NCAA Cross Country Preview Part 5 — Women’s Top 10 Individuals

Mercy Chelangat is favored to be successful in her bid to be the first repeat winner in a decade. (MIKE SCOTT)

WITH THE LAST NCAA CHAMPS having been run this calendar year, its results are perhaps a more useful touchstone for predicting form than usual. Or not — since the NCAA Indoor scheduled that same weekend affected the picture. New names may emerge as contenders but have not yet done so as of mid-September.

1. Mercy Chelangat (Alabama)

The Tide junior won in March and thus favorite’s status in November is hers to lose. The Kenyan placed 2nd in the NCAA 10,000 in June and 5th in the 5000 but as she explained when asked why she skipped the NCAA Indoor in favor of the harrier nationals, “I like cross country more. I think that was the best decision for me!” The last repeat winner was Villanova’s Sheila Reid in 2010–11.

2. Courtney Wayment (BYU)

Fifth in ’19 and the highest-placing returner from that season, she passed on XC in March to focus on winning the indoor 3000 and anchoring BYU to the distance medley title. With a 15:17.58 PR for 5000, her steeple prowess highlights strength useful in cross: 4th in the ’21 NCAA and Olympic Trial races, the latter with a 9:23.09 PR.

3. Joyce Kimeli (Auburn)

Another who steered away from the “’20” Nationals, instead on that weekend she raced to the indoor 5000 title in Fayetteville and 3rd in the next night’s 3000. Outdoors Kimeli claimed 2nd in the steeple and 13th in the 5000 little more than an hour later. She placed 14th in the XC nationals of ’19.

4. Bethany Hasz (Minnesota)

A grad student with harrier nationals experience dating back to ’18, Hasz was busy on the middle weekend in March, 2nd in the Indoor 5000 and then 8th over the country 3 days later. The ’21 Big 10 5K titlist, she placed 3rd in the 12½-lapper at the Outdoor NCAA. Twin sister Megan is also a Gopher harrier.

5. Hannah Steelman (NC State)

23rd in ’19 for Wofford, at the Nationals in March, her 5th-place run keyed the Wolfpack runner-up team finish. It came just 3 days after placing 8th in the Indoor 5K. On the track in ’19 she ran two races at the Outdoor NCAA, steeple 3rd and 5000 8th.

6. Taylor Roe (Oklahoma State)

On Instagram the Cowboy junior alluded to Talladega Nights, writing, ”If you ask Ricky Bobby then I finished last.” Then she tapped out the rest of the thought: “2nd in the nation feels unreal… grateful to come out of the weekend as a 2x all american.” That’s right, last time Roe raced to 2nd on her home course, less than 6 seconds behind Chelangat. Earlier in the weekend she anchored OSU’s DMR to 4th with a 4:33.62 split. Won against a strong field at September’s Cowboy Jamboree by 10-plus seconds.

7. Summer Allen (Weber State)

The Big Sky steeple champion — from a school with a deep tradition in the barrier event — she emerged as an elite collegian with her 7th in Cross last time before earning 8th in the NCAA steeple and 11th at the Trials with a pair of 9:40 races over the barriers. The grad student won in her XC opener this fall.

8. Jenna Magness (Michigan State)

46th in Cross in ’19, last March she placed 16th to lead the Lancers to a 4th-place team finish. She did so 3 days after earning 7th in the Indoor 5000. Taking her talent outdoors in the spring, she ran to 4th in the NCAA 5K.

9. Haley Herberg (Washington)

The winter cross Pac-12 champ, she drove the bus at the front of the pack for 2 kilometers in March before falling back to 55th, but her fade was arguably a fluke. During the outdoor track season, she demonstrated ample strength and speed as she essayed an NCAA 10K/5K double with placings of 5th and 10th with just one recovery day in between.

10. Amaris Tyynismaa (Alabama)

An underclass miler with strength to power over hill & dale, she followed teammate Chelangat to an unlooked for 3rd in the March Nationals. Her focus outdoors was all about the 1500, 7th at the NCAA as a frosh. Still, there’s no overlooking that 3rd in Stillwater.

Others To Watch:

Anna Camp-Bennett (BYU), Kelsey Chmiel (NC State), Nicole Fegans (Georgia Tech), Grace Forbes (Rice), Krissy Gear (Arkansas), Lauren Gregory (Arkansas), Julia Heymach (Stanford), Emily Mackay (Binghampton), Abby Nichols (Colorado), Taryn O’Neill (Northern Arizona) ◻︎.