloes also return Jenny Barringer, the 2006 NCAA champion in the 3,000-meter steeplechase as a true freshman.
"Our task is to keep them both well and to get them to November in better shape than they have every been before," said Colorado cross country coach Mark Wetmore. "If we do that, we'll have a front two that are as good as anyone in the country."
Third-ranked Michigan finished sixth at the 2005 NCAA Championships. Fifth-year seniors Katie Erdman and Jessie Stewart finished among the top 100 individuals at last year's nationals.
No. 4 Oklahoma State added a number of talented freshmen to a team that finished 10th at last year's nationals. Mary Davies (31st in 2005) is the top returnee for the Cowgirls.
BYU's women have won five NCAA cross country titles - 1997, 1999, 2001 and 2002. Only Villanova has won more titles with seven. Fifth-ranked BYU hopes to improve on last year's eighth-place finish with the return of two-time All-American Kassi Andersen from a Mormon mission.
Most of the ranked teams will square off Oct. 14 at the Pre-National Meet in Terre Haute. The 2006 NCAA Division I Men's and Women's Cross Country Championships will be held Nov. 20, also Wabash Family Sports Center in Terre Haute.
Northern Arizona's Johanna Nilsson, the 2005 NCAA individual champion, chose not to return to school for her final season.
On the men's side, Chris Solinsky heads a powerhouse Wisconsin team that's favored to repeat as NCAA champion, according to the first Division I Men's Cross Country poll released by U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association.
Despite the graduation of two-time NCAA individual champion Simon Bairu, Wisconsin returns four runners who placed in the top 18 at last year's NCAA cross country meet - Solinsky (third), Matt Withrow (ninth), Stuart Eagon (17th) and Tim Nelson (18th).
Wisconsin won last year's NCAA title with 37 points, far in front of runner-up Arkansas (105). Last year's top two teams are picked to finish in the same order this fall.
Rounding out the men's top 10 behind Wisconsin in the USTFCCCA rankings are Arkansas, Colorado, Stanford, Texas, Iona, Portland, Arizona, Oklahoma State and Kansas.
The second ten (11 through 20) consists of BYU, Notre Dame, UTEP, Georgetown, Oregon, Ohio State, Dartmouth, Michigan, Alabama and Arizona State.
Solinsky gives Wisconsin a battle-tested senior at the front of the pack. Solinsky followed up his third-place finish at last year's cross country nationals with wins at the NCAA indoor (3,000 meters) and NCAA outdoor (5,000 meters) meets.
Second-ranked Arkansas has won 11 NCAA cross country titles under legendary coach John McDonnell, but none since 2000. The Razorbacks' top returnee is Peter Kosgei, the 12th-place finisher at last year's nationals.
Kosgei is joined by All-American Kenny Cormier, Shawn Forrest and Adam Perkins, among others.
Colorado is ranked third, two spots higher than its 2005 NCAA finish. The Buffaloes return a strong core of All-Americans - Brent Vaughn, James Strang, Stephen Pifer and Billy Nelson.
Fourth-ranked Stanford lost just one runner from the team that finished sixth at last year's NCAA meet. Neftalem Araia was eighth in 2004 and 11th last year, and he'll be joined by veteran runners Jacob Gomez, Brett Gotcher, Jonathan Pierce and Rolf Steier.
No. 5 Texas returns Joe Thome, 15th at last year's nationals, as well as Jake Morse and Leonel Manzano. Manzano won the 1,500 meters at the 2005 NCAA outdoor track and field championships.
Courtesy of the USTFCCCA.
USTFCCCA Division I Women's Cross Country Poll
4. Oklahoma State
9. Arizona State
12. North Carolina State
17. Boston University
19. Florida State
22. North Carolina
23. Michigan State
25. William & Mary
27. Colorado State
28. Wake Forest
USTFCCCA Division I Men's Cross Country Poll
9. Oklahoma State
12. Notre Dame
16. Ohio State
20. Arizona State
21. Florida State
22. Eastern Michigan
25. William & Mary
28. Michigan State
30. (tie) American, Providence