NCAA Cross Country Preview Part 4: Women’s Top 10 Individuals

Weini Kelati, last year’s XC runner-up, went on to win the track 10K. (ERROL ANDERSON/THE SPORTING IMAGE)

WHEN BOISE STATE’S Allie Ostrander (6th last year) turned pro, that affected this fall’s odds immensely. However, the field will likely be loaded with upper-class talent. Frankly, it’s too early to tab any newcomer as a possible threat to the title, but that’s always a possibility by the time we get to November.

1. Weini Kelati (New Mexico junior)

The Eritrean star, who high-schooled in Virginia, was runner-up as a soph last year and after a bang-up track season in which she won the track 10K and took her PRs—8:53.89, 15:15.24, 32:09.10—to the brink of world class, the Lobo leader is the heir apparent. She was 7th as a frosh.

2. Alicia Monson (Wisconsin senior)

The Badger standout placed 4th in ’18, and then had a dazzling indoor campaign, highlighted by an 8:45.97 at Millrose, a double Big 10 win and the NCAA 5000 title. She debuted outdoors with a 33:02.91 PR but then ran into injury problems and didn’t make it to Nationals. If she’s fit, she has the racing savvy to be a big threat.

3. Ednah Kurgat (New Mexico senior)

The ’17 champion placed 5th last year. Now in her final year, she put together a decent track campaign, clocking 15:14.78 right after cross country ended, and later improving her 10,000 best to 32:14.27. But when push came to shove, the Kenyan import only placed 9th in the NCAA 10K final. Success will depend on whether she can regain her unbeatable form from ’17.

4. Taylor Werner (Arkansas senior)

Last fall the Razorback standout faced a challenging return from an injured back and only ran 81st at Nationals. She came around in track, first taking 2nd in the Indoor 3000, then placing 4th in the Outdoor 10K and coming back 2 days later for a crucial 2nd in the 5000 as the Hogs won the team title.

5. Erika Birk-Jarvis (BYU senior)

In ’18 BYU’s leader placed 7th in a comeback year after giving birth to a son at the end of ’17. In the spring, she raced sparsely but PRed in everything, including a 9:42.54 steeple and a 15:38.12 at 5000. She placed 5th in the NCAA steeple despite falling during the race. If anything, she seems to be growing steadily stronger.

6. Hannah Steelman (Wofford junior)

She placed only 76th last year, but the rapid improvement Steelman showed on the track is enough to give anyone pause. She hit 9:07.87 indoors, 15:52.68 outdoors, and steepled 9:46.08 to place 3rd at NCAAs; she also nabbed All-America honors at 5K.

7. Anna Rohrer (Notre Dame senior)

The 3-time All-America (6th-3rd-10th) is back for a final season of eligibility as a grad student. Oft-troubled by injury, she had a 3-race season in track but made all those 10,000s count, winning the ACC title, her race at the East Regional and then placing 6th at Nationals.

8. Dorcas Wasike (Louisville senior)

The Kenyan standout won the ACC and the Southeast Regional last year before placing 14th at Nationals. She placed 9th in the Indoor 5000 after PRing at 15:25.35 right after cross season ended. Misfortune stopped her outdoor track campaign, however, as she was unable to compete at Regionals.

9. Sage Hurta (Colorado senior)

The Buffalo standout played a key role in winning the team title last year, placing 22nd (No. 4 on the team). It was her third-straight All-Am finish. But then the 4.0 student redshirted to concentrate on school. Rather than an off-year, it appears her running has taken a quantum leap. She hit PRs of 2:00.99 and 4:09.37. If she’s anywhere near the mix at the end, watch out.

10. Fiona O’Keeffe (Stanford senior)

Last year’s 17th placer (and 13th and 37th the 2 years before), O’Keeffe had a solid track season, starting with a 3rd in the Indoor 5000. She continued strong outdoors, PRing at 15:31.45 before taking 7th in the hot-weather NCAA final. A consistent track performer, she placed 5th in both the Pac-12 and West Regional last season.

Others To Watch:

Savannah Carnahan (Furman), Adva Cohen (New Mexico), Amy Davis (Wisconsin), Esther Gitahi (Alabama), Elly Henes (NC State), Katie Rainsberger (Washington), Aubrey Roberts (Northwestern), Katrina Robinson (Arkansas), Tabor Scholl (Colorado) □.